Disclaimer: Not mine.


The fourth time is inevitability.

Evening. Guy hug.

Her apartment replaces the bar and the diner, and they both like it. There's a feeling of rightness in being here after a long, arduous case, without falling back on the old excuses of paperwork and wanting company for a meal. They're sitting entirely too close and this is a completely natural progression. It makes her feel warm inside.

But, excuse or no, the paperwork still needs to be finished, and it won't get finished anytime soon if he doesn't stop staring at her.

"What could you possibly find so interesting?"

It's the fifth time in the last hour she's admonished him. He enjoys being able to stare openly now, instead of stealing surreptitious glances at completely inappropriate times.

"Just wondering."

She glances up questioningly from the file on her lap.

"How are you handling this, Bones?"

She stiffens slightly, her entire demeanor begging him to back away. He stays firm.


"Because I know how much this must have reminded you of your mother. Of what happened to her. And I want you to feel like you can tell me."

She shakes her head stubbornly. This is the last thing she needs. To tear open that wound again, expose herself to raw anguish… It is the last thing she wants. She doesn't need him to tell her how to grieve. Compartmentalizing has always been a sufficient coping mechanism. She's fine, really. But he's like a dog with a bone sometimes, and there's only one way she can get him to let it go. It is something she's been planning to do anyway, so now is as good a time as any.

She moves to straddle him.

"Woah, what the…"

He jumps away, clearing half the distance between the couch and the door in a second. He holds his arms out in a defensive posture. As if he needs protection from her. Her walls almost slam back down. But the cracks he's burrowed in them, the stones he's knocked loose, the nooks and crannies he's exposed in the flawed foundation allow him to navigate unscathed. She looks up at him, her feet bare, her face painfully young without a hint of makeup. She wants him. She tries to show him how much.

"Don't you want me?"

She's never said those words to a man before. Never felt this exposed, this vulnerable. A part of her still refuses to accept the weakness in her need for him. She is far too self-sufficient to allow this need to control her. Yet here she is, practically begging.

"You can't even imagine how much."

"Then why…"

"Because I can't let you use me to hide from your pain. I won't. I'm not that guy. That's not what I am to you Temperance."

It's the use of her name that does it, rips through the tattered shreds of the reigns she's kept on her emotions. He knows who she is, and sometimes she feels like he's the only one who does.

She shows him what he is to her and breaks apart in his arms.


"They're not really guy hugs, Booth."

Her eyes are red and puffy when she pulls away. He laughs self- consciously.

"You caught that, huh?"

Her smile is genuine. She feels more like herself now.

"Yes. Although, it helped when Sweets informed me that you told him guys don't hug."

"That'll teach me to do something nice for the kid," he grumbles, but they both know his heart isn't really in it. She meets his eyes, and for the first time feels no fear at what she sees in them.

"Thank you, Booth."

She's not thanking him for the guy hugs.

She takes his face in her hands and kisses him softly, shifting onto his lap. They're both slow and gentle this time, and she's finally caught up to him.

She finds that she's actually quite good at popping her heart into overdrive after all.


Morning. Breakfast.

His well-structured body replaces the empty space at her kitchen table, and that's exactly as it should be. He watches her pour two steaming mugs of coffee and admires the way her hips sway under the silk robe. She hands him a mug, then steps back to lean against the counter as she nurses her own. Her eyes are a shade he'd never experienced until last night, and he feels himself growing hard again. It's really disturbing how much power she has over him.

Her voice meanders through the lust-addled fog his brain has become.

"May we talk about this like rational adults?"

"I was hoping that we could act like consenting adults instead."

He adds his charm smile for effect. She rolls her eyes.

"Don't be puerile, Booth. There are things we need to discuss."

"Wow. You sure know how to make a guy feel wanted."

She looks confused.

"I thought I made you feel sufficiently wanted when I---"


He holds a hand up in alarm. If she starts describing exactly how wanted she made him feel, she's gonna end up using that smart mouth for something distinctly other than talking. He already knows he won't like this conversation, but it's Bones, and he knows when to pick his battles.

"Okay, talk."

It takes her all of a tenth of a second, or the equivalent of a sip of coffee in his mouth.

"We engaged in sexual intercourse."

Coffee spews across her kitchen table.

"Geez, Bones! Don't say it like that!"

"But we did. Four times, to be exact."

He sighs, running a hand through his hair.

"I know. I was there."

She falls silent for a moment, taking a seat across from him. For the first time, she doesn't know what to do with those talented hands of hers, and they alternate between grasping her knees and wrapping across the front of her body. She can't meet his gaze, which isn't like her, and worry pricks his heart.

"You are aware that I believe monogamous relationships to be fundamentally unnatural and simply a reflection of society's antiquated and puritan social mores."

He nods tightly, not at all comfortable with where she's going with this. She still can't meet his gaze, and she's wringing her hands together in a nervous gesture he's never seen before, and dread doesn't even come close to what he's feeling. But they've always been attuned to one another, even more so now, and she must sense what she's doing to him because she looks up.

And his heart slams so hard against his ribs that he's surprised it didn't rip through his chest and land on the table. She'd be quick to point out the inaccuracy in that, naturally, but it feels pretty damn accurate from where he's sitting.

Her eyes are bright with unshed tears, and she wraps her hand around his.

"I do not find this belief to be valid any longer. Not generally speaking of course, but for myself, personally, it is… unacceptable."

Her smile is radiant as he kisses her.

This time, it just is.


Later, much later, they'll still lie wrapped up in each other. They'll still be them. They'll forget what the hell it was that they were so afraid of, what the hell took them so long.

They'll always be the center.

They'll always hold.


So, there it is. Feel free to let me know what you liked or didn't like. Constructive critism is always welcome :-)