A/N: I want to say thanks to all of you who have read my story. As I went back and did my final editing, I couldn't help but notice how different these characters are between season four and now. I almost feel like I'm writing a different Booth and Brennan than I see on my TV each week. I guess, in a way, I am. As much as I felt cheated by the end of last season, I have to say that the producers and writers have been very creative in how they've approached these two. I love where they are right now and it's going to be a great ride to the end of the season. Anyway, I hope that you will enjoy my early-season-four Brennan and that this ending will warrant the excitement some of you have expressed in your reviews. Thanks so much for reading!
I didn't see or speak with Booth for two days. He said he'd call if we had a case. Apparently, we didn't. Because of that, I'd gotten an inordinate amount of work done in Modular Skeletal Storage. I'd identified seven sets of remains in two days, and sent comments on two chapters of a graduate student's dissertation.
But tonight, as I clicked off the monitor on my computer, I didn't feel like going home. I walked down the few blocks to the diner. Standing on the street corner, ready to cross, I saw a couple sitting at the table that Booth and I usually occupy when we patronize the establishment. I'd not seen them before. They were young and dressed professionally, and he was leaning across the table so far that, to a trained anthropologist's eye, it was clear he was invading her personal space in an effort to mark her as a potential mate.
I sat at the counter.
"Why, Dr. Brennan, where is that handsome man of yours? He's usually with you this time of night." LaVerne, the night waitress, commented as she poured the decaf I hadn't ordered.
Man of mine?
"Agent Booth. Where is he this evening?"
"He's not…We're not…"
"At this time in the evening, he is most likely at home." Why did she assume I knew his whereabouts? He could be anywhere, for all I knew. We'd not spoken in two days or exchanged so much as an email. I didn't know where he was. He didn't know where I was.
Staring into my coffee, I couldn't compartmentalize that. I'd gotten used to knowing where he was. I'd gotten used to Booth knowing where I was, all of the time. I'd come to accept it to the point that I found comfort in it.
That scared me.
But, not knowing where he was, and Booth not knowing that I was sitting at the Diner without him—that scared me more.
And so I ended up on Mr. Lincoln's steps with a warm piece of cherry cobbler in one hand and my finger poised over the SEND button with the other.
Meet me at Lincoln. I have pie.
I was nearly ready to stand and do some jumping to ward off the chill.
His voice came from the monument behind me.
"Hey." I held out the polystyrene container. "It was still warm from the oven when I left the Diner."
"Thanks." He took the container from my hands but seemed reluctant to say anything further.
"You haven't called." I blurted.
"You told me to go away."
"I said I wanted things to go back to the way they were before."
"And I said I'd call if we have a case."
"You used to call whether we had a case or not. You always cared about where I was."
"I know where you were. You were in Limbo, listening to the dead."
"The dead cannot speak, Booth. They're dead."
"They speak to you."
"I do not use my sense of hearing to determine cause and manner of death, Booth. I use my eyes. The truth is there for the seeing. I just happen to be the best at seeing it."
He let out a sigh, sat two steps up and one meter away from me, popped open the top of the container, and stabbed the cobbler with the fork. For the next five minutes, he didn't speak other than to mumble, "Damn, that's good," to himself.
After depositing the container and plastic fork in the nearby trash receptacle, he returned to the steps, stretching his legs out straight and leaning back on his elbows. My partner, usually quick to act in any situation was staring into the sky, as if he was searching for the stars hidden behind the wash of city lights.
When he finally did speak, it was almost inaudible.
"Can you not see the truth in me?"
I didn't know what to say.
"Sometimes," I replied.
"I can see the truth in your bones. On cases like this, your gate changes. Your pelvis tilts and your thoracic vertebrae round. Your scapulae move apart when you slump over your desk, and the muscles in your forehead twitch while you are waiting for the one piece of the puzzle that will complete the picture for you. The truth is this case bothered you intensely and I'm sorry for that. I know that you blame yourself for that little boy's ordeal."
"Like you said, there was no evidence." He didn't sound convinced.
"No, there wasn't, but I know you, Booth. You put everyone – your family, your friends, even the anonymous dead – before yourself out of some irrational sense of atonement for lives taken or left unprotected. It's not logical and I'm not sure I'll ever understand it, but I do respect it."
He finally made eye contact with me.
A momentary relief. I'd apparently said the right thing. Encouraged, I tried again.
"When I see you like that, I want to be able to help you."
"I found the murder weapon. I collected all of the evidence required for a successful conviction on both kidnapping and murder charges. But I meant that I didn't help you, as my partner. Intellectually, I understand the need for comfort in such situations, but I'm not a heart person. I never know how to act."
"Bones, you acted just fine this week." He chuckled. "More than fine. All week, you knew exactly how to help me when I needed it the most. For God's sake, you picked my son up at school and brought him to visit me! And that had to be because somehow you knew that I was angry that I'd missed my weekend with him and that seeing him would make my day. I never told you, so you obviously figured it out. And earlier in the week, Bones…" There it was. The topic. My abdomen clenched. "You knew exactly what I needed."
"Then why did you stop?"
"I told you why."
"But I was choosing it, Booth. I was very clearly consenting."
"Yes. You were. Very clearly." Was that laughter or frustration I heard in his voice?
I enunciated each word as I repeated my question, "Then why did you stop?"
He sighed. "Because we were both consenting, but neither one of us was choosing."
"Subtle distinctions like that are lost on me."
He started chuckling again. "Call me old-fashioned, Bones, but the first time we're…together…I'd like to be able to take our time and do it right."
"I didn't see anything wrong with the way we were doing it. I'm an excellent sexual partner, Booth."
Now he was definitely laughing. "I don't doubt it for a second, Bones."
I must have had an utterly confused look on my face. His laughter subsided and his voice took on a softer quality – the one he used when explaining something to me about human nature.
"Do you really not know why?"
"We're partners. We work in dangerous jobs that require us to be objective in tense situations. Sex complicates those situations, which can put us a greater risk for work-related injury or loss of life."
"That is a true statement." He slid closer. "But I don't think it's going to complicate the situation any more than it already is."
"Because, Bones. If someone is threatening or harming you, I am definitely not going to be objective about it, and that isn't going to change whether we've had sex or not." He leaned in even a little bit more. "But that's not why I stopped."
I bit my bottom lip and turned away. If I kept looking at him I was going to have to kiss him and that was what had caused this problem in the first place.
The blinking double light atop Mr. Washington's obelisk was suddenly very captivating. I starred at it…on…off…on…off. The constancy was somehow soothing. I spoke at the hidden stars as my partner had earlier.
My head found its way to his shoulder, which seemed an odd place of comfort considering the situation. But somewhere in the small action of making contact I found my courage.
"Booth, are you in love with me?"
My eyes welled immediately. The muscles in my face twisted and contorted and my abdomen tensed. I opened my mouth in what was sure to be a sob, but instead the corners turned upward and a laugh released from deep within me. Soon, my torso was shaking in a regular pattern. I tried to contain it, but my action only resulted in stifled snorts.
"I'm sor- I'm sorry- I'm- I'm-" my attempts at speaking were foiled by rolling laughter. "It just that… I'm sure…that there's some…culturally appropriate…reaction…but…I don't know…what it is." I erupted into a fit of giggles.
"What's gotten into you?"
Relief. Relief had gotten into me. I couldn't remember a time when I felt so light.
I took a few deep breaths and managed to calm myself enough to speak. "I'm sorry. Did I offend you?" I was still fighting hard for control.
"Nah, of course not, I mean, every man wants a woman to laugh uncontrollably when he tells her he's in love with her. Wasn't that in your anthropology textbooks?"
His sarcasm registered immediately. He was definitely offended. I hadn't meant to laugh. It just came out.
I needed to understand.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, Bones. I'm sure."
"How do you know?"
"I have a better idea." He shifted his weight back to both elbows, as if he was preparing for a long discussion. "Let's do this your way. You need to make sense of this rationally. You need evidence, right? Fine. How do you know I'm in love with you?"
His voice carried an edge that I couldn't quite place.
"What evidence do you see?"
"Why do I feel like a suspect you're interrogating?"
"Bones, I'm trying to help."
"No. I've learned how this works, Booth. You're trying to throw me off guard so that I'll talk to you and give you the answers that you want, right? Isn't that how it works?"
Booth clenched his teeth. "You know, sometimes you are the most aggravating person on the planet. Just answer the question, Bones."
"But what if I can't give you the answers that you want?"
"Bones. Just answer the question." His look begged me to trust him and that was definitely something I could do, even if I wasn't sure I could trust myself. I paused and thought. This should be easy. I'd been through the evidence in my mind a significant number of times in the past week.
"You know my favorite things."
"And you care about where I am, all the time."
"Yes, I do."
"And you always know when to talk to me and when to give me space."
His smile turned inward, as if he were smiling to himself rather than at me.
"And sometimes…sometimes…" I drifted. This was difficult. "Sometimes, when you look at me, I can just…I can just tell."
"Careful there, Bones." He teased me with raised eyebrows and a sideways smile that made me want to kiss it off his face. "You start making decisions with your gut and you'll get us both into trouble."
Silence returned, but not so uncomfortable as before. This time, I felt oddly warm.
"You know what else?" He had the same look on his face he had when he'd given his little forensics demonstration at the crime scene – as if he'd raised his hand in class when he knew he had the right answer.
"You're all about showing off what you know lately, aren't you?"
He inched a bit closer to me. "I know that you stay late working in your office and skip meals more often than you should. But I also know that you do it because you believe in your work. You believe that the unknown dead deserve a face and a name and a story."
Now I was smiling.
"And I know that you're beautiful when you sleep. I mean, you're beautiful all the time, but when you sleep the walls come down. Your face is full of warmth, and innocence, and vulnerability and all of the things that I get to see that for the rest of the world are hidden behind your science and your shiny lab."
I could not help but notice that he spoke the words science and shiny with a hint of disdain.
"When have you ever watched me sleep?" I felt oddly offended and flattered at the same time.
His cheeks showed just a tinge of red. "Well…Vegas…Texas…but mostly when I come to check on you and you've fallen asleep on the couch in your office." He reached for a strand of my hair that was hanging in front of my shoulder, rubbing the tips between his fingers. "It's a privilege to have you as my partner, Bones, and I consider it an honor to have earned your trust. But loving you…being allowed to love you…I can't think of a higher honor than that."
I'd skipped right past glistening eyes and headed straight for near weeping. I had no idea what to say to him. No one had ever said such things to me before.
I don't know how much time passed between the end of his little speech and moment his lips met mine. He kissed me this time, tentatively, as if he was asking me if it was okay. When I complied, there was no questioning it. He slid one hand behind my head, tightly weaving his fingers into my hair, placed the other at my waist and pulled me into him, forcing my back to arch over the steps. I willingly leaned into his hand as my head fell back. It seemed there was no more use in fighting it. I was here, kissing my partner at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I ached with wanting and, unless the nerve endings in my hip were sending false signals, so did he. I wanted so badly to stop my questioning mind.
"Mmmm, you do love me," he whispered and lowered his caresses to my mandible and throat.
"How do you know?"
"Vanilla," he whispered as his lips settled in the notch just above my sternum.
I'd spent fifteen minutes staring at the bottle of shampoo on the shelf, knowing full well what the purchase signified.
I grabbed the collar of his jacket and shook him in frustration.
"I want to be able to trust what I feel!"
He moved away at my outburst. I stood and paced.
"I want to believe that the release of neurochemicals I'm experiencing is more than science can explain. I want to know that if I allow myself this I'll still be the same person tomorrow, and I want to be certain that it's okay to feel that way, despite the fact that it is a completely false premise based on the ridiculous notion that intercourse can somehow change the makeup of one's DNA! I want to know that the FBI won't split us up when they find out. I want to be certain that I'm not trading my partner for a lover and a relationship that, statistically speaking, will end."
I turned back to him. His eyes were glassy, like I'd only seen them maybe once before. I'm not sure I would ever use the adjective vulnerable to describe my partner. But in that moment—the way he was standing backlit by the monument, shadows across his face, hands in his pockets—it seemed a fitting description. He really was just as afraid of losing everything as I was. I took his hand and saw his chest expand with a deep intake of air at the contact.
"I'm not done yet." I mirrored his deep breath with my own and finally let the words come. "I want to be able to dismiss the statistics and trust you, because in any other situation, I would, without question. I want to believe that love means that statistics don't matter."
And then he was hugging me. Clinging might be a more accurate description. I was clinging, too.
Slowly, the chaos began to disappear. The whirling contradictions and the spinning questions, the nagging doubts and the indecisiveness of the week vanished more and more as he started in again, running his lips along my mandible. My chin tilted of it's own accord to allow him access. He was so warm and soft and…Booth…and for the first time I thought that maybe foreplay wasn't overrated after all. In leaned in and captured his lips.
"You taste like pie."
He was still caressing, still kissing. I felt him smile against my neck.
"That wasn't pie, Bones. It was cobbler."
His hands were everywhere.
"Well, I don't really see the difference. The fruit was cooked."
"You can see a shift in the distance between my shoulder blades, but you can't see the difference between cobbler and pie?" He leaned into my ear and whispered, "No crust, no pie."
Teeth on my earlobe.
"But the only pie they had left was meringue and you don't like meringue."
"Bones." By this time he was buried in my collarbone. "Do you really want to argue about this right now?"
More lips. More hands. More tongues. More…everything. We needed to stop before we got arrested.
He pulled back and grinned at me wildly.
"All right, that's it."
He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder.
"Booth put me down! Put me down now!" He was not complying with my demands as he headed around the memorial to the SUV. "I am plenty capable of defending myself!"
It was too late, the passenger door was open and he plopped me down onto the ground, boxing me with one arm on the car's frame and the other on the door. "Defending yourself from what, Bones?"
Fear. Loneliness. Abandonment. These words were only fleeting in my mind.
"Nothing." I smiled. "I'm done defending myself."
He just stood there, looking at me in that way I'd come to realize was only for me.
"Bones. Did you just speak in metaphor?"
"Maybe. I am a best selling author you know."
"Yeah. I know."
He kissed my forehead and then jogged to the driver's side. "Twenty minutes, Bones."
"Twenty minutes until what?"
"Starting in twenty minutes, you won't be able to think no matter how hard you try." His smile, at this point, was absolutely full of mischief. He was pretty damn sure of himself.
"Booth, your apartment is twenty minutes away. I doubt I will stop thinking the moment we walk in the door."
He just looked at me from his seat and raised his brows.
"Can we just drive please?"
He nodded and the engine roared to life. I put my hand on the console, hoping he'd take it. He did.
We rode in silence. It wasn't awkward or empty. It was full.
Very, very full.
As Washington whirred by outside the window, I closed my eyes.
And stopped thinking.