Together, Apart

A/N: Not sure where this story came from, but it just started flying from my fingertips about 3:00 pm. There's no real timeline for when this takes place. Probably several years after episode 100. I'm presupposing that Bones is about 35, give or take a few years. There's some definite angst, along with "time traveling" (of sorts--I'm being metaphorical, this is not sci-fi or fantasy, I swear), but I promise the ending is happy. What can I say? It's all kind of fluffy, and there may be some plotline inconsistencies (if there are, I apologize in advance) but I had fun writing it!

I really wrestled with the title for this story. The other options were "Forget-Me-Not" and "Ghost of a Chance." I'd love to hear which title you like best, as well as any constructive feedback you have about the story.

Disclaimer: Sadly, the characters do not belong to me, and I derive no profit from their "publication."

***

December 17, 2010

Brennan looked at the legal paperwork spread across her desk and back up at her partner in confusion. He stood a few feet away, arms tightly crossed in front of him bad cop-style, his handsome face set rigidly with an unfamiliar emotion that Brennan could not translate.

"So, Bones? Will you do it?"

She shook her head in disbelief. "Booth, this is insane! I don't understand why you're asking this."

"I don't actually understand either," he admitted, raising an eyebrow slightly in acknowledgment.

"Then why?" she demanded. "Why would you approach me with such a request, when nothing in our present lives even remotely dictates that such a mandate become necessary?"

He shrugged slightly, giving off a sense of casual certainty, when there was nothing even remotely casual –or certain—about his request. "Call it a gut feeling."

"You know I don't subscribe to such an unscientific approach!" Brennan's voice rose in confused alarm. This was her partner demanding such an irrational thing of her. The partner who usually made her life easier, not harder. The partner who understood what her personal boundaries were and respected them. The partner who never asked for more than she could give. The same partner who was now asking that she make a potentially life-or-career-altering decision.

Without warning, Booth took several steps toward her, closing the space between them. He leaned both arms on the desk, trapping her against the monitor.

"I'm sorry if I've upset you," he said softly, reaching out and tucking a stray strand of hair back behind her ear.

He had beautiful hands, Brennan thought fuzzily as she bolted upwards, sending her chair spinning sideways. Booth moved back slightly, clearly aware he had trespassed on her personal space. She stumbled away from him, desperately needing to escape.

Usually, having him near her was a comfort. There was a certain weight to his physical presence—one Brennan couldn't quite define, but, nevertheless, had secretly come to believe in. Even when he moved without a single discernible sound, she always knew when Booth was in a room with her, watching over her silently as she worked. As absurd as any of her fellow scientists might have deemed it, Brennan could frequently feel his smile before she actually turned around and found him grinning at her teasingly. In the same manner, she could pick up when he entered a room nearby and was angry. It was almost like the sheer force of his personality carried him into a room before his feet got there.

Beyond metaphorical presence, she couldn't count the number of times she'd relied on Booth's body to save her life or hold her close and offer shelter from the morbid reality that was attached to her job description. His raw physicality was a safety net she'd grown to rely on. Today, that same powerful physique made Brennan feel like a trapped insect in one of Hodgins' prized Dionaea muscipula collection.

Booth watched her steadily from his place by the desk. "Bones …" he paused for a long moment, holding her eyes with his own dark, intense gaze, "You have to believe me when I say there's no other person I would trust with this."

"How can you say that?" she cried in dismay. "I'm the least qualified of all individuals to fulfill such a request! You know my complete lack of social skills! You know my questions about the existence of God! The only world I've ever fit into is within these 4 walls!" She waved wildly at the cold, sterile lab just outside her office.

"All I'm asking is for you to think about it." There was an edge to Booth's voice that made Brennan shiver and she found to her horror that she couldn't move as he approached her once again. Everything within her screamed run away but the strong ties they'd formed as partners held her firmly shackled to the floor.

"Please, Bones." Booth caught her hands in his. "I know it's not a decision to be made overnight. Take all the time you need. Just promise me you'll give it some thought."

"That's the only thing I can honestly promise," Brennan whispered."Anything else would be a lie."

"Just think about it," he repeated, dropping his chin to her head and drawing her into the circle of his embrace.

They held each other for a long, long time.

***

January 9th, 2011

"Bones."

She turned restlessly on her pillow.

"Come on, Bones."

She groaned and buried her head against the mattress, willing away the interruption to her much-needed sleep.

"Temperance, wake up!"

Brennan jolted upright in alarm, still clutching her pillow. She'd fallen almost asleep immediately after getting home at 1:00 a.m. and had failed to close the blinds. Her bedroom was dimly lit by the glow of a street lamp. Groaning, she rubbed her tired eyes and looked around the room in confusion. At last, she flopped back onto the bed with a weary sigh.

"Wonderful. Now I'm hearing voices," she muttered in aggravation. "Sweets'll love this week's debriefing!"

She closed her eyes again and began a slow, rhythmic breathing exercise she'd learned in Peru. Her rigid body began to gradually relax and she felt herself sinking back into the sheets.

"Bones, please!" Booth's voice resonated through the room.

Again, she rocketed into a sitting position. "What—"

"I need your help. 718 McKinley."

There was nobody else in the room and the voice seemed to being projected straight into her head. Shivers crawled up Brennan's spine and she rubbed her arms in alarm.

"718 McKinley."

She jumped out of bed and headed straight for the shower, praying that a blast of cold water would clear away the cobwebs in her head. As the powerful stream played down upon her shoulders, the voice erupted within her again.

"Bones. 718 McKinley. Hurry!"

At almost the exact same moment, her cellphone rang. Cursing, she hopped out of the shower and ran back into the bedroom, shivering as she snatched the phone up on the 4th ring.

"Bren?" Angela's worried voice filtered through the receiver.

Brennan almost sighed with relief. "Ange, I'm so glad—"

"Forget-me-nots," her best friend blurted.

Her insides turned to ice. "Who told you about that, Angela?"

"Nobody!" Angela replied. "I don't know what the hell it means, Bren, but I keep hearing the words "forget-me-not" and "Bones" over and over in my head, like somebody's trying to talk to me. It's making me as paranoid as Hodgins!"

A pool of dread formed in the pit of Brennan's stomach and began to filter slowly into her bloodstream.

"Do you know what it means?" asked Ange.

Dread became incredulous, full-fledged terror. "It's the code word Booth insisted we come up with, in case either one of us was ever in trouble and needed help. Nobody knows about it but the two of us." She closed her eyes, trying to will away this surreal scenario, but when she re-opened them, Angela was still on the phone, demanding to know what was going on. "Call the FBI, Ange. Get them to meet me at 718 McKinley. Tell them Booth's in trouble."

She snapped the phone shut and headed straight for the door, where her car keys were hanging. The icy winter wind blasted her in the face as she ran for her car, wearing nothing but her skimpy nightgown.

***

The road to 718 McKinley was winding and eroded, leading back into a small, manmade forest on the outskirts of suburban D.C. She never would have found the address if her GPS—installed by Booth—hadn't guided her.

As she approached the address, Brennan caught a glimpse of flashing car lights. Her mind, too overwhelmed by the events of the last hours, shut down and her body took over. She slammed on the brakes and jumped out, running full-tilt toward Rebecca's overturned red S.U.V.

Snow crunched on the ground beneath her bare feet and she skidded a few times, but didn't stop. The distance between her and the car closed rapidly. As she approached, a scream welled up from an unfamiliar place deep inside of her.

"Booth!"

The car had slid off the side of the road, probably on a patch of black ice. It had overturned multiple times from the looks of the damage and skidded upside down through a barbed wire fence. The car horn blared crazily, in concert with the wildly flashing headlights.

Ignoring the pain in her feet as she clambered over the barbed wire, Brennan scrambled toward the shattered windows, calling her partner's name.

The first window she came to was the left passenger seat. Rebecca was belted in, head rolled back at an unnatural angle. Brennan reached through the shattered window, felt for a pulse and confirmed what she already knew. Fighting down the rolling waves of nausea, she made her way to the seat behind Rebecca's and discovered Parker. The seven-year-old was wearing hockey gear—they'd probably been coming back from a game—and was folded into an awkward half-fetal position. To her relief, she discovered a strong pulse in his neck. Knowing it was best not to move him until the medics arrived, she moved away.

For the first time, Brennan understood what it meant to have your heart in your throat. Using every trick she knew about distancing herself from grief and pain, she clambered her way over the wreckage toward the driver's seat. To her horror, she realized Booth wasn't where he should be. The windshield, completely blown out, gave her the first clue to what had happened to her partner.

As she made her way forward, calling his name, FBI cars screeched up behind her. She ignored the chaos and continued her search, not feeling the winter wind or her bleeding hands and feet. The terrain was far from flat and the rolls and dips in the land were treacherous. She fell on her face more than once and kept crawling, calling, and, for the first time in her life, praying.

Cresting a small hillock, she finally spotted him.

***

"Booth!" Her scream contained everything she'd held back over the last 5 years.

She lunged toward his crumpled body. He was lying almost on his face, his head turned just enough to the side so she could see his eyes. The forensic anthropologist within her automatically, eternally, gruesomely on autopilot, began to catalogue his extensive visible injuries. She lay down on her side beside him, pleading, wishing more than anything that she could take his broken body into her arms.

"Booth. Say something!"

"Something." The voice was so weak she could barely hear it over the wind.

His eyes blinked open, glinting through the blood into the darkness, and Brennan felt a wave of gratitude sweep over so powerfully that she was certain it would drown her.

"Oh, my God, Booth—" She touched his injured face with infinite care.

His voice was a broken, baritone shade. "Parker?"

"I think he's okay. Breathing was strong, so was pulse. Medics are checking him over. Speaking of which—MEDIC!" she screamed at the darkness, willing the FBI agents to hurry.

"Rebecca?"

Bones shook her head. "I'm sorry."

A sigh whistled from Booth's bloodied lips. He closed his eyes and Brennan reacted as if a tripwire had been sprung in her body.

"Open your eyes, Seeley! Don't you dare go to sleep on me!"

"So bossy," he rasped tiredly, eyes blinking open at her again. "Bones—" He said something that she couldn't hear and she leaned forward, pressing her ear almost directly to his mouth.

"My. Pocket."

A deep, rattling cough overtook him, sending him into painful spasms. Hints of bloody foam appeared at the corners of his lips.

Fighting down the hysteria that wanted to overwhelm her, Brennan carefully reached underneath him, searching for whatever it was in his pocket that he wanted. She tugged it out slowly, frowning at the folded sheaf of paper. Abruptly, she recognized them as the document he'd pressed on her back in December.

"Sign." Booth's voice was getting weaker.

Horror hit her like the recoil of a rifle and she dropped the court document. "No! There's no need. You're going to be okay." Tears cascaded down her face and onto his, washing away slight traces of blood.

"Bones."

"No," she insisted. "The medics will be here soon and they'll take care of you."

Groaning, he reached out a painfully mangled hand, searching for hers. "Please."

The hopelessness in his voice broke down whatever remained of her resolve. She touched his broken hands tenderly. "Okay. I'll sign." She choked up and had to start again. "I'll sign, but once you're better we'll get it rescinded. Deal?"

Relief gleamed in his eyes, even as they began to droop shut again.

"Dr. Brennan?" Hodgins' voice behind her made her jump, but she didn't turn.

"Get a doctor!" she screamed, unable to recognize the frayed pitch of her own voice. "Booth, stay with me. Keep your eyes open, dammit. Booth!"

***

January 15th, 2011

The pillow was sodden with tears Brennan had deliberately stifled, so that Angela couldn't hear them from the couch, and still she cried. It was like an endless river that poured out of her, heading straight for the sea, intermingled with her calling his name.

Eventually, the darkness overwhelmed her and she fell into the pit of sleep, fighting the darkness all the way.

***

April 4th, 2011

In the night, he called out for his mother, then for his father. Then he called out her own name.

She padded into the room and scooped the small boy up in her arms. "I'm here," she whispered into his sweat-damp hair. "I'm here, sweet boy. Your Daddy's here with us, too. Somewhere."

"Really?" The little boy's tearful voice was so hopeful that it wrenched through Brennan like a bullet.

"Really," she murmured, thinking back to the voice she had heard in her head the night of the accident, all those months ago. "He's watching over you and me."

"Promise?"

She kissed his forehead. "Promise."

"Daddy said you don't believe in heaven," the boy insisted into her neck.

"I don't know what I believe anymore," she admitted. "But I know your dad loved you more than anything in the world and he would never leave you all alone. That's why he asked me to take care of you. Remember those papers I showed you?"

"Mmm hmm," he whispered.

"Remember what I told you they mean?"

"That you're my official 'guardian.' Kind of like a second Mommy." He burrowed into her sleepily. "Daddy didn't want you to be alone either. He loved you, too."

"Did he?" Brennan whispered, rubbing the child's back gently. "How do you know that?"

"'Cause he told me." The child slid back into restless sleep and Brennan lay down beside him, holding him tightly.

Bones … thank you ...

The words whispered through her mind as she drifted off to sleep.

June 1st, 2021

"Mooooom!" Parker groaned in exasperation as Brennan took her time fixing his tie and collar. "They'll have graduated by the time I get to the auditorium!"

Finally, she stood back and looked up at him, smiling with satisfaction. "Go get ready," she relented, rolling her eyes and laughing as he raced away toward his friends waiting in the hallway.

He looked so much like his father, it still occasionally brought tears to her eyes. The small seven year old that Booth had bequeathed her that cold winter night had turned into a handsome teenager closing in on 6'1. His broad shoulders, athletic prowess and intense dark eyes made him more than a little bit of a lady-killer. Just like his dad.

Brennan sighed and made her way to the auditorium where Angela and Hodgins would be waiting. Traces of the old sadness filtered through her as she thought longingly of how much Booth would loved to have been here to see his son graduate from high school.

I'm right here watching.

The voice that still occasionally filtered through her head made her smile. She couldn't identify it positively, but it made her feel loved and protected all the same.

***

November 12th, 2063, 7:30 PM

Blowing out all the candles on her 77th birthday cake left her breathless and the party, well-intended as it was, wore her out completely.

When the last member of the Jeffersonian Braintrust headed out the door and Parker had gone back to the precinct to catch up on paperwork, Brennan climbed the stairs slowly to her bedroom and sank down with a sigh of relief onto the cool sheets.

Her head ached badly, but she was too tired to search for an aspirin. She closed her eyes, hoping the darkness would cool the internal fever that had been burning her secretly alive for several months now.

***

November 12th, 2063, 11:09 PM

"Bones."

She smiled in her sleep. It had been a while since she'd heard his beloved voice.

"Bones …"

She sighed peacefully, feeling content.

"Sweetheart, it's time to go."

Her eyes blinked open in confusion. The voice never called her that! She sat up carefully, aware that sudden moves could cause her vertigo to flare up.

"Come on, Bones ..."

The voice was tender and caressing and it definitely wasn't inside her head. Brennan frowned and flipped on the bedside lamp.

In the dim light, she spotted him standing at the foot of her bed. He was wearing the typical $1200 suit, skinny tie and cocky belt buckle. Sneaking a peek, she confirmed that the shoes were outrageously shiny.

Booth smiled at her and held out a hand. "I've been waiting."

She should have been shocked, alarmed, surprised, but she wasn't. Over the years since that terrible night, she'd learned to take at least a few small things on faith. And she'd come to believe he'd come back when it was time.

"I'm a little slow," she warned, swinging her legs out of bed. "Arthritis is a bitch."

He chuckled softly and went to her side. "Stand up, Bones."

"I'm working on it!" she complained.

He reached out and swung her from the bed onto the floor. She opened her mouth to squawk in protest, but, to her surprise, her back didn't ache. It took her a moment to realize that her eyesight was suddenly clear for the first time since … well, since she'd gotten old. She glanced down at her hands, firmly clasped in his, and realized that they weren't wrinkled and gnarled as they'd been when she went to bed.

She looked up at her partner suspiciously. "Booth, what's going on?"

"That's my Bones. Still looking for all the answers," he grinned, pulling her into a tight embrace.

The familiar fragrance of his aftershave filled her senses and made them sing. She ran her fingers down his well-toned biceps, confirming that he was flesh and blood, before looking up into his face. He smiled down at her, eyes glinting with amusement.

"Have the facts confirmed your hypothesis, Dr. Brennan?" he inquired mischievously.

Her eyes welled up with sudden tears. "I missed you," she whispered.

"I love you, Bones," he answered softly, brushing away her tears. "I should've told you that every day I was alive."

"I love you, too," she said simply, no longer afraid of the words or the feelings. And then she slapped him. Hard.

Booth's head snapped back in shock. "Bones, why—"

"That's for leaving me to fend for myself all those years." She wound her arms around his neck and tugged it down toward her. "And this is for coming back to find me."

Their lips met tenderly, slowly beginning their reacquaintance with each other, even as the heated contact seared away the pain of their decades-long separation.

"Baby," Booth murmured in her ear eventually.

She bit his lower lip. "You know better than to call me that."

He chuckled, sending vibrations through her entire body. "Baby," he repeated, ignoring her death glare, "There are a few thousand people who have been waiting to meet you…"

Brennan frowned. "Who?"

"Your family."

"My mother?" Brennan whispered, clasping the fabric of his shirt tightly.

He nodded and nudged away several more tears that escaped her wide, astonished gray-blue eyes.

"The rest of your family, too, Bones. Our friends. And all the people you gave faces and names after they'd been forgotten."

The look of astonishment on her face made him haul her close and kiss her fiercely, until both their heads were spinning with the need for air.

"Come on," he finally said firmly, placing a hand on her lower back. "We can do all the catching up we want on the other side."

He guided her forward, to a gleaming white doorway that had opened up in the middle of her bedroom. Trusting him as she never had another, Brennan allowed him to lead her into the unknown without hesitating, until they were about a foot away from the entrance.

"What about Parker?" she asked suddenly, glancing back at the pictures of their son that covered the wall.

"He'll be okay," Booth assured her. "You raised him well, Temperance. And we'll keep checking in on him."

"Angela—"

"She'll be joining us eventually, along with Hodgins and the rest of the Braintrust. A couple of them, of course, are part of the welcoming committee already."

"But …" she still held back. "What if … what if I'm not welcome in … wherever this place is we're going?"

Booth saw the fear in her eyes and stifled his shout of laught. "Because you didn't go to church every Sunday?"

"Because I didn't believe."

"Baby," he said tenderly, dodging the punch she aimed at his shoulder, "God's gonna surprise you more than anything on the other side. I promise."

He kissed her deeply, then took her hand and walked forward with her into eternity.

***