Always Too Much

In the days after horrifying revelations about her beloved Zach, she had let him support her- she had literally leaned on him, as if only that kept her from finally collapsing under the weight of everything that had happened. But then, a transition began and he felt her edging away, slowly propelling herself backwards in an effort to become untouchable to him. A cocoon began to form around her- one that consisted of work and silence. She insisted that she had forgiven him for the lies involved in his resurrection from the dead- that she did not resent or blame him. She said she understood and it sounded like she meant it so he was at a loss in trying to figure out the root of the problem. The first thing he noticed was that he was no longer allowed to touch her. His hand, which had rested comfortably on her back so many times, could no longer reach for her. The hugs that he had grown accustomed to giving her were not welcome anymore and if he attempted to reach out towards her face, to tug her chin up to look at him, she made sure to maneuver in order to block his touch. It was all so subtle- not as obvious as the previous year when she had avoided going out in the field with him. This time, there was nothing so apparent…nothing he could really confront her with- just the slow recession back inside herself until she was more like the day he met her than the woman he had come to know over the course of their partnership. The others in the lab noticed, but stayed away from the situation believing that it was personal and between the two of them. It clearly was since she had not changed in her demeanor towards Angela, Hodgins or Cam- other than their shared glances of sadness when something reminded them of Zach. If anything, the Jeffersonian team grew closer and Booth was left watching from a distance.

He kept trying to pull her back towards him- teasing her in an attempt to draw her into one of their playful sessions of bickering, but she refused to respond to the bait. Booth grew desperate to hear her laugh, to have her smile at him in the way that connected them to each other rather than the forced uplifting of her lips she would give him as if it were a requirement- an insincere gesture that never reached her eyes. Finally, the day arrived when she would not even meet his eyes over the examination table when he questioned her about the remains related to their latest case. She must have sensed his growing frustration- and somewhere inside her she must have known that he did not understand where the changes were coming from, but she refused to help him, refused to explain. They no longer went to see Sweets for counseling, and she no longer welcomed the young doctor's observations of their partnership. When the therapist did stop by the lab, she was polite and answered the mundane questions he asked without revealing anything about what she was harbouring inside. Booth had pleaded with Sweets to try and get her to open up, to reveal the secret that was driving her away from him. She was smart enough to see through the ploy- as he had known she would be even as he had sought the doctor's intervention.

When they were asked to travel to London, Booth hoped that (at last) forced together on an airplane and in a different country, they might be able to find each other again. She slept on the flight and insisted that her guest lecturing schedule with Oxford allowed no time for shared dinners or site seeing. It was in London, in his hotel room knowing that she was just across the hall but might as well have been back across the ocean in Washington- it was then that he felt alone for the first time in almost four years.

Back in the States, she became slightly more aggressive in her retreat. When she was dated two men at the same time, she made sure they came to the lab or that he saw her with them in public. Making sure he knew. She made it clear that she was using one of the men for physical pleasure only, and Booth swore he saw a glint of satisfaction in her eye when he clenched his jaw at that revelation. Little did she realize that it hurt him more to know that the other man was serving as her companion- joining her for dinner, having quiet conversations with her, learning the nuances of her personality- he knew that those actions meant more to her than sex and so the pain was more intense as he watched her try to replace him with someone else in those aspects of her life. All he felt about another man in her bed was jealousy which did not cut him as deeply or wrap so tightly around his heart.

One day in her office he lost his grip-he forgot about treading lightly around whatever this was in order to try and preserve what was left of their partnership. He had lost her in everyway that mattered to him. For the first time in his life, the work meant nothing and he found no satisfaction in arresting suspects and bringing justice to the dead. For the first time, with her, he felt like there was nothing left to lose.

"Bones?" His voice was weaker than he intended. She murmured an acknowledgement of her name, but did not look up from the file on her desk. He tried again, "Temperance…"

Even now, with all that had changed, she recognized the significance in his use of her first name in place of the nickname he had given her at the very beginning of their working relationship. Her eyes lifted and met his for the briefest of glances, "Yes?"

"What happened to us?"

"I'm not sure what you mean Booth," her tone was guarded and she shifted her body into a defensive posture.

"I've tried to understand, Bones…to give you space, time, whatever it is that you need with all this, but I just need you to talk to me- I need to understand. Please just talk to me…please." If Booth had not been so distraught, the pathetic undertone of his remark would have made him cringe, but he was past the point of even noticing.

"Booth, I'm not sure what you want me to say- I don't know what you need to understand. We're still partners. We still solve murders and catch the bad guys- nothing is different." Brennan crossed her arms over her chest and watched him from the corner of her eye. Even with the emotional distance she had put between them, she recognized the anger building behind his eyes. She knew that his voice would change when he spoke again.

"Dammit- you know that isn't what I mean!" His tone was sharp, just as she had expected. Instead of responding, Brennan stood up and began to walk towards the office door, abandoning the conversation. "Temperance!" This time, the use of her name was demanding.

Her back was rigid as she paused, "Don't call me Temperance."

Booth felt as though he had been slapped- the comment clearly meant to reflect back ironically on all her previous orders not to call her Bones. He understood. She was telling him that he wasn't permitted. Her name was personal, and he was no longer allowed access to it. Something inside of Booth gave way and in one rapid movement, he was up off the couch, across the room, and leaning down towards her.

"What the hell are you doing?" His tone almost made her flinch.

"I'm trying to get back to work. Jack should be done with the remains, which means I can move on to the next series of tests." Brennan shifted in an attempt to move past him, but somehow he made his tall frame even larger and blocked her way.

"Temperance, don't you dare." Her name this time, and the order that followed it, were a taunt. His hurt had hardened inside him and turned into something else- a rush of violent energy that he could only direct back at her. He knew it was juvenile to try and rile her up by playing against her hatred of being controlled, but he needed her to respond to him, to give him something. Booth didn't anticipate her reaction, which instead of being a verbal spear tossed back at him, was a physical reply. She shoved him hard and he stumbled backwards. In the moment that he was off balance, she darted past him, but not fast enough to completely escape. Just as she was about to pass through the door frame, his arm thrust towards her and his fingers closed around her wrist. "No you don't."

Brennan closed her eyes at the feel of his hand on her arm- and they snapped back open at the sound of his voice, low and cold in a way that she had never heard before. She realized that the air in the room had thickened, full of unspoken words and suffocated emotions. She was about to turn and face him, to finally meet his gaze, when he jerked her roughly around and gave her no choice but to look at him as his other hand went behind her neck and pulled her head upwards. When their eyes did meet, she saw something in his that was new- it was raw pain and anger so fiery that she gasped out loud.

"We're not done." Booth's voice had lost the deadly calmness and shook with his attempt to control his impulse to pull her closer towards him and force his lips against hers. Even in his current state of fury, he could not let things go there, he would not force himself on her to try and break her down. His next remark was mocking her and she knew it. "You want to know what's different between us Dr. Brennan??"

She could not even bring herself to nod, she merely dropped her eyes to the floor and waited for the verbal assault that was coming. The accusations that she thought he would get around to long before this.

"Everything has changed. You won't talk to me, you won't look at me…you treat me like I'm a stranger. All that bullshit with flaunting your dating life in my face- what the fuck was that about?? What do you expect me to do? Sit here and let you do this? Just stand by and watch you destroy what we are to each other?" Booth's voice had grown louder with each sentence and Brennan could sense a silence on the platform outside her office door as activity stopped and her colleagues listened.

"What we are to each other?" Her voice was a cruel hiss as she regained her composure and rallied against him. "What exactly are we Booth? We're partners aren't we? Isn't that what you tell everyone, what you tell me, what you tell yourself? And I have not done anything to change that! You think everything is about you- damned self-centred egotistical garbage! My dating has nothing to do with you- flaunting it in your face? Ha! You're just pissed off that I decided to get a life and I didn't consult you first. All your crap about 'protecting' me but what that's really about is you wanting to control me. It's about your inability to conceive of the possibility that you could matter less to me than I matter to you- well, guess again. Everything you're accusing me of right now makes it sound like we have a personal relationship- and we don't."

Booth blinked his eyes slowly, letting the sarcasm and jagged edges of her words sink into him. Suddenly, he knew what he had seen in her eyes over the last few months- he had mistaken it for pain and sadness over all the events of the last year. But now he could see it clearly. It was a type of hate- and it was all for him. His mouth went dry and almost involuntarily, his hand tightened on her wrist. Her eyes watered as pain shot through her arm as his grip dug into her flesh. When he spoke again, she knew he had seen it- knew that he finally recognized it and that his only way to respond was with complete wrath. The words came out of his mouth like gun fire and they hit her almost as hard.

"You bitch! You're going to stand there and turn this around on me? Coward. You pretend to believe whatever you need to, you can lie to whomever you want to, but know this…Temperance," her name was a snarl this time. "No one knows you like I do, and you will never be able to get me out of your life. I'm here and no matter what you do, you can't make me go away."

Booth was about to continue, when he felt fingernails digging into his arm. He looked away from Brennan to see Angela standing beside him, with Hodgins and Cam right behind her. Angela's voice was quiet, but strong, "Booth- let go of her."

When Booth did not comply, Cam stepped forward and addressed him, her voice heavy and sad at what she had to say because she knew what it would do to him- to them all. "Booth- you're scaring her."

At those words, Booth turned his eyes back to Brennan and he saw it- fear. This woman, the strongest and most self-sufficient woman he had ever known- who had stared down gunmen and stood up to mobsters- had fear in her eyes. And she was afraid of him. His fingers released her arm like it was on fire and he stumbled backwards, shaking his head. How had this happened? What had he done? What had they done to each other??

"Bones…" the familiar endearment was a whisper off his lips. He saw her wrist was turning purple where his hand had clenched her flesh. His stomach turned over and a wave of horrified nausea swept through him. "Bones…I…I just…" He tried to form words, to say something (anything) to reverse this moment. He would have amputated his own limb if it meant that he would find forgiveness in her eyes, but he had no words. His heart pounded in his chest and he could say nothing but the name he gave her in order to have something with her that was all his own. The name that had always held her close to his heart- but he knew that it wasn't enough this time.

Hodgins reached out and gently propelled Booth towards the door, "You should go Booth."

"No, but I…I need to…I can't…" The stuttering was all that would come. Booth sought her eyes, trying to find his way back to her somehow. When he found them, he also saw the tears on her face and he suddenly realized that there might be no way back this time.

"Booth, " Hodgins continued to escort him away, " please man, you need to leave her alone right now. Don't make this any worse."

At last, Booth allowed his body to be rotated away from her and he began to walk where Jack was guiding him. When they reached the exit doors, he looked back to Brennan. She was still standing where he had left her, watching him leave. Angela was beside with an arm around her shoulder, while Cam seemed to be examining her injured wrist. He stopped and stood still for a minute- even after all this, and for the first time in weeks, she allowed her eyes to lock with his. Something flickered behind the blue spheres and his blood stopped- it was so much like the hatred he had seen earlier, but it was something else. Before he could figure it out, she dropped her eyes again.

"Jack…tell her that I didn't mean…" His voice faded out again as he saw the pity in the other man's eyes. "Please tell her...tell her that I'm sorry. Tell her that I…that I…"

"I know Booth. I'll tell her you're sorry- but that other stuff you want her to hear- somehow, you are going to have to find a way to tell her yourself. Give her some time and maybe you two can talk to each other about everything."

As Booth finally exited the building, the weight of the idea of 'everything' they needed to talk about overwhelmed him. Where did everything begin?? And where did it end?? Should they talk about how he had known that she was more than a partner to him when Kenton had tried to kill her? Did they need to relive the Gravedigger case so he could confess his frantic fear of losing her? Would it make sense to try and explain to her that the war and his military life had made him into this man who was burdened by guilt and that only she was able to absolve him?? Did they need to talk about Zach and what his actions had cost them? What about her father's trial and what she had asked him to do for her- and what he had done, against all his supposed beliefs in truth and justice? Even if she would speak to him again someday, was it even possible to talk about everything? Or had too much happened? Was it just too late to save themselves?

For the next three weeks, Booth felt like he was floating through the world untethered. There was nothing holding him in place and sometimes it seemed that he was watching himself move from the outside of his body with no real feeling of being there. He could not avoid the lab, but he did what he knew he needed to do and he avoided her. When he had to make an appearance there for results, he called Cam so that she could forewarn Brennan, who would disappear to another part of the museum or simply close her office door and blinds. It hurt him not to see her, but he knew there was no other choice – and he also felt that he was to blame. Every night he went home and stared at the walls, berating himself for his impatience with her. He should have just let her pull away for as long as she had needed to and then she might have found her way back to him on her own. It had been a mistake to force the issue and back her into a corner. Booth stopped short of becoming a cliché and he did not sit around in the evenings and drink himself into forgetfulness. He did not want to forget- he needed to remember every single moment of his time with her, even the last encounter they had, because he felt like the memories were the only oxygen that he was getting during those days. Sometimes he did forget to eat and he rarely slept for more than a few hours at a time. If anyone noticed the hollows under his eyes and the way that weight was dropping from his already lanky frame, they did not comment. It seemed like everyone understood that he needed a wide perimeter around him right now. Or maybe they just knew that there was only one person who could help him.

At last, Booth could no longer stand the sense of deprivation he felt- and despite his ongoing feeling that pushing her the first time had been a mistake- he needed to act. His sniper's instincts would not allow him to remain coiled up any longer- he had to take action. He arrived at the Jeffersonian on a Thursday afternoon, without sending his usual warning to the team. As he approached the platform, he could see the whole group moving around the central examination table, working on results for the latest set of remains that he had sent to them the day before. She was the first to know he was there- still tuned into his presence, regardless of the time that had elapsed since they had shared any real proximity. Booth stopped walking as her head slowly lifted and her eyes fell upon him. Angela noticed that Brennan had frozen in her motions and turned to see what had distracted her- her eyes widened at the sight of Booth and she immediately moved protectively to her friend's side. Cam and Jack also stopped working when they realized that the rest of the lab had become completely still- they glanced at one another, not knowing if someone should step towards Booth and intervene.

For his part, Booth did not even see them, his eyes fixated on his partner- could he still call her that, he wondered. He was surprised that she had not turned and run from him, but there she stood, continuing to regard him with anxiety evident in her body language. Booth began to move again and as he swiped his card and ascended the platform stairs, he was quietly praying to himself that she would not bolt in the other direction. Nobody moved. He wasn't even sure if any of them were breathing- he knew that his lungs felt like they were going to explode and he was sure his heart was on the verge of stopping. Brennan dropped her hands from the examination table, but otherwise she remained motionless and silent. Suddenly, Booth was at a loss- why had he come here? What the hell was he going to say to her? He closed his eyes and tried to gather his senses back together. When he opened them he reached to a table and grabbed a paper and a pen wondering how he could possibly write something that was sufficient for this moment. How would he tell her that he just wanted to talk to her, that he needed at least one chance to try and make things right again? Could he just come see her tonight and talk, beg for forgiveness? Was there any way they could help each other understand what had happened between them? He searched his mind for how to summarize all the frantic thoughts that were running through his mind. And then he knew what to write, and he knew that she would understand that it meant all those things, and more. She would know exactly the messages that he was trying to capture. Scrawling one word on the paper, he folded it in half and slid it across the exam table towards her, stopping his hand several inches from her side of the table to make sure she did not feel like he was invading her space. After delivering the paper, he stepped back a few feet. Brennan looked down at the paper, and back up at him. In his eyes all she saw was shame and sadness- and a type of loneliness that she had seen in her own eyes so many times over the last several weeks. She reached for the paper and opened it up to read the single word he had written- Please

Booth could have sworn he heard the smallest of sobs from her throat when she read his plea- and he knew he was right when she lifted her eyes and he could see the tears shining in them. His own chin shook slightly, and he knew that he was holding back his own wave of emotion, waiting to see how she would react. Brennan held his gaze for a moment, then cast her eyes down as she whispered a reply, "Okay."

At the sound of her voice, Booth made a strangled sound which he realized was a pitiful cry of relief. Slowly he nodded his head, "Okay," he said. And then he turned and walked back out the doors through which he had entered, knowing that he could go to her later to try to fix everything. She had opened the door every so slightly and he knew that he needed to make the most of the small entry he had been granted – which meant finding her later and talking to her in private, after she had a chance to process what had just happened.

Angela looked down at the paper that Brennan was still holding, "Sweetie- what just happened here? What does that mean?"

"It means Booth and I need to talk," Brennan replied and she began to make her way towards her office, suddenly exhausted and needing to sit down. Angela followed her.

"Bren…are you sure that you should do that? I mean, last time the two of you had a conversation…"Angela's voice trailed off, not wanting verbalize the frightening scene that had transpired in Brennan's office last month.

"I'm sure. It can't just stay like this- somehow, we have to find an ending." Even as the words left Brennan's mouth she realized that she wasn't sure what she meant by an ending. Did she mean she needed a way for this emotional limbo to stop? Or was talking to Booth going to mean an end to them? To everything? As she dropped into her desk chair, she felt tears roll down her cheeks. "Angela- I don't know what the resolution will be when I talk to him, but there has to be one. I can't live with this- with the ways things are now."

"Can you forgive him for what he did to you?"

"Angela- I think the real question is, can we forgive each other? Booth is not the only one who has done things to feel guilty about."

"But sweetie, he hurt you- I saw that bruise on your wrist for days afterwards." Angela shuddered slightly at the memory. It had seemed unreal to her that Booth had caused the angry mark on Brennan's arm- she would not have believed it if she had not seen it all happen with her own eyes.

"And I hurt him- in a different way, but in a way that was even more cruel. I just don't know if we can find our way back through all this- or if we even should. Maybe an ending is the right thing." Brennan sighed and leaned back in her chair.

"Bren- I haven't asked much about the argument you two had…but I have been curious about something. Did you two sleep together? Is that what this is all about?"

"God- no we didn't! Why would you think that?" Brennan was amazed that even in these complicated circumstances, people would think everything was about sex.

"It just seems like the aftermath of something, you know? Like the two of you did something and got confused about it afterwards. I don't know- I've never really seen a relationship like you and Booth. I was just trying to figure out what happened."

"It isn't about sex, Angela. It would be easier if that's all it was- sex is just, you know, sex. If we had made some kind of mistake related to that, I'm sure we could have sorted it out and moved past it. This is worse Angela- it's something more complicated and I'm not sure either one of us will know how to maneuver our way out of it."

"Please tell me what happened," Angela was not simply curious for the sake of gossip- in fact, she'd never breathe a word of this conversation- but she was genuinely perplexed about what had occurred to drive apart her two friends because she had never imagined that anything could.

Brennan sighed, a sound filled with anguish and the weight of something that lay heavy in her heart. "Angela- I think I need to say these things to Booth first. He deserves to be the first one to hear them. But I promise, someday, I'll try to explain it to you." With that, Brennan stood, removed her lab coat and grabbed her bag. "I'm going to head out. I need to take some time to clear my head. I know that he won't wait long to come see me now that I have told him he could."

"Wait- when did you tell him that??" Angela was mystified.

"Out there," Brennan gestured towards the lab platform. "That's what he was asking for in his note- and I told him it was okay. " Brennan walked away leaving her friend shaking her head, trying to comprehend how the two of them could be so estranged and yet still so in sync with each other.

It is late when the knock finally sounds on her door that night and she has been waiting, wondering what hour of the night he would decide to show up. Temperance does not even bother to check to make sure it is him- she is sure- and she lets the door swing open as she walks away from it, realizing that she cannot bear to see him standing there, can't deal with the expression she knows will be on his face. Booth is not surprised to be greeted by her back as she walks away from him. This whole thing is not going to be easy for either of them. He wonders if she saw him sitting down in his car for the past 4 hours, trying to figure out how to start this. Felling tugged along by some invisible connection to her, Booth follows her into the apartment and closes the door behind him. Temperance has crossed the room and is staring out the window into the night. He can hear her breathing and knows that she is waiting for him to decide on the next move.

"I don't know what to say to you," he whispered. She turned and looked at him and his heart clenched as he saw that she, once again, had tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry for…" Booth lost his voice, he found that he could not admit out loud that he had scared her, that he had hurt her. He dropped his head and stared at the floor.

"I know you are, and none of this is about that," her voice was soft and she hoped the gentle tone would make clear to him that he was forgiven for his lapse of uncontrollable temper. "You have to let that go."

"Do I have to let you go too?" Booth's words were still a mumble as he refused to look up at her.

"Oh, Booth," she sighed. "I don't know. I really don't…maybe we have to let go of each other. Maybe there is no other way." She saw him tremble at the idea and she immediately wished she could have said something else, anything else, but she also knew she had to be honest with him- he deserved that after all that had happened. "You asked me why things had changed between us and I never answered you."

Booth's head shot up as she spoke- amazed that she had moved so quickly into that territory. He should have known she would…trying to get this over with and deal with whatever the fallout was.

"Booth- I don't even know if I can explain it all to you. I'm not sure I fully understand it myself. All I know is that everything between us is always too much." She watched him and could see his eyes cloud over, not comprehending. "It became so clear to me when I had to deal with your supposed death…"

"You said you understood that," his voice erupted to interrupt her. "You said…"

"I do understand, Booth. I do. It's not about me being angry at you for not telling me the whole plot- it never really was about that."

"Then what was it about?"

"Remember how annoyed you were that I wasn't crying at your funeral?" She continued as she saw him nod. "I couldn't cry at your funeral Booth, not in front of all those people, because I knew what would happen. I did cry for you Booth- at night, here, when I was alone. So, I knew that if I started, I would cry for hours and that it would be this uncontrollable fit of grief. They would have had to carry me out of that cemetery because I would have collapsed under the weight of my pain. And I know that is how it would have gone, because that is what happened every night for those two weeks that I thought you were dead."

Booth's breath caught somewhere in this throat as he listened to her. She had never been this open with him about that time, had never confessed her reaction to his disappearance from her life. He had actually thought that her whole speech about compartmentalizing had been true and that somehow she had been able to overcome it in a way he never would have been able to if the situation had been reversed. Faced with the loss of her forever, he knew he would drown in the emptiness of the world without her. Now he finally understood that it had been the same for her.

"And then when you came back- I can't even tell you what I felt. I was relieved and enraged all in the same moment. Hitting you was the only way to release even a fraction of the turmoil that my body was dealing with when I saw you there, alive and right in front of me again. Then, things with Zach…" her voice cracked as she said the name of her young protégé and Booth could see how raw the pain still was for her.

"I know," he spoke again. "I know how much that hurt you. I wish I could have done something to help you."

"You did- that was the problem." She watched as he stepped closer to her, unable to resist the draw of her bizarre statement. She knew she had to explain it to him- somehow she had to make her reasoning clear. "You were the only one I could let myself turn to in those days after Zach was arrested. I needed you so much and I let myself lean on you and find comfort with you. And one day, I knew it had become too much."

"What had become too much, Temperance, I don't understand. There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort from a friend during a difficult time. We help each other get through those things." He moved another step closer to her, surprised that she did not flinch as the space between them decreased again.

"That may be true Booth, but when I had to find strength to deal with Zach and you were the one I could turn to, it made me angry. I was so angry with you for being there- because all it did was crystallize for me why your 'death' had been so hard for me. The only one who could have helped me deal with that was you- and you were gone. So, what did that leave me? Who was I supposed to turn to if you had to leave me again? I needed you too much and you just kept being there- you kept making me need you more and more. I resented it and had to break free from it because I know that, someday, you won't be there for me. Something will happen and I'll be left alone- so I need to figure out how to be alone again before that eventuality becomes true. I was alright on my own before I knew you and it made me so angry that you had changed that for me."

Booth nodded his head slowly, understanding her sense of helplessness at feeling dependent on anyone. He knew she hated the thought of it and always wanted to be able to handle things on her own. "That's why…that day in the lab, when we fought- I saw something in your eyes that I thought was hatred."

"It was," suddenly her voice was so quiet he had to strain to hear her.

"You hate me because I'm such a close friend," his voice held both bewilderment and a sheen of sarcasm at how unreasonable that seemed to him. Was she punishing him for caring about her??

"I hate you because you aren't a friend Booth- we use that word to gloss over so many other things that go on between us. Haven't you ever heard that expression; 'There's a thin line between love and hate'? I've crossed and recrossed that line so many times with you that I've lost count."

"Wait- does that mean…?" Booth's voice trailed off at the magnitude of what he thought she was saying to him.

"Yes, Seeley." The sound of his first name on her lips made his eyes sting. "I hate you because I love you."

"I love you too," the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. "Why is that a bad thing? Why is loving each other something you don't want?"

Temperance looked at his face and felt her jaw tighten as she took in the change in his brown eyes. The shame, the guilt, the sadness that she had seen there only moments before were transitioning to something hopeful and confused and she knew that he would press her for an explanation.

"It's too much. The love between us is too much- I need you too much- I missed you too much. I can't stand it Booth – it overwhelms me in a way that nothing ever has before and I hate that. I want control of my emotions and control of my life- and I can't have that if you are too close, if we try to love each other." She was breathless from finally letting her fears out and she could almost see her words in the air between them.

Booth shook his head, as if trying to clear his mind and understand how she could be saying the things she was saying. For Booth, love had always been an unattainable safe harbour- something that he had hoped for and never found until he met her. She was the only one who knew the darkest parts of him, who he had told about his past- and who never judged him for any of it. No one else knew him like she did- and it was only because he had known from the earliest days of their partnership, that she would not blame him for his demons. In her own way, she offered comfort and it was the only time he had ever felt unconditional acceptance. He struggled to find his way through her logic- he knew she was afraid of losing people she loved, but how could you deprive yourself of such a breathtaking connection with someone just because of fear.

"I know it's scary, Temperance," he began in a halting voice, not wanting to belittle her feelings. "It's scary- but don't you think the risk could be worth it? That we could be worth it?"

Brennan regarded him carefully. His face and his voice reflected back to her the question of a much younger, much more innocent man. For all Booth's military training and the emotional maturity required in his work, his belief in some mystical idea about love was as pure as a teenager's when they had their first crush in high school. She hated that she was darkening that innocence for him- that she could not tell him that love would conquer all.

"Booth- I can't lie to you. I don't know how to get past the fear- if you could understand how I felt when I thought you were dead…"

"I do understand." His voice was quiet again and his eyes grew distance, remembering. "When you and Hodgins were trapped in that car, underground, I had some time to really think about what my life would be like without you. I was so afraid that I'd never see you again- that I'd never be able to tell you how I felt. And then, even when we saved you, I couldn't tell you how I felt. I know fear too Bones- when it comes to how much I love you, I know all about fear."

Brennan watched him for a minute, her eyes dark too, from the shared pain of that long-ago case. "I still have nightmares about that," she whispered.

"So do I," it was an emphatic confession. He had to help her see that he was not immune to the magnitude of their relationship. He wanted to her to know that he understood everything that was at stake. Lost in his reflection, he realized that she has said something that he missed. His eyes look at her, asking her to repeat herself.

"I said, I wrote you a note while I was trapped in that car." She can hear his sharp intake of breath. "Hodgins asked me if I wanted to say good-bye to anyone- and you were the only one who I wanted to say something to." Her voice broke slightly and she stepped past him towards her bookshelf. Reaching up, she removed a thick reference volume on human anatomy. Leafing through the pages, she pulled out a dirty and ragged piece of paper. She extended it towards him in a shaking hand, "I've kept it all this time- in between the pages about the human heart."

Booth accepts the paper and realizes that her placement of the note in that particular spot is not accidental. She had been trying to understand, even then, what was happening between them. He also knows that she has given him a gift with this piece of paper- a rare admission of weakness and need that was inscribed in ink.

"I won't read it if you don't want me to," he said.

"It's time for you to see it."

With a slight nod, Booth unfolded the page and noticed that she had been torn from the pages of her novel that had come out the year of the Gravedigger case. The book that had been dedicated to him. The writing on the page was uneven, clearly indicating that the situation had not been ideal to compose the note. With one final glance up at Temperance, his eyes fixed on the words before him.


I think you know how I feel about you and this partnership we have shared. I hope that you do. I know you tried to save me- please know that you already did.


Booths eyes filled with moisture and he stumbled slightly on his way to sit down on the couch. After a short hesitation, she sat down beside him and he could no longer stop himself from reaching for her. His need to feel contact with her was a riptide that dragged him out to sea. His arms were around her, pulling her close before she could even think about backing away. He clung to her and she felt the warm touch of his lips on her forehead, on her hair, on her cheeks- soft and wet like raindrops. His voice was a desperate tearful whisper, "I would have died if I'd lost you." Over and over again, like a chant, he said the words. Somewhere in the middle of his mantra, the words changed tense, "I'll die if I lose you."

Temperance lifted her own lips to place a kiss on the pulse point in his neck- and his words stopped abruptly. "Listen to what you are saying, Booth- it's exactly what I'm afraid of." She leaned her forehead against his shoulder. "You and I…we mean too much to each other. And someday, one of us will have to deal with losing the other. How would we do that Booth? How would I live without you? How would you live without me? It would be too much to bear."

Booth shifted his body so that she had to lift her face and look up at him. It was only when her face lost contact with his shirt and the air hit her cheeks that she realized she was crying too. One of his hands had slipped upwards and now held the back of her head so she had no choice but to meet his gaze as he spoke.

"You're right Temperance. It is inevitable that someday one of us would lose the other- if not through our work then simply through the reality of aging and dying. Love generates loss because without love, you don't feel the pain of absence. But I can tell you right now that if you were to walk away from me after tonight and never speak to me again, I would feel that loss as surely as if you were gone from the world. Not being with you does not mean that I love you any less. And I don't think you can argue the point. Can you tell me that being separated from me would make you care less about me- that you wouldn't feel the absence? These last few weeks, I have missed you so much- I can't even tell you. Haven't you missed me? Missed being us?"

Tears slipped slowly from Brennan's eyes. She knew he was right- knew that he was so much a part of her now that forcing themselves apart would do no good. She had told him once that two entities could not occupy the same space- but she had been wrong. Somehow, at some point she could not quite pick out, they had defeated science and they had mingled into one. She could feel the very molecules of him within her body as if they had been transfused there. She found that she could not answer him, that no words would form. Without speaking, she leaned closer to him and tilted her chin upwards. Her eyes never left his until her lips brushed across his and then she closed her eyes in an attempt to survive the torrent of emotions that cascaded across her. Booth responded to her, pushing back towards her in order to deepen the contact between their mouths- and Brennan knew, for the first time, as her tongue gently swept across his bottom lip- this is what love tasted like, what it smelled like, what it felt like. She knew that her connection to him was a force that she could not fight against- that for the first time in her life, she would need to admit defeat. Slowly, she pulled back form him and her fingertips pressed against his lips as she raised her hand to stop him from following her mouth. Booth took hold of her wrist- the same one he had held so violently all those weeks before- and placed soft kisses all around it while caressing her palm with his thumb. She smiled at him and wrapped her fingers around his to squeeze his hand.

"You're right." Her voice was quiet and there was a trembling undertone to her words.

"Right about what?" he questioned, eyebrows raised.

"It is worth the risk. You are worth the risk."

"I know it's not going to be easy Temperance. I know we are going to have some really difficult things to figure out. But I also know that we can figure them out- that's what we do together right? We solve things," his tone was warm and laced with happiness.

"Yes, that's what we do. Booth- I'm sorry…" She did not have a chance to finish her sentence as he cut her off.

"No more being sorry about what has happened in the past OK? All past sins forgiven and forgotten. We go forward now- new beginning."

"New beginning," she echoed. And then, with courage of the heart that she had never possessed before, she reaffirmed, "I do love you."

"And I love you," he said with a chuckle. "More than you know. More than I could say."

"Stay here with me." Her words were a statement rather than a question.

Booth did not respond, he merely tugged her towards him and wrapped his arms around her. She let her head rest on his chest and listened to his heartbeat, absentmindedly drumming her fingers on his ribs in time with the rhythm. He dropped another kiss on her hair and released a sigh of contentment. They were both more relaxed then they had been in weeks and as the darkness continued to puddle in the shadows outside, sleep overcame them.