Author's Note: Okay, at first glance this will appear to be the same chapter that I posted last night but fear not—it's actually an updated version with the continuation of "the conversation". Enjoy! [And remember: reviews feed the muse!]
When Brennan made her way into the living room she saw Booth seated on her couch, looking pensive, and she had the irrational urge to do exactly what he'd joked she shouldn't—sneak out a window and run away. Yes, it was a stupid and cowardly impulse, but she was in uncharted emotional territory here and she wasn't entirely sure how this was going to go. All she knew was the person she normally would rely on to get her through situations like this was now the one who was causing this whirl of fear and doubt inside her. One wrong move tonight and she'd lose everything: her partner, her friend, her heart.
"Hey," he said softly, noticing her entrance. He patted the cushion next to him and motioned to the cups of coffee sitting on her coffee table. "Come sit with me."
With a deep breath and a miniscule straightening of her spine, she did as he asked and picked up the mug closest to her. She had to smile a little after her first sip, allowing herself the simple pleasure of not only the beverage but the fact that he knew exactly how she liked it. He paid attention to all the little details of her, all her likes and dislikes, and she reveled more in these small gestures from him than she ever had the grand gestures of other men.
"What are you thinking about?" Booth asked, noticing the soft expression on her face.
"Just enjoying my coffee," she hedged before pushing herself to prompt the conversation she so dreaded. "So…"
"So," he repeated, unsure of where exactly to start. "Bones, what you walked in on, it wasn't exactly what you think."
"Oh, so Perotta wasn't touching you?"
"No, she was."
"And you weren't enjoying it?" She asked, a hint of acid in her voice
"No, I was." This wasn't going well, but he couldn't help but answer her honestly.
"Well then how is it not exactly what I think? What do you think I think?"
"That I was flirting with Perotta."
"And you weren't?" She asked disbelievingly.
"No, I was." He admitted. This really wasn't going the way he wanted and he knew if he didn't manage to save this conversation soon, he was toast. "But I wasn't serious about it. I was just enjoying the attention, that's all." He admitted sheepishly.
"Enjoying the attention." She repeated softly, her ire dissipating a bit at his admission. That wasn't actually as bad as she thought. Enjoying positive attention was a perfectly natural human occurrence. Enjoying the attention was different from being interested, wasn't it? She thought. Then a sadder though occurred to her—When was the last time I let Booth know he was special to me? As a friend, as a partner, he was always doing little things for her that made her feel special. In fact, he did it so often, she rarely even stopped to think about it anymore, she just accepted it. But when had she last reciprocated? By giving him another cocky belt buckle? That hardly seemed momentous.
"Bones, I'm not dating Perotta. I don't want to date Perotta."
"Why not? She's exactly the type you always go for. Are you already seeing someone else I don't know about?" She asked with a frown. Why was it that Booth always knew everything about her dating life but she always had to stumble unknowingly onto his? How was she supposed to know these things if he never told her?
"What? No, I'm not dating anyone! Sheesh Bones, when exactly would I find the time?"
"Bones, I'm always with you. Whether it's on a case, or going out to eat or just hanging out, I'm with you. Don't you think I would've had to cut out that stuff to start seeing someone else? Don't you think you would've noticed, even if I didn't say anything?" He asked softly, tilting her head to meet his eyes.
"Booth," she began, not entirely sure she wanted the answer to this question before she even asked. "Am I… is this surrogate relationship Sweets says we have… is that holding you back from being happy? Am I getting in your way?" She asked, tears shimmering in her eyes.
"What? No Bones, no, that's not what I'm saying at all!" Booth said strongly, turning on the couch so they were facing each other. Almost unconsciously, he reached out and took one of her hands in his, but whether he was trying to reassure her or himself, she couldn't tell.
"What are you saying then?" She asked softly, looking him right in the eyes.
"Bones, do you ever think Sweets only got it half right?" He responded, softening his tone to match hers while his fingers absently drew circles on the back of her hand.
"About us having a surrogate relationship."
Brennan considered her words carefully, hoping that she understood both what he was saying and what he wasn't—she knew she wasn't any good at verbal subtext or hints in most situations, but she hoped that maybe she'd gotten good enough at understanding him to figure out what he meant. "You mean the surrogate part."
"Yeah," he said, his face not showing any signs of surprise that she understood. "Bones, I just don't think there's anything surrogate about us. I don't know when it happened or how, but aside from Parker, you are the primary relationship in my life. And I'm tired of trying to convince everyone, myself included, that that's not the truth."
"But you were flirting with Perotta?!"
"Yeah, I was."
"But you really want to be with me?" She asked, trying to wrap her mind around this new concept.
"Yes." He said definitively. Whatever doubts he'd felt before were now long gone. He wanted this and more importantly, wanted her to want this…want them. And he knew the only way he'd accomplish his goal was with complete honesty. Giving her his all needed to start right now. "And, in a strange way, I suppose I'm not entirely sorry about it because if it hadn't happened, if I hadn't seen that look on your face when you saw us, I don't know if I would've ever had the guts to tell you I wanted more."
"Booth," she hesitated before continuing, wanting to be sure she understood this. "Are you saying you want us to be more than just partners?"
"Partners, friends, lovers, the whole deal Bones. The whole deal."