Title: A Love Warm and Bright (1/3)

Rating: K+ (for now)

Summary: After Booth returns to DC with his new girlfriend, Brennan attempts to start with a clean slate by returning some of his things. Inspired by Vertical Horizon's "Sunrays and Saturdays".

Spoilers: Up til the end of S5 and current S6 spoilers.

Disclaimer: Bones is the property of FOX, Hart Hanson, and various other awesome and intelligent people who work for one of the best television shows currently on air.

Author's Notes: Like many other shippers out there, I do believe that B&B are meant together, like icing on a cupcake, cherry on a sunday, apple in a pie. But I don't think getting together would be easy, especially with what we've heard of Season 6. Having said that, I'm also fairly certain that after returning from Maluku Islands, Brennan would have already realized the extent of her feelings for Booth, but wouldn't want to be labeled a homewrecker. Instead, she'd be supportive and loyal, but at the same time, she'd be wallowing in regret.

Seeley Booth was trained, both by his military superiors and his teachers at Quantico, to be exceptionally observant. After all, he wouldn't be good at his job had he not honed his intuition as well as his reflexes. Tonight, for instance, just as he was turning in, there were two knocks on his apartment door. Rapid-fire, knuckles striking the wood quickly, impatiently. Bones, he thought, padding on bare feet towards the door, flicking the deadbolt from the catch and opening the door.

She stood outside his door, her pale skin luminous in the hallway light, her dark hair pulled up in a simple ponytail. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup, her cheeks slightly pink from the cold snap. She was carrying a cardboard box with his name on the outside in her careful handwriting. It was filled with bric-a-bracs: he could see several books on proper investigative techniques, DVDs of The Godfather and Star Wars, his black FBI t-shirt that she had swiped after one weekend. "Can I come in?" she asked hesitantly, peering over his shoulder to check if there was anyone there.

He raked a hand over his hair and waved her in. "Hannah's not here tonight, Bones. Relax. It's just me."

"Oh. Good." She stepped over the threshold and toed off her sneakers. "Not that I mean that it's good she's not here, it's just good, you know, since I'm not planning to stay anyway..." Her voice trailed off, a hint of blush still riding high on her cheeks.

He felt like he was in high school again, hemming and hawing, hands in the pockets of his cotton sleep pants. "So what have you got there, Bones?" he asked, trying to diffuse the tension that suddenly wrapped around them, threatening to cut off his air supply.

"You left some things in my apartment. I was cleaning up today, and I figured you might want them back." She stretched out her arms and handed him the box. His heart dropped right into the pit of his stomach as he looked at the contents. Staring back at him were Brainy Smurf and Jasper the Pig.

"Anyway, I'd better get going. I need to report tomorrow morning to the lab, and get my papers in order." She already had her back turned to him, slipping her shoes back on, her fingers on her key chain. "Oh, and before I forget - " she walked back and pressed a small metal object into his hand. The spare key to his apartment. Her palm was smooth and pale, her nails neatly trimmed. "I assume you'd prefer having your privacy, since you're now with Hannah, and would not appreciate any of us suddenly coming around in the middle of the night."

"But Bones, I - "

She flashed him a smile, obviously fake, and twisted the doorknob open. "I'll see you at work, Booth. Good night."

And then she was gone, and he was left standing in the middle of his kitchen, holding a box of old memories, old dreams, his heart threatening to break into a million pieces.

Temperance Brennan, by all accounts and purposes, was a logical and rational person. And when she came back from the Maluku Islands, she was quite certain that it was the logical and rational thing to give into the attraction that seemed to be pulling herself and Booth into an inevitable direction. After all, far be it for her to give into the whims of her emotions, she actually saw that being with Booth was something that had been in the works for quite some time (6 years!) and she figured that if he was still as in love with her as he professed to be, he would be quite pleased with her conclusion. She had examined each and every facet of their relationship, established that he did, indeed, love her and not in an "atta-girl" kind of way, and that she had also returned the sentiment. Love was, at least for her, an emotion that was so out of her league that only quiet meditation on a faraway island was able to hit it home.

But when he arrived at the Founding Fathers Friday evening, his arms were slung around the slender shoulders of a pretty blonde with sparkling eyes and sharp witticisms. He introduced her to the Squint Squad as Hannah, his girlfriend. Brennan felt her fingers and toes go numb, and the margarita in her mouth turned to dust. Cam closed her eyes for a second, trying not to slug her friend, while both Hodgins and Angela gave her a look that was a mix of pity and heartbreak. (Thankfully, Sweets had declined their invitation; he was busy celebrating Daisy's return in private, thanks very much.)

Booth introduced her with pride and warmth in his voice. "And this is my partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan." But the word 'partner' suddenly seemed to be the last thing she wanted to be named as: she was more than his partner. She was his best friend, his confidant, the only person he trusted with his entire life. And now... now his eyes were drawn to another, someone who returned his warmth, his open heart, his love. She could see Booth and Hannah 30, 40, 50 years from now and she was suddenly feeling very cold and very alone.

"I'm sorry everyone," she said once the couple were ensconced beside a very uncomfortable Camille Saroyan. "I'm not feeling very well. I think I'd better go home."

Angela's face was carefully schooled to not betray the flame of anger in her eyes. "Are you sure you'll be all right, sweetie?" she asked, wrapping a comforting arm around Brennan's shoulder.

"Yes, I'll be fine," she assured them. She was surprised that Booth didn't immediately leap up and offer his company, his alpha-male tendencies now obviously directed towards someone else. Well, that was fine. She was an independent being, anyway, and didn't need any help. She picked up her bag, said a quiet goodbye to everyone at the table, and picked up the pieces of her broken dignity as she drove all the way back home.

He couldn't sleep. Tossing and turning on the bed, he glanced at the digital read-out of the bedside clock. 2:46. He finally shrugged off the sheets and walked to the kitchen to grab a glass of milk. En route to the fridge, his eyes fell upon the box that Bones had left a few hours back, along with the spare key to his apartment. Carefully, he picked up the box and walked over to the couch, setting himself down on the worn cushions and leaning back.

Six years of friendship, of partnership (of love?) narrowed down to a single box. He tossed the spare key inside, hearing it rattle between books and DVDs. He felt like he was on the wrong side of a break-up - not that there was anything between them, oh no, Bones made it very clear that night outside the Hoover. Nothing has changed, he was certain of that. Even their time apart did nothing for her: she was still wrapped up inside her comfortable blanket of logic and science and reason, and goodness knows he's tried too many times to teach her that there was more to life than the lab. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration; it was too much for any one man to bear, really, and wasn't he happy now that Hannah was in his life? Bright, spunky Hannah who made him laugh and gave him spontaneous hugs, who decorated her house with sunflowers and roses - beautiful flowers, flowers that women usually loved.

He was happy.

He was loved.

But he wasn't in love.

The realization smacked him like a blast of desert wind. Gordon Gordon once told him that he didn't know where he stood with Bones, and what would or would not catch on fire. He suspected that even then, the good doctor (now chef) knew that there was something more than platonic feelings between the two of them. His hands trembling, he stood up, pounded his fists against the wall to let out his frustration. He swore he would never again let himself feel this way about Bones, about any other woman; he managed to pick himself up from the greatest heartbreak of his life and move on. A dry laugh escaped his throat. Move on? Moving right along, all right, but he knew that he was lying to himself, to Hannah, to the world. He was something more than just Seeley Booth; he was part of a team, he was the other half of Booth and Brennan, crime-fighting, pie-loving, late-night-takeaway-eating partners. And he knew that while for most people, the term 'partners' ran a whole gamut of meanings, for him, it only meant one thing: he was only half of a person without Bones.

Tugging on a pair of old jeans lying on the floor, Booth scooped up his keys and tucked the box under one arm. He hoped Bones was still a light sleeper; he needed to talk to her more than anything else in the world. And if he played his cards right, things might still get back on track.

She was wearing a short blue kimono-style sleep robe when she opened the door, her normally light blue eyes red-rimmed with weariness, her hair sleep-tousled despite the loose ponytail she had put it up in before going to bed. He took into account the half-empty bottle of Cabernet on the dining room table, and the single wineglass beside it. "It's three in the morning, Booth," she said quietly. "Is something wrong?"

He stepped into her personal space, invading the careful concentric circles of emotional distance she had erected for years, crowding her back into the hallway of her apartment. "We need to talk, Bones."

She shrugged. "Can't it wait until tomorrow?"


"What is it about?" She gestured for him to sit down at one of the comfortable arm chairs she had scattered around the apartment, and settled herself in the one opposite it. He could see that she was carefully gathering herself. "Are you angry at me?"

"Why would I be angry at you?"

"I don't - never mind." She undid her ponytail, allowing her wavy auburn hair to cascade down her shoulders. She had cut her hair while she was away; the bangs framing her face made her look younger, more vulnerable. "What was it you wanted to say?"

He reached into the pockets of his jeans and withdrew three items, placing them on the table. He slowly ran a hand across the surface of Jasper the pig. "Look, Bones, things have been different between us lately. And I know that neither of us are at fault. And I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Hannah - things were, well, awkward between us, and she was just so happy and so new and she reminded me of what I've been missing all this time - "

"Things I could never give you," she interjected bitterly.

"What? No, no, Bones it's not that." He scooted closer, taking one of her hands into his. It was easier to examine their intertwined fingers rather than looking into her eyes (truth be told, he was just afraid that if he looked into her eyes, he would just forget what he wanted to say and just kiss her). "Hannah's a lot of things, Bones, a lot of things I thought I wanted; needed, even. But she doesn't hold a candle to you, okay? Nobody does. You're still the standard, Bones." He took a deep breath, hoping against hope that this time, his gamble would pay off. "I love you, Temperance Brennan. I still do."

He could hear the clock in the hallway ticking like a death knell, the stuttered sound of her breathing. Daring to look up, Booth could see the tears puddling in the blue of her eyes. "Oh. Oh, Bones, please don't cry..."

She took a deep breath and carefully extricated her hand from his grip. "I think you need to go back, Booth. I think you need to figure out what you want first. I think you need to sort out your own life first."

"But - "

She stood up and walked over to the door, pulling it open wordlessly. Sighing, he stood up and made his way out. The gamble had failed. Again. Oh, he was an idiot twice, thrice, a million times over. He wanted to bang his head against the wall; it would dull the pain currently taking up residence in his chest.


He turned back. She was leaning against the doorframe, her arms wrapped around her shoulders. She had a slight smile on her face. "I love you, too, Seeley Booth," she said with quiet certitude.

And then she closed the door. After a heartbeat, he heard the deadbolt lock.

A/N: Soooo... shall we continue? :) Reviews are always good for the soul.