She finally promises Angela that she will tell Booth how she feels. Later she attributes it to the loneliness or the enforced celibacy or Angela's insistence or the fact that her best friend is pregnant. Dr. Temperance Brennan who prides herself on knowing and understanding cannot pinpoint what it is that makes her capitulate, but she agrees to tell Booth. All at once she is frightened and relieved.

She finds the combination of feelings to be uncomfortable.

"Sweetie, he's three gadzillion miles away. He wants this."

"Ange, given that I don't know exactly where he is located and my own coordinates differ by as much as. . . ."

"Bren, it's hyperbole. An exaggeration."

Angela's pregnancy stirs up feelings of jealousy. Perhaps irrational feelings conjure up irrational actions, but she agrees it is time. Five months in and she wants to know if this will fatally sting him, them, or if she has been fooling herself all along.

There is logic in telling him. Their partnership had been tattered and worn. Angela is right—telling him cannot tear it apart further unless he has changed his mind. It is what he wanted. It might just repair the rips in their relationship.

Booth has navigated relationships before. He will help her. Five years of a close partnership proves that they can overcome much together.

She's just not sure. Something this big requires more than a weighing of the pros and cons. It requires a leap of faith, but faith is something she lost years ago.

And something else has been niggling away at her thoughts for some time and she has no words to describe it.

"Brennan, you're the one who told me that nothing in this world only happens once. You told me that I would find love again." Angela is fierce, a mother tiger. Protective. Demanding. "Booth loves you. He wants this. You want this."

She remembers the desert and the desolation of her friend and she falls prey to the joy radiating from her computer screen. Irrational feelings conjure up irrational thoughts and she allows the two people beaming at her from Paris to guide her. Angela knows love and she's helped her make sense of what has not made sense for so long that she is almost weary with holding onto the words.

"Write it down if you have to. Read it to him if you must. But just say it to him. He made the first move before, Sweetie. You have to make the next move."

oOo

It is Dr. Camille Saroyan who lets it slip that Booth is seeing someone. Five months in Afghanistan, and Booth has found a way to move on.

Each month Brennan does an update for the foundation funding the project and it is uplinked to various institutions. They are a global village, Brennan is reminded, and she has an obligation to feed this village with the knowledge her group has gained.

While she finds the metaphor suspect, she accedes to the demands of her position and provides a visual tour of the site every month featuring some new discovery that her team wants to highlight. She knows that it is a means to an end—they can use these updates to make pleas for more funding. She understands that a 3.6 million-year-old skeleton is not of great importance to many people although she does feel more than a twinge of excitement in its presence. This month the Jeffersonian is hosting the uplink.

Instead of the Jeffersonian technician handling the duties at the institution, her father's image appears and she drinks him in. "Hey, there's my girl. There's that smile." He quickly fills her in on what he's been doing and before she can ask any questions, her brother Russ appears on the screen.

"We're in town for Haley's quarterly physical. Dad thought this would be a way for us to see you. Catch up a bit. But apparently you don't have the satellite for long so this is about it for now."

The hour is late in Maluku, but she is touched by the thoughtfulness of her father and her brother. This is Russ, her big brother who helped her navigate the uncertainties of her childhood, her big brother who seems genuinely happy to see her now. Emotion comes unbidden and she realizes that something has changed in her. She swipes at a tear.

"We know you don't have much time on this contraption, honey, you've got to do your song and dance for the patrons, but we have someone else here who would like to say hi to you." Her father has reappeared and blows her a kiss and she almost wishes she believes that she could catch it and hold it for a moment when Cam appears on screen.

"Dr. Brennan, I just wanted you to know that I've seen much of the footage your group has sent out and I have to say that it is quite impressive. This is truly a great discovery."

She wants to correct her, tell her that the dig itself will yield up only some of the information that will inform the science for years, it will be the follow-up research that will have the most bearing on the scientific community, but she says nothing, too pleased to see her. Too pleased that she wants to see her.

"You really are missed here. All of you are. I also wanted to tell you that Booth is fine, I talked to him the other day and he's actually met someone over in Afghanistan. Leave it to Seeley."

For that moment she feels lightheaded and weightless just as she had seconds after Dr. Caswell's feet became tangled in her own and he sent them both crashing down that hill the other day leaving them both bruised and scraped raw from their tumble.

The connection ends before she can say anything, do anything. She sits stunned, bruised and scraped raw by this tumble down a metaphorical hill.

The evidence comes into clear focus now—for every three emails or letters she's sent Booth, she has received one. His letters are general comments about the training or complaints about the routine. She cannot hear his voice through his letters although she knows that is impossible. His replies do not reference what she has written about although most of the other letters she has received from her friends and family be considered written conversations. He knew about the video link a few months back—Cam had let that one slip, too—so he did not want to see it. See her.

He is doing now what he had done before. That night, after telling Sweets about their first case, Booth had made that first step toward them. Toward us.

And she had forced them both to step backwards.

He is doing that thing he did, holding himself distant from her. She did more lab work than she had done in years simply because he did not take her with him to interview witnesses and interrogate suspects. She knew what he was doing, but she said nothing to stop him. She needed the distance as well.

He said he was moving on, and Seeley Booth does not lie to her. He said things had to change.

And they have.

It is Daisy who catches her in that moment of weakness. "Dr. Brennan, are you all right? I imagine seeing your brother and father was like having only one bite of a really good piece of chocolate. And being in the tropics as you know, it is virtually impossible to really get a good piece of chocolate unless, of course, you don't mind that it is melted in the heat and all. And you've put in a very full day working as you do so I imagine you are pretty tired. But we've got to do the update live from Maluku, well, it's not entirely live since we're. . . ."

She schools her mind and begins to make another connection as the young woman prattles on. Booth's new woman is the independent journalist who flew in last month to do a follow-up story for the Washington Journal.

She has no hard evidence, but she knows. She knows just as she knew that Heather Taffet was responsible for burying her alive. For burying Hodgins. Trapping Booth.

She knows just as she knew that Zach Addy had betrayed them all by assisting Gormogon. She knows.

oOo

In the sixth month she gets her first phone call from Booth. Later Angela will speculate that he found out about Cam's slip, but Brennan has become good at hiding her feelings again and pretends to ignore her friend's comments.

Angela is good at reading people, and if it is something that Brennan has been trying to do while she is in Indonesia, it is trying to read people.

This is Booth, though, and she finds that even after six months, she can still read him. He looks tired and uncertain. Wary. He has bad news and he is not sure how she will take it.

She resists the urge to touch the computer screen and ease some of the tension on his face just as she reneges on her promise to Angela to tell Booth how she feels.

This is Booth and she will not intrude on his happiness.

He is surprised when she brings up Carrie Ann Schneider. She does not tell him that the only reason she remembers her name is because her father has sent her the newspaper article from Washington. The article focuses more on Booth and his story, but there is enough mention of the Maluku project, which, Brennan surmises, justified the woman's six-hour trip to the island.

"I'm glad for you, Booth. You deserve to be happy and it is good that you were able to find someone for which you have a rapport."

She does not mention sex because she knows it will simply make him uncomfortable. But she is happy for him. He does deserve happiness.

He seems visibly relieved that she has broached the subject and the conversation, though somewhat stilted, seems to go well enough. He asks about the dig and about her father and Angela and Hodgins. She asks about his work and about Hank and about Parker, although her father keeps her informed about the youngest Booth and she has sent Parker artifacts from Maluku. She has received a letter in reply for each one she has sent to Hank and to Parker.

Neither talk of their partnership or the coffee cart or murders.

He promises to try to call her in a couple of weeks.

And he startles her. "I've missed you, Bones. I really have."

She tells him that she has missed him as well.

"I'll call you, Bones. Friday, is next Friday good for you?" He gives her a time, tells her he'll sign up.

She sketches a nod and his image disappears.

And the sadness and the pain hit her full force.

oOo

Cam apologies from 7000 miles away but it is not enough. "Seeley, don't put this all on me. How the hell am I supposed to know what I should or shouldn't say is going on with you when you're thousands of miles away?"

He has gone almost six months without talking to Bones and he feels her absence, but he wants this relationship with Carrie to work. He wants to give them a chance.

That's why he's a little flustered and more than angry when Carrie returns from one of her trips and tells him that she interviewed Dr. Brennan.

He knows when his hand is being forced.

The women in his life are conspiring against him and he is so uncertain of facing Brennan that he almost breaks the connection on his computer before she can appear. His leg bounces and he flips his poker chip in one hand to prevent it from closing the screen. He is angry at Cam and furious with Carrie, but he knows whom he should blame.

When Brennan's face appears, he does not want to lose sight of her. Her cheekbones are more prominent than he remembered, her hair lighter, longer. She is sun-kissed and beautiful even without makeup. He tries to keep the conversation light and he tries to bring up safe topics, but it is Brennan who beards the lion and tells him she approves of Carrie.

"How did you. . . ?" he sputters. He wonders just how long it took Angela to put the pieces together. He wonders how she got the pieces.

"She came straight from Afghanistan, Booth. She mentioned you. I assume there are more Booths in the country given the size of the American and British forces over there, but I think it's safe to say there is only one Sergeant Major Seeley Booth formerly of the FBI quartered in Kabul."

"Cam also said you had met someone." She pauses and he wonders what else she can hit him with. "Did I get it wrong?"

He tries to gauge her reaction, but she seems genuinely pleased that he is happily engaged in a relationship. Her words are overly formal yet endearing, and he knows she does not readily lie, so he understands she is truly happy for him.

"You needed time and space, Booth." She is direct. She is trying to make this easier on him. Only later will he realize that she is the only woman who will make this easy on him. "I understand. You needed to work things out."

Waves of guilt wash over him and he can't help but promise her that he will call her in a couple of weeks.

When the screen goes black and she is gone, he realizes instantly that he wants to call her back.

oOo

She does not need Dr. Sweets or Booth or Angela to tell her about her nature. The people in the camp remind her of who she is.

Utterly scrupulous. Hard working. Honest. Professional. Brilliant.

And cold. Remote.

She is true to her nature. She opens up their research to the world of scientists eager to understand early man. She provides access to their images and sends out casts of the bones to researchers in Australia and England and France and the United States. She protects the remains they have found and supervises how they are packed and shipped to Jakarta and sends Daisy and Dr. Whittaker with each set to maintain the high standards of vigilance. She stays up late her makeshift office lit by solar batteries as she makes contact with researchers in different time zones scattered across the world to analyze and to evaluate what this new discovery means to understanding humans.

She continues to wake before dawn and sit through the sunrises on the island, sipping her morning tea, trying to center herself for the long day she will put in. She dismisses the erotic dreams as a by-product of celibacy. She dismisses the nightmares.

For years she found ways to balance the demands of her job at the Jeffersonian as well as working with the FBI and writing novels and consulting and teaching. She finds ways to balance the demands here as well. One afternoon while waiting for a phone call from London, she actually begins to outline another book. She composes letters in her head and organizes her thoughts for a research paper she's been working on. She considers writing a colleague about a theory she has regarding bone ossification.

It is easier, she tells herself, to be alone.

Eight months into a year-long commitment, she has slipped back into her old self. Like a glove, but it is not a glove. It fits, but there are holes worn away by time and circumstances. And those damned metaphorical marks Booth talked of once. They have left holes, too. She wants those to fade.

But they may never fade.

The feelings remain, but she is tamping them down, replacing them with work. She has been asked to read several dissertations and research papers. The anthropological society in Australia wants her to speak on the Maluku find. The anthropologists in Jakarta want her as well. The police force there wants to discuss forensic techniques. National Geographic wants a site visit for an article and film crews from the Discovery channel want access as well.

She still worries about Booth. Her friends. Her family.

But mostly about Booth.

She still enjoys writing to her nieces and her brother and her father and her friends.

When Booth calls her every other week now, she hears the happiness in his voice. He is teasing her more. They bicker more. He tries to cajole her into a smile, a small laugh.

"You're working too hard, Bones," he tells her.

But work is not enough. It may never be enough.

Carrie can and does watch over him. She tells him to be careful, watches his back with the Army brass. Comforts him when he misses Christmas with Parker. Celebrates his birthday. Makes plans with him to return to Washington.

And Brennan knows that is how it should be. Angela tries to argue with her, tries to bully her into admitting her feelings still, but there is comfort in knowing that she cannot hurt Booth. She will not sting him and drown him with her love.

She loves him. She loves him too much to do that to him.

To them.