A/N: I need to go to bed. This is so not good! I'll be cross-eyed tomorrow morning, even if all I'm doing is supervising more testing! But after tossing and turning and hashing and rehashing the finale, I finally had to climb back out of bed and write this out of my system. It was the only way I could finally stop seeing it behind my eyelids and get some sleep! : ) I'd love to hear your feedback.
She waited for him at the reflecting pool, beside the coffee cart, at the exact hour they had agreed on. Actually, she got there several hours early, dragging her baggage directly from the airport, and parking herself in the designated spot with a bottle of water and a book to read. She waited as the appointed time came and went, as the shadows grow longer around her and the sun slowly set and night closed in.
Her stomach growled and her head ached. Still, hope stubbornly refused to fade and she waited until a cop finally threatened to arrest her for loitering. And then Temperance Brennan finally went home. But she did not cry herself to sleep. No, that was not her way. Instead, she pulled out her laptop and sat down in the empty bedroom. Using jetlag as an ally against emotion, she poured everything into her latest novel, avoiding the sadness that threatened to overwhelm all the new experiences of the last year.
He let himself into her apartment quietly, using the key she'd long ago given him. A key he'd kept in his wallet next to a picture of Parker, who he'd visited at a summer camp in Delaware before flying into D.C. late that evening. He walked softly down the hallway, toward where her bedroom used to be. Typically organized, she'd rented the place out for 10 months, ensuring with that 10 month lease that the tenants would have vacated long before she returned to the States. It didn't even look like her place, with all the knickknacks missing, the walls bare, the minimal, recycled furniture left by the tenants.
The suitcases scattered various places told him she'd arrived. His gut told him she hadn't left again, not even to visit her best friend who had arrived in town days ahead of both of them. The distance toward her room seemed much longer than he remembered. He found himself using a sniper technique, counting breaths as he inhaled and exhaled shallowly and evenly, needing to focus on something, anything, besides the pounding in his chest.
At the doorway to the room, Seeley Booth finally spied her. She was propped against the wall, laptop on her legs, head tilted back slightly. Her breathing was nowhere near as even as his. He knew better than to wake her physically, so he settled for standing a few feet away and calling her name.
She heard him in her dream –nothing unusual, really. She'd been hearing him for the past year, at all hours of the day, the voice reassuring her with the memory of what had been between them and what might be again someday.
"Bones. Earth to Brennan. Open your eyes, Temperance."
Slowly, she drifted back to reality, feeling the hard floor beneath her and the warmth of the laptop on her knees. She had no desire to open her eyes and confront her delusion, but she did anyway, still secretly, treacherously, subconsciously hoping.
Brennan's eyes opened slowly and looked right at Booth. She was as suntanned as he was, no longer even remotely fair-skinned. Freckles he had never seen before dusted her face, and her auburn hair was now much longer and sun-bleached. She'd lost weight and added muscle to what had already been a lithe, athletic frame. But the eyes were exactly as he remembered them, instantly recreating the ache he'd felt ever since the day they separated.
Cerulean with hints of cobalt, those eyes blinked sleepily for a minute, then flashed fiercely as recognition finally settled in.
He could have said a thousand things—had rehearsed twice as many, actually—but they'd never needed words to communicate the most important things between them. So he settled for the basics.
"Sorry, I'm late, Bones. My plane was delayed."
He wasn't wearing fatigues as she'd expected, but he still looked completely different with the crewcut and his skin tanned almost to the point of mahogany. He'd lost a significant amount of weight, but packed on pounds of muscle, enlarging what had already been an impressive musculoskeletal structure. An unfamiliar scar wound its way around one large bicep, disappearing into the sleeve of an old, familiar FBI T-shirt. But the eyes were exactly as she remembered them, dark brown with hints of gold and black.
There were any number of things she might have said at that point, but they would all be spoken in due course. Tonight, she settled for the one word that had been on her lips for 365 long days.
He raised his eyebrows and smiled slowly. "Bones."
Neither one of them made the first move. Their coming together was completely simultaneous, just like the twin smiles that crossed their tired faces as she held out a hand to him and he pulled her to her feet. The laptop slid onto the floor with an unhappy thunk, but it didn't matter. She had a backup system for the machine.
More importantly, they had a failsafe backup system for their partnership, which kicked into gear automatically as he folded her into his broad chest and she found the space that belonged to her and her alone, right next to his heart. A year vanished in the space of a second, the two partners, reunited, holding each other tightly.
"God, I missed you." The words were spoken at the same time, in the same breath.
When she finally lifted her head from his chest, it was only to meet his lips. The kiss was infinitely tender, extended, drawing them back to the center that anchored their very beings. It was salty with tears from both of them, comical, when their noses bumped from lack of practice, sweet, as both of them laughed and repeated the same mistake again and again until they finally didn't. It was deep and hot and claiming:
Yours. Mine. In an "I would die for you" kind of way.
Mine. Yours. In an "I'd rather you lived for me instead" kind of way.
Always, from here on out to the end, the kiss would spell: Belonging.
Everything had changed in their time apart. And, at the same time, nothing.