Author's note:

Man, being in love with this show is like being in an abusive relationship: it does bad things to you, it is abusive, it lets you down, it is inconsiderate towards your feelings. And you hate it for it and you want out and you promise you will never fall for it again. But then, it does something completely brilliant, something so nice, so sweet, you can't help falling for it all over again.

I told myself I would quit. I told myself it was the end. And then there I was again, nervous, looking forward for one more Thursday. Ah, the flesh is weak.

I'm upset at all the continuity issues, I'm upset at the way the show just walks over issues like a dog walking past a harvested field. (what was it with Sweets first running to stop Booth confessing in episode one and then pushing him like an idiot into spilling the beans in episode 16? It bloody gives you whiplash! And Caroline not recognizing Brennan in season one when she gave her a federal judge on a platter?) But... Zach came back for a spell and Brennan was adorable (think back to "and she said Temperance Brennan... which is me") and Angela was back to keeping those lab rats honest (man I miss that) and well... I just about made my peace with sticking with it until next season when they will probably start sorting this fine mess. I am trusting Avalon here!

It's just that I am tired of lazy writing, bigger box office numbers surpassing everything and probably fear of loosing the magic dictating the lives of two of the most loved characters in television. Yeah, I know, they are not real. But man, don't they deserve to be happy already?

OK... rant over. On with the story.

Join me in saying thank you to MickeyBoggs for her help editing this story.

Jane

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Just how had things come to this? How did this spell move on?

Booth looked for a darker spot in the parking lot, away from the homeless sleeping in their ragged cribs and the dumpsters overflowing before collection. He had to give it to her: she wasted no time in making short work of his fly and underwear. The engine was still running when she straddled him and involved him in a cloud of auburn hair and soft skin and cheap perfume. He closed his eyes to be able to do his part. Relaxing against the seat, Booth held her ass in his hands while she bobbed up and down on his dick. Loneliness is a fucked up thing.

"Do you love me, baby?" she whispered, her voice deep and raspy. Absent.

"Yeah, sure" And he held her against him. He could have been any man. She could have been any woman. And that was why this particular "relationship" worked. Because she cared little about the reply, because he cared little about lying about it and because they were just two lonely hearts keeping each other company. Through her staged moans as he fucked her, the sound of his heart cracking was not as loud.

By sheer insistence and friction, her inner walls drew his dick into coming. Dispassionate, detached, removed, his cock released its load relieving the pressure lodged in his tight balls in a spurt of unsubstantiated wrong doing. He released his breath, his heart pumping blood furiously to the rest of his limbs, to his face where shame became a shade of red.

She used him as a dildo that required no batteries. He used her fuck doll. Silence was the best he could hope for when the sex was over.

He knew he was cracking up. He just couldn't stop the fracturing.

&&&&&&&&&

Brennan studied Hacker standing in her office gallantly asking her out. He had nicely symmetrical features, broad shoulders which was definitely a plus and, in general, he looked like he could provide her a with a few hours entertainment in bed. He even had a sense of humor and, more important, did not seem bothered by her social shortcomings. Notwithstanding, he had one basic, insurmountable flaw: he was not Booth. So why go down this path again, the same course of action, the same variables, expecting a different outcome? There was a hunger in her she had only recently acknowledged and Hacker could not satisfy it. The cold in her hands did not subside when he held them. She knew this even before she let him try. So there was only one reply.

"No, Andrew"

"No?"

Before his hands could flap about while he made some joke about rejection, she stood, buttoned up her lab coat and took a small pile of files. She was no expert on this, but this kind of body language should give him a hint.

"Booth told me that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect the different results. This," she pointed at the two of them, "can have only one result because I have not changed any of the variables of the situation. There can only be one outcome. We will have sex and that will be about it. Then you'll be awkward and I will upset Booth and... well," she sighed, "that is just a waste of energy, frankly"

"Wow... I feel... deflated."

"I'm sorry, Andrew" She didn't know what to do. A few years ago she would have just plowed on with her day. Now she actually felt sorry for him, buffoon though he was. "I'm really sorry".

"Yeah... me too. Though if this is just because of making Booth upset, I can always fire him, or ship far, far away, you know?"

"What? No..." The alarm in her features widened her eyes and caused her mouth to gape.

"Oh, God, please don't start taking me seriously now, Temperance. It was just a joke. Though I have to say, I wish you felt for me a fraction of what you feel for Booth."

Curiously, she did too. She just sighed a sad sigh.

&&&&&&&

Booth felt a need to scrape himself raw as he showered. Scrub and scrub until his skin lost all forensic evidence of one more encounter with that woman. Who was he kidding? This was not moving on. This was just him being as much of a man as his father ever was.

He had his pride. No man enjoys putting his nuts on the block only to have then crushed by the woman he has not-so-secretly loved for the last eternity or two.

He lathered more soap and scrubbed some more though he had been careful not to have any more skin contact than was strictly needed to perform the sex act- with a condom on.

When it came to decisions and important events, he had stayed away from liquor since that night six years ago. He did not want some bottle-born courage to screw him up any further. He'd made that mistake once and been carrying the consequences around ever since.

He put his hands to the tile above his head and leaned forward while the water massaged his tensed back and did its best to soothe him, to untangle the mess of wounded pride and shame and broken heart and guilt over pushing Bones. He had pushed her into telling him no.

As the water rivuleted around the drain, the suds spelled it out for him: idiot. Which was fine because he had known- right there and then, as Bones had broken the kiss, that he'd had the finesse of an elephant in a china shop. He knew. Of course he knew she had feelings for him. Dared he say love? But he also knew that she felt them at her own pace, in her own way.

But he'd been caught in Sweets' childish enthusiasm and certainty of a happy ending. And he'd forgotten the golden rule: patience. Gordon Gordon would be sure to castigate his nuts when he came to find that little gem out.

Ever since then, Booth felt a recurring desire to hit his head against a wall because he felt they were back to square one. And that he would have to re-wait all this time all over again. Though he would. God knew he would. That he'd never be done waiting.

That little gimmick, that "I need to move on" had been just one pathetic, pride-driven attempt at persuasion. It had broken him far more when her eyes had teared again and she'd said with nearly no voice left "I know". He had wanted to take it back right there and then.

But what's a man without his pride?

And he just kept on missing his moment. Of all that had been said, he had left out one most important sentence: "I love you".

Coward that he was, he had avoided the subject since.

&&&&&&&&

Booth walked into the Hoover building with his mind made up. This was as good a time as any for a vacation. He just needed Hacker to agree and sign the paperwork before he lost his will to save himself.

"Where's Hacker?"

"Personal matter." The secretary behind the red rimmed glasses replied studying him. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. He's he coming back any time soon?"

"Don't you nothing me, boy. I have kids and I've seen the broken heart look more times than I wanna remember... Don't you go making any important decisions now, you hear? Very bad idea."

"Where is he, Doris?"

"Yeah, charm does not work either. I have kids and a puppy that does that look far better than you." And Doris turned to her paperwork. She was a sucker for sad stories.

"Doris?"

"Seeley?"

"Please."

Doris sighed her reluctant reply.

"Fine. He's after your pretty doctor at the Jeffersonian"

&&&&&&&&&&

Booth took big engulfing strides on his way to the car. Yeah, right, no rash decisions. Did that refer to smashing that pathetic dilettante snob with his head up his ass to fine dust or just hitting a bar for some bottled oblivion?

&&&&&&&&&&

Brennan closed herself in her office for the rest of day. It was more than obvious that Booth was avoiding her. No more lunches together or midnight visits or breakfasts at the dinner. Maybe he had moved on. Which she was trying her best to accept. She wanted the best for him. Only the very best. If she could not give it to him, she had to let him find it. Give him his space.

But it hurt. It hurt in places she didn't even know could hurt. And it kept on hurting.

Guarding him from herself was the best way she could love him.

&&&&&&&

Of all things, Brennan missed it most when he knocked on her door late at night. She had never been lonely since she'd met Booth. Now, she felt like buying a TV just so that her apartment would quit echoing the sound of Booth's laughter or the clicking of glasses in a toast to something silly.

She stepped into the shower and just stood under the hot spray trying to warm up as if she had forgotten what to do with all the water falling down on her.

One day her chest would be done aching. For now she'd go on letting the shower do the crying.

&&&&&&&&

Brennan slipped into her satin robe and walked around the apartment. Time needed passing but she didn't quite know how to do it without thinking back to that night six years ago when she had gone home alone. It had been a good decision. She would have made a mess of things before she'd even had time to realize the kind of man Booth was. It had been a good decision. A good impulse. And she was not the impulsive type. But she had known, as Booth's tongue explored hers, that yes, that would have "gone somewhere". And that was the scary part, because Temperance Brennan walked alone.

But that kiss, the taste and the heat, the hunger and the promise of it, had been, still was, what she had been looking for ever since. It had been the measure of all other kisses.

She'd been stuck in a rut, trying to find someone to kiss, who could be at least a bit like Booth but without the potential for disaster if- when- things went south.

And all along Booth was there, sitting in her kitchen, holding her hand through thick and thin.

If this wasn't fate, she had no rational explanation for it.

Brennan made tea and sat by the window. It was a starry, starry night. The sky so clear you could actually weep.

They were not in love with each other.

Each of them loved the other, from their separate corner of the world. But they could not reciprocate the other. There was just too much to lose when one of them did not know how to do it.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

&&&&&&&&&

Booth wasn't quite sure what he was doing there, in that pretty apartment block. He wasn't drunk. Okay, he'd had a teensy weensy bit of tequila. But it was good tequila. And he was not drunk. He wished he was.

&&&&&&&&&

Brennan heard soft foot steps on the corridor outside her door. Her heart thumped and she ran to the door. Her hand hung over the knob, blood throbbing in her ears and fingers.

&&&&&&&&&

Booth stopped. What the hell was he doing?

He was just going to see Bones. Nothing out of the ordinary. He had been busy lately. This was just every other day. That was all. Nothing special. Just have a drink with her. Chit chat for a little. That was all. No agenda here.

Yeah, right. Fake it till you make it, mate!

His hand went to the buzzer but the door opened before he could press it.

&&&&&&&&&

The door opening moved the light satin robe she wore; it hugged her thighs and breasts in the most shameless way.

"Hi Bones"

Her eyes were red and she looked tired. But she was alone. Hacker was not there. His heart sang a few notes of Hallelujah.

&&&&&&&&

He was on the other side of her door and he looked tired and sad. But he was standing there on a Friday night.

"Come in, Booth"

She stepped to the side and as he walked past her into the apartment, his scent of good soap and laundry paralyzed her with a longing for what was not hers to have and to hold.

&&&&&&

He should have brought food. She probably had not eaten. She did that.

"I.... Just checking if you're okay."

"Yeah..." What? Okay? No she was not okay. Not even close. Her own fault. "Yeah... I'm fine"

"So..." Oh man this was difficult. "It was a really long week. Lots of paper work to push..." And bullshit too.

"I missed you." The words left her mouth before she could censor them. They surprised her in their intensity. But she was not going to make this more difficult for him than it already was. So she did not repeat them, though the words ached to be heard.

She sat by the breakfast bar with a glass of water she just couldn't drink through the knot that had lodged in her throat.

He was moving on. And here she was here making a pathetic fool of herself.

Booth sat opposite her. Before he knew it, his hand was holding hers.

The familiar gesture of comfort was loaded with longing. How was he to move on if he couldn't help but wonder how it would have been for them, a night together? Would it have been wild? Tender? Filled with laughter? A more serious thing?

Their eyes found each other, as they always did, when everything passed between them silently, privately.

Brennan wanted to know the feel and the taste and the strength of him before he moved on.

Booth wanted to feel her softness and her sweetness and her power before she let him.

They both craved the comforting touch of the other.

Booth's finger traced lines of longing over her thumb.

Brennan's hand turned palm up, open to the caress.

"I really want to kiss you."

&&&&&&&&&

Brennan's head spun and spun and spun until she thought she was going to fall.

"Booth," she pleaded with him, but her eyes betrayed her. She too wanted that kiss. More than she wanted to breathe. "We shouldn't."
"It complicates things..."
"Yes."

"I thought you'd be with Hacker."

"Yeah... No." The flirt in her wanted this. "I thought you were moving on."

"I will." Not while she was looking at him like that, though.

Brennan stood. She needed to break the spell. It was going to hurt so much more when he did find someone if she had a night of us to remember.

"I just want to know how it feels, Bones. Just once." Where's your pride now, huh?

&&&&&&&&&&

The pleading in his vice was her undoing. There was nothing she wouldn't do for Booth. Nothing. He wanted this; she would give it to him. And to herself.

"Like a one-night stand?"

&&&&&&&&&

Booth's breath caught. He hated that. He hated to be a one-night stand. And she deserved so much more than that. But for her? He would be anything she wanted him to.

"Yes."

&&&&&&&

He walked to her and his movement did funny things to her satin robe. Things that a kiss could not help him with.

"I really want to kiss you, Booth." The reaction of his body was sharp and immediate. One further step and he stood in front of her, the breadth of a hair separating them. His hand cupped her face and she leaned into it. His head moved into her and for a fraction of a second he held there, close, feeling the sweetness of her breath. Then his lips just covered the distance between them and laid themselves over her, the surrender immediate.

And there it was, the warmth, the heat, the passion all in his lips moving over hers, soothing the heartache away, massaging, tending to her needs, mindful of her fears, respecting her reservations.

His tongue cruised over her lips, leisurely, begging her to let him in into her.

What was a girl to do?

&&&&&&&&&&&&

The kiss spread to the rest of her body. Her nipples got jealous of the attention her lips were getting. Her core was wet with anticipation. She took one small step back, her hands holding on to his sides.

Brennan knew that pretty soon this would not be kissing only. And she wanted it too much to care about how much it would hurt later.

Her eyes traveled down from his mouth to his chest and hips. And he was hard.

"You want me, don't you, Booth?"

Her bluntness gave him a jolt and he hardened further.

Booth nodded. Speech did not come easy at that moment.

"Yeah, I do."

Her lips parted, her cheeks flushed, her tongue ran through her lips and she knew she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

He eyed the robe, willing it open. If he knew her well- and God, did he ever- she was naked under that robe.

Her hands fell to the side, a silent agreement, that luscious fabric fell open on her shoulders with such complete obedience that he wanted to pat it on the head and give it a bone.

"Are you sure about this, Bones?"

"Yes. When you're close like this, nothings seems to matter."

"I know what you mean."

"Will you kiss me again?"

"If you let me."
"Yes. Though we shouldn't."

"True"

Brennan gripped his shirt as if it were a lifeline. Button by small button, it opened to end up on the floor.

He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. His thumb hooked under her chin.

He needed time to get his primal need for satisfaction under control. This could not be just about sex. Sure, she thought this was all that it was going to be. But if he played his cards right she would see. She would see just how good they could be together.

She tilted her face up, offering him what he wanted.

"I thought you wanted to kiss me?"

"I do."

He took her in his arms and carried her to her sofa.

"I really do."

He deposited her lovingly and knelt in front of her, removed his belt, ready to worship her.

Slowly, his palms slipped around her ankles first and that ran up her calves and thighs.

"I'm dying to."

He gently opened her legs and, bless that damned robe's heart if it didn't fall completely to the sides, revealing everything that he had fantasized about: her hips and her thighs and the little slit he needed so badly.

He licked his lips as he slowly slid his hands up the inside of her legs, laying a banquet and then settling in to enjoy it.

Her heated sigh reassured him she was with there with him step by step, just as ready as he was, as she leaned back to give him the room.

And oh angels of heaven, she was smooth as silk.

He ran his palm down the back of one of her legs and extended her foot so it rested on his shoulder. The kissing started at her calf and flowed and teased, inching higher and higher, closer and closer to a reward he was not quite sure he deserved. He paused mid-thigh to check if she was okay.

Brennan was watching him, her blue eyes wide as oceans, a fine veil of tears pooling, her fingers clenching convulsively to her lips. Her breath was an eager pant and she was flushed, rosy and by God, the sexiest thing he had ever seen in all his life.

"You all right with this? Because once I start it's going to be very difficult to stop and I don't want to scare you."

"Oh God!"

"Is that a yes?"

"Yes!"

He reached for the robe's tie. "I'm going to take care of you. Trust me."

And he would. Even if it broke him.

He released the tie and parted her robe.

Her body was revealed to him, from her thighs to her full breasts through the flat expanse of her stomach and over the lovely pink lips of her sex. As her hand went down and rested on the mound of her sex, she was what he had pictured every day for those six agonizing years of starvation for her, everything sexual and powerful and feminine and so utterly Bones. And solid and real.

"Jesus Christ, Bones, I need you."

The way she looked him in the eyes and opened her legs apart was a gift like nothing that had even been wrapped specially for him. As she opened herself a little further, he could see the pink core of her. She was dewy and warm and inviting.

For now he was done with the waiting. Eagerly, Booth put his mouth to her, going straight to the core of her.

They both cried out. As her hands speared into his hair, he griped her thighs hard and moved in even further. She was so warm against his lips, warm and wet and all he could think of was kissing her delicate inner lips.

.

Brennan muffled a sob. Booth's tongue French kissing her was more than she'd expected. And she'd expected a whole lot. But this? This was real and the warmth of his tongue and the sounds of the lapping at her flesh and that low growl of his was like music. Like singing together. The sounds were amazing.

.

Booth sampled, tasted and devoured fully. This was not just about kissing. This was about one night to remember. One night to keep him going while he waited for her. He made mental notes- of her sweetness, of the slight tanginess of her juices. He carefully studied and noted how she reacted when his tongue went further into her and she contracted around him trying to hold him in. He cataloged her reaction to his thumb as it slid over her little bundle of nerves. And it all engraved itself indelibly in his memory.

As he looked up over her breasts, checking, making sure she was okay, he just had to get to her nipples. Reaching forward, he pinched them gently then soothed them with his thumbs. The way she arched nearly had him orgasming. It was just too much.

As her pelvis started to rock, he extended his tongue and let her ride it, using his flesh to pleasure herself.

Her riding awakened in him the need to have her be all that he could see and smell and taste. Trapping her hips in his palms, he pressed his face from chin to nose against her and dove into Bones. Until the need to breath overtook him, for a few glorious seconds, she was there was in the world.

He moved up and started an insistent flicking at the little bundle of nerves, knowing he had the right place by the gasping sound she made. When she began to thrust her hips, he reached for her hand to reassure her. She reached for the palm he offered so strongly she was going to leave marks with her nails and that was just fine with him. He would need some mark from the lovemaking. He should probably tattoo it over. Just so that he had something to hold on to while he served the waiting time.

.

Brennan was on the brink. The storm was gathering and the need was urgent and the heat roared under her skin. She was on the brink of something. Yeah, sure on the brink of an almighty orgasm. But it wasn't just that. There was something else. Something that came and went with the ripple of her muscles. Something important, vital. She was on the brink of a discovery. For once, her mind was overwhelmed by sensation. And it wasn't just the sensation of heat being generated between her legs, inside her very core. It was the sensation of warmth around her heart.

Booth's body was huge between her legs, his broad shoulders stretching her wide, his mouth like on like against her core, lips meeting lips, slippery tongue against slick folds. It all seemed scary in its inevitability.

And the only reason she wasn't completely overwhelmed was his hand on hers. That touch was better than any words of reassurance.

Just when she thought she would fragment apart, a wave of energy crashed over her sweeping her up, and over the threshold of realization: How on earth was she ever going to let him go?

"Are you okay?"

She opened her mouth to speak. When nothing coherent came out, she nodded. No. She was not okay. She needed him. All of him. Every little bit of him. Body and soul.

"I need you, Booth" She uttered in a sob. She needed him. And yet she had to let him go. "Please..." What? Please don't leave me? No. She couldn't say that. "I need you inside me." She had to let him go. She would never change. He needed better.

The hope that had been steadily growing in Booth's heart withered. It had been a fragile little hope. One that had been unable to resist her words that seemed to be only about sex. He removed the remainder of his clothes dispassionately, never taking his eyes from her. There was purpose in them, a little feral purpose that mingled with the hurt. With a little of wounded pride.

He pulled her down to the edge of the couch roughly, clapped his hands behind her knees and eased her open. If she wanted sex, he'd deliver. If she wanted only what she got from everybody else, he give it to her. But she'd remember him.

She felt a hot hard probe and then his member slamming into her, roughly as he pulled her to his lap on the floor. She was still holding on to his hand and wouldn't let go. His right hand clamped her hip firmly, slamming her roughly back down against him when she pushed up. She felt a sob rising in her chest when he clamped his mouth over her nipple. His tongue was gentle and careful- even through the roughness of the coupling. She wanted to cry, she wanted to apologize for making him believe she did not care as much as he did. And there it was, not just that wave of energy generated by the friction of his body inside hers, the impending orgasm, but that other sensation, the sensation of impending realization. Of impending breakthrough. And with each journey up his shaft, memories of being held and protected resurfaced. With each slam down, memories of the way she was before Booth. There were memories of Booth standing in front of bullets for her with each journey up that melded into memories making peace with who she was, of how loving she had become, of how she became able to laugh at herself, of how she became more and more aware of her impact on others. There were faces too. Faces of people that had trickled into her heart. There was Zach and his shaved head and closed face of someone who had seem more than a child should. Hodgins and his trust inside that car buried under a tone of gravel, Angela and her bright, bright smiles. There were Sweets and Wendell and Daisy and Cam. There were victims and relatives. There was Parker and Max and Russ. She had opened her heart to one person and the others had followed in, unannounced. The world had barged in. She had turned from a past of mummies and dry bones to a present of flesh and faces and names that needed her. And she needed them right back.

And then realization struck, just as the orgasm washed over her: she was not the same.

She had changed.

Booth had changed her.

Clinging to Booth, holding him, cradling his gasping, orgasming form in her arms, flush against her, wave upon wave of physical pleasure mixed with wave upon wave of panic.

What had she done?

&&&&&&

Booth gasped and panted. This was so much more than he had bargained for. It was going to be a long wait. Daunting. But he would wait. He would wait as long was it was needed. And he'd go on waiting two life times over. Or more. But it still hurt. He was just a man.

He held Brennan in his arms and rocked her softly.

&&&&&&&

It felt awkward. The whole thing. Because there was so much going unsaid.

Brennan stood and searched for her robe and hid in it. She tied the belt and nearly ran to the bathroom. She had made Booth feel like he was little more than a dildo that could hug her.

She sat on the edge of the tub and hid from the reflection in the mirror. She was not the same Brennan of last year, let alone the Brennan of two or four or six years ago. She was Booth's Brennan now, his work, his influence. His heart.

She could change.

She had changed.

What had she done?

&&&&&&&

Booth stood and collected his clothes scattered on the floor. It felt awkward. He should be carrying her to bed and making her feel loved. Instead, he was getting dressed and ready to leave. Only, when he walked out through that door, their on- night stand would be over and the waiting would commence. Even if they got together for breakfast tomorrow, they wouldn't be the Booth and Bones they were now. It would be as if this night had never happened. And it ate away at him.

This was a great time for that vacation time he had coming. A month away would do wonders. For him, mostly. And he would start tomorrow. If Hacker was after Bones, he would not quibble about signing the damned paper.

Time apart. That's what they both needed.

&&&&&&&

Booth was sure she hadn't eaten. He worried about the meals she would miss when he was away. He rummaged through the cupboards. Not having found nearly enough to reassure him, he found enough for grilled cheese sandwiches.

&&&&&&

When she had some semblance of control, Brennan wrapped herself tightly in her robe. As she stood up, a small trickle of Booth's semen slid down the inside of her thigh. She touched it with her finger, as if she were whipping a tear.

She took a deep breath. It was time to face the music.

&&&&&&&&&

Brennan returned to the kitchen and sat. She could do this, she told herself. She could and would do it. She would say goodbye tonight and tomorrow it would be as if nothing had ever happened. She could do this.

Sitting would be easier.

Except she could not find a thing to say that would be appropriate or that wouldn't be hurtful.

"Have you eaten?"

She was grateful to Booth for breaking that pregnant silence.

"Bones?"

What was the question?

"Have you eaten?"

Had she?

Booth took slices of bread from the plastic bag and spread them on a tray.

"Do you remember my Pops' grilled cheese sandwiches? They're something, aren't they?" Her hand clamped over her mouth. Yes, she remembered. Except that if she spoke, he would hear her voice cracking. So she nodded.

"I don't know his secret." Booth chatted away like a Stepford wife entertaining guests for cocktails. All the while, it was like a lost game of Punky Pong and the words GAME OVER were flashing on their screen. "Though I make a mean grilled cheese sandwich, if I do say so myself." He smiled at her, inviting her to smile back. Maybe if they both faked it, they could get through this with some semblance of dignity.

Brennan did not smile back. She was having trouble keeping it together and man was he an asshole or what, that he was actually glad she was upset and broken. It made him feel less pathetic and alone in that hellish goodbye of theirs.

Booth held fast to the keep your hands busy strategy. He spread butter on the slices of bread and then he grated cheese over them and took special care to arrange the cheese over the bread. It was a fine way of avoiding studying her form, slumped against the breakfast bar. He rearranged the cheese, fiddled with the yellow shavings. No matter what he did, how much he worried about it, it was not a decent grilled cheese sandwich. It was not picture perfect, movie ending grilled cheese sandwich. No happy ending for them. It was the kind of grilled cheese sandwich you made for someone you love because you couldn't think of what else to do and both of you were a mess. It was the kind of grilled cheese sandwich you sliced and grated and grilled when your throat closed in a lump and your mouth dried and all you wanted to do was cry- but were too much of an alpha male to indulge in such behavior.

It was the kind of grilled of cheese sandwich you made with all the love you were holding inside because it could not be spoken out loud, with all the love you might not have the chance to profess.

&&&&&&&&&&

Booth placed the sandwiches in a plate between them. Old habits die hard. He served her a glass of milk.

"You gotta eat, right, Bones?"

Brennan nodded. Nothing would have come out even if she had tried. She looked at the food and thought it an insurmountable task. She couldn't do it.

Because if she did, she would choke on it.

Because if she did, the night would be over and Booth would be back to being her partner. The partner that had moved on.

She picked at a slice. Her fingers played with the crumbs absently. She though of all the people that inhabited her heart now. As if they had squatted it, they now filled out all the spaces inside and refused to leave, refused to close the door. And more and more kept on coming inside and making it a home. She thought of the faith all of them had in her, of how they looked at her for guidance and support. What would they make of this Brennan paralyzed by fear of uttering a simple sentence?

They probably would not be surprised.

All the while, the clock was ticking away their seconds, counting down to the end. And the frozen cold was there in the pit of her stomach. If only she could hold his hand.

Her chin trembled but she could not utter the words to save herself.

&&&&&&&

Booth knew something was going on inside her. He also knew that it was hers to deal with. He couldn't add anything else. There was nothing else to add, was there?
When it was clear she could not deal with the sandwiches, he stood. Prolonging this was prolonging the agony. The sooner he got up and left, the sooner the waiting would start. And hopefully, the sooner it would be done.

He took his coat and put his stool back.

It was now or never.

"Goodnight, Bones. Sleep tight"

That knot in her throat did a curious maneuver between her stomach and her mouth. She stood up.

"Booth."

Was that her voice? So small and faded?

He turned.

"You never..." She stopped, trying to overcome that knot that was fast becoming the size of a melon. "You never said why..."

"Why?"

"Why you wanted..." Brennan took a deep breath. "...to give us a try."

Why? What do you mean why?

In it for a penny, in it for a pound. Suddenly her throat cleared and breathing and talking became easier. He was walking out anyway. So he might as well go out with all the facts. First, the truth. She would deal with the consequences. She was a grown woman. It was about time she faced up to life. "You never said I love you."

What? He never what? Booth felt sucker punched to the balls.

"You didn't say that."

"No. No I didn't." And he wasn't saying it now, because somehow, moron that was, he couldn't assemble such a short sentence together.

"Please." And suddenly, the knot was back in Brennan's throat. Why wasn't he saying it now? Had she read him so badly? Had Sweets? If he didn't, if he didn't love her, who was going to make things right when she fucked up?

Her hands crossed and uncrossed nervously against her chest. "Please stay." Uff. She needed the air as if she had run a marathon on a single breath. She needed... "Please stay with me." ...him. Her breathing was all over the place- shallow and deep, in gasps and sighs. "Please stay with me because I love you and I don't want to you to move on..." And then her hand clamped over her mouth as if it was holding the dam in place when it had been raining and a good flooding was in order. But she needed a reply. She needed him to say yes, she needed him to say I love you, Bones or I love you, Temperance or any other combination thereof. But she needed to hear it from him. She needed to justify her leap of faith.

"I'm sorry."

It was like being hit by a tsunami. It flattened her instantly and left her unable to breathe.

"I'm so sorry, Bones." And she wanted to run and hide under her bed. Make the world go away. But though she took a step back- she was only human- she stood there. Waiting for the payback shoe to drop. After all, when he had opened his heart, she had refused him.

Booth covered the distance between them.

"I'm so sorry, Bones." She wanted to stop him, that grief in his eyes, that pity. That she couldn't take. Her hands were shaking violently. His hand covered hers and effectively stilled her. "I'm such an idiot." He took a deep cleansing breath. "I do." God, her hands were freezing. "I do. God, I'm such an idiot." He pulled her into his arms and squeezed her there tightly. It needed to be said looking her in the eye. So he held her face in his hands. "I do love you, Bones."

He felt her sagging against him. Give her a minute. Give her a minute to process. What a moron, Seeley Booth. His hand smoothed the robe on her back slowly, gently, helping her breathing settle. Of all the ways to fess up that night, he had chosen the only one that didn't give her a real argument to try. Idiot.

"Bones, is that why you said no? Because I didn't say it?"

"No." How could she let him think that? "No, Booth. It wasn't."

"Does this...love thing change your answer?"

"No." Had he misunderstood? Could he be this much of an idiot? "I was wrong. I was laboring under a misapprehension. But I needed to know. I just... needed to know... Please stay with me. Please let's give us a try. Please..."

"Than what changed it?"

"Because I feel that this is going somewhere."

Booth was lost for words. His mouth opened and closed and there was nothing he could say that was appropriate. So he scooped her up in his arms and took her to the sofa and sat there with her closed tightly in his arms. Christ Himself would not make him let go of Bones.

&&&&&&

Brennan made herself small in Booth's arms. She leaned into his chest and the only sound- though morning was coming in clear and bright through the open curtains- was Booth's steady heart beating. The man with the lion heart.

Avalon had said, all those months ago, that everything was going to be alright. She was willing to bet her own heart on that. Because Booth would make sure of it.

That soft, strong beating sound relaxed her. She was scared. She was scared shitless. There was now even more at stake. More than ever. There was that heart beating against her ear. But with each beat of that heart, hers seemed to occupy more and more space inside her. More and more space until it felt she was made of heart alone.

She fell asleep.

There was no closing that heart.