{This is my very first fanfic ever *hides from scathing reviews* so be patient with me. Hopefully the updating will be speedy and I'll be able to get the rest of the chapters up before you die of anticipation. The worst thing ever is an unfinished fic. Anyway, sit back, relax, and enjoy!}

"Madam Foreperson of the Jury, have you reached a verdict?"

"We have your honor. We find the defendant, Kent Ronald Herbert, guilty of one count of murder in the first degree."

The word rang out like the toll of a great bell, reverberating off those proud, solemn walls and settling with all their crushing weight. The defendant, with his cold eyes, slumped in his seat and ground his teeth together.

Anyone who had been in that courtroom the last few days could not have been surprised. There was no question in anyone's mind that the man was completely guilty. The jury was out for less than thirty minutes. The only question anyone considered was how on the earth the DA had not gotten him to agree to a plea bargain before his doomed trial. The evidence was completely, unbelievably overwhelming.

Very few actually paid attention to the rest of the proceedings. Two people sitting behind the prosecution turned and gave one another smug smiles. They were the two least surprised by the verdict of all, because they were the two responsible for it.

"Way to pull through," sighed the DA, standing once the judge had gone and the courtroom dissembled into lingering chaos. She turned and looked at the pair behind her, making it clear she was addressing them. "Beats me if I can figure out how y'all do it, but somehow the brawn and the brains always gets me the verdict I want."

"Thanks Caroline," said Booth, grinning. "You were great."

"The jury seemed to respond well to you," Brennan offered.

"What they liked," corrected the tough Cajun DA, "Was your irrefutable evidence, cherie."

Booth shrugged. "Well, either way we nailed another one, didn't we? The world is one psycho safer."

A colleague came over and Caroline dismissed the partners almost immediately to speak to him. Brennan glanced up at Booth with a satisfied expression. "We did good today."

"Yes we did." He put a hand on the small of her back to lead her out of the room. "Care for a celebratory drink?"

"At three in the afternoon?" her tone was skeptical.

He was unperturbed. "Or maybe some food at the diner."

"I'd like that."

They filed past the people still hovering in the courtroom, discussing the verdict, lacing their phrases with their own personal revulsion at the depravity of the newly convicted murderer. The common people were shocked by the nature of the crimes, horrified that anyone could become so twisted. They could not comprehend, could not reconcile it in their minds. It seemed impossible. It made stomachs churn and tears spring to the eyes. It made hearts seethe with anger.

Was it a mark of desensitization that the pair moving through them to the exit did not exhibit any similar emotions? Was it a sign of inner corruption themselves? Unfortunately, their excuse was much more tragic. They were not surprised or horrified by the deeds of Kent Herbert. They were not shaken to the core, because they had dealt with his kind countless times before, and would deal with many more even worse than he. This was their grisly quest, to protect the vulnerable, repulsed people of society who were outraged by these travesties, to preserve that same sense of outrage for them. They paid the highest cost, trudging through the murky, polluted waters of the worst of criminals. They were jaded; they could not feel the same reaction as the innocent people did. But it had to be that way. Each would lose their minds if every case had them on their knees in anguish over the horrors committed. They had to cope, had to investigate without taking it into their hearts, prevent it from affecting them any more than it had to.

So when the partners spoke rather lightly about what they might order when they arrived at their preferred diner, it wasn't because they thought so little of the situation. Rather, it was because they had to act as if it were nothing, because otherwise it would be impossible to go on. Besides, they chose to focus on the victory. This man was gone away now, most certainly for life, and his atrocities could not be committed again.

The only real discomfort felt by either of them was on the part of the anthropologist. She found it disconcerting to be walking out of the courthouse without her team in tow. Granted, she'd testified in many a case by herself, but more often than not, her collection of brilliant minds would be called upon as expert witnesses to report on their individual findings in an investigation. She always felt a glow of pride when they came together as a team to successfully close a case like that, in front of a jury, watching the sick hope drain from the suspect's face.

Not today. Her team wasn't needed today. The evidence was straightforward and, as Caroline said, irrefutable. So many expert witnesses weren't needed. Only herself to explain the forensics, and her partner to explain the investigation.

"I like it better when they just confess and we don't have to go through big show of a trail," he mused aloud as he opened the door for her to his car.

It surprised her mildly that his train of thought would be along a similar line as hers, though she was not surprised that he felt quite differently than she. "Yes, it is simpler that way. But I disagree. I sort of like the feeling of staring the killer down while you tell the whole room exactly why he is completely guilty."

"That's nice, Bones. Get a little revenge for the victims, I guess." He didn't make it sound like a compliment. He shut her door after she climbed in and went to the other side.

"I find that sometimes when they confess to us, they get emotional and remorseful," she continued. "In that situation, it feels so much more tragic. When they deny it and insist on a trial, I am able to justify hating them and abhorring their acts."

"Sweets would probably have something to say about that." Booth pulled out of the parking structure and out onto the road. He dropped his sunglasses down over his eyes, stretching out his arms when they pulled up to a light.

Brennan made a soft noise of disgust and looked away. "Psychology," she scoffed very softly.

"I thought you were warming up to the kid." Booth glanced over at her. She couldn't see his eyes but his half-cocked eyebrow and his crooked grin was all the expression she needed.

"I have come to value his insight a little more, since past cases have proven him to be useful. And I admit he has helped us when we've fought more and been less functional. However, I'm not ready to admit psychology is a real science and I'm certainly glad we're no longer going to partner's therapy."

"Me too, Bones," Booth agreed quickly. "Very glad. Though we're still being studied like lab rats, so I don't know how different it really is."

"Sweet's observations of us should be through. His book is done."

The agent shifted uncomfortably in his seat, rounding the corner to the diner. "I wonder what he's said about us in it."

"I imagine it remarks on the nature of dysfunctional partnerships." Her tone was thoughtful, matter of fact, not pausing to consider other interpretations of the words.

"Dysfunctional?" Booth said in dismay. He turned off the ignition. "We aren't dysfunctional! Look what we just accomplished today! Do you really think we're dysfunctional?"

Brennan grinned a little. "I don't, of course. I can see why Sweets might think so. He can't ever get us to stay on topic when he tries to talk to us about something."

"Well that's because he wants us to talk about some pretty stupid stuff," Booth grumbled. "That doesn't mean we're dysfunctional. If he puts anything like that in his book, I'm going to kill the kid."

"Go easy on him. I suspect he'll let us read it before he publishes. That is the courteous thing to do, anyway."

While he let her out of the car, Booth took a moment to internalize this notion. He tried not to allow himself to be too curious about their young psychologist's book. Truthfully, he was afraid of what they would find inside it. For almost three years now Sweet's had had the opportunity to observe them, both in a therapeutic setting and in their work performance. He had an uncanny, even uncomfortable knack for detecting falsehoods, just as Booth himself had remarkable intuition for truths. He'd always joked that Sweets was a walking lie detector, but there was merit to the joke and he was uneasy about what truths Sweets might have ferreted out and made public in his book.

He secretly hoped Sweets would not give it to them, would not let him, or mostly her, read it.

"How come we never eat at Sid's anymore?" Brennan asked as they headed in the door.

"Sid's closed a couple years ago, remember?" Booth gave her an odd look. Usually she was impeccable at remembering these things. "He went off traveling and gave up the place."

"I had forgotten."

"What makes you ask?"

She shrugged. They headed to their usual table. "I don't know what I'd like to get today. I'm in the mood to have someone just know, the way Sid used to do."

"No man is brave enough to try, Bones, including me," he chuckled. "Sid's unnatural talent isn't found anywhere else, and I'm not about to risk ordering you the wrong thing."

"Come on Booth. Surely after five years of working together you can get a decent read on what I generally like, right?" She asked, big silver-green eyes growing wide with expectancy. "I think you should try. If I don't like it, I'll pay for it and order something else."

"No way, then I'm going to feel guilty for ordering you the wrong thing and it's going to sow seeds of doubt in both our minds that I don't really know you that well and we'll both be secretly disappointed in me – nope. No way. It's a trap. One of those girly traps women like to set for men, like sick tests that no one can win."

Her face grew increasingly astonished, and more than a little amused. "I have no idea what you mean," she laughed. "Sometimes I think you're speaking a different language."

"Believe me, Bones, I get that feeling from you all the time." He flipped open the menu and fell quiet as he began perusing.

She toyed with the corner of hers, trying to decide whether to press the matter further to see if she could get him to order for her. "You know I wont get upset if you don't happen to know what food I'm in the mood for. That sounds like psychology, and you know how much credit I give psychology."

"Just pick something," he replied, glancing up from his menu to give her a look.

She chuckled again and surrendered. They'd been to the diner so many times they really shouldn't even need menus, but it had been a different kind of day for them so she was grateful for the refresh.

"Parker wants to come over to swim tonight, are you alright with that?"

Brennan looked up, mildly surprised. "Of course. I don't have to give you my permission. I already gave you the key."

"I know, but I had ulterior motives." He gave her a shameless grin. "What are your plans tonight?"

She couldn't help but be intrigued. "Ange wanted me to go get drinks with her this evening, but I can reschedule. Why?"

"Well, Pops called. He wants to take us all out to dinner. He specifically asked that you be there. I wondered if we could come over and swim, and then maybe Parker can clean up at your place before we all go eat."

The waitress appeared at their table, already scribbling down their usual drink orders. "What are you having today, honey?" she asked Brennan.

The anthropologist set down her menu. "The Caprisi Salad, please."

"What?" Booth wrinkled his nose. "After a morning like we've had, you want a salad? No way, go with the croissant you like. That has a little more to it than a measly salad."

Brennan gave him an odd look. "Okay."

"The BLTA Croissant, then?" the waitress asked patiently. She was familiar with how distracted these regulars could get while trying to order.

"Yeah, get her that. I'll have the Cali Club." Booth handed her both menus and looked back at his partner. "So? Are you in for dinner?"

"Yes," she said with a smile, leaning forward a little. "I've been looking forward to seeing Hank again."

Booth grinned widely, perhaps revealing his pleasure in her agreement a little too much. "Yeah, he really seemed to like you. He asks about you whenever I go visit."

She couldn't help but remember the last time she'd spoken with Hank, and the uncomfortable advice he'd given her. There was a story she was supposed to tell Booth, but she hadn't found the appropriate time yet, and she didn't know how she was going to recognize the right time when it happened. She wasn't good at those things. Instead, she internalized the information and decided just to wait. Hopefully, one day, a moment would be right enough that it would scream at her and she'd know.

Until then, she had to sit with this unsettling information, and with the other things Booth's grandfather had said to her… things she was not willing to contemplate. "What time are you thinking of coming over?"

The waitress brought their drinks and Booth promptly seized his. Sometimes it was nice to have a prop in hand when he was talking about things that could become uncomfortable. "Well actually as soon as we were done here I was going to go get Parker from Rebecca's. I thought I'd be at your place by 5. Parker can swim for an hour and then he can shower and we can meet Pops around 7:30. Is that alright?"

"That sounds like a reasonable timeline to me."

Again, he was obviously pleased. Sometimes he marveled that his partner wasn't more uncomfortable around his son. Lately she seemed really very good with him. "Parker will be excited."

Just then they were interrupted by an ominous ring of Booth's cellphone. They both froze, their eyes meeting before going to the demanding device. He picked up the phone and opened it, but not without significant dread. "Booth," he answered.

Brennan couldn't hear the conversation, but she knew it wasn't a new case by the tone of his voice. She wasn't very good at reading facial expressions, so she didn't necessarily catch the relief on his face, but his voice dropped and became even pleasant.

"Oh? Well thanks, Director Hacker. Yeah we're pretty pleased. Thank you sir." His gaze flicked to Bones. She did not catch the small frown that tugged down the conrers of his mouth. "Yes, she's here. Uh-huh. Well actually, sir, she just finished telling me that she already had plans tonight. Yes. I don't know, something with some of her Squints." He laughed. It sounded forced. "My thoughts exactly. I have no idea what they do for fun."

Brennan's eyes narrowed defensively. He flashed her one of his most charming grins. She relented and shook her head.

"Excuse me, Sir. I've got to go. Yeah, picking up my son. Hey, do me a favor? Any cases that come in tonight… can you reassign them unless it's absolutely necessary the squints get involved? Yeah, use our own guys. We could all use a break this evening. Oh good. Thank you, Sir. You too."

He closed the phone with a snap just as the waitress brought out their food. "Hacker wanted to know what your plans were tonight."

"I gathered that," she said with vague amusement. "And you lied to him."

"Yeah well, I don't need him knowing I'm the reason you can't go out with him tonight."

"Why? Do you think that would jeopardize your job?" her brows lifted skeptically.

"What? No. Of course not. Well okay, maybe a little, but mostly I just don't want it to raise any of those questions we get asked all the time." He picked up his sandwich and took a huge bite, swallowing any words that might attempt to follow his last.

She cut her croissant with a fork and knife – an act he never understood- but paused before putting the bite into her mouth. Her expression was perplexed. "What question is that?"

"Nevermind. Just eat your food. We're on a schedule."

She sighed quietly in exasperation, finishing it off with a determined bite. Surprisingly, the combination of flavors sparked some deep sense of satisfaction the moment they hit her tongue. She swallowed, grinned, and cut off another bite.

"What's funny?" he asked, gulping down a large bite of his own. As always, he was acutely attuned to her every expression, her every movement.

"You got were correct, that's all. I'm displaying my approval."

"Okay, professor." He rolled his eyes. "What did I get right?"

"My food. You ordered for me. You were right, this is what I needed. Much more satisfying than the salad I thought I wanted."

At first he seemed surprised, then perhaps slightly annoyed. "You tricked me into ordering for you?"

"No! I placed my order and then you ordered something else for me instead. As I recall you didn't even ask."

It took only a fraction of a second for her words to digest before one of his crooked, gloating grins broke out over his face. "Haha, you're right. And I was right. See. That's how well I know you."

"You're just lucky you weren't wrong," she smirked, taking another bite.

{okay folks, a little taste for what's coming up! And there will be a case involved, and some Hodgela, and some serious B&B, and all the goodies we read fanfics for. Stay tuned! As please R&R!}