Disclaimer: I don't own "Bones" or any related concepts; goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway
AN: After I finished watching the 'Sully Quadrilogy' for the first time- and finding myself unable to understand what Brennan was meant to see in Sully in the first place; he was a decent guy, but what could prompt the dedicated Temperance Brennan to even think about going off for a year with someone who seemed to change his current major interest every other week, lacked the dedication to help others and stop killers that so seems to define Booth and Brennan, and had apparently no definite idea what he wanted to do with his life I'll never know-, I decided to write this short AU looking at what might have happened if she had left with Sully, and the consequences when she went back...
AN 2: The title came from the song "That Says It All" by Duncan Sheik; I felt it reflected how Booth would have felt if Brennan had left with Sully like she did
That Says It All
Looking back, Temperance Brennan was never entirely sure why she'd made the choice she'd made; had it been Professor Chen's comment about how she'd become focused on smaller truths as opposed to the wider range of possibilities she was meant to be open to in her profession that did it, had it been Sully's comment about the job 'warping' them- whatever that meant- if they did it for too long, or had it simply been Angela's assurance that it was time for her to allow another part of her life out into the world?
Whatever the final motivating factor was, she'd accepted Sully's offer to go sailing around the Caribbean with him, her last sight of her friends at the Jeffersonian being Booth, Zach, Hodgins and Angela waving her off at the pier, and that had been that. She'd set up a communications link with the lab to offer her occasional advice when faced with a particularly challenging case, but communication opportunities were naturally limited given the distance involved, and she'd only spoken with Zach or Angela, with Hodgins occasionally participating as well; Cam was always busy covering other parts of the current investigation, and the lines took so much time to establish at this distance that nobody had mentioned Booth due to a lack of time.
The worst part of those conversations, however, wasn't the fact that they were the only real contact either she or Sully had had with their old lives in Washington since leaving the city; it was the fact that Sully had actually seemed offended when he'd first found out about it. He'd tried to remind her that the reason she'd left was to stop herself becoming 'warped' by the constant dealing with death that she'd had to do back then, to which Brennan had countered that she was simply helping out her friends, and the whole experience had degenerated into an argument which had simply been abandoned and ignored rather than ever expressly discussed; she avoided Sully when making the calls, and Sully avoided her whenever he found her making them.
It probably wasn't the best way to deal with the situation, but Brennan couldn't help it; she might have taken time off to prevent her work consuming her attention on a full-time basis, but if she could contribute something to help put away the killers that her team still had to deal with, she had a responsibility to do so...
Thinking back on it as she sat in the boat, staring silently at the wall while Sully made his latest 'supply run', Brennan supposed that the problem was that she was too committed to her job to really let go. As she'd said to Booth during their first case involving Howard Epps- easily the most twisted mind she'd encountered in all her life-, they all shared DNA with every other human being; it should never be easy to take a life, and she believed that she had a duty to ensure that those who broke that law were brought to justice.
She was rapidly beginning to realise that he didn't understand that; it wasn't that he didn't care about whether or not people lived or died, but he had just regarded his job at the FBI as just a job, rather than the responsibility that Booth had regarded it as.
And thinking of Booth just prompted the other train of thought she was uncomfortable with acknowledging; that she'd abandoned something old and established for something new and different simply because it had seemed 'safer', solely because, while he might have known Booth for longer, Sully had actually expressed his interest in her in that sense...
God... Booth had practically told her that she still had a family even after Russ and her father had left- she'd gone so far as to invite him to join their celebration of Zach's recent official hiring after he'd made that statement-, and what had she done for him in return?
She'd left him.
After she'd actually tried to make the effort to include Booth in what he himself had tried to pass off as something for just her and her 'squints'- the closest she'd ever come to saying that she'd started to consider him 'family' in the year since she'd started working with him-, she'd gone off and left him barely a couple of months later...
And what had she actually gained from her desertion of the closest thing she'd had to a family since that still heart-breaking Christmas when she was fifteen?
It wasn't that she and Sully weren't sexually compatible, and she could hardly say that they argued the way that she and Pete had done in the last few weeks of their relationship, but the fact remained that there were surprisingly few things for them to really talk about. Sully might have a wide range of interests and degrees, but there were relatively few of them that she could actively demonstrate any actual knowledge in, and even less that they could talk about; if he was unhappy about her offering her occasional assistance in new cases, he was really uncomfortable when they were discussing old ones, arguing that he'd taken her away to escape from that.
Taken her away...
It was another area that Brennan was increasingly coming to realise she disliked about her current status; Sully essentially had control.
He might not have actually forced her to do anything, but that didn't mean he'd given her much in the way of opportunities to do what she wanted or take independent control of the current situation either. Even after all this time her opportunities to learn how to work the boat had been limited, Sully tended to 'dominate' what tours they took- and there hadn't even been that many of those; he did it for a bit in one area and then moved on to another on little more than his whims-, and barring those occasions when she'd offered financial assistance when they were strapped for money for food, Brennan was increasingly coming to realise that she mainly provided Sully with someone who was there at the end of the day rather than actually fulfilling some worthwhile role on the boat.
When she got down to the essential details of her current situation, Brennan felt that her main problem with the current situation was simple; Sully lacked any real passion for anything.
She had no complaints about his performance in the bedroom, and he was definitely committed to the relationship, but professionally he couldn't seem to commit to anything; even the current tour business seemed to have been chosen more out of a need for something to do in the boat rather than because he particularly enjoyed it. She'd spent most of her academic life working towards something in the sciences- even if her parents' disappearance had cemented her decision to focus on forensic anthropology-, and practically everyone she'd ever grown close to since then had mainly captivated and maintained her interest because of their genuine commitment to their goals; Hodgins disdained his wealthy background in favour of a straightforward profession, Angela constantly exercised her artistic talents when not working on cases, Cam brought an efficient organisational structure and focus honed by her time with the police, Zach was basically a younger male version of her, and Booth...
It almost hurt Brennan when she looked back at her former partner now; Sully might have been more emotionally open than Booth- getting Booth to talk about people had been easy, but getting him to talk about himself was hard; the fact that it had taken her half a year to learn that he had a son was proof enough of that-, but whenever she compared Sully to Booth in other matters Booth always came out better. He was dedicated to his career, he genuinely cared about the people he helped because he wanted to help them rather than just because it was his job, he was committed to being there for his son, he always tried to encourage her to face things she didn't want to...
As much as Brennan found it confusing, she actually found herself slightly resenting Sully for the fact that he didn't even challenge her when she didn't want to talk. Whenever the topic of family came up, she always tried to subtly divert the conversation away from that area before she had to talk about things she didn't want to share with him- Booth helping her discover the truth about her parents and Sully learning it from her were two different things; how it was different didn't quite make sense to her and was something she could never define, but it just... felt wrong-, and Sully just accepted or didn't register it.
Booth might have respected her unwillingness to talk about certain parts of her life, but he'd at least made an effort to ask her about them and get her to face her issues if he felt it appropriate, whether it was regarding her shock at learning the truth about her family or her grief when she'd killed Epps's apprentice (The way in which he'd brought up the topic of Russ during the conclusion of the death of Charlie Sanders and then allowed her to push the topic aside until she was ready to discuss it herself came to mind)...
In the end, she supposed the central problem was that Sully wasn't challenging her. When she and Booth had been together, the two of them had always 'competed' with each other about everything from their own thoughts on the motive for the current murder to their views on religion, but they'd always been able to achieve some kind of effective middle-ground at the conclusion of their debates while being left with further thoughts and issues to talk about later...
She didn't have that with Sully.
They got along fine, and their conversations could be interesting, but they could never inspire the same level of passion and enthusiasm that she'd developed during her interactions with Booth...
"Tempe?" Sully's voice said, prompting her to look up as he walked down the steps into the main cabin, looking curiously at her as he put the bags containing his latest purchases on the table. "Are you OK?"
"Mmm?" Brennan said, looking back at him with a brief nod before she turned her thoughts back to the topic she'd been reflecting on previously; Sully could handle putting the food away himself while she finished her current line of thought.
No matter how awkward it might be to confront, Brennan had to face facts; the only thing she had left for herself in this relationship at this point was the physical satisfaction, and as good as Sully was, he was nowhere near good enough for that to be enough to keep her here.
She had a family, a career that she enjoyed, and a role that gave her life purpose waiting for her back in Washington; out here, all she had was a relationship that she had finally realised was nowhere near enough to keep her away from the life she'd made herself.
"Sully..." she said, turning to look at him with an awkward sigh, prompting him to put down the bag he was currently sorting through as he looked back at her. "This... this isn't working out."
Even as Sully's dejected expression met her gaze, Brennan knew this wasn't going to go well, but she knew that it had to be said; this relationship had been good, but it was definitely past time for them to go their separate ways.
As much as she'd enjoyed her time away, her recent thoughts had only helped her to confirm something she should have realised long ago; this wasn't the life for her...
And Sully was far from being the man she wanted at this point either.
Brennan wasn't sure why this had to feel so awkward; it was just going into the Jeffersonian to return to work, she'd done that literally hundreds of times before practically every day for the last few years...
Admittedly, she'd never done it after spending this long away from the building- particularly when she'd left for a 'holiday' (For lack of a better term to describe what she'd been on with Sully) rather than on a work-related matter-, but the fact remained that it shouldn't be this difficult to go back into her old routine...
Except that it wasn't going to be her old routine any more, when she got down to it; what she'd realised about herself over those last couple of weeks with Sully- as well as the thinking she'd done, both while away and on the subsequent flight back to Washington- had helped her realise that she did want more out of her life here than she'd had before.
What she wanted she was still working on; all that really mattered right now, as she entered the institute that had been her second home ever since she started working here, was that she now had a good opportunity to find it.
Walking up to the forensics platform, she couldn't help but feel slightly touched at the fact that Zach, Hodgins, Angela and Cam were all still there, working away at the latest body with no sign of a new member of the team (She acknowledged that her replacement might be out with Booth at the moment- and she'd analyse why that thought made her feel the way it did later-, but she'd think that they'd never hired one until she knew otherwise; Zach was certainly good enough to make up for her absence), none of them looking up until she'd scanned her card and walked onto the platform.
"Yeah, just a-" Angela began, turning to look at the new arrival before her eyes widened in surprise. "Bren?!"
"Hi," Brennan replied, waving slightly awkwardly at her old team as they all turned to look at her in surprise (Although she was relieved to note that all four of them were at least pleased to see her). "I... well, I just got back, and I thought I'd-"
Further conversation was temporarily cut off as Angela ran over to hug her, pulling back with a broad smile on her face as Hodgins, Zach and Cam walked over with their own broad smiles on their faces.
"I think I speak for all of us when I say it's good to see you again, Doctor Brennan," Cam said, nodding at the anthropologist with a brief grin.
"Yeah, even if it is a bit unexpected," Hodgins added, looking curiously at her. "I mean... well, I thought that you and Sullivan-"
"Things... didn't work out," Brennan said simply, shooting a glance over to Angela to assure her friend that she'd explain what had happened in detail later before she turned back to look at the rest of her team. "Anyway, where's Booth?"
For a moment there was an awkward silence, the four members of her team exchanging uncomfortable glances before Angela seemed to come to a decision herself.
"Sweetie..." Angela said, clearly uncertain how best to express what she had to say before she finally finished her sentence. "Booth doesn't work here any more."
Brennan's eyes widened.
"What?" she said, an illogical part of her hoping that it was a joke; Booth couldn't leave the Jeffersonian, not after they'd kept him around even after Kirby had suspended him...
"He resigned as our liaison with the FBI shortly after you left; we've been working with... well, actually Peyton Perotta- our current liaison- is probably the longest-serving agent we've had since he left; everyone keeps getting put off when we start talking about the fine details of what we've discovered about the bodies," Zach elaborated, the slightly dejected expression on his face as he spoke making it clear that he felt the agent's absence like everyone else despite their limited contact. "We've tried requesting him back once or twice, but so far there's been nothing in the way of a response from him no matter how hard we tried."
"And when I say nothing, I mean nothing," Hodgins added. "I actually called him and threatened to pull a few strings to get him back here with us- the guy might be a government pain-in-the-neck, but he's our pain-in-the-neck; I may not have got the whole 'intuition' thing but at least he actually tried to include us in that stage of things-, and he actually threatened to quit if I tried that-"
"Quit?" Brennan repeated incredulously; she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "But... but his..."
She trailed off before she could say anything else, knowing that it wouldn't help matters; Booth had only ever told her about his 'cosmic balance sheet' back when they'd first started working together regularly, and it had never been something she felt comfortable bringing up with the rest of the team.
"Did he... say why he left?" she asked, looking uncertainly at the group before her even as a sudden horrible thought crossed her mind that might answer that question; given the timing of events, was it possible that Booth had left the Jeffersonian- and hence his best chance to regularly track down criminals to help him make up for his 'cosmic balance sheet' (Just because she didn't believe in it didn't stop her from recognising that it was important to him)- because he'd...
The logic in leaving the place that would most remind him of her didn't make much sense if that was the case, but she knew that matters of the heart weren't her strong point; even if Booth's precise motives for leaving eluded her right now, she couldn't deny that the timing of the two events- her departure and Booth's resignation- didn't exactly lend weight to any theory that they weren't connected somehow.
"He just said that he... didn't feel like it any more," Cam replied, shrugging apologetically. "I tried to ask him about it at the time, and all I could get him to tell me was that he felt like doing something different; I didn't think it was my place to ask him for much more than that."
"Might have been for the best, anyway; the guy we got after him- Michael Taylor- ended up dead after only a couple of cases when some gang boss beat him to death for information about an old hitman of his after we discovered that the hitman wasn't actually as dead as everyone thought he was..." Hodgins said, only to suddenly realise what he'd just said as the rest of the team looked scathingly at him. "Hey, I'm not saying I'm happy Taylor's dead, I'm just saying that at least it wasn't Booth..."
Nobody bothered voicing their response to that last statement; all of them knew without saying it that they wholeheartedly agreed with Hodgins's last statement.
Michael Taylor's death might have been tragic, but the idea of Seeley Booth being the one who had died in that incident...
Even Brennan found the idea almost too terrible to contemplate, and she hadn't seen the condition that Taylor's body had been in when the FBI SWAT team had managed to find the location where he'd been tortured (Although she knew well enough that it couldn't have been pleasant if everyone else's reactions to the memory were anything to go by).
"So... Booth's still in D.C.?" she asked at last, looking around anxiously at the rest of her team.
"Last we heard, anyway," Hodgins said with a brief nod. "I did hear a rumour from a couple of people I know that he's thinking of requesting a transfer somewhere else, but-"
He was cut off mid-sentence as Brennan turned around and hurried for the main doors, the rapid pace of her movements making it clear that any attempt to stop her would be futile.
After a moment's uncertain silence as the group processed what had just taken place, Cam turned to look at Angela with a quizzically-raised eyebrow.
"So," she said briefly, "with what we just saw in mind, should I be prepared to have Doctor Brennan returning to work for us a few months ahead of schedule?"
"If she can persuade Booth to come back, then yeah," Angela said, nodding at the other woman with a brief smile before it faded. "If she can't..."
"She will," Hodgins said simply, looking back at the door that Brennan had just left through with a brief smile. "Trust me on this; she will bring him back."
As she hurried up to Booth's flat- after a quick call to Caroline (The only person whose number she had who might know if Booth's address had changed) to confirm that he hadn't moved yet-, Brennan wasn't sure what she was expecting to happen when she got there; even without the fact that she hadn't seen Booth for months, she wasn't exactly comfortable with her ability to relate to people to have any hopes that she'd be able to get through to Booth if he'd made up his mind to do anything...
Then she saw his car in its usual parking-place as she pulled her car into the side while outside his apartment complex- at this time of day she'd expected to be able to set herself up in the flat to wait for Booth and hopefully give him a pleasant surprise when he got back-, and she anxiety increased; what could Booth be doing out of work at this time of day?
For a moment as she approached his door she hesitated, uncertain about whether or not this was going to work, before she finally nodded and raised her hand to knock on the door; if she was going to talk to Booth, it would be best to do it sooner rather than later.
Then Booth opened the door of his apartment, revealing at least two days' worth of beard growth on his chin and a shirt that looked as though he'd only just thrown it on, and Brennan couldn't help but let out a brief, startled gasp.
"Booth?" she said uncertainly; she'd never seen her partner looking like such a... mess...
"Well, look who it is; Doctor Temperance Brennan," Booth replied, his voice containing an almost contempt tone that Brennan had never heard directed at herself; she could only recall Booth using that tone when addressing or referring to the likes of Howard Epps or Agent Jamie Kenton. "What dragged you back from paradise?"
"The Caribbean's as flawed as anywhere else-" Brennan began, before she shook her head as the scent of something hit her nose. "Are you drunk?"
"Little bit," Booth replied, shrugging slightly as he turned around and walked back into the apartment. "Why not?"
"The fact that it's barely five in the afternoon, maybe?" Brennan countered as she walked in after him- she might not have been invited but he hadn't expressly not invited her either-, staring at her partner incredulously; she couldn't believe he was being so casual about this. "You can't do this; what would Cullen-?"
"I'm taking time off right now, actually; what I get up to right now isn't anyone's damn business," Booth interjected, glaring at her. "Particularly not yours, Doctor Brennan... and what the hell are you doing back here, anyway; giving me an invite to the wedding?"
"Excuse me?" Brennan said, her shock at Booth's condition replaced by anger at his suggestion. "You know my opinions on that; why the hell would you think-"
"Never thought you'd ditch everyone here like that either; evidently I don't know you that well," Booth retorted, his eyes heaping scorn on her as he stared at her; Brennan briefly registered a few empty beer bottles around the apartment, but her more immediate concern at this time was Booth himself. "You chose to abandon your entire life here for some guy you just met barely a month before you left; how the hell am I meant to know you at all after you do something like that?"
"You can't just dump everything on me here, Booth; you told me to leave-" Brennan began indignantly.
"Because I was trying to do the goddamn 'right thing' and think about what you might want rather than what I might want; didn't mean I liked it," Booth interjected, his glare still fixed on her, his voice reflecting a self-loathing that Brennan hadn't heard from him even when he was telling her about that time he'd shot a man in front of the victim's young son. "Hell, if you hadn't left then you'd probably have just left later; that's what you're good at, isn't it?"
"What?" Brennan said, shaking her head in confusion; she was trying to remain angry, but even without Booth's evident pain to take into account as he spoke, she was becoming increasingly confused at the feeling that she'd missed several stages of the conversation Booth was having with her. "Booth, what are you talking-?"
"Y'know, now that you're here, I just want to ask you one thing," Booth said, continuing as though she'd never started talking in the first place, fixing a scathing stare at her. "Which was it; were we worthless, or were you just too chickenshit?"
"What?" Brennan repeated, her eyes widening in shock and confusion (With maybe a bit of hurt; she refused to admit to herself just how much that last word had hurt her, telling herself instead that it was the fact that Booth had actually sworn that shocked her rather than that he'd sworn at her).
"Well, obviously something made you leave Washington like that; I just want to know what it was," Booth continued, a hurt smirk on his face as he stared at her. "Given how long it took me to learn that you actually had a brother at all- even if you wouldn't give me his name-, I couldn't see Sully having managed to get through that many walls for him to mean that much to you that fast, so the alternatives are that we either didn't matter that much to you in the first place or we were getting too damn close for you to feel comfortable-"
"That's not-!" Brennan began.
"Come on, Temperance; you try and invite me into the 'family' and then you bail on all of us two months later?" Booth retaliated, contempt in his gaze before he let out another brief laugh. "Actually, you know what, I owe you one for that; you've really got me thinking about how crap this job is-"
"What?" Brennan cut in, praying without realising it that Booth wasn't being serious; after her thoughts about how much his career played a part in who he was, him rejecting it like that was the equivalent of Angela giving up her art. "But the people you've helped-!"
"Yeah, and what the fuck have I got back for it, huh?" Booth interrupted, rolling his eyes in frustration. "My son was threatened by a homicidal maniac, I can't hold down any kind of relationship, the person I thought I could trust ditched me because of some guy she'd known for less than a month-"
"You said I should go with Sully-!" Brennan interrupted, remembering even as she said it that Booth had already given an explanation for that action.
"And not only has my goddamn list actually gone up since I started this job- both times because of you, I might add-, but my son- my son- was put in danger because some psychotic asshole wanted to hurt you," Booth continued, practically spitting in rage as he glared at her, only the pain his eyes- so evident even to Brennan's limited social skills- made it clear that he wasn't as angry with her about this as he sounded. "I mean, God, I go through all that crap, and the only good thing I thought I got out of the whole mess gets taken from me by a guy with work-commitment issues-"
"It wasn't like that!" Brennan yelled, desperate to try and say her side of the current situation. "I didn't leave you because I didn't care-"
"You just didn't care enough, huh?" Booth asked bluntly.
"That's not true, Booth!" Brennan protested desperately, forcing down the part of her that was practically screaming in fear at what she was about to say as she continued to talk. "It's just that... I... I knew that Sully wanted me... that he wouldn't leave me... but I was never sure that you would."
"What?" he said, looking at her as the pain and anger in his eyes was briefly replaced by confusion. "But... Bones, I wouldn't..."
"Everyone leaves me, Booth..." Brennan whispered, shaking slightly as tears began to trail down her cheeks as she looked at him (She briefly noted that he'd just called her 'Bones' for the first time since she'd made the decision to leave with Sully, but decided not to over-analyse it that much; there were more important things to focus on right now). "I just... Sully seemed safe... he wanted me to go away with him... he asked not to leave me... you said I should go with him..."
"And that's it?" Booth cut in, glaring at her, his brief sympathy pushed aside by his anger as he glared at her. "Just because the guy asked not to leave you, that makes him the only one who's going to?"
"It's just... every time I'm in a relationship that seems more than casual, I feel that... I need to posit the potential problems," Brennan said awkwardly, her gaze alternating between Booth and the floor as though trying to find something to look at that would make her less uncomfortable. "Probabilities of success and failure, or..."
"You get scared, so you went with Sully because he seemed like the surer thing over the rest of us," Booth finished for her, his stare reflecting a mixture of sympathy and contempt for her dilemma as he walked forward to glare directly into her eyes. "Well, get the picture, Doctor Brennan; that's what relationships are about. If you just ditched people every time you got uncomfortable with them I'd have walked out of that lab the first time you started going on about 'alpha-male characteristics' or the density of decaying bone matter or any of that scientific crap that I just don't get; I don't understand that stuff and you don't get my way of doing things, and I tried to respect that, but that does not mean that you just walk out on me when you aren't comfortable with the way things are!"
"But I wasn't-" Brennan began, the tears now flowing more freely as she looked pleadingly at him.
"Y'know, I actually thought you got that I wasn't going to do that," Booth said, the sympathy fading as his own pain became evident on his face, turning around to walk away from her before he shot a venomous stare at her. "I told Cam that I'd quit as the Jeffersonian's FBI liaison if you and the rest of the squints left... I came all the way out to the fucking desert to help you... Hell, you all insisted on keeping me in the loop even when I got fucking suspended from the FBI and couldn't actually contribute anything to the goddamn case but someone to hit the suspect after you found out who did it; I thought that at least meant I meant something to you beyond the guy with the badge who drove you around... and you just went and left because some guy you'd known for a month-"
Anything else Booth might have said was cut off when Brennan, staring tearfully at the man who had proven time and again that he had no intention of abandoning her- the man who had dragged himself out of hospital while suffering multiple injuries in a blast that had been intended to kill her simply because he thought that she might be in danger (It wasn't like there had been any definite evidence when he left the hospital with Hodgins that she was going to be attacked like that; they might have realised Kenton's role in the current case but that didn't mean he was going to automatically attack Brennan when they were alone)- only for her to leave him herself, practically leapt forward, grabbed him by the face, and pulled him down to kiss her.
Everything Brennan thought she'd known about kissing was pushed aside in that one, almost electrical moment as Booth's lips met hers, the automatic movement of his mouth as her tongue penetrated his thrilling her down to her very core, everything she'd shared with Sully all those months on his boat paling in comparison to this moment when she finally tasted Seeley Booth for the first time...
Then Booth seemed to realise what was happening and his lips separated from hers, looking at her in confusion at this sudden shift.
"What the...?" he said, staring at her as he tried to collect his thoughts. "Bones, what-?"
"Say it again," Brennan whispered, grabbing him by the shoulders and staring urgently at him as the last piece of what she'd been looking for fell into place, the faint scent of alcohol on his breath forgotten in the face of her latest revelation.
"Say it-?" Booth repeated uncertainly.
"My name," Brennan clarified simply, her tear-streaked eyes still fixed on his. "Say it."
"Tempe-" Booth began.
"No," Brennan said, placing her hand over his mouth as she stared at him, unable to control or understand the tears that she was now crying even as she realised that she didn't want or need to do either. "My name."
For a moment there was only silence as Booth stared at her, clearly wondering what she meant by that, before the explanation finally occurred to him.
"Bones..." he whispered uncertainly.
Somehow, even though he'd started calling her by that name over a year ago, Brennan felt like she had never really heard it before this moment.
Other people had called her 'Tempe' before Sully, 'Temperance' was too much of a mouthful for anyone to use completely in regular conversation, and her surname had seen various 'corruptions' of its own over time- 'Brenny' being the most ridiculous one, even if she couldn't remember who'd said it-, but Booth was the only person who'd ever called her that name, the name she'd never heard or would allow anyone else to call her by, the name she now realised she'd spent the last few months wanting to hear...
"Say it again," she said, wrapping her arms around him to pull him close to her, desperately kissing her way along every available part of skin above his shirt collar.
"Bones..." he said, his voice low as his lips whispered into her ear.
"Say it-" Brennan began again, only to be cut short as Booth's lips met hers once again, thought once again becoming a foreign concept as she felt Booth wrap his arms around her before the two of them tumbled backwards to land on Booth's sofa, resuming their exploration of each other's mouths- as well as some not-so-subtle exploration of each other's bodies- as though it had never been even temporarily cut short.
Temperance Brennan might still be willing to protest the idea of marriage in principle, she might be opposed to the mere concept of having a ring on her finger to symbolise anything, and she would never give up her last name...
But right then, as she cried in Booth's arms from an emotion that even she couldn't precisely identify, her lips constantly moving to touch whatever exposed skin she could find simply because they could, her fingers working away at his shirt to allow her to touch the skin beneath...
She'd never felt more at home, more wanted, more loved, than when she heard him say that name she'd once insisted he not call her.