Author's Notes: First let me apologize for keeping you all hanging for almost three days. Turns out that in my world Bones Wednesdays and Thursdays are not conducive to fiction writing. Well, I did finish writing it last night but I am very old school, I write everything with pen and paper first, which means I had to type this into the computer today. Anyway, it's all done now and I mean that in more ways than one. By all accounts this concludes my first venture into the Bones fanfiction world and I definitely like it as is. However, when I woke up this morning I felt there were still some loose ends left to be tied up. Would love to hear what you think, I am not opposed to an epilogue, but as I said I feel this ends in a very good place.

Once again I'd like to thank each and everyone one of you who has taken the time to read this, to review or put the story on alert. I can't ever express how much it means to me so consider this my BIG thanks to all of you. I hope you like it!

Also, I like to dedicate this to DVApples, she can figure out why! :)

Rambling done, now on with the story.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bones nor will I ever own Bones. I love watching it, however!

Ties and Contracts, Part 6

A short ten minute walk took Booth to the restaurant Cam had mentioned, the place was buzzing with activity judging by what he could see through the large picture windows.

It was not hard for him to spot the group of people tucked away neatly in a corner but instead of going inside and joining them as he had planned he simply stood there and observed, his focus entirely on Bones.

He loved how relaxed she looked, how very much at ease with her friends and he remembered her words from the night they were all having drinks after their return from Burtonsville.

It made me see how lucky I am. Now. This is what friendship is like; this table. I am very lucky.

She had surprised him saying that, had surprised all of them. It was not like her to say this stuff, much less in front of all of them. Which proved exactly how much she had changed since they first met. It was funny that she did not realize it herself. And even a little bit sad.

He sighed, raking his fingers through his hair. All of a sudden coming here did not seem like such a great idea anymore. It was obvious to him from seeing this little scene that Bones was quite happy with her life as it was, she really did not need him to screw things up any more than he already had. Still, he liked the recent changes in her personality, she had been less awkward lately and a little more open about what he brought to their cases. Then again he also missed her occasionally inappropriate little comments and questions, she had been using them a lot less with him in the last couple of weeks he realized. He was sure she still asked them, just not him. Probably Angela. Maybe even Cam.

Somehow those two had finally - tentatively - bonded despite all their differences and he wondered what had prompted it because he had completely failed to notice it. Which made it one more event to add to his list of 'Things I missed in Bones' life' and he knew with absolute certainty that he never wanted to miss anything else connected to her. Ever.

But first he had to set his own life in order and with that in mind he turned his back on the warmly lit windows and started the return trip to the Jeffersonian.

He had only taken a few steps when a voice stopped him cold and he decided that his sniper instincts had gone AWOL tonight. First Cam and now...

"Booth..."

Her voice again, soft and filled with concern.

Slowly, he pivoted on his heel and came face to face with a slightly flushed looking Temperance Brennan.

"Hey Bones...," he said hesitantly, feeling very much like he had been caught in the act.

Her blue eyes were anxious, fixing on his. "I was waiting for you to come in... Why are you leaving again? Is it because we didn't invite you? Because, you know, we are friends and friends don't need invitations to hang out together, right?"

She was rambling, waiting for him to say something, and he found himself utterly charmed by the fact that for some reason she was this nervous.

So he did his best to smile reassuringly. "Yeah, I do know that, I was the one that told you, Bones. I was stupid for even bringing it up earlier.

"Oh." She frowned, clearly puzzled. "Then why didn't you come in? You can meet Cam's new..." She stopped short, biting her lip as she recognized her possible faux pas.

Booth grinned. "Don't worry, I know about Paul already. Cam mentioned him last week and threatened me with all kinds of nastiness if I dared to even think about running a background check on him."

Her smile showed her relief as she asked, "So will you come in with me then? I mean you're here..."

For some reason her harmless request had him narrow his eyes and he wanted to know, "And you are not wondering about that? No questions about Catherine? That's not like you, Bones."

Brennan was tempted to snap back at him for making her feel uncomfortable and guilty when she was only trying to do the right thing. Instead she counted to five then replied, "When you told me to stop bringing her up all the time I considered your request and decided that you were correct. I assumed that if you wanted to talk to me about her you would. That's how I understood it."

"Bones, you always ignore any request I make about staying off certain topics."

"Only if I find your logic unreasonable. In this case it wasn't. I realized that it was none of my business. We're partners."

"I'm going to stop seeing her," he blurted out suddenly, shocking both of them into stunned silence.

Her eyes widened in alarm. "Booth...why? I thought you liked her," she said very quietly, honest concern and something undefinable in her voice.

He hesitated, considering his answer carefully before he settled for the truth, "She's not you, Bones."

"Booth..."

He held up a hand to stop her from talking. "Just... listen. Please."

With a small nod she gave her acquiescence.

"I've had some time to think about that night and what I said to you about having to move on. And I've tried, I really have but... The truth is I don't want to get over you, Bones. I know you don't want to hear this but I'll tell you anyway: You're it, Bones. It simply does not *get* better than you - at least not for me. And if partners is all you want to be then I'll take it because it means so much more to me to be your partner than someone's husband. I am not saying this to change your mind, I know that's not how you work, and I don't want to make you feel bad either. I just want you to know the truth, okay? Because, you already said it, we're partners. And we trust each other. Implicitly. That is not going to change. Ever. I promise you that."

He had kept his eyes locked on hers the whole time, trying to convey his feelings, willing her to accept what he was offering. Himself. In whatever capacity she would have him. However, nothing in a million years could have prepared him for what came next and he knew that this moment would be forever burned into his memory.

With two quick steps Bones was right there in front of him, her hands framing his face gently, her eyes searching his, almost as if wanting permission, before she brushed her lips across his.

"Bren..." Her nickname from his coma slipped out before he could stop himself but she just smiled and kissed him again, a little longer and more confident this time.

Then she stepped back, letting her hands slip down across his shoulders then on down his arms to take hold of his fingers.

"You're not the only one who had time to think, Booth. I... might have been wrong in some of my conclusions about us but mostly about myself."

He opened his mouth, wanting to protest, but she cut him off by pressing a finger over his lips.

"My turn," she chided softly and he nodded, motioning for her to continue.

"That night when you told me that Andrew had entered into a social contract with me I suddenly realized that I was using him in a way. I could not give him what he wanted and it seemed unfair to pretend otherwise so I - how do you say it - I called it quits. I didn't tell you about it because I thought it would be easier for you to move on if you knew that I was, too. It just seemed the most logical thing to do at the time. Booth, there isn't anything I wouldn't do for you. Even if it means for me to put my trust into your anecdotal evidence about how you just knew that you are that guy."

He really was not sure if he was hearing things or if her words could actually mean what he so badly wanted them to mean but she was not finished.

"My dad came by the other night to make me dinner, and we talked. He explained a few things to me and while I probably never completely understand all of it he definitely provided me with enough evidence to know that..."

Here she fumbled, feeling shy all of a sudden. Grasping his fingers a little harder Brennan breathed deeply and finally took the leap he had wanted her to take with him that night, "That I love you. And... that you love me. And that it's worth it."

At this point Booth was fairly certain that time stood still. And that somehow he had forgotten how to breathe because his chest began to feel very tight, yet all he could do was stand there and stare at her in silent wonder.

However, he must have been quiet a moment too long because she began to fidget nervously and to pull away. He stopped her instantly, his arms going around her and holding her as close as possible.

"Remind me to send your dad the biggest 'thank you' card we can find. I always knew I liked him," Booth said hoarsely before his mouth closed over hers, laying claim properly to what was finally his.

Her arms wound around his neck instantly, her fingers landing in his hair and her lips opening under his as they kissed with abandon, forgetting the time and forgetting their location.

Until clapping and whistling and catcalls intruded on their little reality.

Having a pretty good idea as to the instigators of all that noise they took their time in slowly ending the kiss before turning around as one, their hands clasped tightly together, to find the whole squint squad plus Sweets and Daisy and Paul Lidner, of course, standing just outside the entrance to the restaurant.

The lot of them, Paul included, were grinning like maniacs and continued to clap and whistle.

"Well, you can't take it back now," he whispered as they walked over to join their friends.

"I have no intention to," she responded just as quietly, "Ever."

That made him stop and he searched her eyes, feeling at once humbled by the deep emotions he saw reflected there. He smiled and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead. "Good. Because you're right."

"I usually am. About what, by the way?"

"That I love you, Bren. Always."

It was her turn to smile just as they were surrounded by their friends, all of them talking at once to offer congratulations while the guys slapped Booth on the back and the women hugged Brennan. Amidst the chaos their eyes found each other and they both knew that they could not have asked for better blessings as they took the next step in life together.

The End