Author's Note: Okay guys, this is it: the final chapter. Now that I know I'm moving on to a new project (and soon at that) I'm actually glad to see it done. It was harder to write than I thought it would be and that's why you've had to wait so many days for the conclusion. In my defense, though, it was ready about five hours ago but a glitch on the site meant I couldn't post.
Thanks to everyone for all the kinds comments I received on this little journey. What a wonderful way to re-enter this world!
"Bones, did you move the coffee?" He had to raise his voice so she could hear him. She was puttering around her bedroom taking much longer to get dressed than he ever would have imagined she did.
"It should be in the usual place. Am I out?" She wandered into the kitchen and stood in the doorway. With one hand she was straightening the leather strap on a shoe and with the other she was threading a dangly earring through the hole in her left lobe.
"Guess so." He finally found the jar she usually kept the coffee in, opened it, and then upended it over the counter sprinkling the last remnants of the grounds across her otherwise clean counters.
"Booth," she admonished.
He found a dishtowel and wiped up the mess. "Are you just about ready? We've still got to go by my place and at this rate we're going to be late."
"Is this really necessary? It can't wait until tomorrow?" He wanted to tell her sure, it could wait until Monday. Then he could spend all day in bed with her. But he didn't want to put off the session any longer than he had to. He wanted their doubts buried before they created unwarranted problems.
"Look at it this way, if we do it today we don't have to do it tomorrow."
"Well, that's true." She adjusted the strap on her other shoe.
He couldn't help but smile. Both of them standing in her kitchen, her putting the finishing touches on her outfit, him trying to make coffee, arguing about the events of the day. It was exactly the sort of thing he wanted. But also exactly the sort of thing she'd spent years trying to avoid. That morning was one thing. It was the "morning after". She hadn't tired of him yet. But what about a month later? Or a year? He couldn't think about that, not so soon. So he gathered her into his arms and kissed her. When he broke to take a breath she said, "You're the one who says we're going to be late. Aren't you just exacerbating the situation?" She tempered the sting of her words with a mischievous smile.
He grumbled good-naturedly. "Yeah, yeah." When she turned to go back to the bedroom to finish dressing he swatted her ass. "Get a move on."
She threw a cheeky glance over her shoulder and wiggled her behind at him. "I'll be ready when I'm ready. Sweets can wait."
He turned back to the cabinets to search for tea bags and found himself whistling. When was the last time he was happy enough to spontaneously whistle? It had been a while, he knew that much. He felt with her and to him that was the fun part. Sure the sex was great. Mind-blowing, really. But what he loved most about relationships was the relationship part.
And he really thought she'd be strange about it when they woke up that morning. They'd gone to bed early. It was about seven o'clock if the quick glance at the clock didn't lie when he'd snuggled down into her bed. But they were up again before midnight and again just after four. By six thirty they were both starving and she offered to make macaroni and cheese for breakfast. And Sweet's thought Booth wasn't in love. How could he not love a woman who made macaroni and cheese for breakfast?
At eight thirty he'd called the young psychologist requesting a session. He was pretty sure he shocked the boy. Booth knew it wasn't like him to seek the kid out, but it was important and he'd suffer through the inanity if it mean warding off potential problems. Because he knew. He just knew. What he felt wasn't a side effect of a healing brain or a symptom of coma dreams. And Hodgins was right. Booth was crazy about Bones and there wasn't any he could do about it.
By the time he heard her heels clacking on the floor behind him he'd prepared hot tea in two travel mugs.
"You know," he heard from behind him, "you don't really have to change before we go to Sweets' office." Her voice sounded thick and sultry.
He turned around and handed her one of the travel mugs while gesturing to the front of his pants. "Really? You want to explain this?" This being the rather compelling evidence of the previous night's arousal he'd taken the opportunity to soak in. While all naked and pressed underneath him on that couch right over—"So, no. Changing clothes. C'mon, Bones, we've gotta roll."
She laughed, "Okay, okay. But come on all ready. If it wouldn't have taken you so long to discover I was out of coffee we wouldn't be running so late."
"Oh, no you don't. You own this one. You might be a brilliant scientist but you're still just a woman. And you more than proved that this morning. I never would have thought it would take you over an hour to shower and dress. On a Sunday, no less."
"Yeah, we've established that."
"Don't you have Church?"
He shook his head, "not today."
"But you always go to Church."
"This is important. I think God will understand." He leveled a finger at her. "But don't think this means you're going to talk me into taking day trips to museums and plays on Sundays instead of sending me to Church."
"What about lazy Sundays in bed?" She sidled up to him and was attempting to use her wiles to get him to agree.
It was a pretty good attempt, he rationalized, but still managed to answer, "How about lazy early Sunday mornings in bed followed by Church, where I will not pressure you to go, then meet back up afterwards for some just us time."
"Why couldn't you just come back here for the "just us" time?"
"Because as much as I can't wait until the next time you let me make love to you there's so much more I want to do with you."
She laughed. "You want to date me?"
"Why do you say it like that?"
"We've been together for five years."
"Well not exactly together together."
"But we've dated, Booth. I think the only place we haven't gone together that is a regular date activity would be the movies."
"Then we'll start at the movies." He paused for a moment as realization dawned. "Wait a minute."
"What?" She looked genuinely confused where before she'd looked like she was teasing him.
"We're talking about dating."
"I thought we were talking about a relationship. But if you just wanted to date, I guess..." She trailed off looking suddenly more unsure of herself than he'd ever seen.
"I thought you said you weren't interested in monogamy."
"Let's just say I'm starting to see the draw." She had that mischievous smile back on her lips.
"And why is that?"
She turned serious. "Just one night, Booth, and I can't stand the thought of you with another woman. Not just the sex, though I'm feeling the urge to threaten to cut off your penis if you so much as point it in the direction of another woman – and I'm not all together comfortable with that, but also the way you look at me. I think it would break my heart if I ever had to see you look at another woman that way."
He gasped. Had she really said that? He dropped his voice to a near whisper, "Bones, what did you just say?"
"I said I think I'd be jealous if you—"
"No, not that part. The last part."
She stopped and seemed as if she was running back through her words in her head. "That it would break my heart if you looked at another woman the way you look at me?"
"Yeah, that part."
"I don't understand the question."
"Your heart, Bones. The part of you that supplies blood to the rest of your body. You're afraid it's going to break?"
Suddenly she understood his point and looked caught. "I didn't mean that."
He advanced on her. "Yes, you did." When he was close enough to take the travel mug out of her hands he did and set it on the table behind her. "You're worried I'm going to break your heart."
"No, I didn't say that."
"That's what you meant."
"Temperance." He took her face in his hands and rubbed his thumbs along her cheekbones. "It's okay to understand what the rest of us mean when we talk about our hearts."
"It's incorrect to say feelings have anything at all to do with the human heart."
"It's metaphorical and you're smart enough to grasp that. Stop running."
"I'm not running."
"You've been running all your life. Running from the possibility of being hurt by telling everyone in your life you don't understand the ways in which people can hurt each other. Stop running."
"Last night you told me you slipped and fell. What did you mean?"
"That I fell in love with you. I've already told you that."
"What did it feel like?"
"Falling in love?"
"I don't know. I just woke up one day and loved you."
"But how did you know you were in love with me?"
"I don't know. I can't really define it. I trust my heart."
"I want to be in love with you. You're a good man. But I'm afraid you'll go away. Everyone I've ever loved has gone away."
"And some of those people have come back."
"But some haven't."
"No, some haven't." He knew he sounded sadder for her than she sounded for herself. But he wasn't entirely sure what they were talking about at that moment. It sounded like one thing but maybe it was another entirely.
He watched as her eyes misted, "I don't think I could bear it if you went away."
"I'll spend the rest of my life standing right here proving to you I'm not going anywhere."
"The rest of your life could be a long time."
That time when her eyes filled she couldn't hold back the tears. She traced a finger over the incision scar from his recent surgery then over his shirt just over the scar from the bullet he'd take for her. "Or not." The tears continued to track down her face but he didn't wipe them away. He felt like they were important. "How do people stand this? Knowing that life is so tenuous, why do people choose to let their own happiness be so dependent on someone else?"
"Because that's what we do. We're people and we have feelings."
"Well," she said tearfully, "feelings suck."
He laughed at her candor and gathered her into his arms cradling her head onto his shoulder with one large hand stroking through her hair. "Yeah, sometimes they do." He kissed the top of her head. "This is one of the reasons I love you, you know."
"Because you're so real and so honest and it's beautiful how feeling something can still surprise you. It's exciting."
"It doesn't feel exciting. It feels excruciating."
"It'll get better."
"Because I love you, too."
"I never said I loved you."
"There's more than one way to say "I love you"."
She seemed to contemplate that while smoothing her hands over the back of his shirt. "I concur."
"Yes. If I look back over the last couple of years I can think of many ways you've told me you loved me despite the fact the first time you said it out loud very recently."
"You tell me too, even if you don't realize it."
"I'm still not sure I entire understand the concept of love."
"Yes, you do. It's that little word "in" that's giving you all the trouble. That's because you're giving it all the power. Try not to be a scientist for just a few minutes and let that little word not matter. It doesn't, really. It's a distinction for talking."
They stood in each other's embrace for quite a while. It felt good to hold her. She wasn't thinking and she wasn't running. "You know," he finally said, "We're going to be really late now. Maybe we should reschedule."
"And do what?"
"I can think of a thing or two."
"There's a wonderful exhibit at the—"
She shrieked as he picked her up swung her around. "No way, lady. No exhibits unless it's a nude rendition of you on Egyptian Cotton."
"Sweets is going to be really upset if we stand him up."
He grabbed for the cordless phone, "Okay, okay." He dialed the younger man's cell number and waited for an answer. "Sweets, it's Booth. Bones and I can't make it in today after all. Why? Well, see, Bones slipped and fell and I think she's going to need me to take care of her for a while. Yeah, will do. Bye."