Okeedokee, here is the final chapter! I really hope that you guys like how it ended. Brennan's been really difficult for me lately, so some of this seems a little on the "wishful thinking" side, but hopefully still within the realm of possibility. A HUGE thank you to everyone that has been reviewing and PMing me. You guys leave the most wonderful thoughts for me, and I wouldn't even do all this if it wasn't for you. I try my very best to respond personally to each and every one, so if I missed you somehow, my apologies! And of course, one more big shout out to Heather (hpaich), whom we have decided is the evil twin! =) Thank you for all your help, you are awesome!
His emotions were torn between giddiness, anxiety, and a sickening terror. She was here, waiting for him. She wanted to talk. Booth's throat felt suddenly closed off, his tongue hot and sticky against the roof of his mouth. He couldn't trust his voice right now, and so he nodded instead. He had slipped the right key into the front door, and fumbled with it for a moment now before he heard the "snick" of the latch being drawn. He opened the door and stepped aside to allow his partner to enter first.
She glanced up at him as she brushed past, her shoulder gently rubbing up against his chest. Blue eyes met brown for a brief moment, and Booth took the opportunity to read what he saw there. She didn't look angry. She didn't look sad either. Instead, she seemed to be…something else. It wasn't quite the same, but determination was definitely in play across her expressive face. He felt the band of terror loosen slightly, but he was still in its grip.
Booth turned around to make sure that the door shut completely behind them. It was an old building and the knob needed replacing. Many tenants had come to the door only to find it left open by the previous person, and his ritual of checking was really just a habit by now.
Silently, he led the way to the stairwell. There was an equally old elevator, but Brennan knew that he always preferred the stairs anyway. It was better exercise. And in this situation, he was glad that he wasn't going to be stuck inside that small space with nothing to do and no idea what to say as they waited out what would surely be an agonizing ascent to his floor. The stairs were much better. He was a man of action, and climbing the thirty-six steps to the third floor afforded him a moment to think.
What was the rest of the expression she had given him? Determination mixed with…something. He had been so certain by the end of his jog that she was going to let this whole thing go unmentioned. While the memory of kissing her might torment him on a regular basis from this day forth, surely they wouldn't ever talk about it. He and Bones had a particular agreement between them. It was unspoken, but it existed nonetheless. When something personal needed discussion, something that involved their relationship, whatever needed to be said was communicated with looks and subtle body language - rarely with words. And he was just fine with that. So what new rule was she making now?
The climb to his floor didn't take nearly long enough, and as they stepped onto the landing outside his apartment door, Booth chanced a glance at the woman beside him. She was chewing on her bottom lip, her arms crossed defiantly just under her breasts. At least he knew this look. She was thinking hard about something.
Brennan looked up as she realized Booth was taking a long time to open his front door, and she caught him staring at her. Maybe it was her new realization regarding her feelings for him, or maybe it was the way he looked after having been running, but she felt her heart rate speed up and she unconsciously slipped her tongue across the lip she had just been worrying. He chose that moment to smile at her – a devastating curl of lips and teeth that had her breath catching in her throat.
Anthropologically speaking, a woman would respond to a man that was displaying signs of physical fitness and prowess. It was a sign to her that he could potentially be a suitable mate; able to care for offspring and provide for a family. It was an obvious example of health, and on a basic level, humans were naturally attracted to virile members of the opposite sex. The physiologic responses of her body were really nothing more than…
Oh who was she kidding?
She hadn't come here to fool herself. She had come here on a mission, and she wasn't about to mentally shrink away from it. She came into contact with plenty of suitable male partners, but Booth was the only one that did this to her. Somehow, he had shown her that there was more to her humanity then pure chemical reaction. And in so doing, she was now able to accept that there was more to her attraction to him then could be summed up anthropologically.
She was in love.
Booth watched the play of emotions across her face as he looked down at her. He was good with people, but this woman always kept him guessing. Just when he thought that he had her figured out, she would surprise him. While other people often found her cold, too direct, non-social and awkward – he simply considered her a joy. Her capacity for affection, humor, compassion, and (he truly believed) love knew no bounds. The moments for them came unexpectedly and compulsively, but they were genuine.
What revelations about Temperance Brennan would he be privy to tonight?
As she looked up and caught him watching, he couldn't help but smile at her. She was just so damned beautiful. He noticed that his smile caused her to fade into thought again, even as she continued to hold his gaze. The urge to chuckle at her expression was too great to ignore, and a soft laugh spilled from his mouth as he turned to unlock his door. Whatever this amazing woman brought with her tonight, it would certainly be interesting.
He opened his door and stepped inside, reaching for the light switch to the left. Moving aside, he held the door for Brennan as she entered. He then closed and bolted the door and followed his partner into the living room where she took up residence on his couch. Neither had said a word yet, but they both chose that exact moment to begin.
"Booth, I want to talk to you about tonight and…"
"Bones, I know you want to talk to me, but…"
The each laughed a little nervously before Booth placed his hands out, palms facing his seated partner.
"Look, I know you want to talk. Just let me go and take a quick shower and change so that I don't have to sit here in sweaty jogging clothes. I'll be back in five minutes, ok?"
Brennan nodded her silent assent and Booth headed off in the direction of his bedroom. "You know where things are, so help yourself if you need anything."
She sat there, watching as he retreated behind his bedroom door. He left it cracked open though, not completely shut. While she wasn't a fan of psychology, she at least knew that it was a good sign that he hadn't shut it all the way. If only he knew how his parting invitation to help herself to a beer or some water was really quite close to what she intended to do here tonight. She did know where things were, and she did need something, and she was going to help herself to it.
It just wasn't food or drink that she wanted.
The question for her now was simply "how to do it?" There were probably social customs and expectations in a situation like this that she wasn't aware of. And even if she was, attempting to abide by them would most likely cause her to look like a fool. No, the best course of action would have to be her usual way of getting something done - direct and to the point. She could hear the water as Booth turned the shower on, and then the interruption of the spray as he stepped under it. She supposed it was a perfectly logical thing for her mind to conjure him up, naked and sweaty, just on the other side of the wall. If she was a truly bold woman, and if so much hadn't been at stake, she would have walked in there, shed her clothes, and climbed in to show him exactly what she wanted.
But for the first time in her life, she wanted more than that.
Booth was true to his word, showering and changing in record time. He emerged from his room, barefoot and clad in a pair of jeans and a black Doors tee-shirt. He had a light blue towel slung around his neck and he was rubbing his hair dry. If anything had ever looked so good, Brennan couldn't recall when. How could one kiss have caused such an awareness of him? Had this always been there, repressed beneath a firm layer of logic? She needed to say what she was here to say, because not getting to kiss him again was simply out of the question.
"Are you ready?"
Booth came around the couch and took a seat next to her. "Have at it. What do you want to talk about?"
"Booth, you know what I want to talk about."
He sighed. Of course he knew what she wanted to talk about. But even those few minutes away from her while he was in the shower had been enough for his mind to once again bring terror to the front of his emotional spectrum. What if she wanted to end it? What if she didn't want to work with him anymore? What if she wanted to make sure that he knew she wasn't attracted to him in that way? Rational or not, each horrible scenario had clamored for its fair share of attention. There was nothing for it though. He had to hear her out.
"Yes, Bones. I know what you want to talk about."
To her shock, silence was all that could be heard after he spoke. She had planned to be bold and direct, but all she could seem to do was look at him. She even opened her mouth a couple times to start, but quickly shut it when she realized no words were forthcoming. What if he hadn't wanted to kiss her? What if it had really just been a slip due to exhaustion – just like he said? Why had he seemed unaffected afterwards?
The words that suddenly spilled forth were unexpected.
"Why did you kiss me?"
He watched her as she struggled to find the words to begin the conversation. This was looking to be just as hard for her as it was for him. In some small way, he found it comforting that his brilliant, well-spoken, quick thinking partner was just as lost right now as he was. But as she quickly tossed out her question, he felt his stomach plummet to the floor. Why had he kissed her? How the hell was he supposed to answer that question?
"Just be honest with me."
Of course she knew his unasked question. How could someone that was so bad at people be so good at him?
"Because I wanted to." He could be honest, even if this whole surreal experience was killing him in the process. "I have wanted to…for a long time." He almost laughed out loud at her unexpected reply.
"Then why didn't you do it sooner?"
Good lord, she looked positively confused. Could she really not understand that there were some things that just shouldn't be done just because one wanted to?
"Jeez, Bones! I stopped myself! I have some control, you know."
Seemingly satisfied with his answer, she went back to chewing her lip while he waited for her next life-altering question. The moments ticked by, bleeding thickly into one another as she thought of what to say.
"Are you in love with me?"
No. Fucking. Way. She did NOT just ask him that. Shit shit shit. What the hell was he supposed to say? And there she sat looking all innocently curious, like the entire balance of the universe wasn't hanging on his answer. What kind of question was that? She must have seen the distress it caused, because she asked another one.
"Are you afraid to answer me?"
Again with the simple, patient look. Like she had just asked if he wanted the last egg roll or something. Was he afraid?
"Afraid? I'm fucking terrified Bones!" His outburst propelled him out of his seat, and he stood now between the couch and the coffee table, moving agitatedly in the small space. He raised his arms, emphasizing with sweeps of his hands as he spoke. "I can't believe that you even asked me that! How…how the hell am I supposed to answer a question like that?"
Brennan furrowed her brow and seemed confused for a moment. "What do you mean? You just…answer it. With the truth." Her own hands moved in a helpless gesture, indicating her lack of understanding as to why he was so upset. "Are you afraid to tell me that you don't love me? Because I am more than capable of moving past this, and so are you. It might be a little awkward, but we'll get over it." He had stopped moving around and was now looking down at her. She lifted her head to capture his eyes with her own. "Or are you afraid to tell me that you do love me, and then feel like you're taking a huge risk with our partnership and friendship?"
"Now you're just asking it in another way in order to get me to answer you. I can't answer that question, Temperance. " Booth's voice took on a dejected tone as he slumped back in the seat, leaning his head against the cushions and staring up at the ceiling. "Besides, what does it matter? You and I have very different views on what love is and isn't."
The room was silent again for a moment as each thought of what to say next. Brennan's voice was the one that finally broke through. It was quieter now, sounding almost timid as she spoke. "I may have changed my mind about it."
The pause in conversation had caused Booth to lose track of what was being said. "About what?"
The seconds ticked by before she finally whispered one word - "Love."
Incredulously, Booth turned his head to stare at her. Surely she wasn't saying what is sounded like she was saying. She had changed her mind about love? His voice full of astonishment, he asked her. "What does that mean?!"
Brennan turned to him, making sure that he was looking at her when she answered. This was it. She just needed to take a deep breath and say it. If she spent too long trying to find ways to explain things and looking for the words that would lead up to her confession, then she would most likely end up rambling on until she wasn't even sure what she was trying to say in the first place. So despite the thick clamp of anxiety around her chest, she somehow managed to take the breath she needed. In a voice filled with determination she uttered the statement that would change his life forever.
"I'm in love with you."
He just sat there, his face a mask. Brennan watched him for any sign of what he was thinking, but none was forthcoming. She began to get nervous, thinking that maybe the direct approach had not been the best idea. Perhaps she had been wrong about his feelings for her? Maybe their kiss hadn't been as profoundly revealing to him as it had been for her?
It felt as if an eternity had passed, and yet Booth still hadn't said anything. He looked stunned – his face frozen in an unreadable mask. She tamped down the panic that was trying to crawl its way up her throat, deciding instead to attempt to break his silence. Her voice sounded small and uncertain to her ears.
"Booth? Did you hear me, because I…"
She didn't get to finish what she was going to say because he had moved so quickly that his mouth was crushed up against hers before she even had time to register that he was going to kiss her. He was clutching at her, the finely honed finesse of their previous kiss lacking now. He pressed his hands to both sides of her face, kissed her lips, her cheeks, her eyes.
And in between kisses he whispered fervently to her.
"Of course I love you."
He returned to her mouth, drawing a deep sigh from her as he dipped hungrily to her lips.
"I've always loved you."
His breath brushed her jaw as he travelled up to her ear, his whispered confession sending chills racing down her back and white lightning curling into her belly.
"Love you…oh god…so much."
Booth clasped her to him, afraid to pull away and look in her eyes. Afraid that somehow this had all been a terrible misunderstanding and she was waiting to correct him. Or perhaps he was even a little frightened that her face would be a mirror, exposing for him the raw emotional power of the moment. If she was experiencing anything close to the heart stopping euphoria that was pulsing through his veins, then he wasn't sure he could handle it right now.
And so he continued to kiss her, not even fully aware of what he was saying. The words were tumbling from his mouth, pulled forth from within him by each press of his lips to her skin. To stop meant to face reality, and surely he was undeserving of such a gift as she was offering.
Brennan was trying to catch her breath, but he wasn't letting her. His hands were roaming feverishly, a litany of words dropping on her ears from his lips. His movements were jagged – desperate even. She was used to men responding to her physical advances, but never had she felt as if she held so much power over another person.
And certainly no man had ever held that same power over her.
She felt a wet plop on her cheek, and realized Booth was crying. His whispers were coming out between soft sobs, and his breath was hitching in his chest. It was enough motivation for Brennan to find the strength to pull away from him. She moved back, keeping her hands pressed firmly against his chest in order to keep him from leaning after her. He wouldn't meet her gaze, and instead had his eyes snapped shut. Brennan dipped her head, running her hand along his cheek.
"Booth? Look at me."
It took a monumental effort on his part to set his fears aside and open his eyes. She had said she loved him. He trusted her. He needed to place faith where it was deserved, and so he raised his eyes to her face.
What he saw literally robbed him of the air in his lungs. Temperance Brennan sat there, her face revealing her heart with such a sweet honesty that he felt humbled to be looking at her. There were no lingering doubts, no hidden secrets or double meanings. There was simply acceptance, joy, and love. He had always wondered what she would look like if she ever discovered love. Now he knew, and she had never looked more beautiful to him.
"Don't be afraid."
An involuntary chuckle burst from his throat. How did she know just what he needed to hear?
"I'm not afraid, just…overwhelmed I guess." He reached for her hands and held them between their bodies. Everything was happening so fast, he felt like this simple touch would help ground him. She watched him while he was working it all out in his head. After a moment, he seemed to relax. Then with a smile asked, "So, we're really gonna do this?"
Her answering grin was all the reassurance he needed. One thing Temperance Brennan didn't do was to back down once she had made a decision. No matter how much she might be frightened by the changes the future would undoubtably hold, if Booth was the reward, she was more than willing to give it a shot.
"I'd like to, yes."
And so they spent the evening talking, laughing, loving, and learning…together. And when it came time to part, this time it was with Brennan's soft goodnight and a lingering kissed that was filled with the promise of tomorrow, the day after, and the day after…
Please let me know what you thought! I'm feeling a little angsty...MAYBE even a little smutty now! So I should have something new started here very soon! (Yes, I'm shamelessly plugging my next as-yet unwritten fic!)