Chapter 2

Almost Doesn't Count

It would be a year later, almost to the day, before either one of them would be reminded about one crucial fact regarding life, well at least their life—everything happens eventually.

Unknowingly and perhaps unconsciously, Brennan had spent her months after Booth's departure evaluating the risks and gains in her life. Perhaps it was the time and distance, perhaps it was the plan of Booth's God, or perhaps it was the ever present hands of "fate," but regardless, Brennan began to see things as they were, through the eyes of scientific fact, instead of fear. She had been through the worst; she had lived without him and survived. It wasn't an especially happy life or even truly satisfying, but it was workable. She could return to this life if her attempt at 30 or 40 or 50 years failed.

And Booth…Booth had survived as well. She received weekly updates from him via email. He was enjoying the Atlanta office but complained constantly of the heat. They were careful not to discuss anything too personal. He mentioned dates occasionally as did she, but neither went into much detail. She inferred he wasn't sleeping well as she received emails at various times throughout the night, but of course she would respond at the same odd times, so what did that reveal about her sleeping habits?

She took her time healing her childhood scars through copious conversations with Angela, a few visits with Pops, and even one or two visits with Sweets. She wanted to be whole before she attempted the impossible.

She didn't feel ready until one crisp October morning where she woke up and just knew. It was a risk, just showing up at his townhome unexpectedly, but she had decided to go with her heart and assess the situation. No fear—that was her new motto. If he was with someone, if he'd found her, as she'd pleaded for him to do all those months ago, then she would say she was stopping by on her way to a conference for a quick "hi."

But she hoped they were going to have another moment. Another opportunity. Another chance.

As she stood at his door, she was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. This was it. There wasn't going to be another "missed" chance.

She raised her hand and knocked even as she heard his chuckle rumble behind the door and a female laugh in response. He was with someone. This wasn't going to work out. She was too late. Despair shot through her, leaving her weak in the knees. Well, she had prepared for this very probable outcome. The Brennan from a year ago might have run, but not her. She had been through hell and back. She could handle one more pain in the heart. She just wanted to cauterize the wound and then she would close the door for good.

She held her breath as he swung open the door.

He couldn't quite believe his eyes. There were no words to describe how he felt at seeing her. It was just too overwhelming.

He automatically stepped back to allow her to enter, but not before a pretty blonde hidden behind his broad shoulders captured his attention.

"You've got everything?" He inquired in an intimate tone.

"I think we're good Seeley," the blond responded.

Brennan felt her heart squeeze in her chest. It was hard to breathe. She called him Seeley. And she said "we."

"Hi Dr. Brennan."

Startled, Brennan was embarrassed by the flood of joyous relief that rushed through her system as she identified the voice.

"Hi Rebecca." Brennan wondered briefly if Booth had told his ex any of the past heartache she had put him through, but before she could dwell on the thought, a ball of energy careened into her legs.

"Bones!"

"Parker!" Bending down, she didn't even think, just reacted from the heart as she scooped him up into a giant hug.

Booth had to look away to hide the intense emotion he felt at seeing Bones and Parker together. He was reminded once again that her absence had left a hole in more than just his heart.

Rebecca caught his eye as he tried to reign in his feelings. Gauging the situation, she gave him an encouraging smile. There was something about Dr. Brennan today that gave her hope that perhaps Seeley might get his happy ever after yet. Call it woman's intuition.

"Come on Parker. Let go of Dr. Brennan. We have to catch a plane."

Brennan let Parker slide out of her grasp as she appeared chagrinned at disrupting an obvious family get-together.

"I'm sorry for interrupting. I can come back later."

"Don't even think about it Dr. Brennan. Parker and I were just leaving. It was nice to see you again. Let's go Parks."

"But I didn't even get an ice cream with Bones. I always get an ice cream with Bones. I haven't seen her in FOREVER."

Tears sprang to Brennan's eyes as she knelt down eye level before Parker. "How about I come and pick you up sometime and you and I go out for an ice cream together. That is, if it's okay with your mom?"

"Sounds perfect. Now we've got to hurry or we'll miss our plane. We'll call after we land."

Brennan waited in the doorway as Booth helped load the cab and watched them pull away. She had the distinct impression that he was trying to delay their interaction for as long as possible.

Finally, he turned around and she got to take a good long look at him. She was surprised to find he had aged. He was still as attractive and symmetrically pleasing as she remembered, but he seemed to have an additional layer of lines that framed his eyes and mouth. Had she done this to him?

He seemed wary, like an animal that had been abused and abandoned one too many times. As he motioned her into his home, she noticed he still hadn't touched her. This lovely tactile affectionate man wouldn't touch her. She had done this; she would fix this.

He didn't know what to do with her. It was like some amazing tragic dream that could not end well, but he didn't want to wake up. She was absolutely breathtaking—glowed in a way that he didn't remember. It was like she was…lighter. With a strike of understanding, he realized why she was here. She had found someone who could open her heart. She had found love…and bloomed.

"Do you wanna a beer?"

She wasn't really thirsty but figured it was good to have something in her hands since what she really wanted to do was grab him and never let go.

"Sure, a beer would be nice. I'm glad Parker and Rebecca could come for a visit."

"Me too. So what brings you to Atlanta Bones?" He couldn't engage in small talk with her, he just… couldn't. He'd get her a beer, hear what she had to say, then she'd be gone and he could get on with his life without her.

Thinking the honest straightforward approach would be best, Brennan dove right in and laid all her cards on the table. She had learned to gamble too.

"I came to see you. I have taken the time over the past year to examine what I want and feel about you, about us, and I have come to a conclusion and agree with your assessment that we should give us a chance and see what happens."

Stunned, Booth turns to face the window as he tries to process what she's just said. All he can think is "too little too late." Their moment's passed. Exhausted, he slowly turns to face her.

"I…here's the thing Bones. I just don't think my heart can take it."

She knew this wouldn't be easy, but she feels the first prickles of fear that perhaps she really is too late. There is so much she wants to say to this man. So much that she couldn't put into words back on that heart-crushing night so long ago.

"I understand. And you have every right to feel apprehensive regarding my change of heart."

He looked at her as if he didn't recognize her. The words coming out of her mouth so foreign from the Bones he knows.

"I was so angry with you for forcing us to change. So angry that I couldn't see what it had cost you to be with me, to stay with me, day after day for five long years. But I can't process emotions as quickly as you Booth, I needed time to think…to look at the evidence…determine if I could really afford to risk what we had."

She knew she was pleading with him, trying to get him to understand. She desperately searched his eyes seeking a crack in his silence, a small glimmer of hope that she still had a chance. He looked so…

Tired—that's what he felt all the way to his bones. He was just…tired. Tired of trying to live a life without her. Tired of wondering if he could have done things different the first, or second, time around. Tired of holding onto what could have been or what should have been. He was just tired. And he didn't think he had the energy to try all this again.

She saw the moment he came to a decision—the moment he sealed the final crack in his armor. She felt him give up. And it pushed her over the edge.

"You can't do this. Listen to me. You promised. You promised me if I just give it time everything happens eventually. I gave it time Booth, and I'm ready. I'm ready for all of it." She sucked in a breath as she realized she was on the verge of losing him for good.

"Please Booth. Please, I believe in us. I believe it can work."

He saw it then, the fear that had been so present, so alive in her eyes since the first day he met her to the last time they said goodbye—it was gone, absent. And in its place was a conviction in eventually that he didn't believe she'd ever be capable of. And it was as if all the pieces of his broken heart and broken dreams just fell into place. And he could finally breathe. And just like that he knew.

"Okay."

Afraid to misinterpret, afraid to hope, she managed a strangled whispered, "okay?"

"Okay to all of it."

As he slowly walked towards her, she felt the long held back sob begin to squeeze its way out of her constricted chest. And the next thing she knew, she was curled into his warm arms, face buried in his neck, as eight years worth of tears poured from her soul.

An eternity later, or perhaps just minutes, they found themselves curled on his couch, healing wounds and mending hearts with whispered words and soothing touches.

It would be Brennan that would shock him sometime later with her newfound confidence in forever.

"Do you love me?" She was looking him straight in the eye, wanting to see the truth.

"Yes." Easily he handed her his heart, which in reality, she had been keeper of for all these years. Needing to hear her say it, he repeated the question. "Do you love me?"

"Yes." It was simple in the end for her to make the leap, because in actuality, she had jumped with him years ago. She just didn't know it then. She wanted to offer him something. Something she realized she wanted desperately. "You want me to prove it to you?"

Trying to interpret the look in her eye, Booth placed a warm kiss on her lips about to tell her she didn't have to prove anything—he believed her.

"Marry me."

Startled, Booth frantically searched her eyes trying to read between the lines.

She grinned a little at his obvious disbelief.

"You don't believe in marriage."

"I do now. I found my reason. You're my reason."

The brilliant dazzling grin that lit up his face would be mirrored many times down the road.

On the day of their wedding, six months later, as they stood on a beach at sunset.

A year later as she whispered "we're gonna have a baby" in the early morning light streaming through their bedroom window.

Nine months and two days after that, in a hospital delivery room, as he held their baby girl for the first time.

And once again, five years later, with a surprised "how do you feel about another baby?" waving a positive pregnancy test, while they enjoyed a warm bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese.

So in the end, everything did happen…eventually.

But that's not to say it was easy.

She almost didn't trust her heart.

He almost didn't let her back in.

They almost missed their chance.

But lucky for them—almost doesn't count.

Fin