Disclaimer: If I say I own David Boreanaz, will that make it true?
Spoilers: 5x01~ The Harbingers In The Fountain, 5x02~ The Bond In The Boot, a post-ep fic, of sorts


When he says that he's glad they don't have any secrets, he's not lying per se.

For her part, Bones really does tell him everything. Sometimes she tells him things that she probably shouldn't, or shares way too much information that he'd rather not think about, thankyouverymuch. But sometimes, she talks about seeing the world through his eyes, or says I feel close to you in that comfortable way, like it's just a fact of her life and not a compete revelation. She's trying, opening up the doors and windows of her impenetrable fortress, and he's so, so proud of her.

How he feels about himself, is another story altogether.

So, yeah, he shares his sudden need for stepwise instructions of things he used to be able to do blind-folded. He is forthcoming about the reason he nearly tears the head off a lowly clerk who looks at him sideways. (It's because he had to cancel a camping trip with Parker when Captain Fantastic decided to take Rebecca and his kid out of town. And because the damn clerk had no business eyeing Bones like she's a piece of meat.) He is truthful when she asks him if her obscene boatloads of money bother him, even though it doesn't really bother him that much, because he still harbors thoughts of a big house in a small town, a 103- inch plasma TV and seven-layer dip. But the one thing he should be saying— without qualifiers, without clowns and Gremlin-driving prosecutors and psychics clouding the issue? That one he's playing close to the vest.

Not for any noble reasons, mind you.

He can tell himself that he's just waiting for her to be ready 'til he's blue in the face, but it won't change the simple truth. He's the one who's not ready. He thinks back to that moment of nearly domestic bliss under the sink, warmth and affection radiating from her very pores. Her carefree laugh echoes in his ears like a siren song, drawing him in with its foreign cadence. She looks at him lately like she's starting to accept things he doesn't even understand yet, and it makes him wonder which way the student/teacher thing really goes. So, there's no pinning it on her anymore.

He's the one pulling away.

The only way he can think to explain it, can explain settling for second best when nothing but grade A has ever sufficed before, is that he's protecting them both from something.

And in the process, he's keeping them both from everything.

Cam is right, of course. No news there. The woman is always right, and damn if she doesn't know it. And Sweets…. Well, that's the rub, isn't it? Sweets may be full of crap with his vagina scans and his psychobabble, but the kid does have a point when it comes to Bones. It's the same point Cam was making. He knows this, knows his feelings for her aren't some residual coma side effect that'll eventually go the way of his sudden and irritating love for clowns. He knows he won't hurt her, because he's physically incapable of it; because he can't bear the thought of bringing her pain.

The thing is though, Seeley Booth, pre- brain tenderized edition, would never question a heart he once told Bones to put into overdrive. So the fact that he's questioning it now, even though he knows his feelings are permanent? That's a problem no For Dummies book is gonna help him fix.

***

They go on, just like Avalon said. Doing things as usual. The problem is, as usual isn't really working for him anymore.

For one thing, Bones isn't holding up her end of their unspoken agreement. He catches her watching him, something between apprehension and hope painting her delicate features.

She's waiting too, and that… Well, for once, he's the one who doesn't know what that means.

Close has never seemed so far away.

***

There's this moment where, suddenly, everything just fits again. They're fighting over the last of the mee krob, and she's letting that husky laugh assault his senses, and something flips over in his gut. He kind of chastises himself for a minute, because where the hell does his brain get off, vetoing his heart's decisions, anyway?

Bones sees her chance and swipes the carton from his grasp. He realizes that he's sitting there like an idiot, while his internal organs battle it out for supremacy.

To the victor go the spoils.

His heart beats a little faster at that.

"Booth?"

She has a slight frown on her face, her concern evident.

That's when he knows.

Even with all the financial and intellectual contradictions, I still feel close to you.

Months. That was months ago, and he's finally right there with her. Closer than close, in fact; they've become so entangled in one another's lives that he's not sure who he is without her anymore. This give-and-take between them— it's the most intimate relationship he's ever had with another human being. Ever. How could he have doubted that?

"Booth, what's wrong?"

He chuckles a bit, shakes his head at his own stupidity. The uncertainty falls away like it hasn't just recently been crushing him under its weight. He's the same man who promised her that everything happens eventually, all the good stuff, and damn if 20/20 hindsight isn't a kick in the teeth.

Better late than never though.

He knows now what he was really promising her, hiding behind a wink and a cocky grin.

"I've been keeping something from you, Bones."

For some reason, her look turns sheepish.

"Oh."

"That's it? Oh?"

"You're entitled to your privacy, Booth. I don't expect you to tell me everything."

"But we're not supposed to have any secrets! Remember, if we have something on our mind, we share?"

Her brows furrow in confusion, and he nearly laughs at how that look makes his chest ache.

"I don't understand. Would you like me to be upset with you?"

"Well, you wouldn't be you if you didn't rag on me about something."

"That is completely untrue! I merely point out inconsistencies in your logic. Or lack thereof. You make it sound like I'm some sort of—"

"Inconsistencies? Yesterday you yelled at me for eating a beef burger!"

"It was very unhealthy! And I didn't yell!"

This time, she does yell, and he bursts out laughing. Here he is, finally trying to tell her how he feels, and they end up arguing about… he doesn't even know what they're arguing about. It's just them, the nature of their relationship.

He wouldn't change it for the world.

"You're acting very oddly."

She has that concerned frown on her face again, and some stray hair has fallen into her eyes. He swipes it away, then brings his hand to cup her cheek. It's warm, soft, pliant under his touch.

"Wanna know a secret, Bones?" he whispers.

Her eyes are wide with shock, but she doesn't pull away. He feels great satisfaction at having reduced her to speechlessness.

She nods a little, leaning into his hand.

When their lips touch, he steals her tiny sigh. She moves into him, searching, deepening, giving so much of herself in this simple caress that it surprises even him.

When she said she felt close to him, she wasn't kidding.

He pulls away sooner than he would have liked. Actions speak louder than words, but she really needs things spelled out for her sometimes.

Geniuses are funny that way.

He needs to make sure she gets it.

If the way her eyes are alight with warmth and anticipation is any indication, she gets it alright. But he lifts his eyebrows anyway, wordlessly questioning. A small smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.

"I understand, Booth."

His responding grin threatens to split his face in two.

"You do?"

She nods, fingering the collar of his shirt.

"Lately, I've been… learning."

When he pulls her towards him, there is no hesitation. Her arms wind around his neck, and he gets the feeling that she's sharing a secret she's been keeping too. His breath is warm against her ear.

"You're a good student, Bones."

Her grip on him tightens.

"Only as good as my teacher."

Fin.