A/N: I apologize now for the incredibly lengthy a/n, but I must give credit where credit is due.

A/N - Story: Here we are. The end of Two Peas in a Bucket. It's going to be incredibly hard for me to say good bye to this story. I cried when I typed the last word and I promise you there are tears as I'm posting this chapter. I started Peas when my son joined the Marines and left for Boot Camp. I'm finishing it just as he's finishing his training and moving into the fleet. This past year has been an emotional journey for both of us.

Mali Bear's Buddy and MiseryMaker have been incredible mentors and this story is much better because they were kind enough to teach me. I will never be able to express just how much I've appreciated their help and their friendship.

This story exists because Thnx4theGum, GCatsPjs and sirenizzed gave me the courage to write. Without them, I'm not sure I would ever have decided to write fiction. I treasure their support and friendship so very much. My life is different...better...because they took the time to convince me I could do this.

Rankor01 has been gracious enough to endure my questions regarding the male perspective and the inner workings of the military. I followed a prompt from him for this chapter and once again, the story was improved as a result. I value both his friendship and his input.

I have many friends who took time to offer thoughts, suggestions, support...it would take at least half a page to list everyone and I'd still miss someone! You know who you are. Thank you so much for caring enough to help me.

You, the readers, have meant more to me than you'll ever know. Your encouragement with your alerts and comments throughout this story has been amazing. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. For taking the time to think about what you read. For taking the time out of your busy lives to comment. You are wonderful.

A/N - Chapter: Thanks for the seafood laugh jbird! Thank you anteaternurse and ihmbookworm for the technical help. And thank you lysaleelee and thevaliumsofa for making me laugh when I wanted to cry.

And now, I leave you with this final chapter of Peas.

Thank you.

Long Road Home

Three Months Later...

Booth stepped through the door and onto the sidewalk. He heard various sounds of the city in the darkness around him. A car horn honked in the distance. A siren blared a little further away. A truck drove by, spraying the remnants of the rain from the middle of the night.

He looked around, surveying his surroundings, a habit he'd never lost. The streets were fairly empty even though it was early morning. When the sun came up later, people would come out and activity would increase. But for now, he was blessed with almost complete solitude.

He lifted his left foot behind him, pulling it up to stretch the muscles one more time. He let it fall to the ground and repeated the action with his right foot. As he stood there, he thought about the plans he and Bones had for the day and felt the weight of the past as clearly as if he were carrying it. He knew the next several hours were going to be difficult. It was time to focus.

He turned to his left and started walking, thankful he'd fully warmed up in the apartment. His pace was relatively slow, but soon increased in momentum. Each step carrying him forward. It didn't take long for his stride to widen, turning first into a jog and then a run.

Booth felt his heart beating in his chest as the pavement flew by. He listened to the sound of each breath he took. He felt the muscles in his legs alternate between flexion and extension. The muscles in his arm doing the same as they pumped forward and backward. The combined rhythms brought him comfort.

He listened to the cadence of his steps until his mind wandered. He thought back to the days before he and Bones had left DC. How desperate he'd been to hold on to what they'd had. He would have given anything to keep her from leaving for Maluku. But he'd known in the airport, when he'd held onto her hand...he'd had that gut feeling. He'd known that leaving was going to change his life. He hadn't wanted what he thought that future held for him, but he'd walked into it just the same.

He thought about the soldiers he'd met in Afghanistan. About Fish. He, like all the other men, had prepared to do their best. Their duty. He admired the courage they'd demonstrated at such a young age.

Memories of when he woke up in the hospital in Germany flooded through. The panic he'd felt. The sheer terror that life as he'd known it was over. He welcomed the burn he felt in his legs now. A reminder that he'd not only survived, but had regained the physical abilities he'd worried he'd lost forever.

He hadn't wanted anyone to see him that way. Even once he'd returned home. Especially Bones. But she'd been as stubborn as ever and hadn't given up. She'd barged her way into his life whether he'd wanted it or not.

A small quick smile broke through as he ran. He'd been so angry with her...and it had lasted only minutes. She just had this way about her. No matter what, she'd always have his heart and he'd always be powerless to stop her.

Booth paused at a street, jogging in place while he waited for the light to turn. Once the sign flashed the all clear, he proceeded to run, thinking about how Bones had followed him to Texas. She really was the bravest and most stubborn woman he'd ever met. And he wouldn't change a thing about her.

He passed by the familiar sights of home, thankful he was here to enjoy seeing them. Things could have turned out so differently. The life he had now was even more important and precious than any other time he'd had a brush with death. He'd always had a lot to live for and treated life with respect, but Bones had given him more. It was amazing how things turned out sometimes.

He continued running a while longer before choosing a path that would lead him home. He still had things to do before he could finish the rest of his day. He slowed his pace to cool down as he neared the apartment. Once he walked in the building, he slowly took the stairs as the last step to bring his heart rate down.

Booth immediately went to the bathroom for a quick shower. Once he was finished, he ran a little gel through his hair before parting it and combing it to the side. He had to look good today. He moved to the bedroom and pulled out one of his best charcoal gray suits. He grabbed a more sedate pair of socks and his dress shoes. He took extra care with each item of clothing, making sure everything was squared away and in place.

When he was dressed, he stepped in front of the full length mirror for inspection. He looked over his reflection, from the top of his head to his shoes. His eyes traveled back up and he stared at the face he saw before him, willing his nerves away. This was a day to be strong.

His gaze broke away and he looked down at his watch. Nearly time to leave. He walked over and squatted down to pull out the bottom drawer of the dresser. He reached for the two small wooden boxes he needed, but his eyes were automatically drawn to the notebooks resting there. His hand bypassed the boxes and picked up the top notebook instead. He smiled as he ran his hand over its surface.

He opened it to the first page and read the line at the top. Cam explained you had difficulty talking. I thought this might be a more satisfactory way to converse. He ran the tip of his finger across the words written there. Then down to the next line, Do you know who I am? He allowed himself to smile as he started flipping through the pages. Remembering. So many conversations. Bones had never given up on him. Never. She'd pulled him out of his self imposed shell and had broken down every wall he'd constructed. She was amazing.

As if summoned, he felt her hands slide against his back. Her hair cascaded over his shoulder and her palms slid down to his chest as she leaned over to see what he was looking at. She reached down, resting her fingers over his on the page. "You were so angry back then," she said quietly.

"Yeah, I was."

"And now?"

"Now?" he paused, turning slightly to look at her. "Now I'm happy. I'm content. I have my life back. A better life. I have you." He closed the notebook and put it back on top of the other ones. He pulled out the boxes and stood up with her. "What more could a man ask for?"

Booth gently placed one box on the dresser and opened the other one. He held it out so they could look at its contents. He looked at Bones with the hint of worry on his face. "Do you think she'll like them?"

"They're beautiful, Booth. She will appreciate the effort you've made to honor her sons. And as a Catholic, she will understand the meaning behind your gift."

Booth's throat constricted against the emotion he was feeling as they looked down at the black cocoa wood rosary resting on a white satin cloth. They were nestled inside a box made from the wood of a purple heart tree. He'd had them made especially for this occasion. He slowly closed the lid and looked at the design engraved on the front. Specialist Christopher Williams. His name was flanked on one side by the Army seal and on the other by his rank insignia.

He picked up the second one and held it so they could read the name: Corporal Edward Parker. Booth stared at the names for a few seconds, thinking about the men they represented. He felt the tears start to well up and immediately held his head higher, gathering strength and refusing to let them fall.

He looked over at Bones, asking the first question that came to mind. Anything to take his mind off Parker and Fish. "You think I should explain the significance of the purple heart wood, or does it matter?"

Brennan smiled, gently, "I think you should follow your instincts, Booth. You will find the right words when the time comes."

He nodded. "You get everything finished at the lab you wanted to get done?"

Brennan reached out to touch his arm. "I did, but I believe you're only asking because you wish to delay our departure a few more minutes. We'll make it through today the same as every other day, Booth. I'll be with you." She pulled her arm away and turned for her suitcase. "It's time to go."

Their visit to Mrs. Williams was bringing the grief he'd managed to subdue back to the surface. Booth knew this was something he had to do. It was his duty. To Fish. To Parker. In a way, to all the men he'd known who had fallen.

He turned to grab his own suitcase and followed Bones out of the apartment.

Booth's movements were more precise, his military training high on his mind. He was here to honor Fish's last request of him. He looked over at Bones as they made their way up the ramp leading from the plane. He was sure he would never, as long as he lived, be able to convey to her how much it meant to him that she accompanied him on this trip. Her eyes met and held his own as they walked. Maybe she did understand.

They strolled out into the busy airport, looking for the baggage claim signs. Booth scanned the sea of people around him. They were smiling, talking on phones, rushing as they pulled bags behind them. They had no idea why he was here. They had no idea he had come to pay respect to two soldiers who'd given their lives for them. He wanted to stop each one of them and tell them the story of the two young men. He wanted, just for one moment, for people to stop and be conscious of the lives they were leading. To understand that all the hustle and bustle was unimportant.

He was in no hurry, but he kept a steady pace. Bones comfortably matched his stride and it wasn't long before they reached the escalators that would carry them down. They were among the last to arrive at the squeaky band, winding around with the contents of the cargo hold. They each had one bag and stood among the other travelers, waiting patiently for their belongings.

Booth's came first and he leaned over to grab his case from the conveyor. A couple of minutes later and Bones' bag came around the bend. He ignored his instincts to get it for her as well as the instructions Pops had always given him and allowed her to pull her own suitcase from the belt.

She glanced up and he nodded. He was thankful for her small smile.

The plane ride had been short but the car rental line had been hellishly long. They'd agreed before leaving that they'd drive straight to Mrs. William's house before checking in at their hotel. As soon as he'd programmed the GPS, they were on their way.

Booth sat up straight behind the wheel as they approached the house. His chin held a little higher. He pulled into the driveway and turned off the car, resting his hands in his lap. Closing his eyes, he relived memories of Parker and Fish. The brothers had touched his life in so many ways. He mourned the loss of the two brave men.

He took a second to find his resolve and traveled back in time. He laughed with Parker at the end of the day as they joked and talked about life back home. He remembered the hours they spent waiting in hiding to complete a mission. He ran until he thought his lungs would burst, trying to save the boy draped over his shoulder.

He looked up as Fish hesitantly handed him a plain envelope. He leaned over to show him an important part of the map during training. He sat in his room as the young soldier told him of wanting to follow in the footsteps of men he admired.

They were gone. There was nothing he could do about it. Nothing he could change. But he could honor the request to visit their mother. To let her know she should be proud. That he had personally known of their bravery.

The soft touch as Bones laid her hand on his arm provided a comfort he couldn't describe. He opened his eyes and turned to her. He knew she didn't expect anything from him. She was only letting him know she was there. His gaze traveled over her features. So much had changed between them. His guilt would stay with him forever in small ways, but he was finally thankful he'd survived. He allowed himself to remember the good things of the past.

He smiled and took a deep breath, laying his other hand over hers. Later he would tell her. He would thank her and try to relay his gratitude. For now, he had to save his words for another woman. One who waited inside the house.

He undid his seatbelt, briefly wondering how he'd let Bones convince him to wear it all the time. Opening the door, he carefully picked up the boxes and got out to stand in the sun. He supposed it was fitting that it was a bright sunny day. Birds were chirping in the trees. Butterflies danced around the flowers that surrounded the house. He felt aware of every sight and every sound around him.

He smoothed the lines of his suit as he stood to his full height. He had no need to fix the hair he'd trimmed to regulation length. In his hands he carried the rosary boxes to give their mother.

He looked over at Bones as she walked up beside him. His best friend. His partner in every way.

She gently raised her hand and placed it in the crook of his elbow as they walked up the sidewalk to meet Mrs. Williams.

Booth raised his hand to press the doorbell, but paused, his finger hovered over the button. He took one last deep breath and pushed. He listened to the footsteps on the other side of the door. Watched as the door handle turned and raised his eyes to greet the woman standing there.

As soon as he saw Mrs. Williams, he knew where Parker and Fish had gotten their looks. She had the same blonde hair even though it had streaks of gray. The hint of freckles covered by makeup. And the same light in her eyes. She was definitely their mother.

"Mrs. Williams?" he needlessly verified.

She smiled, "I've stressed over what to call you. The boys always referred to you as Booth or used your rank, and I'm sorry I don't remember your rank," she nervously laughed.

Booth quietly returned her laugh, realizing 'the boys' had also learned to speak their minds from her as well. "Booth is fine, ma'am. And this is Dr. Temperance Brennan, my..." What did he call her now?

Brennan rushed to fill his uncomfortable pause. "I'm his partner and his girlfriend. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Williams," she said, holding out her hand.

Booth tried to hide his double take, but he knew Bones had seen it.

"Won't you please come in?" she said as she stood aside to let them enter. "Would you like some lemonade? Or coffee?"

Booth finally found his voice. "None for me, thank you."

She looked at Brennan who answered, "No, thank you."

Mrs. Williams lead them to the living room, gesturing to the couch. She chose a chair opposite them and immediately began fiddle with her fingers. Each of them was silent, unwilling to broach the true reason for the visit.

Booth spoke first, coming straight to the point. If he hadn't been so nervous, he might have remembered the pleasantries. "Mrs. Williams, I want you to know it was an honor to know your sons. Parker was one of the best partners I've ever had. I didn't have much time to get to know Fish, uh, Williams, better, but I knew him well enough to know he was just as good a soldier as Parker. You raised two very fine men."

Mrs. Williams eyes teared up immediately and she pursed her lips in a smile to fight back against the emotions she was feeling. She reached for a tissue she had in her pocket and waved it in the air before touching it to her eyes. "I knew I'd need this," she chuckled self consciously. "It's strange to hear you call them that. They were always Eddie and Chris to me. But once they joined, they used everyone's last names. You think I'd be used to it by now."

A wistful smile stayed for a moment. "Did Chris ever tell you why they called him Fish?"

Booth shook his head, "No ma'am."

Her smile widened slightly and her eyes became distant. "It was during Basic Training, before I knew to be more careful in what I said to him. I wrote him a letter telling him how his younger cousin was taking swimming lessons and wanted to be a fish, just like him." She chuckled. "One of his friends got hold of the letter somehow and called him Fish. It just stuck. All his friends called him that. He always acted like it was horrible and told me to watch what I wrote, but I could tell...he liked it. It made him feel like he belonged."

She paused, her eyes traveling down to look at the floor as the memories played through her mind. A tear slowly made its way down her cheek as she whispered, "My little fish. He was such a great swimmer." She smiled through her tears. "Did you know that?"

Each moment he spent watching her pain became more difficult. He swallowed against his own pain, "No ma'am, I didn't."

"They both loved you to death. It was always Booth this and Booth that. They wanted to be just like you. It was all Chris talked about after Eddie's funeral. He was going to grow up and..."she choked up, "...be just like his brother and just like you."

Booth couldn't fight the tears any more as they welled up in his eyes. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't save them. If I could go back and change everything, I would."

She shook her head, her chin quivering. "They were soldiers. They died doing what they thought was right. They died doing what they wanted to do, Booth, and I'm very proud of them. You have no blame. I know you did everything you could. My boys were smart. They would never have chosen you as their role model if you weren't worthy of the distinction."

Booth had worried for so long about how Mrs. Williams would feel about him. Would she be angry? Would she blame him? To find out that neither of those was the case was a relief that he couldn't describe. But it was still incredibly difficult to sit in front of her...a survivor...when she'd lost both her sons.

Brennan reached out to place her hand on Booth's leg. She wanted to do something, anything to make these two people feel better, but she had no idea how. She could only sit and listen and hope that Booth knew she supported him.

Booth looked down at her hand and reached out to squeeze it in thanks as he looked back up at her. He loved her for her encouraging smile even though her worry was clearly written on her face. He turned his attention back to Mrs. Williams as he reached for the boxes beside him on the couch. "I wanted to give you something. Hopefully they'll bring you..." he shrugged, "...some comfort."

He stood up and walked over to sit in the chair next to hers. He held out Parker's box for her to take while he held Fish's out for her to see as well.

Mrs. Williams looked down at the engraving and quit fighting her tears. She gently traced her thumb over her son's name. Closing her eyes, she sniffled in a deep breath and held it. Once she could, she turned her head to the side and opened the lid with trembling fingers to look inside. When she saw the rosary, she lost whatever strength she'd gathered and broke down crying. She lifted her hand to cover her face while she struggled to regain control of her emotions.

Booth couldn't bear to see her in such pain. He knelt down in front of her and pulled her into an embrace. He tightened his arms around her when she leaned her head on his shoulder. He was fighting his own demons and it was all he could do to keep from joining her. He tried to support her the only way he could while her shoulders bobbed in rhythm with her tears.

Mrs. Williams hiccuped in a couple of deep breaths, then leaned back, fiddling with her tissue to find a dry spot. She dabbed at her eyes before closing it over her nose. "I'm sorry. I promised myself I wouldn't do this. That didn't work out so well, did it?" she sadly smiled.

Booth rested back on his legs in front of her and placed his hand on her knee, allowing his lips to raise in a small curve. "It's okay. I know how I'd feel if I lost my son. You're doing a lot better than I would be."

"You're too kind, but thank you." She wiped at the corners of her eyes again. "You have a son?"

Booth's stomach sank. Why hadn't he thought about what he was saying before he'd said it. He glanced back at Bones. She didn't always understand things, but he could tell she realized how upset he was with himself. He turned back to Mrs. Williams. "Uh, yeah. He's going to be ten soon."

"Oh, that's such a great age. Next time you visit..." she leaned her head down to look him in the eye, "...and you will visit again, right?"

Booth smiled and nodded, "Yes, ma'am."

She smiled, "Good. Well, when you come, you should bring him. And I'll try not to be so emotional next time." She patted his hand. "I'd love to meet him. Do you have a picture?"

"Yeah, I do," Booth said as he reached for his back pocket, only to find it empty. "Oh, I left my wallet in the car."

Brennan reached down for her purse. "I have one, Booth." She pulled her wallet out and flipped it open before passing it to him.

Booth grinned as he looked at her. He remembered giving her one of Parker's school pictures, but hadn't realized she carried it with her until now. He couldn't help the little jump of his heart when he took her wallet. "Thanks, Bones," he said quietly, holding her eyes for a moment, hoping she knew he was thanking her for more than the picture. He turned back and held the wallet out for Mrs. Williams to see.

"What a lovely boy. He looks so much like you. What's his name?"

This was the question that Booth had been dreading from the moment he'd mentioned his son. He pulled his bottom lip between his teeth as he looked down at the picture. He let out a sigh and looked back up at her expectant expression. He hated that he was going to rip open a wound and upset her again. "His name is Parker," he said quietly.

Her eyes raised in surprise as she huffed out a breath. She looked at him with both a question and a hint of hope. "Parker," she whispered.

Booth nodded. "I gave him your son's name."

Tears shone in her eyes once again, but her smile was one of happiness. "I don't know what to say. Thank you."

Booth smiled, "I wanted my son to have an honorable name and your son was one of the most honorable men I had known. A true friend."

She reached out to place her hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Booth. And thank you for the rosaries. They're beautiful."

Booth stood up and placed the other box in her hands. She looked down at their names again. "I have just the place to put these." She stood up, "Come with me."

Booth stood up just as Mrs. Williams turned to Brennan, "You too, Temperance," she smiled.

Brennan returned her smile and stood next to Booth. As they followed Mrs. Williams from the room, Booth put his arm around her shoulders and leaned over to kiss the top of her head. They walked down a short hallway and into a family room. Against the wall was a small shelf, holding the official Army pictures of both Parker and Fish. Next to them rested their ceremonial service flags in their triangular display cases.

Brennan had been able to remain relatively detached from everything she'd witnessed to that point. When she saw the flags, just like the one she could so easily have seen for Booth, she felt the loss this woman had suffered. She watched as Mrs. Williams reverently placed Booth's gifts next to the pictures.

Once she stepped back, Brennan looked at the finished shrine to the lives and deaths of the two young men. She turned to look up at the curve of Booth's face as he studied the display. She felt the warmth of his hand in hers. She took in a deep breath and could smell the hint of soap he'd used in the shower that morning. He was alive. He was here. And the boys in the pictures weren't.

She'd been thankful that he'd survived from the minute Jared had told her all those months ago. She had taken the time to appreciate the moments that she knew could have been non-existent. But she hadn't truly felt the weight of how easy it would have been for things to turn out differently until she saw the flags and the pictures of the young men they represented. After seeing the grief of their mother, she knew her life would have been changed had Booth not lived. She knew she would have been in just as much grief.

Brennan turned to the woman, who was looking at the display with a smile. She understood. She had looked at pictures of her mother with what she assumed was the same expression. "It's a beautiful display, Mrs. Williams."

"Thank you. And please, call me Julie." She turned back to look at the pictures again. "If we take time to remember them, a little part of them is still here. I even talk to them sometimes."

Booth looked at Bones nervously, hoping like crazy she wouldn't talk about the impossibility of them hearing her.

Brennan took a step forward to stand closer to the woman. "I occasionally go to the cemetery to visit my mother's grave. I admit, I didn't understand the benefit of talking to the dead at first, but Booth explained it would bring comfort when I needed it." She paused to look at him and smiled. "He was right."

Booth's eyes met and held hers. He had never wanted her to change. Had never expected it. But the ways that she had were breathtaking.

He glanced back over at the pictures. "Hm," he huffed as he smiled at a memory. "Parker played a great joke on me once." He looked up to see both women looking at him expectantly. "We'd just come back from a mission and I was beat. We hadn't had much sleep. So I laid down on my rack in one of the tents we set up at base camp. I was out cold the second I was horizontal. Next thing I know, it sounds like there's an explosion right under me. Well, there was actually. Parker had snuck an MRE bomb under the edge of the tent and managed to get it right under my rack. Damn thing hit me in the ass when it went off," he laughed. He realized what he'd just said and zipped his head over to Mrs. Williams who was already laughing. "I apologize, Mrs. Williams."

"No, no! Don't apologize. I've been the only woman in a family of men for a long time now, Booth. You think I haven't heard language like that before? Please! And I told you, it's Julie," she smiled. "Eddie did the same thing to Chip, my husband, one time, only he was out in the garage working on the fuse box! I heard his yell all the way in the house!"

Brennan looked back and forth at the two of them while they laughed at what was apparently a joke. "I don't understand. What's an MRE bomb?"

Booth grinned. "There's a chemical packet in MRE's that's used to heat up the food. You cut open the packet, dump the chemicals in a canteen or a plastic bottle, mix in some water, slap on the cap and presto...automatic prank bomb."

Brennan grinned. "Ahh! I see. Adding the water to the magnesium and iron causes the oxidation-reduction reaction and the addition of the sodium chloride accelerates the exothermic reaction which would quickly breech the tolerance levels of the container."

Booth looked at her in confusion. "Well, the gas makes the bottle expand until it can't and it just blows up."

"Yes, that's what I said. It's quite funny, actually," she said as she laughed.

"Well, I didn't think it was so funny at first. I scrambled off my rack and had my sidearm out in two seconds flat. Then I heard Parker laughing on the other side of the tent."

Julie started laughing again. "That sounds exactly like something he'd do. He was always a jokester. From the time he was little."

Booth grinned, happy they were able to remember the good times. "Yeah, if the guys ever needed an idea for a prank, he was the one to go to."

Booth looked over at Bones and smiled as they walked down the hallway toward their hotel room. He was thankful that she'd allowed him time to think about the day instead of pulling him into a conversation. Neither of them had said a word since they'd left Julie's house outside of checking in. He inserted the key card into door and opened it, allowing her to go in first.

As soon as the door shut behind him, he let go of his suitcase and stopped. He didn't have to ask, she already knew what he needed and walked toward him. As soon as she was within reach, he pulled her to his chest and wrapped his arms around her. This was what he needed more than anything else in the world.

He stood there, quietly holding Bones as his mind drifted over the events of the day. More than once, he'd almost talked himself out of coming out so soon after returning to DC. He had wanted to put off what he knew was going to be a difficult meeting. But Julie had seemed like a great person and he'd really enjoyed the visit, even promising to continue visiting her in the future. They'd spent longer there than he thought they would. As good as it had been, though, he was quite happy to be alone with Bones.

He pulled back to look at her. "I know you researched places to eat, but would you mind if we just ordered room service and stayed in tonight? We've got the whole weekend to go to some of the restaurants you picked out."

She smiled, "I think that is an excellent suggestion."

"Great," he said as he let go of her, grinning like a kid and clapping his hands together. "Then I'm gonna get into my pj's."

"You brought pajamas? You never wear them when we're home. Why would you do so now?"

He flashed his usual charm smile and winked. "I never said I was keeping them on all night."

"Ahhhh. You want to be fully clothed when dinner arrives."

"You got it, Bones!"

Booth quickly unpacked his bag and changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, before letting Bones have the bathroom. He'd placed their order and was sitting on the end of the bed flipping through the channels when he heard her open the door. He looked up and his jaw hit the floor when he saw her walk out in a silky little one piece nightie that barely covered anything.

"I will most definitely be answering the door when our food arrives," he said as his eyes traveled over her gorgeous figure.

She chuckled. "I am perfectly decent, Booth."

"Yeah? Well, I don't want some pimply faced teeny bopper gawking at my girlfriend."

She raised her eyebrows, showing her obvious displeasure at his statement.

"What? You were the one who used that word today with Julie."

"I was merely covering your hesitation with a descriptive term that would be readily understood."

"Sooo...you're not my girlfriend?"

"I don't particularly care for that term. It seems rather childish."

"So, what are you then?"

"We can discuss that another time. I need..."

A knock at the door interrupted anything else she might have said. Booth jumped from the bed and yanked the covers back. He grabbed her by the shoulders and backed her up until she fell onto the bed, amused at her surprised expression. He yanked the covers over her and pointed his finger at her with a grin on his face. "Stay there."

Brennan laughed, "You're being silly, Booth."

"I don't care," he threw over his shoulder as he went to answer the door.

A few hours later, Booth grabbed the food tray and put it outside their door. After locking it back he walked back over to the bed. Bones was lying on her side and looked to be very much asleep. He grinned. Things had changed so much between them and he couldn't have been happier.

He stripped down to his boxers and grabbed the remote to turn the tv off. He sat on the bed and reached out to turn off the lamp. The room was bathed in darkness as he finished climbing into bed. He rolled over and snuggled into his usual position behind her, wrapping his arm around her waist. He sighed as he closed his eyes.


"I thought you were asleep, Bones."

"No. I was just thinking."

"What about?"

"About today."

He'd been half asleep until she'd said that. "Oh?"

"My life would be very different if you hadn't survived your heatstroke." She paused. "I learned at a young age to simply accept the various circumstances of life. There are both positive and negative situations and I react to them like others do. But I choose to focus on the future rather than dwelling on the past."

"That's a good thing, Bones."

"I agree. However, I'm not sure I would have been able to maintain that outlook if you had died." She pulled his arm around her a little more tightly. "Seeing those service flags today reminded me of the day I left for Maluku. There was a large flag hanging in the airport. It was then that I recognized the fact that you could possibly return in a casket. That your flag would be in one of those cases like the ones Julie had."

"But I didn't. I survived. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere." He gently squeezed her to prove it.

She lifted his arm and rolled over to face him. He could barely see her face in the dim glow filtering in through the window.

"I knew, Booth." She moved her hand to his chest. "Angela told me she hoped I found something that would change the entire notion of what it means to be human. And I did. My time in Maluku allowed me to understand and accept my feelings for you. But in the airport? When I realized what I was leaving? That I might never see you again? I knew."

Booth's heart jumped into his throat as he listened to her. She took a deep breath and continued, "I once told you I didn't have your kind of open heart. That the definition of insanity was doing something over and over again and expecting a different outcome. And you said we should try for a different outcome. Do you remember?"

Booth briefly closed his eyes and said a prayer of thanks that God had seen fit to allow him to remember exactly what she was talking about. "Yeah, I remember."

"I'm glad you're alive and that we had the opportunity to choose a different outcome." She snuggled a little closer. "I love you, Booth."

"I love you too, Bones. More than you'll ever know." He leaned forward to softly kiss her forehead.

Brennan turned her face up and gently kissed his lips. There were still things to learn, but she had made significant progress. And she knew that Booth would be by her side, helping her just as he'd always done. That they'd learn together. Partners...in everything.

She smiled as she rested her head on his chest. "Good night, Booth."

Booth pulled her close, knowing in his heart that they had a fantastic future ahead of them.

"Good night, Bones."