TITLE: Exhilarating

AUTHOR: Gryphin

SPOILERS: Fire in the Ice

SUMMARY: Post ep for Fire in the Ice. What happened after the cameras stopped rolling.

DISCLAIMER: blah blah blah =)

A/N: Ok, so I just HAD to! If I didn't, I think my head was going to explode with the possibilities! I know you guys understand, because it's probably the same for you. If you didn't write a post-ep, then you want to! Or you want to read them. So here is my version. Phew, I feel ssooooo much better now!


It was exhilarating.

The feel of the cold air on her cheeks, the lights twinkling on the rink from above, the sloppy clip-clop of her skates as she tried to keep her balance, the centrifugal force as Booth whipped her in a circle, her hand gripped firmly in his. That and so much more had culminated in the smile now plastered to her face that she couldn't have removed if she tried. It was exhilarating, and it was fun.

She didn't want to really analyze it right now, but for some reason, Booth's comment about Agent Perotta had quieted a sneaking fear that was creeping up on her. She wasn't very good at understanding people and their non-verbal communications. But she was beginning to think that she was maybe, just maybe, good at him. And when he had told her to forget Agent Perotta, and that nothing was going to change between them, she had the thought that he wasn't really just talking about their partnership.

Something was happening right here, right now, and it was more then just the lights and the cold and the skating. A weight had been lifted from her shoulders that she hadn't even known was there and now she felt she was hurling towards something undefinable just as surely as her skates carried her swiftly down the ice rink.

She was breathless.

From joy, from laughter, from a peace that was new to her. It was rushing up to embrace her so quickly that she didn't even have time to think about it. She simply accepted it. There was no fear, no need to pick it apart, just a simple happiness that bubbled up and spilled from her lips like silver in the form of laughter. It was liberating, and as she gained confidence with her skates, she expressed her sense of freedom by pushing herself faster, tipping her face into the rushing air.

He was mesmerized.

She was contagious, and the shit-eating grin on his face was beginning to feel permanent. He couldn't stop looking at her, at the pure and unadulterated joy she was exhibiting. This was a woman he rarely ever saw, and a good thing too. Because she was intoxicating, and he was already feeling drunk and heavy with it. As he clasped her hand and whipped her around, then placed his hands around her waist to push her in front of him, he realized suddenly that he was the only one she afforded a glimpse of this side of her.

Temperance Brennan was not very good at people skills. She could come across cold and uncaring, too direct and too precise. She struggled with finding the right words to say when they were needed. And yet, somehow she always knew what to say to him. And when she had asked him about his dream, he barely hesitated before telling her something that he had determined was his own personal cross to bear. He found the dark truth of his subconscious fears bleeding into his simple revelation that the Luc. Robitaille of his dream had told him that he wasn't like his old man. And she had simply twined her arm around his and leaned into him, stating that although she didn't know his father, she knew that he, Seeley Booth, was made of good stuff.

He was falling.

It was a sudden realization, but it had certainly been happening for a long time. It practically knocked the air from his lungs with the force of it, but it was too late now. Because right here with her, all open and happy, smiling at him and looking at him like he was the only man in the world that would ever matter, he felt his heart swell and his chest puff with pride at the knowledge that he was the one that did this to her.

This was dangerous territory, because he was one lucky son-of-a-bitch, and all it would take is the slightest invitation from her to cause him to erase what was left of the line of professionalism between them forever. And if he really is the good man that she insists that he is, then it was about time he stopped denying himself the things in life that he deserved. For most of his life, he had imposed some sort of self-punishment, believing that there wasn't much that he was truly worthy of. He was constantly trying to even the cosmic score, so-to-speak. And as he watched her skate forward, arms held shakily to the side for balance, he decided that if she was the only thing he ever got, that would be more then enough for him.

At that moment, Brennan looked back over her shoulder at him, a triumphant look on her face. "Look Booth! I think I'm really getting the hang of it!"

"Yeah Bones, I think you're a natural. In fact...Hey! Watch out!" But it was too late for her to stop her quick approach towards the far wall, and she barely turned her head in time to get her arms up to brace the impact. She landed in an uncerimonious heap just as Booth skidded to a halt next to her. "Are you ok Bones?"

"Yeah, I'm fine Booth."

She extended a hand to him to help her up, and as he lifted her off the ice, she lost her balance again, bringing them both crashing down. His hands immediately went out, steadying her as he asked if she was ok again. Booth was momentarily startled as he felt her shaking, but then couldn't help smiling as he realized she was laughing. It built up steadily, like bells pealing from a church top until he started laughing too. She looked up at him, tears of mirth in her eyes, and they both clutched at one another, their laughter echoing across the empty sheet of ice.

"Let's try this again, Bones."

Booth once again extended his hand, thoroughly enjoying the feel of hers as she placed it in in his palm. They continued chuckling as they both got to their feet again, this time successfully.

It was like a spell had descended over the ice rink, the quiet invading as their laughter died down. Neither partner wanted to move, afraid to shatter its effect. Afraid to lose the opportunity, yet scared to take it as well. They continued to look at one another, each one searching the other for something undefinable, their chests heaving slightly from the exertion and perhaps from something else as well.

It was Brennan that broke down first, reaching a tentative hand upwards. "How's your head feeling?" Her hand settled softly over the site of his injury, her fingers gently moving over the hair obscuring it from view.

"It...its fine. I hardly notice it." He could barely choke the words out, so intense were the emotions arching between them. Like electricity between two lightening rods, it bounced back and forth, almost tangible in its thickness. The urge to pull her to him was like a compulsion that had to be satisfied or eradicated. Like an addict that needed the hit so bad that his whole body trembled in anticipation, Booth found he was physically restraining himself by pure force of will.

The moment proved too unbearable for Brennan as well, and she let her hand slip down, clasping his hand again as she began slowly propelling them forward.

"Good, because I was hoping that you were feeling well enough to show me how to skate backwards."

Although his relief was immense, the sense of loss was overwhelming as well. Before he could stop himself, he was asking her a question. "I have a better idea." He slowed their pace down even more and stroked his thumb along the topside of hers before saying softly, yet with determination, "Why don't you tell me what you were just thinking about."

Brennan glanced up at him sharply, trying to gauge whether her instinctual interpretation of what he was saying was correct. When he turned his head to look at her, she found her answer, written there for her to plainly see. He really wanted to know the thoughts that were coursing through her mind while they had stood toe to toe, heavy with things unsaid.

They skated slowly around the rink, both of them cognizant of the fact that Brennan no longer needed his hand for balance, yet they remained clasped together for the pure enjoyment of the contact. As they drifted around the rink, she worked on her thoughts, trying to think of a way to verbalize them. The silence was neither uncomfortable or awkward in any way, and the occasional brush of his thumb encouraged her to take her time. After a complete revolution of the rink, she finally began speaking.

"I was thinking about how I've always been a little resentful of all of the ways that you've changed me since we met."

He had a hard time keeping his expression under control, having been startled by her confession. But she was thinking hard, and experience told him to let her ride out her train of thought.

"I've always told myself and others that I don't need anyone to be complete. I have been totally self-sufficient, and I've not only done well for myself, but I've excelled beyond the realms of what most would consider quite successful." Here she paused again, collecting her next words before saying them. "But tonight I realized something profound, for me."

Here she slowed to a halt, and turned to face her partner. "I realized that you were never really changing me, you were just helping me to remember who I am. Who I used to be...before...before everything else. And that led me to realize that around you, I get to just be myself. It's an incredible gift that you've given me, and I can't help but acknowledge the fact that I have come to need another person."

Brennan looked down at their joined hands, worrying that she couldn't do this. That a conversation like this was beyond her scope of understanding. She had to trust in something other then hard facts and science, and it left her on shaky ground. It was a gamble that was staggering, the possibilities of what could be lost or won nearly rendering her incapable of continuing. With a determination in her mind to not back down, she looked him in the eye to deliver her next words.

"I need you. I don't know what I ever did to deserve you, but I am certainly committed to making sure that you never regret our partnership, or our friendship."

He was speechless.

Booth considered himself to be a man's man, complete with gun, badge, and an attitude to match. He could take down a suspect, garner a confession, and protect his loved ones with a fierceness that truly knew no real boundaries. Yet here he was, confronted with the trembling but determined words of this slip of a woman, and he was undone. His throat choked back what was surely a sob as his eyes teared in the corners. He could barely gasp out a response, so incredulous was the concept of her being undeserving of him, when in his mind it was clearly the opposite.

"Bones." He was reaching for her.

"Bones." A litany falling from his lips as he pressed them to her forehead.

"Bones." A prayer of reverence as he grasped her face in both hands, ensuring that she took his next words seriously.

"There is nothing good in this life that you don't deserve a thousand times over. Don't you ever think otherwise."

Her eyes stared into his, now bearing a similar sheen to his own. She hardly ever cried. What was happening here? A realization was dawning on her, coming up behind her like a thief, so as not to draw her attention until it was too late. He could see her come to some kind of understanding in her mind, her blue eyes clearly registering a revelation as they widened ever-so-slightly.

"What, Bones? What's going on inside that brilliant brain of yours?" Booth stroked his thumbs down her cheeks, catching a small tear that had escaped despite her best efforts. God, she was beautiful.

There would be no turning back if she revealed her next thoughts. They could still be as they were if this ended right now. There was still time to salvage the line and ensure it endured a little longer. But he was so close, his hands cradling her face in a way that made her feel like she was the best thing they had ever touched. The smell of his cologne and everything that made up Seeley Booth was ripe in her nostrils, causing her senses to become hyper aware. The sheer maleness of him and his proximity was causing her to respond to him not as a partner, nor a friend, but as a woman.

Vaguely, she cataloged the chemical processes that were most certainly taking place within her body at this moment. Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Serotonin. Chemicals that she was now coming to believe created something that was greater then the sum of its parts. And there was a word for it. Oh yes there was.

"Booth..." She had to collect herself, as she was seemingly losing the basic ability to even speak. She chose to break the eye contact that had become so intense that she felt like she was drowning.

Looking down between them, her eyes focused on the laces of his skates, she was able to find the courage to continue.

Her voice was almost a whisper as it reached up to his ears. "You make me want to believe that...that...there are some things that exist outside the realms of pure anthropology. That maybe I've been wrong about...about..."

She drifted off, hesitant still to deliver the last words. Sensing that she needed encouragement, Booth slid his right hand under her chin and lifted her face to look at him. He told her without words that she could do this, that he welcomed it, even though he could feel his heart coiled in his chest like a racehorse waiting for the gate to be flung open. If he didn't die from the sheer shock of the words that were surely going to come from her mouth next, then he would fling himself forward, leaning into the race, ready to run full out in hopes of claiming the prize.

"What do you think you've been wrong about?" He searched her face with his eyes, his hand reaching up to brush a stray lock of hair back behind her ear and tucked under her hat.

With her eyes gripped by his, her face in his hands, and her heart thumping in her chest, she whispered a single word.

"Love."

She had said it so quietly that she wondered if Booth had really even heard her. She felt herself flailing momentarily, the life-changing word hanging in the the air between them. "I mean, I understand that love is only a chemical cocktail of..."

She didn't get to finish whatever she was going to say because he interrupted her when his lips descended on hers. The shock as he crushed her to himself was enough to make her hesitate for a brief moment, before succumbing to the onslaught of his kiss. It was everything all at once. Tender yet desperate, greedy yet giving, passionate and loving.

They were drowning.

Booth swept one of his hands down to rest behind her neck while the other encouraged her head to tilt in a way to grant him the most access. When she sighed into him, parting her lips in invitation, he thought surely he was going to die. He was a condemned man and this was his last supper, a feast of rich proportions. How could he possibly survive such agonizing sweetness? All thoughts fled his mind though as the tip off her tongue brushed his, drawing him into her and allowing him to drink from the well of her mouth. The contact caused an explosion within his body and Booth involuntarily increased the pressure against her lips, delving in again and again, never getting enough of her offering.

Her hands had fistfuls of his jacket gathered together at his forearms, and as she sought out more of him, she shifted her palms up his arms to his chest, where she could pull him closer to her heart. But the kiss itself was growing more and more heated and the partners registered only the moment before they fell that they were still standing on ice skates.

Now sitting on the ice, they stared at one another, their breathing coming sharp and ragged. It took a minute for them to collect their thoughts and slow their heart rates, waiting to see what would show on the other's face. As the snowflake lights swirled around them in the dim interior, Booth and Brennan studied one another. And slowly, as the joy of the moment once again permeated the room rather then the suffocating intoxication that had been felt before, they smiled. Grins that reflected a deep happiness and contentment for what had just happened.

And then they started laughing.

Booth scooted himself closer to her, using his good hand to propel his body nearer. He reached out once again for her hand, thinking to himself that he would never get enough of holding it. The sounds of their mirth once again died down, leaving a feeling of wonder at what they had found.

"We shouldn't have waited so long," Booth spoke as they both climbed clumsily to their feet once again.

Brennan smiled, (was that shyly?) at him. "Maybe."

A comfortable silence descended, offering Booth the opportunity to link his arm with hers. Life was full of surprises, just like his incredible partner. Just when he thought he had things figured out, he was given a gift like no other. She turned her head and caught him looking at her with his love-sick face.

"Are you going to teach me how to skate backwards now, or are you going to just stare at me with that goofy look on your face?" Brennan placed her hands on her hips in mock irritation, causing Booth to chuckle, the sound rumbling up through his chest and throat to land on her ears like music. He grabbed her hands again in his, skating backwards in front of her, pulling her along.

"Can't I do both?"