Stomach flu is not conducive to a healthy writing environment.
Here is the last part, so thank you to everyone who reviewed, favourited, and put me on alert. Writing this has been great, and I'm very happy people have been enjoying it.
"Dinner?" she asked, cautious, guarded, appearing calm on the surface. Temperance Brennan often appeared to be the epitome of calm. After so many years of hiding the radical emotions that threatened to make her act irrationally, she rarely became anything else.
There was no reason to rejoice, no reason for the sensation often described as 'butterflies in the stomach" to begin, no reason for her oft-dashed hopes to get up once again.
No reason for anything other than her usual response to unexpected late night calls.
That was all this was.
All anything like this ever could be.
He saw a look flash across her face for a half-instant before it was replaced with a neutral expression, and he didn't see enough of it to know what it had been.
She looked peaceful, as if she had been sitting on her couch with a mug of herbal tea and a copy of the latest anthropological journal, soft jazz floating throughout the apartment. He took a second to allow the image of her so relaxed and at comfortable, before continuing on with the hasty speech he had prepared on the drive over.
He had always hated speeches, the endless preparation and requirements for perfection and political correctness drowning out any sort of meaning he ever wanted to put into them, but stepping on toes that weren't meant to be stepped on was never worth the satisfaction of not painstakingly going over every last detail before sending it out to the crowd.
He knew her patterns, her quirks; he depended on them to make the invitation go right.
"Yeah, well, I was out for Rebecca's birthday, at Parker's request, and I thought, hey, maybe Bones would want to come here someday."
Booth tried his best to make his voice as nonchalant as possible, but over the loud beating of his heart, he wasn't sure if he had pulled it off.
Though his partner was no expert in subtle inflections in tone or minute cues in body language, he knew she had learned enough about him over the years they had worked together to know when there was something wrong.
He took a breath, and Brennan noted to herself that she had never seen her partner so uneasy in a non-hostile situation.
She wondered if he had eaten something odd at the restaurant, and questioned the wisdom of returning for another meal.
She questioned the wisdom of going to any restaurant with him at all, when it wasn't after a long day solving crimes, a perfect excuse to enjoy a nice glass of wine and a plate of pasta with the man she longed to be free to adore.
She wondered, not for the first time, not for the thousandth, whether she would be relaxed and uninhibited with him, as she had slowly learned to be, or tense, guarded, and unsure, as she had been when they had shared their first meal together.
His intentions were unclear, hidden beneath the confusing façade of wanting to treat her right.
But what was right for her, anymore, anyway?
How would he know, when she wasn't able to discuss with him her innermost desires, tell him in dizzyingly scientific detail the myriad of ways she wanted to uncover the man underneath the suit and sweats and shower water.
She found it bitterly ironic that the one thing she couldn't tell Booth, the one who had coerced her out of the shell she had grown over the years, the one whom she trusted with her life and the lives of the ones she had come to care for, was that she longed to learn, first hand from him, the magic of the love-making he seemed to hold in such high esteem.
How was she to learn, if not from him?
How was she to learn, when all of the men she had been with agreed with her tried and true assertion that sex was sex and love was only for people who couldn't see past the end of their own nose?
Every time she sunk deeper into the fairytale belief, he inadvertently convinced her that he had been wrong about there being someone out there for everyone.
He was who she had come to believe in love for, he was the one she wanted to never leave, he was the only one she had ever not been able to have.
"I figured we'd better go sooner rather than later," he continued, throwing her a nervous smile. "'Cause ya never know when a new body's gonna show up, right?"
Booth chuckled awkwardly, diffusing the situation, or so he hoped.
He was slowly losing control, the careful planning he had done disappearing faster than one of his fries at the diner with her.
Then again, at times like these, when his Bones looked so beautiful and delicate and unique and priceless and so undeserving of a simple FBI agent like him, when she smiled at him with an gentleness and innocence that few could ever dream of possessing, he often found himself unsure of what to do with the space between them.
To move forward, or backward?
Time moved forward, their relationship moved forward in the sense that they became more and more the center of each other's worlds, but when it came down to the hard, irrational, unpredictable things, they often chose to step away, back into safety.
Away from the vase shape that kept everything the way it was, painful and freeing and beautiful and unconventional and revolutionary and so painfully nowhere.
"I suppose it is hard to predict the time a set of human remains would be discovered."
She narrowed her eyes slightly, questioning him with her body language, asking him why on earth he was on her doorstep with a question that could have easily waited for the next morning.
At least, that was the way his adrenalin-excited mind saw her facial expression.
He questioned the intelligence of conducting such an experiment, but how else was he to disprove the law of the line that had been set into place?
How else was he to know it was safe to dive, to take the plunge?
"This place serves this amazing chocolate cheesecake, and I know you don't like to eat too unhealthy, but it was really good, and I know how much you like things that are good… I mean, good food, 'cause we always get the best Thai food…"
He trailed, off grinning at her, his thousand-watt smile managing to put her at ease as it always did, and she found herself returning it, despite the unfamiliarity of the situation.
She couldn't explain it, couldn't put any sort of label on it, because she couldn't see anything new on the surface of their conversation.
And yet… perhaps there was something different in the way her partner was holding himself, in the way he smiled at her, in the way he rambled longer than usual.
Then again, it could have been the wine (but he wouldn't have driven over there), or the stress of the evening with his ex (but why would he be in such a good, albeit edgy mood, if that were the case?), or some other unknown factor.
He couldn't be asking her out for dinner in order to court her, because Seeley Booth had long proven to her that that was something that would never happen.
"I must say I'm slightly confused, Booth."
His smile faltered slightly, but not so much that the warm, fuzzy feeling didn't disappear from her stomach.
Not so much that the good feelings that always made her acquaintance when she talked to him left as they did whenever the two of them got into a serious argument.
At those times, her being filled up with a buzzing passion that threatened to consume her and turn her into a person of uncontrollable anger.
And when the argument ended, the buzzing passion often stayed for a while, overturning stones in the hidden recesses of her mind, revealing feelings that had been hidden and discarded.
He did that to her, he turned her into the person she had tried to leave behind when the truth of the wickedness of the world had first settled into her existence, he turned her into the woman she had always dreamed of becoming, strong and zealous and confident and successful.
She didn't feel those things now, not when uncertainty reared its ugly head in the form of her partner on her doorstep.
Not when intentions were unclear, not when responses to the question he was to ask her still hadn't formed in her head, the brain power usually dedicated to response generation being used to fabricate scenarios in which this conversation took the turn she wished all of their conversations could take.
"I'm confused, Booth. Why would you want to go to the same restaurant twice in a row? Surely the experience wouldn't be as good as going back later."
"Oh! Yeah, you're right, Bones, that would be stupid."
Booth grinned in his typical goofy Booth style, mocking himself for a mistake he had intended on making.
He was in control again, he had the plan by its antlers and he wasn't going to let it run wild, trashing the garden he had worked so hard make healthy and strong with Bones.
She looked at him, questioning him once again without remarks; so much more was being said than the words exchanged, as had always happened with them, as would always happen with them.
"Hey, I could take you to that new French place that opened up downtown; I know how much you like that soup they make. And then we could go to a movie or something, or a walk through the park, or we could grab a drink in the bar-"
"Booth, this outing you want to take me on sounds like a classic example of a date."
A date, a date, a date, her heart raced, and a light flush crept up on her face, but she willed herself to retain composure, she couldn't let a simple dinner request reveal everything, destroy everything.
But it was so hard to control… and she liked to be in control.
Control was what kept pain and disappointment out of her life.
Booth learning that she was what some people would consider 'in love' with him would surely bring both.
They did things like this all the time, dinner and a drink, dinner and a movie, dinner and a walk even, but always after a case, always after something else.
Never before had plans been made in advance.
Never before had they been spelled out in words that everyone could understand, the message of a need for intimacy and closeness and the other's company loud and clear to anyone who knew them.
His heart stopped in his chest, and he sent a silent prayer to God, asking Him to let this go as he had planned.
The question hadn't been unexpected.
Temperance Brennan was a rational woman, she would recognize that the elements of what he wanted to do the following night sounded like a date.
He could deal with that.
He couldn't deal with her figuring out his ulterior motive, his true desire; because he was sure that she hadn't recognized the connection that they had, and how much better it could get.
"I'm simply informing you of this because you've expressed reservations in the past about being with me in any sort of romantic setting, and doubtless an intimate evening would negate everything you've said about lines and all of those other things."
Her voice was cold, as clinical as she could make it.
And it clipped slightly at the end, hopefully slightly enough that Booth didn't hear the telltale signs of heartbreak in her tones.
She needed the protection.
What she didn't need was the disappointment at hearing his mumble about not wanting to see her in that sort of a way, that they were, in fact, just partners, and sorry, he wasn't interested in helping her with her 'biological urges', but hey, if she was still looking, there was surely a man out there who could show her transcendent and eternal love.
He had just wanted to enjoy her company for the evening, 'cause wasn't that what friends did, enjoyed each other's company, listening to stories and jokes with secret yearning to cross the invisible line?
Apologies could be made.
But words couldn't be taken back.
He heard the trace of bitterness in his voice at the word 'line', and his heart clenched a little bit tighter.
Was it possible?
Was it possible that she, too, nearly broke into pieces every time someone mistook them for a couple and a no had to be hastily said, they were just partners, just partners, just partners…
"Bones?" he asked, nervous as ever. "Bones…?"
His eyes pleaded with her, his mind silently asking God, again, for the ability to steer their conversation away from disaster.
He didn't know if he could deal with her closed-up self again.
He didn't know if she could.
He didn't know what was going on in her mind, because sometimes, like now, she was about as easy to read as a sun-bleached wall of hieroglyphics; not only was she hard enough to understand as it was, but the wall she seemed to have erected around herself made the message still more indiscernible.
Seeley Booth needed to know why she had hidden within herself again; was it because she, as he had thought he had known since they had started working together, didn't want anything to do with the romantic views of relationships he held, or was it because she was afraid of the same thing he was, rejection and incoherent apologies about misread signals and intentions.
"I'm sorry, Booth, but I really have to be getting to bed. I will see you when we have a case. Meanwhile, I will be working on my novel. So, if there's nothing else urgent, then…"
She was hurt, he could detect it in the way she held herself, in the way she moved away from him quickly, hoping that he wouldn't see the expression on her features, the tell-all, her poker face dropping and giving him all of her cards.
He grabbed her arm as she made to shut the door, making sure that he didn't hurt her by putting too much pressure on it.
Her face was visible to him now, the surprise at having been stopped not allowing her to slide on the mask of indifference again.
And he saw everything, the hurt, the disappointment, the wear that the merry-go-round they had always been on had done to her, the confusion because for once, she wasn't able to deal with a situation using her scientific abilities.
The experiment had produced results, the theory had been disproven.
So why wasn't he dancing for joy with the knowledge that he had bested his rival?
Perhaps because the knowledge had come with a price he never liked to pay.
"Booth," she started in a choked voice, trying her hardest to control the tempest of emotions that had started up inside of her. "I told you I would take to you later. It's late, and I want to go to bed. If you don't mind, I'd like you to leave."
Her eyes, the most intelligent and confident and compelling he had ever seen, distorted themselves with tears, uncried, because she saw no reason to cry in front of him, because of him.
It was irrational, it was foolish, it was illogical, it was against everything she had ever taught herself to be to let her emotions get the better of her because of what could never be.
Maybe this was the time to be finished with waiting, because she had finally discovered that even an innocent invitation, in its simple innocence, could break open the box of feelings she had been hiding from him and the rest of the world.
That was something she couldn't deal with.
That was something she was sure he wouldn't want to deal with.
"Bones, Bones, wait!"
He stopped the door from slamming, and gently pushed his way through, as she lost the will to prevent him from entering her home.
"I want you to leave, Booth." she said as she slid weakly down the wall onto her floor, wetness finally coating her face, her eyes staring up at his hopelessly.
They were still brown, they were still warm, they were still kind, they were still caring.
That made it all the more agonizing.
"No." he said, as firm as he could, insides pulsing with different feelings, happiness, at knowing that he had perhaps been blind the whole time, concern, at the state she had gone into, but most of all love, love for the woman who had been calm and collected, her usual self, just a few minutes earlier.
"No." he repeated, pushing everything he felt about her and every wonderful, terrible thing they had ever been through into that one word. "I'm not leaving Bones, because I don't know why you're crying."
She looked down, hiding her eyes from his view, as if by that action she could erase the image of her teary eyes from his mind, letting him leave, letting her feel the walls crashing down on her own.
"It doesn't matter." she said, bitterness once again letting itself become part of her tone, not so much that she noticed it, not so little that he didn't.
"Well, it has to have been something I said." Booth said, sliding down to sit beside her, ignoring the protests in his worn out back.
He put his arm around her, knowing that comfort was what she needed, the knowledge that he wasn't going to run away.
She stiffened, refusing to give herself the satisfaction of being able to lose herself in his arms, refusing to let her silent tears become anything more than silent.
She needed to close up, because an innocent dinner invitation had suddenly sprouted into something she hadn't seen coming, not this soon.
Not this close to her, not whispering soothing words to the spaces in-between her hair, not threatening to turn everything she had finally come to accept into another traumatic experience.
"It, it wasn't." she managed to get out, hiding further behind her walls, still stiff and unyielding to his comforts.
"You're a terrible liar, Bones." he said, no hint of a grin in his voice, but there was something warm, something Booth-like in the way he dismissed her pathetic attempt to get him away from the reason she had finally broken.
It was affection, warm and soft and soothing, making its way through the mood that had fallen over them, and it was this affection that finally loosened the hinges on her self-resolve.
Her body moved closer to his, settling underneath the arm he had set around her shoulders, her own appendages wrapping themselves, seemingly of their own free will, around his sturdy frame, wet tears leaving little spots on the crisp white shirt he had been so careful not to stain only a few hours before.
His hands rubbed soft circles on her back, phalanges and carpals and metacarpals feeling the flesh beneath the thin fabric of her camisole, nerve endings sending signals up to his hyper-aware mind, brain matter storing the information along with everything else he knew about Temperance Brennan.
"I think I love you." she whispered, barely heard from so far beneath his ears, but he heard her scared confession, every last word of it, already committing it to memory in order to hear her say it later, just in case she ran, just in case there was some sort of mistake, just in case it all had been another frighteningly real dream.
He held her tighter, trying to let her know that he, too, knew the painful sting of love seemingly unreciprocated, but the message must not have been sent correctly, because he heard tiny sobs from behind the curtain of dark hair that covered her face and felt the vibrations of sadness throughout his body, sending another wave of emotion coursing through him.
He lifted her chin, and saw, once again, everything laid bare for him, no screens, no walls, no façades.
She was beautiful.
She was hurting.
She was Bones.
Her mouth opened slightly in surprise, her eyes vibrating with the thousand things she was feeling.
As his hands moved to hold her head, her silky locks cascading over his forearms, he looked into the orbs that were so often an enigma to him.
He understood everything, because it had been there all along.
Everything he felt for her was reflected in her eyes, because it seemed, she felt the same way.
The burning passion, the fluttering stomach, the almost primal need to protect when danger arose, they were all there, exposed for him to see, to enjoy, to love.
"Bones," came the sound of his voice, and she heard it, daring to hope, once again, that this wasn't simply caring, that he surely understood everything she had said, both aloud and through the language of silence, that he, too, ached like she did for something more than the amazing friendship that they had, that he would tell her that yes, he did love her, and not in an 'atta-girl' kind of a way.
Her head moved closer to his, so close that the tips of their noses touched, each connection sending new thrills throughout each of them.
New thrills that could only have even newer outcomes, new thrills that would surely lead to everything they had ever shamefully dreamed in the dead of the night.
"Bones." he said again, the word that had started it all, and suddenly noses weren't all that were touching anymore, no, soft lips were touching lips, tentative tongues were meeting tentative tongues with mounting fervour, hands finding hands clumsily in the half dark before moving on to more interesting, unexplored land.
Backs met floor, and the world spun on its axis several times as two bodies crashed together repeatedly, the open door kicked shut by an unidentified failing limb, teeth scraping flesh, neck becoming acquainted with mouth, hands wandering with increasing urgency, finding new places to adore as old became new, fear became love, shallow became deep, the depth measured, the plunge taken.
Breaths were taken in-between submergences, air gulped eagerly, but not as eagerly as the taste of the other was sampled, longing and need and lust and infatuation making for a potent recipe.
Bodies were carried into bedrooms, laid onto mattresses, shirts and buttons separated with extreme prejudice, cotton fabric lifted with no thoughts, Cocky belt buckles undone with no contemplation of logic, no regard to rationality, no need for pondering.
Love was made, laws were broken, minds and metaphorical hearts breached with insurmountable certainty, bodies joined in the way they had joined for millions of years, the connection that creates life.
And as the final breath was caught, the final hand grasped, the final look shared, Seeley Booth looked into the eyes of Temperance Brennan, and said what had been on the tip of his tongue for too long.
"I love you." he told her, winding his fingers through her hair and down her back, caressing skin, cradling her soft, reluctant soul.
She kissed him softly, still basking in the delicate golden afterglow.
The water was as cool and refreshing as they had imagined it, the dive a hundred times as thrilling, the plunge into the new world of open infatuation and caring a thousand times as eye-opening, and the taste of surfacing to a new beginning a million times as sweet.