Author's Note: No, you aren't imagining things. This really is another chapter of Forty Weeks. This installment was brought to you by Tracgyrl. Without her thoughts on how to get me rolling on this again we'd all likely still be waiting for another chapter. But she did get me rolling again so here we are.
This chapter was beta'd by the always lovely and incredibly meticulous cathmarchr. She catches the things that escape me and lends myriad wonderful lines to the creative process. Some of those lines I steal outright and other I let take me on a whole new journey.
Thanks to everyone who still cares about this story enough to email me regularly checking in on when another chapter might be coming. Without reviewers I'd still write but I probably wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much.
I know none of you are here for the author's note – especially after all this time. So, without any further delay, I present Week 18.
"Oh, my aching back!"
She'd been having spasms in her lower back all day – little twinges of pain that sparked like a lighter but then glowed hot like the end of a cigarette. How could it be that something that weighed less than half a pound could be causing her pain?
The previous night Booth had rubbed the small of her back while she perched on the edge of the sofa, and as she walked through her apartment door she was already considering how she could get him to do that for her again.
She was pulled up abruptly by the sight of a garment bag slung over the back of her couch and a duffle sitting haphazardly in the middle of the floor.
"Booth?" she called out as she dropped her keys into the basket by the door.
He stepped out into the hall from his bedroom, "Good. You're home."
"I am. But it looks like you're not going to be for much longer."
He shook his head from a distance then joined her in the foyer. "I've got casework in Idaho."
She shook her head. "We don't have a case right now."
"Remember the case I've been working with Krantz?" He paused until she nodded. He shrugged. "He needs my help."
"Your help? Again? Doesn't he have a partner?"
He shook his head and she had the sudden feeling they'd turned into bobble head dolls.
"So now you have to go to Idaho. Over something his snitch here brought up?"
"I can't really talk about it."
"Because it's Krantz's case."
"So? Since when do you deal in top-secret FBI business?"
"You know, you're starting to sound a little pissy." He took a deep breath. "I can't talk about it because it's a cover operation."
"I'm your partner." She damned the hormones that put that detestable whine in her voice.
He must have seen the tears well in her eyes because he took another step toward her, wrapped his arms around her stiff shoulders and spoke softly. "Oh, baby. Yeah. You are my partner. But it's not my partner who's upset right now, is it?"
She stepped back from his embrace and wiped a stubborn thumb under her eyes. "I'm not sure what you mean by that." She also wasn't sure exactly when, how or why he'd taken to peppering his conversation with the occasional 'baby'.
With great patience as if he were talking to a child he said, "My partner, Dr. Brennan, isn't upset that I'm leaving. It's work. She understands that." He reached out and traced a light path down her cheekbone. "My…partner," he gave the word a soft affectation, "is upset. Because she's pregnant and uncomfortable and emotional and she just wants me to be here."
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Booth." But even to her ears her voice didn't sound very convincing.
"I know you are. But I like being here to take care of you. And you like me being here."
"That's very ego-centric."
"It's not ego-centric when it's true, Bones. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be with each other. It's not a sign of weakness, you know."
She wished she had a retort for that but found she didn't. She felt deflated. All the emotions she'd experienced since she'd first seen his packed bags in the living room left her in a rush. She sat heavily on the sofa. "Well, it's not as if there's not plenty to keep me busy for a while. How long will you be gone?"
He sat down next to her with a look in his eyes that said his answer wasn't going to please her. "We're not sure. It could be several weeks. Maybe a month." She opened her mouth to protest but he cut her off. "I talked to Cullen about it, though, and he agreed – barring unforeseen complications – not more than a week without at least getting to come home and put my own eyes on you."
She sighed. "How is that going to work? Undercover doesn't mean you get to go home and check on your pregnant wi—" Abruptly, she stopped talking. She'd nearly said wife. Why had she nearly said wife? She'd never even thought wife outside their easy reminders that she was neither his wife nor his girlfriend.
His eyes were wide and round. He'd heard her. He knew exactly what she'd been about to say. "You're right," he said quietly, "undercover means I don't get to come home and check on my pregnant wife. I guess, then, it's a good thing I don't have a pregnant wife."
She wasn't sure what that answer was supposed to mean. Had she opened a wound by pointing out they weren't married or was he speaking quietly in an attempt to not spook her anymore than she'd clearly already spooked herself? "Booth," she started but found she didn't know how to finish.
He shook his head, "It's okay, don't worry about it. I understand what you were trying to say."
His hands were tightly clenched on his thighs. She reached over and covered one large fist with her hand. "It's not okay, Booth. I'm not sure why I nearly said that."
His hand relaxed beneath hers and he closed his fingers around hers. "I happen to think that slip was significant, but I'm not going to push you into thinking the same thing. Maybe it's good that I'm going to Idaho. You can process this on your own."
She wiggled her fingers in his grasp until their fingers threaded together. "I'm not sure I want to process this on my own."
"Meaning you're not sure you want to process this at all?" He sounded resigned.
"No. I mean, I think this is something we ought to be dealing with together, don't you?"
"What are you trying to tell me?"
She hesitated. She needed to be sure. The moment had been eighteen weeks in the making. It'd been five years in the making, if she was going to be completely honest. "I think it's time to admit that we're… significant to one another."
He groaned, "Bones. I could kiss you or strangle you. I'm going either way on that right now."
"Well, personally I'm voting for kissing. Why would you want to strangle me? Are you not happy? Do you not feel the same way anymore?"
"Of course I'm happy. I'm thrilled. But leave it to you to tell me something like that just moments before I have to leave to get on an airplane."
"Tonight? You're leaving tonight?"
"Yeah. In about half and hour if I'm going to make the plane." He squeezed her hand. "What brought this on?"
She fiddled with the smooth edges of his fingernails. "At the hospital…with Parker... Russ said something to me about situations like that being the reason he and Amy started talking about getting married."
"You trying to tell me you want to get married?" His right eyebrow shot upward and she could tell he was teasing her.
"I'm trying to tell you why I think it's time we were in a relationship."
"I still maintain we've been in a relationship for at least a few months now."
"Semantics aside, Booth, I'm trying to say something important here!" Frustration crept into her voice. "I'm trying to say something important in the few minutes we have and you're being glib."
He looked appropriately chagrined and shrugged sheepishly. "You're right. I'm sorry. But I'm happy. Go ahead."
"It's just… you're really important to me. And the fact that I'd much prefer you were around, even when you're annoying me, says something substantial to me. I no longer have the need for space or the desire to be alone and I've been cultivating that aspect of my personality for nearly twenty years, Booth."
"You 'cultivated' that aspect of your personality for nearly fifteen years. Then we met."
She felt like he was making an important point. "And from that moment I was changed."
"I don't know. But I sort of feel like you were. Don't you?"
She unlaced their fingers and rested her hand against the slick material of his slacks where they molded to his thigh. "Yes," she admits, "I feel like I started changing even then."
"And now you're ready to say that it's you and me. Together. Not just you and me headed in the same general direction."
"Yes," she nodded.
"You and me making decisions together? Decisions that'll affect the rest of our days?"
"Yes," she nodded again and felt the edges of her mouth tug up just a bit.
"Decisions like where we'll live and where we'll spend holidays and when this goes from us being 'significant' to one another to us being everything to one another."
She couldn't help but mess with him just a little. "Everything, Booth? I love you, but that doesn't mean you're everything to me. We're about to have a child together, after all. I'm fairly certain that child will be especially meaningful to me."
His mouth had been open, ready to retort before she'd even gotten her first word out but when she was done his jaw hung slack and he wore a dumfounded look. "What did you just say?"
"That we're going to have a baby together." She smirked at him.
"That you're not everything to me?" she said sweetly.
"Before that," he growled as he grasped her upper arms tightly.
"That I love you?" she repeated quietly.
His lips crashed into hers as he gave her a bruising kiss. "I hate you, you know that?" he asked her – but his words were a jumbled mess.
She grinned against his mouth. "I think not." She trailed a hand down his chest and used the back of her fingers to trace the lines of his abdominal muscles. They twitched beneath her fingers. Heat spread through her like wild fire. She was astonished by the way she reacted to him so strongly. Every time – like it was the first time. Somehow he always managed to make her feel like she was both an expert and a novice. It was thrilling.
She pressed him into a deep kiss again. She was desperate to feel his tongue slide against hers. He had a way of flicking the end of tongue against hers that made her think of having his tongue in places she'd much rather be undressed for.
Her fingers migrated to the buttons of his shirt. She'd managed to work a button half open when he groaned so savagely she was sure she felt her teeth rattle. "I have to leave in," he drew back from where he'd been speaking right against her lips and glanced at the wall clock, "twenty four and a half minutes and you drop a bombshell on me like that?"
"It's not like I've never told you I loved you before."
"Yeah," he said quietly, "but that was different."
"Well, then you were trying to make a point to get your way about sex. You loved me, we're friends, yeah, I get that. But this time it's different. This is the emotion I've been talking about all along."
"Oh, so you mean we can have sex now?" she asked coyly.
He growled and kissed her hotly again. "No. Not now. Because I have to get on a fucking plane and our first time together isn't going to be some quick thing you're not going remember tomorrow."
"I guess my timing is pretty bad, huh?" She couldn't help but grin at him.
"You know," he said, pretending to consider it, "there's really never a bad time to tell me you love me."
He called her that night around twelve thirty once he'd finally checked into the hotel and slid between woody sheets. He sounded travel weary and she felt bad for insisting he call.
"How are you?" he asked after he answered the requisite 'how was the flight', 'how was the room', 'did you eat dinner' set of questions.
"Fine. I'm fine."
"You don't sound fine. Is it your back?"
"Nothing I can't handle."
"I know that. But I wish I was there. I'd rub it for you."
"I know. And thank you." She shifted in her bed trying to find a more comfortable position. "Your meeting went well?"
He sighed. "Yeah. We're still hoping for in and out."
"But you said three weeks or more."
"Most likely will be. But hope springs eternal, right?"
"I think you should take your time and be careful."
"That glad to be rid of me, Bones?"
"Of course not," she said and was surprised to find a knot in her throat as tears gathered in her eyes. She sucked in a deep breath.
"Are you crying?"
"What?" she asked swiping at her eyes. "No. Don't be silly."
His voice took on a teasing edge. "You miss me." He chuckled. "I've been gone for six hours."
"I'll admit I've gotten used to having you around," she said noncommittally.
"I love you too, you know. It occurs to me I didn't tell you that this evening when you were going on and on about being ready to be in a relationship."
"I wasn't going on and on," she huffed.
"You were totally going on and on."
"And on that note, goodnight, Booth."
"Good night, baby." He paused for a long moment. "I love you."
She hesitated. She was wholly unfamiliar with the experience of that moment where one told you they loved you and you were expected to say it back. She'd witnessed the phenomenon on countless occasions and never before understood why one would feel compelled to answer that way with no real provocation aside from the fact it just seemed like the thing to do. But as his words tumbled around inside her head she suddenly understood the compulsion. She loved him and it was important he understood that. And in that case telling was nearly as good as showing. Not to mention, it seemed like Booth would be the kind of man who would abide by such a social construct.
"I love you, too," she finally returned.
He exhaled and she imagined it was in relief. "Good night."
"Good night, Booth. I'll talk to you soon."
Thursday evening, Angela was hovering around her desk while she was trying to write – her editor was demanding chapter revisions and she'd been a little too distracted to follow through. "Come on, Brennan, it'll be like girl's night out."
"Without the alcohol."
"Or trying to pick up cute boys."
"I don't think I'd have much luck in any case," she said as she traced the contours of her belly with a flattened palm.
"Are you kidding me? You're gorgeous."
Angela shrugged, "Some guys go for that."
She couldn't help her wistful smile. "Yes. Some do."
"Some like say, oh, a handsome G-man who happens to live in your apartment?"
She was suddenly very aware she hadn't shared the developments of her relationship with Booth with her best friend. She pushed away from her computer. "You know what? I think a girl's night out sounds like a great idea."
She'd planned to wait until they arrived at the restaurant to fill Angela in. However, they'd only been in the car for a few minutes when she had an undeniable urge to blurt out her news. She began fidgeting in an attempt to hold out just a little longer.
Angela shot her a glance from the driver's seat. "What the matter?"
Angela slowed to a stop at a traffic light and raised an eyebrow. "Why are you all jittery?"
"I'm not jittery."
"Yeah, sweetie, you are."
She hesitated. She had news Angela had been waiting for in a way that made Brennan look apathetic about the situation. She didn't want to short her friend the big moment. But she couldn't wait anymore. "Tuesday, before Booth left?"
Angela nodded then glanced back toward the road as she accelerated.
"We decided, I mean…I told him…"
Angela nodded encouragingly, "ou told him what?" When Brennan didn't answer immediately, Angela started guessing. "…That it was all a big joke – that you aren't pregnant at all? That the baby isn't his? That secretly you've been dying to get married and film your own version of 19 Kids and Counting?"
"I don't know what that is, but it sounds excruciating. Though, the answer might be closer to that than you might imagine."
Angela gasped and exclaimed, "You're having twins?"
Brennan couldn't help but laugh. "Twins? No. But Booth and I have decided to enter into a relationship."
Angela squealed with such delight Brennan feared for the state of not only her own hearing but that of her baby, as well. "No way. Really? Don't tease me about this, Bren. Really. I'm not joking."
"I'm not teasing, I promise." She studied the fabric of her skirt where it was stretched taught across her thighs. "It took me a while but I realized I've come to love him in a way I can't to apply to other people. I think I have for some time."
"Oh, honey. That's great. How did it happen?"
She blushed a little at the recollection. "Well, I called myself his wife in conversation."
Angela zipped into a parallel parking spot, threw the car out of gear and spun in her seat towards Brennan. Her expression was incredulous. "You did what?"
By the time the phone rang Friday night she was ready to admit his absence was doing some seriously bad things to her attitude. Her back was killing her, she'd improperly prepared a pot roast he'd guaranteed her would be fool-proof, her favorite shirt no longer fit her, and standing for eight hours in Limbo was no longer an option if her swollen ankles were anything to judge by.
"I wish there was something I could do for you," he said sympathetically after she'd reported her long list of woes. "If it makes you feel any better it looks like I'll be home on Wednesday."
"Wednesday is more than a week," she said waspishly. "And besides that's five days from now."
"You know," he said in an even voice that suggested her biting tongue wasn't going to provoke him, "a nice, hot bath would do wonders for your back and your ankles. And just because the pot roast didn't turn out doesn't mean you can't still have your beef fix. The Thai place owes us a free meal and delivery anyway from that order they messed up last week. You could take advantage of that."
"You know how I feel about you being reasonable when I feel like this."
"I know," he chuckled. "My Mr. Fix-It routine pisses you off."
"Well, babe, I don't know what to tell you. You're in a shitty mood. I wish I was there but I can't be. We can both be upset about it, but I don't think that's going to get us anywhere."
She sighed. He was right. She knew he was right. That did not, however, make her feel any better. She ached, she was hungry and her shirt mocked her from its place at the foot of her bed – she'd snatched it off earlier that morning in disgust and flung it away from herself.
"Tell me something about your day," she diverted.
"There's not much I can tell you," he said in a way she could very nearly see him shrug. "We're moving along about like we expected. We're safe. We've just got to hang tight and keep our heads down until we make a little more progress."
She decided she might as well take his advice and have that hot bath. Food could wait until later – the pain needed to stop first. She opened the hot tap wide on her bathtub and within minutes the room was full of steam. "Tell me something that will make me feel better," she requested petulantly as she sat on the edge of the tub.
"Why Dr. Brennan, how completely irrational of you. Don't you know I don't have the power to make you feel better or, for that matter, worse?"
"Well," she retorted with much less venom than she'd felt all night, "your tone suggests you're mocking me. I don't like to be mocked." But she found herself smiling – both over his foppish tone and flippancy. "And you're wrong, Booth, I do feel better."
"Ah, baby," he said on a long sigh and she could picture him stretching long in his hotel bed – hands reached high above him and toes pointed for maximum span, "I'm glad."
"You know," she said as she tested the water and found it a touch to hot, "I find you to be quite funny."
He barked out a laugh. "Okay. That's not where I thought you were going with that."
"Don't you want me to think you're funny?"
"Well, sure, Bones. I guess that's good. But I sort of thought you were getting ready to profess your undying love again."
She just knew he was grinning in that infuriating way he had. "I'm fairly certain I've not professed my undying love for you once. How would I be able to do so again?"
"Oh, you love," he said cockily.
"That's not the question," she replied. "Of course I do."
He gasped as if he was still unused to hear it. And, she supposed, he was. She'd been so guarded with her feelings for so long it was likely going to take him a while to get used to her flinging around words like 'love' an unconscious regularity. "And that love isn't undying?"
"I don't know. Ask me in twenty years or so."
"How about fifty?"
"Thirty-five," she countered.
Sunday when he called she was in a better mood. It didn't last long when he opened the conversation with, "I've got bad news."
"If your bad news has something to do with you not coming home on Wednesday, I'm reserving the right to have a hit put out on Deputy Director Cullen."
"Nice use of an idiom there, Bones. But get out your rolodex, you're going to need a hit man."
She groaned. "Seriously?"
"It's looking like Thursday now. We got a meet, which is great. But it's Thursday so we won't be able to catch a flight out until that evening."
"You're not joking, are you?"
"'Fraid not. I really am sorry, Bones. I want to be home just as badly as you want me home, I promise."
"You have absolutely no way of quantifying the data to support your hypothesis," she said sullenly. "But," she conceded, "I imagine you're probably right."
"Look at it this way. You can spend a whole week with your old bones and no interruptions from me."
"I like your interruptions," she wheedled.
"You know, I always had a sneaking suspicion you weren't nearly as put out by new cases as you pretended to be."
"I do enjoy the work we do together, surely you know that."
"Well, of course you do. I'm a fun guy."
"Impossible," she couldn't resist the urge to tease him; "Fungi are an entirely different Taxonomic Kingdom."
"Woo," he whooped, "ladies and gentlemen, she's on fire today!"
"Thursday, for certain?" she asked him quietly in the wake of his laughter.
"Yeah, babe, Thursday for certain."
"It seems as if you've swapped one nickname for another," she wondered idly.
"Geez, Bones, you're gonna give me whiplash if you keep changing subjects so fast." He paused. "What do you mean?"
"You used to call me 'Bones' nearly exclusively. Now, it seems you're in the habit of calling me 'babe'."
"I still call you 'Bones'."
"You do," she conceded.
"I also call you 'baby'." He paused again and she began to think he was doing it for dramatic effect. "If I recall, you like it."
"If I recall, I told you I liked 'babe'."
"Okay?" he led.
"But 'baby' is growing on me, too. I'm uncertain why."
"They are called terms of endearment for a reason, you know. Think about it. I don't call anyone else babe or baby, do I?"
"Of course not."
"That's because those terms are reserved for you. You're special to me."
"By that logic, nicknames could be a term of endearment."
"Where'd you hear that?" he demanded, though not unkindly.
"Your grandfather called today. It seems your cell phone was going repeatedly to voicemail. I found it strange he calls you 'shrimp'. There's nothing remotely shrimp-like about you."
"Well," he chuckled, "I was a kid once, you know."
"And you were shrimp-like then?" She couldn't quite grasp the reference.
"I was short, Bones. Scrawny. A shrimp. Get it?"
"Well, technically speaking, as shrimp are measured in length for scientific purposes and weight for culinary purposes, there's not much basis for comparison in height or brawn."
"Okay, Bones, fine. I was short in length."
She gulped audibly. She was fairly certain he didn't mean that as a double entendre, but she'd certainly heard it as one. And she was fairly certain he didn't bear any resemblance to a shrimp in the length department. "I find that incredibly hard to believe," she said wryly.
He paused and then groaned. "Really? You're bringing that right now?"
"Actually, you brought it up."
"You're going to bring it up if you aren't careful," he said playfully.
"I think this conversation is devolving."
"We could always, you know, over the phone."
She flushed at the thought but chuckled. "Wouldn't you rather, you know, in person?"
"Hell yes, I would. But there's not going to be any in person until Thursday."
"It'll be our first time together."
"It will," he answered huskily.
"Is there anything I should know? Anything…special…you'd like me to do? Or have?"
"I guarantee unadulterated you is going to be more than enough."
"Even though this is a completely erroneous statement, I feel compelled to tell you I can't wait until you get home."
"I can't wait to be home."
"You'll call again?"
"As soon as I can."
"You'll be careful?"
She sighed. "I really do love you."
He made a contented noise in the back of his throat. "You're never going to be able to tell me that too many times."
She shucked her clothing off and slid down into her steaming bath. "You think I'm ever going to be able to tell you enough?"
"Maybe in fifty years," he said with what she could tell was a grin.
She smirked at his attempt to renegotiate. "How about twenty?"
"How about thirty-five, Bones?" He didn't sound too upset about coming back to her original offer.