AN: There are some swear words in this, and adult themes. Also, future chapters might move towards an M rating… undecided. So please beware if you're easily offended. I don't own any of these characters, though I'll be asking for them on my Christmas list. Thank you for reading!!!

He always knew somewhere in the back of his head that he would fuck this up. As good as he was with women in some ways, and he was very good, thank you very much, he just didn't seem to be able to handle relationships. Becca, Tess, a whole long-legged parade of gorgeous and perfectly acceptable women that he just couldn't seal the deal with. And somehow he still thought of himself as a white picket fence guy, a guy who was just waiting to fall in love, a romantic. He might think of himself that way, but the cold reality of it was that his longest, and by far best, relationship was with a woman he'd never slept with. Bones. Or at least it used to be.

This whole horrible day felt like some goddamn Greek tragedy. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun. The telling detail here, of course, was just how good that sun had felt, as he got closer and closer to its warmth. Until his wings melted and all the rest of it, and yes—plummeting back to earth was exactly how it had felt. Bones had invited him over to her place. She was going to cook for him. And yeah, maybe he was old-fashioned and reading way too much into the situation but it felt like a step, like things were slowly changing. There was no big occasion, no reason for her to break out the mac 'n cheese recipe. She said she just wanted to do something nice for him, and she said it with that smile he almost never got to see: sweet, innocent. That smile made his heart fall into his knees with exquisite agony, that smile that nearly laid him flat.

He didn't like to dwell on that feeling. On why exactly a smile from his brilliant, thorny partner could turn his insides to jello. Like any good Catholic, he had long ago learned the value of denying certain thoughts and urges. If you put an idea into a box, duct-taped it shut—and we're talking acres of duct tape to keep this one in—and shoved it to the back of your mind never to open again, it didn't count as a sin. Didn't count as anything really. No black mark on your soul. So he never thought about Bones in that way. Well, except for the errant erotic dream, in which his subconscious willfully went rooting through the boxes in the deep storage part of his mind and pulled Bones out to feed his predilections and hungers. Those were the dreams that made him pop like a champagne cork in his sleep—something that hadn't happened since he was in grade school—as if his subconscious wanted to leave behind enough tangible evidence to make him face the reality of his feelings. To make him ask himself, even groggy with sleep, gee why is that I'm swabbing off the front of my boxers like some horny kid, with the imaginary taste of my partner's wetness still in my mouth? But Seeley Booth could show his subconscious a thing or two. Each time, he stubbornly packed that box back up and shoved it further away. He went to church and said countless hail marys and asked forgiveness for disrespecting his partner. And then when he saw her, he was irritable and quick-tempered, because he worried that any kindness from her would send his head crashing into her chest just to inhale the scent of her skin like it was medicine and beg her to please please just let him...

Wash, rinse, repeat. This was his own personal torture schedule. A good deal less bloody than what he'd endured as a soldier, but somehow even more effective at making him want to shrivel up and die. Because even as he used one hand to keep her at arm's length, he used the other to guide her. And not necessarily the way a friend, or brother, would. He guided her through the gray areas of life that she wanted to ignore, he continually pushed and nudged her to get comfortable with her own emotions and other people's as well. A random memory always popped to the fore: of when he and Parker had walked through a house-sized anatomical model of the human heart at a science center once. Yes, that was what he felt like. Bones' own personal escort through the murky interior of the human heart. And why exactly had he cast himself in that role, and perfected it year after year? Because he was a masochist, yes. But beyond that? Best not to think about it.

And everything had been wonderful. The food, their conversation, it was easy and natural and more fun than he'd had in a long time. She'd worn a thin type of sweater that was the single softest thing he'd ever felt under his fingers. She had flowers on the table, she opened a bottle of wine. There was music—sure, her weird world music, but still music—playing quietly from the living room. Her hair was pulled back in a different ponytail than the one she wore at a crime scene—higher, more playful, and her hair had swung and bounced as she moved through the kitchen and he had wanted to reach out and wind it around his hand and give it a gentle tug. And he'd thought—maybe this was delusion—that he had seen just a glimmer of something in her eyes. Something more intimate. After dinner, they were sitting on the couch killing the dregs of the wine and laughing about her taste in interior decor. He was teasing her just to see that flash of pique, and the color of her blush, because she was so beautiful when she was flustered. Every cell in his body was aligned towards her, sure as compass needles pointing north. His shoulder touched her shoulder. His knee touched her knee. It began to feel like a date. They were happy, everything was perfect. Until he fucked up and pushed her too far.

She had thrown her head back to laugh at one of his jokes—that good-gritty laugh that felt like a caress inside his ears—and the vulnerable length of her neck was exposed to him, right in front of his mouth. And like some sort of bizarre vampire, he couldn't stop himself, and leaned in and kissed her. Just tilted his head and pressed his lips to the delicate skin of her neck as if he had any right. Inhaled the scent of her. Memorized the little gasp of surprise that she made. Just hurdled over their line and embarrassed himself, just like that. And all for one kiss—and barely a kiss, more like some hesitant type of nuzzling—on her neck. He regretted the choice. If he had known that this one clumsy move would incinerate their whole partnership, he damn well wouldn't have pecked her on the neck. He would've dragged her down onto the floor underneath him, pinned her with his body, ripped her clothes off, and done his very best to see if he could melt his entire life force into hers, like cellular osmosis, through the sexual act. But he hadn't planned it out, hadn't expected this particular box to unpack itself from the untidy corners of his mind. And so he had thrown away the best relationship of his life for a kiss on the neck.

Because her face had frozen. Like she was in shock. All the easy laughter of their evening was somehow vacuum-sucked from the room, as if it had never been there. In its place, there was silence. Awkward, uneasy, fearful silence, and the longer it stretched the more he felt his pulse accelerating like he was having a heart attack. All he could think was what have I done what have I done what have I done, and her face had become a porcelain mask. Years of storming her defenses, planning his strategy, biding his time with the patience of a sniper for God's sake, without even consciously realizing that that's what he was doing, and he had thrown it all away with one stupid move, because he felt for a moment that they were on a date, and he had been happier than he ever remembered and it seemed so natural to lean over and kiss her, it seemed so right. Until he actually did it.

She had gotten up from the couch slowly, as if she was trying not to draw attention to herself, and walked to the windows. She turned her back to him, arms crossed protectively over her chest, and stared out the window in silence. He got the message loud and clear. He couldn't even bring himself to say goodnight, couldn't thank her for the wonderful dinner, couldn't express his gratitude for what had briefly been one of his happiest evenings. He just gathered his coat and keys and boulder-sized burden of shame and left. And found himself in his car, staring at the dashboard like he had never seen it before, momentarily forgetting how exactly to turn a key in the ignition, how exactly to fasten his seatbelt, how to drive away. Why had he done something so incredibly mindless? Why? That kiss sent him reeling into the hard reality of all the boxes he'd packed away. He had to face the truth of it. Because even though he hated to admit to it, he was playing the long game. Had been since day one. Coaxing her to the point that she'd be ready to handle his feelings… assuming, obviously, that he was able to handle them first. Thinking naively, that through patience and trust he could somehow perform alchemy and turn Bones into his little picket fence wife. He didn't think of it as changing her per se, just… transmuting her. And he was so fucking stupid to ever think that she could change. To even want her to. She was unique and amazing and special the way she was—why was his subconscious so desperate to make her like every other woman? That was simple. So he could selfishly claim her, because at the end of the day, he was just like every other man. He was normal and he wanted normal things. She was extraordinary, and unless she somehow descended to his own mortal level, he could never deserve her. Selfish, selfish, shit.

This was why he hadn't been with another woman in over a year. A year. Even by his own standards, it had taken some pretty fancy footwork to denial-dance around that little fact. To never ask himself why exactly he'd stopped dating, why he'd stopped looking at other women, why a man with his usually potent sexual appetite had been content to live like a monk. So. Unbelievably. Stupid. But this at least was something he could fix. He could screw his way to oblivion, and maybe if he was lucky, drown out the truth of the one he really wanted by using another woman's body. Sort of the fake-it-til-you-make-it theory. Maybe if he could just get back on the horse, so to speak, he could have a shot at eventually finding another woman that he cared about even just a fraction as much as he cared about Bones. And then maybe he could stop torturing himself with dreams that could never become reality, and move on. And by moving on, he wouldn't have to bother her anymore with his pathetic hopes. It was the best thing for both of them really, that he go find some casual anonymous sex, and fast. Spurred by desperation, he finally remembered how to put the car in gear and navigate it to the nearest bar.

This part had never been difficult for him, not like relationships were. He could turn on the charm and had more than enough confidence to know that he wouldn't be going home alone tonight. And yeah, it wasn't a noble thing to do, using another person like this. And yeah, it was fairly disgusting, and he would be ashamed later. But the shame he would feel at having a one-night stand with a stranger was nowhere near the shame he felt at making a move on his partner. So he had looked over the women at the bar as dispassionately as if he was selecting produce at the supermarket, and found one with a nice body. Decent legs, decent face, decent hair. Adequate hotness for him to manage the physical mechanics of the act. Legal age, not drunk, check check. She may have been a nice person, may not have deserved this, but whatever. Her name was Amy, or Jenny, or something else that ended in an 'ee' sound—he couldn't remember, he didn't care. Had taken her back to his apartment, a tangle of limbs and strange perfume and had put his tongue down her throat every time she tried to talk, but she certainly wasn't complaining anyway. And it was uncomfortable, and felt wrong, and he pretended she was Bones and he forced himself to stay silent so that he wouldn't call out his partner's name, and he grabbed this stranger's breasts like he was forcing a pill down. And he thought about the box of condoms in his nightstand and realized how clinical it would have to be—it was risky enough already, and he wasn't dumb enough to risk an STD on this pathetic encounter and so he planned how to touch her as little as possible and still complete the deed. It would, by far, be the worst sex of his life, and maybe that was part of his punishment for letting the situation get so far out of hand. And he hadn't even taken his clothes off, though she had removed all of hers, because he didn't want to feel this any more than he had to. An unzipped fly was all he needed.

And just as he was ripping the foil packages open, as if two condoms—that's right, two, because he wasn't taking even a point-one percent chance of disaster—could protect his heart from the beating it had endured already tonight, and whatshername was sprawled across his bed looking as out of place as he felt, he heard a knock on his door. Fuckit. He knew that he could barely go through with this as it was, and he didn't need any distractions, not when all his mental energy was focused on just trying to stay hard and get this over with. More knocking—whoever it was would have to just go the fuck away. He was about to complete step 1 of the 'get over Bones and move on with his life so that maybe just maybe there was a chance he could save his partnership' plan and he was resolved. Swallowing a gulp of dishonor, he reached down to the woman on his bed and turned her over, dropping an apologetic caress to her shoulder to soften the obvious fact that he didn't want to see her face while he did this, and pulled her hips up and kneeled behind her. And then saw a shadow fall over the door to his bedroom and heard his partner's voice—

"Booth, I…"

And looked up and saw her standing there, keys in hand, utterly blank with shock, her face…her face just staring at him, and he froze and she turned and ran and he called after her to wait, and she shouted "I'm so sorry, I didn't know—" and he zipped up and threw himself after her and cried "Please, wait, Bones, don't go—" and she slammed the door after her and was gone. And he felt like he'd been caught cheating, like he had betrayed her, and just kept seeing the hurt on her face, his best friend, and oh God… and he didn't know whether he was going to vomit or cry or rip the fibers out of the carpet that he had collapsed onto, clenching them in his fists with white knuckles and wishing that he could punch himself in the face for what he'd done. He had to go after her, explain himself, try to make her understand. He wasn't anywhere near ready to be honest with himself or her about the feelings he'd stored away for the last few years, but now he would have to. Because there was no discomfort, no humiliation, he wouldn't endure to try and ease the pain he'd seen in her face. He didn't know what sort of feelings she had for him, but he knew that she'd never expected to find him like this. Never expected him to keep secrets like this. Never expected that after cooking for him and giving him such a lovely evening, and then being kind enough to seek him out after he'd risked their partnership with one stupid kiss, to drive over here and then find him in mid-fuck with some worthless stranger—that she had tried to come talk to him about it… he groaned and buried his face in his hands. He hadn't thought it was possible for him to mess up their relationship more than he already had. But this made that little kiss look like a minor transgression in comparison. How could they ever come back from this?

And then that woman came out of the bedroom—she had already put her clothes back on. She left a phone number in his hand and looked at him with sympathy and told him to call her if things didn't work out with his girlfriend and had left. He needed to go after Bones, needed to move. But he couldn't bring himself to be near her with another woman's smell all over him. He felt dirty in a profound way that a million showers couldn't wash clean, but he tried. He brushed his teeth ruthlessly and scrubbed himself under nearly boiling water and cried against the shower tile like a baby and was so shamefully overcome with self-pity that he nearly retched again. Sweets would say that this was all the result of not dealing with personal baggage—that emotional issues left to fester would eventually infect everyone they came in contact with. He couldn't remember ever being this much of a screwup—not even when he gambled, not even the halfassed way he'd treated Becca. He had messed up a lot of relationships but had never done it so profoundly…which made a terrible sort of sense really. Biggest relationship of his life, biggest screwup. The water swirling down the shower drain seemed to take all his hope with it. He could never fix this, but maybe if he just bared his heart to her honestly, without pride, he could make her understand what she'd walked in on. That he hadn't just kissed her and then gone onto the next woman as if it was nothing. That what she'd seen him about to do with a stranger had everything to do with her, and in his twisted logic had made sense at the time, and that he never meant to be so cruel.

He hesitated when he got to her apartment. Couldn't bring his fist to knock on the door. Felt like he didn't even deserve to be standing at her threshold, had no business asking to enter her home. Dragging his arm to that door was more difficult than almost anything he'd ever done. And when his knock was met with silence, he tried again. Nothing. He called her name and knocked louder. But something in the silence on the other side of the door felt more still than a person just refusing to answer. It felt like the apartment was empty. He hadn't thought to check for her car—just assumed at this late hour that she would be here. When one last attempt was met with silence, he used his key to let himself in. All the lights were off, and the only sound he heard was the buzz of the refrigerator in the distance. She wasn't here. Moving through the apartment, he called her name again just in case, but got no response. Everything looked normal until he got to the bedroom, to find a sight that stilled the blood in his veins. The closet doors were thrown open, the bedding was ruffled in the middle, the drawers were all hanging out, askew and strewn with clothing. There was no cell phone charger on the nightstand. The chaos of this room, in contrast to her usual fastidiousness, spoke of someone packing in a hurry, throwing things into a suitcase. He snapped on the light and rushed to the closet—there was no luggage there. No. No. She was running. He had made her run from him. He didn't know where she was or how to find her and he struggled against the panic that it might already be too late.

Good thing he was an agent, at least. He could check airline records for her name. If she was flying, he could find her. If she was just driving, well, he couldn't put an APB out for his partner just because he needed to have a talk with her. He would have to call Angela, and then she would need to know the whole sordid story. Hoping to avoid that at all cost, he sprinted back to his car, and tore off to the Hoover, thankful that no one was likely to be in the office at this time of night to see him in such a panic. The time it took to power up his computer seemed endless. He fought the urge to throw something, anything, just to hear it shatter. When he was finally able to check the passenger logs, he felt a surge of relief when he saw her name. American Airlines, flight 3548 to Caracas. For some reason, Bones had decided to flee to Venezuela. Whatever she needed. But he was going to be on the next plane right behind her, and he was going to do his damnedest to make this right. But then something caught his eye, farther down in the list of timestamped passenger data. There was another entrance for Temperance Brennan—this time, on a flight bound for Charles de Gaulle in Paris. And another one, going to Hong Kong via San Francisco. And another, and another, and another. He stared in disbelief. All total, there were eight Temperance Brennans flying to five different continents, all flights leaving within the hour or already departed. Sonofabitch. She was so smart, and she knew him so well. She had spent a small fortune on last-minute tickets for eight different flights just so that he wouldn't be able to find her. His Bones was somewhere right now, flying off into the night to God only knows where, fleeing from him and trying to cover her tracks. The pain hit his gut like a brass-knuckled fist. She had never tried to elude him before. She had never really run from him, shut him out. After all his progress, all the walls he had slowly dismantled, he had managed to, in one awful night, completely annihilate her trust. She was somewhere out there, with that splintered expression in her eyes, looking so broken. He had broken them.

Okay, so this chap was obviously Booth's POV. I'd like to do the next chap as Brennan's POV, but I haven't decided quite how yet… I know it was angsty, but I promise a happy and possibly M-rated ending if you stick with me. : ) As always, I live to hear from you.