AN: Alright folks, I'm going to wrap this up. (Sorry I'm a day late on when I planned to post—my hotel room sucks and is killing my urge to write.) I can only torture them so long before I get sad. I'm starting to feel like a really mean person… : ) Thank you so much for the amazing reviews, which I don't deserve, but joyously accept anydamnway. You guys are the best. The encouragement totally keeps me writing. Also, I've been alternating POVs with each chapter, but since this is the last chap I've sort of mooshed them artlessly together. Hope it's not too confusing. And warning: this chapter is loooooooooong. So put on a pot of coffee. Thanks for reading!
The metallic-mosquito buzzing of her cell phone jolted Brennan awake. She'd had the ringer off for the last few days, but forgot how loud a phone could vibrate against a nightstand when the rest of the room was silent. Damn. It was Angela. Again. Propping herself up, she scanned the latest text from her friend:
Before you read the rest of this, I want you to take a deep breath and remind yourself that I'm your friend and I love you. I lurrrrrrrve you, even. So I hope you won't be too mad when I tell you that Booth is on his way to Cairo. Right now. I know you must really be wanting your space right now, but I didn't know what to do. I've never seen him like this—seriously, Bren, you wouldn't believe how upset he is. And he figured it out on his own anyway, mostly. I just…helped. He promised me that all he wants is to talk to you, and sweetie I really hope you hear him out. What you guys have is too good to let go of. I have no idea what happened (because *someone* hasn't been answering her phone for days) but please take care of yourself. So yeah, mea culpa, I helped Booth find you, because I'm worried. You can hate me when you get back safe, okay?
Brennan almost dropped the phone in shock. He was on his way here? Now? She jumped out of bed, dragging her hair into shape. Her eyes fell on her suitcase, frantically. She could pack and be gone in less than ten minutes, she reasoned. She wasn't ready to see him! She started throwing clothing onto the bed haphazardly. There wasn't time to do this correctly, but she could repack at the airport. She just needed to get everything into her bag and get out of this hotel. She'd put the hotel reservation in her real name, not expecting that Booth would be able to determine which city she'd actually travelled to. But she hadn't expected Angela to help him, and now she knew it was entirely possible that he'd be able to find her. Unlikely, but possible. And now was not the time to underestimate his skills as an agent. She was just sweeping the contents of the bathroom counter into her bag when a knock at the door stopped her heart. It couldn't be…
"Bones, are you in there? Bones?"
Shit! Maybe if she just stayed silent, he would go away. Barely breathing, she set her bag down on the counter and slowly inched back into her room, somehow drawn to his presence even though she wanted to stay hidden. To know that he flew halfway across the world, and was standing just on the other side of that door… she wondered how he looked, whether he was still angry at her, what he would say. But she kept quiet, hardly daring to move. There was no sound from the other side of the door. …He must have left. Part of her was relieved, but part of her was surprised at how fast he'd given up, after coming so far. And… another feeling she couldn't name. Something approaching emptiness.
A faint scratching announced that he was picking the lock and she gasped, looking around for an exit she knew didn't exist. There was nowhere to go. She backed up against the bed and watched with her pulse thundering in her ears as the door slowly opened. He just stood there, looking back at her. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans; without his agent's black suit he looked younger, and somehow larger than she remembered, filling the entrance to her little room. She couldn't read the expression on his face—but it definitely wasn't friendly. To come all this way and break into her room just to yell at her? He must be even angrier than she thought. Think fast, think fast. She had promised herself that when she got back she would be a better friend to him, make him understand that he didn't need to hide his personal life, and that she'd never barge in again. Maybe she should start her apology now, before he gave whatever parting speech he'd come to deliver and walked out of her life.
Clearing her throat awkwardly, she crossed the room to him and held her hand out to shake. "Booth, I'm so sorry, and if you give me a chance I'll apologize properly."
He looked at the small hand held towards him as if it was an alien object. Just stared, eyes wide. Finally, he reached out and took her hand reluctantly, though he didn't shake it. He merely used it to pull her closer to him. "You're…sorry?" he asked quietly.
Looking into his eyes she found herself robbed of the ability to speak. Had she always missed him this much? It had only been a few days since she'd seen him—seen more of him than she'd wanted to—but it felt like so much longer. She wanted to apologize the way she'd planned, she wanted to explain and somehow convince him not to ask the Bureau for a new partner, but she wasn't thinking clearly. Something about the nearness of him, arriving like this when she hadn't expected, where she hadn't expected. Out of his element, out of his country, and somehow even more attractive because of it. It was unfair, really. She couldn't speak with his eyes melting holes in her, so she closed her own and began.
"I'm sorry I barged in on you and your… I'm sorry that you feel you have to hide parts of your life from me. I didn't even know you were dating anyone, or I would never have… I'm sorry I haven't been a very good friend, when you've always been the best friend I could ever ask…" she was rambling now. Taking another breath, she continued, eyes still shut tight so she wouldn't see his disappointment. "You're always so patient with me, and I'm sorry if I took that for granted. You deserve to be happy with…whoever makes you happy. You're a good man. You're the best man I've ever known," she added quietly. "I don't want to lose you, Booth." Why wasn't he saying anything? Her voice broke as she continued. "Please, if you'll just tell me what I can do to make it up to you… you know I'm not good with social… I never know…"
"Open your eyes, please, Bones," he rasped, "I can't take any more of this. Just stop. You have the wrong idea."
She opened her eyes as instructed, to find him pale and desperate looking, his stare boring into her. "You did nothing wrong. Listen to me—nothing. I came here to apologize to you." He closed the door swiftly behind him and moved them to the bed, brushing aside her clothing before sitting down. "Bones, I'm not dating anyone, I'm not. What you walked in on… I don't even know her name. It was just… I don't even know how to explain it."
She blanched, unable to meet his eyes. The thought of Booth sharing something so personal with a stranger, of letting an anonymous woman into the bed that she'd dreamed about, that someone so totally undeserving of his affection had seen and felt and tasted and experienced parts of him she'd fantasized about for so long… It was only the possessive side of her that saved her from total heartbreak; its anger boiled and frothed over her misery, as protective as it was toxic. She looked at him as if she'd never known him.
"Is this normal for you, Booth? Is this just something you do on a random Saturday night? Because I seem to recall lectures on…on making love and breaking the laws of physics, and becoming one with someone special, or was that all just to belittle me?" she hissed.
"No!" he pleaded, dropping to his knees to kneel in front of her on the floor. "It was not normal. It was… awful, and wrong, and I still feel sick thinking about it. It was for all the wrong reasons and I'm sorry. Bones, I'm so sorry."
He looked like he was on the verge of tears, but somehow that only made her feel more nauseous, made the whole sordid situation sicker. Booth kneeling in front of her, eyes swimming, face desperate. In the position of a man proposing marriage but instead merely apologizing for… for what exactly? Why was he apologizing, and why was she so upset that she needed him to? Surely partners, even close friends, shouldn't apologize to each other for their sexual activities. They weren't a couple; they had no claim to each other romantically. What the hell were they doing acting like… like they were something more than they were? It wasn't rational.
She shook her head, trying to expel the confusion from her mind. "Let's just forget it. You have nothing to apologize for. You have every right to conduct your personal life however you want, without me crashing in on you. I won't do that again. We can put this all behind us and just…be partners."
He froze. What she was offering, to go back to normal, to partners, should have felt like a relief. But it was ridiculous. He couldn't do this anymore, take part in this theater. Just forget it? He might as well forget to breathe. "Bones," he growled. "You flew to Egypt. You bought eight tickets so that I couldn't find you. What you walked in on, it upset you. If we were just partners, why would you be so upset?"
Enraged, she shouted at him. "You kissed me! You. Kissed. Me! If we were just partners, Booth, why would you kiss me?"
He grabbed her face in his hands, ignoring her attempts to pry his hands away. "Because I've wanted to kiss you since the day I met you! I know I shouldn't have. I was weak, I'm sorry! I kissed you and then… you just walked away. I couldn't handle you rejecting me, turning your back on me, Bones! Thinking that I ruined what we have together! I went to the nearest bar and picked up the first woman I saw just to try to get you out of my mind. So that I wouldn't slip up again, so that maybe we could still be partners. And then when I went to look for you and you were gone… I felt like I'd lost you. I made mistake after mistake after mistake—four, by the way, I counted… I just fucked up. The most important person in my life, and I fucked it all up." A raw sob tore from her throat, seizing his heart with pain. He leaned in until their foreheads touched and their breath mingled. "You mean everything to me," he confessed. "I'm sorry for what I did, I'm sorry for everything. I can't stand that I hurt you."
She blinked through the fall of her tears and cried, "I didn't reject you! I just needed time. I… was confused. I didn't know what that kiss meant. I didn't think that you felt that way about me… I never thought that you could want me like that…"
Pulling her face to his, he claimed her in a searing, passion-raw kiss, moaning deep in his throat at the unbearable agony of seeing her cry. "How could I not want you?" he groaned. He branded her with his lips, their mouths meeting in frantic copulation, trying to ease the pain. For her, it was the birth of a hope that she'd nurtured so long that she'd started to believe it could never live. For him, it was a chance to redeem himself.
They struggled to press their bodies closer and she sank to the floor on his lap, wedged against the side of the bed, digging her fingers into his thick hair and swooning into the kiss that was a thousand times more intense than she'd dared to dream. He was so familiar, but this intimacy was so new. Fireworks: pinwheels and sparklers and bottle rockets ricocheting around her belly, incinerating her sadness, lighting her up like the fourth of July. Incandescent. Hot.
She brought her fingers to his jaw, feeling the sandpaper rasp of his evening stubble, mesmerized by the hinged, heavy bone. She'd admired his facial structure for so long—the prominent ridge of his brow, the strong angles of his profile…and that jaw that had clenched in frustration so many times over their years together. She held his face in her hand and angled her mouth over his as if she could drink from him. The green scent of his shampoo smelled somehow like home, and it jostled her out of the fog, amazed that she could feel so home in such a foreign place. She leaned back to marvel at him, make sure he didn't regret what they were doing. The expression she saw in his face was pure lust, and it nearly threw her backwards with the force of it. She'd imagined that face in her dreams, but hadn't gotten it quite right. It was serious, brooding in a way that looked almost angry, and his eyes crackled with intense light.
She had to take a moment, had to pause, before her mind turned completely to jelly. There was something he said earlier that had seemed odd… "You said you made four mistakes, Booth. That's an emphatically specific number. Do you want to tell me what they were?"
He shook his head mutely, his eyes hungrily tracing the lines of her legs as she straddled him. Rocking her hips into his, she settled further into his lap, bringing their faces even. He groaned at the painful relief of finally having her on top of him. Their bodies fit together like puzzle pieces, just like he'd always known they would. This felt so right that she was suddenly heartbroken she hadn't discovered it earlier. All those years…She nuzzled her face beneath his jaw, dragging her lips softly towards his ear. "You can tell me," she coaxed. "What was mistake number four?"
Seemingly unable to control the deep breaths that were shuddering from his chest, he clenched his jaw and relented. "Coming to Cairo," he groaned, "coming after you."
She pulled his earlobe into her mouth and sucked daintily, lazily. Her voice in his ear was a seductive shush. "Not a mistake," she told him, testing the delicate skin gently between her teeth.
He gripped her hips, flexing his fingers against the curve of her flesh. She felt delicate and firm under the pressure of his broad hands… ripe. It was ironic, he thought, that the first woman he could honestly claim to love not just for her body had such a killer body. Feeling her hips undulate ever so slightly, he nearly came undone.
"What was mistake number three?" she asked sweetly, tracing his hairline with languorous kisses.
He swallowed audibly. "The… with the stranger," he choked, shame apparent in every line of his face.
Her murmured laughter was quiet. "Now that was a mistake," she teased, smiling. "But I forgive you."
He tensed, feeling a tremulous ray of hope burning a fissure in his guilty heart. "Really, Bones?" he asked, almost afraid to believe her words. He hadn't forgiven himself—and wasn't likely to, ever. He tipped her head back to look into her eyes. "Seriously. How can you forgive me just like that?"
She took a moment to think about his question. "Honestly, it's not a matter of how. It's not like I have to try to forgive you." She shrugged. "I just…do. There's nothing in my heart," she inflected the word deliberately, "for you but good things. So many good things that there's no room for bad things. I know that sounds childish but I don't know how else to explain it. Does that make sense?"
He nodded. "I don't deserve it, but yes, it makes sense." He knew the emotion that sprung like a well under that magical ability to forgive, but if she wasn't ready to say it, he wasn't going to push her. It was enough—more than enough—that she hadn't closed her heart to him.
"Or maybe it's that whole saving-my-life thing you do so well," she continued. "Makes it pretty difficult to hold petty grievances."
He laughed at that one. "So a bullet wound equals a get-out-of-jail-free card?" he asked playfully. She shot him a warning glance and he sobered immediately. "I know it hurts you to talk about it, Bones, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. A million times over. I'd die for you."
A wash of tears threatened the dams of her eyelids. She knew, but couldn't answer him, so she just rested her head on his shoulder and collapsed into his embrace. His arms caged her with reassuring strength. She was so small that Booth felt like he could wrap himself completely around her, holding her in the concave space of his curved shoulders, enfolding her and sheltering her. The silence cocooned them, comfortable as always, as they let their bodies soothe each other.
A small sniffle and a sigh against his ear told him that she'd gathered her thoughts. He could actually feel her smile return against his cheek. Her lips travelled gently across his brow, settling tenderly against his closed eyes. "Now, Agent Booth," she continued quietly. "What was mistake number two?"
"Kissing you," he admitted.
"Mmmm, definitely not a mistake," she purred, lavishing his face with the slow brush of her lips. "Do you know how much I wanted you then? Wanted more than just that kiss? I wished you hadn't stopped. I'm afraid I'll never want you to stop."
Her words kindled the fire licking under his skin. He'd never expected her to welcome his obsession, never dared to hope that she suffered the same malady. He had expected to spend a lifetime worshipping her from afar, enduring the torment of other men walking into her life and receiving the gift he'd never been given. But now… he felt unleashed, utterly without restraint. He hoped she realized what she was getting into. Touching her like this, being inside those stubborn walls she'd constructed…no force on heaven or earth would be able to rip him from her ever again. He wanted something beyond commitment, beyond permanence. He wanted to become a part of her very being. And he wanted to start now.
He skimmed her shirt over her head decisively as she arched against the bed behind her. His hands immediately cupped her breasts, delicately, reverently, rasping sweet friction across her fevered skin. A gravelly moan of pleasure slipped from her throat at the divine torture of his hands, his hands on her breasts, lifting them, and the sheer focus in his eyes as he absorbed the sight of her. She tasted so sweet when he bent his mouth to sample, discarding her bra without ceremony. The relief of finally being able to put his hands on her, to bury his mouth in her cleavage, felt like oxygen. He'd dreamed of these for so long—somehow they looked even more perfect, more delicious, than he'd thought possible. He could spend the rest of his life right here and die a happy man.
He shifted under her, greedily trying to grind himself harder into the notch of her legs. The motion elicited a telling gasp from her. With a triumphant glare, he forced her hips down against him more tightly and thrust upwards again, seeking the very same spot. She was going to pass out if he did that again—and she still had her pants on. Something about that arrogant look on his face sent her nerves skittering. For the first time, she wondered if she'd be able to handle what he could give. She slowed his pace with a hand against the firm wall of his chest. "Now tell me mistake number one," she prompted.
He knew this was coming—there was no evading Bones when she sought answers. He couldn't deny her the truth. He couldn't deny her much of anything… So Booth gathered his courage and whispered his confession: "Falling in love with my partner."
Her eyes locked on his, searching, penetrating. Sometimes returning her gaze felt like trying to stare at the sun, she could be so intense. She tipped her head curiously, studying him. "Love?" she asked, her voice timid.
He cradled her face between his warm hands, caressing the velvet of her cheeks with the pad of his thumb. Her beautiful, precious, flawless face. He shook his head in tender amazement that she could ever doubt this. "Love," he replied with absolute conviction. He had never meant a word more.
She didn't feel the panic she'd expected. Didn't feel trapped, or smothered. It only felt like the return of spring after the long, bleak winter. She realized suddenly how long it had been since anyone said those words to her. Not like Angela, not like her father, not like Russ… it was so good to hear. And from the one person she admired most. It was too lucky to be true. She couldn't stop the radiant smile that lit her face, and Booth actually laughed in relief at the sight of it. He'd been waiting like a man on a highwire, watching the ethereal play of emotions moving across her face before her features settled into that luminous smile that made him instantly drunk with joy.
She pressed her lips to his heart and whispered her confession in return. "Love."
They stripped each other of their clothing, their doubts, their fears, and stood before each other wearing only their skin. There was no space for awkwardness in their rush to press together, to feel every possible inch of each other that they could. They fell onto the bed together and he rolled on top of her, kissing her as if the life of the entire human race depended on it. Her limbs wrapped around him, somehow soothing and enflaming simultaneously. They memorized everything: each response, each motion, each moment.
And then he finally felt it, what he'd been wanting for years. His body, inside hers. The space where they joined closer than skin. The feeling that he was finally within the woman who illuminated his life. He held his body still and tense and tried to freeze the moment in time, so that he could live here for the rest of his days. Their skin melded together, temporarily indistinguishable from the other. He sought her eyes and their gaze held. They held.
And then he began to move, so slowly, nearly exiting her body on each torturous stroke before returning deeply. Their eyes never left each other's as their bodies writhed together in slow motion, undulating with exquisite luxury. She lifted her knees and hips with his rhythm, welcoming him into her center. She felt like she was sinking into his eyes; she couldn't look away. She saw so much emotion behind them, all their history culminating in this moment of beautiful torment. Even when he lowered his mouth to capture hers, they kept their eyes open. It was as if neither believed this was finally actually happening—that the vision could disappear behind foolishly closed eyelids.
Even as their pace crescendoed, his hips dipping down to hers increasingly fast, their gaze held. Even as he lost the ability to control his rhythm, jackhammering into her with a desperate force she hungrily accepted and met, stroke for stroke. Even as they both panted and cried out with the release of years of frustration, the rabid pleasure of their joining condensed into a few mere seconds that somehow stretched into infinite solace.
His body pulsed as he poured every atom of his passion into her, tried to show her what he didn't have words for, what he couldn't explain. How did you tell someone that even the word love now seemed paltry, lightweight, too small to contain the enormity of your feelings? All the boxes in the deep corners of his mind unpacked themselves, as if by a kid on Christmas morning. Joyous, freeing rapture. He would never have to pack them away again, never have to pretend. He could worship her openly now, keep her and be kept.
She curled into the haven of his body, replete and exhausted, and reflected on the dramatic turns her life had taken over the past few days. To go from a place so low to this complete envelopment of joy seemed too fantastic to believe. She nestled closer against her partner, her… well, she didn't have a new word for what he was. Everything came closest. She'd almost forgotten that they were in Egypt, almost forgotten that she had been trying to hide. She wished she'd never run from him, but oh, how good it was to get caught.
"Turn your brain down, it's keeping me up."
Laughing, she rolled over to place a kiss on his smiling lips. "I love you," she replied, trying the new phrase on for size. It fit.