Okay yay for hype on this one shot. I've been working on it for a long time and re-writing because with a one shot, you only (literally) get one shot to say what you want. Please, please review just because this is a one time thing and no more chapters. Please love it as much as it loved me and tried to rip out my soul. It was harder to write that I first gave it credit for. Plus, the prompt had me thinking about my life (it will make sense - just read.)

The Last Five Years

Booth snorted. An essay? Seriously? The kid was giving them an essay now? Sheesh, what was therapy coming to? He exchanged an amused glance with Brennan out of the corner of his eye.

"Homework? Really Sweets?"

"Yes," Sweets retorted mulishly, sticking his chin out. "And it's mandatory. If you give sub par answers – " Brennan looked horrified that he could think so little of her. "Or refuse to do the assignment…"

"Yeah, yeah," scoffed Booth, bouncing to the balls of his feet. "You'll separate us blah, blah, blah. We know." Sweets at least had the grace to look chagrined.

"It's due by our next session."

"Uh, typed or handwritten?" Brennan asked in panic, not even having scanned the prompt any more than Booth who had simply folded the paper and shoved it into his jacket pocket, more to annoy Sweets than anything.

"Handwritten is fine," Sweets informed her. "I like to see your thought process without you backspacing every other line." She looked miffed again.

"Come on Bones," laughed Booth. "Let's go grab coffee at the diner and get this one done."

"I can't Booth," she said, with real regret lancing through her voice. "My father is coming over tonight and…"

"Fine," smirked Booth, preening to cover the smarting sting he felt whenever she rejected him for anything, "I'll just be teacher's pet and do it first."

"Well, can I read it?" she asked, with any usual flagrance for societal norms. Booth pretended to be horrified.

"Is this how you got through school Bones?" he mimicked her voice and tone, over exaggerating in pitch. "By cheating?"

"I am not cheating!" she fumed. "Our answers would be radically different. And I do not sound like that," she added, sulking. Booth's answering grin lit up his whole face.

"Would you let me read yours?" he asked shrewdly. She needed no time to think; she hardly batted a lash and met his gaze with her topaz eyes squarely.

"Yes." Booth bit the inside of his bottom lip. The offer was tantalizing, no doubt about it.

"Fine. We'll meet here early – outside Sweets' office and read in the lobby."

"I'd like to be the first…" Sweets called to the partners' retreating backs as they both exited, slamming the door behind them. "…to read them."

Booth hummed as he drove home, happy for once to be doing homework. He knew the faster he got his done, the more television he could watch. Better yet, watch a more flustered Brennan when she realized she wasn't top of the class. He strolled up the stairs, juggling his keys and opened his door with his back pushing it in while he checked his mail.

He put the essay off for a while, chucking the folded paper on the table, shrugging from his jacket and zapping together lukewarm leftovers. After a quick jog up and down the stairs as it was drizzling outside, the rain halfheartedly pelting his warped windows under the stone overhang of his building, Booth stepped into the shower, toweled dry and flung himself down at the table with a number 2 pencil. He smoothed the page out and read the prompt.

She hadn't meant to lie to Booth. Her father had stopped in briefly, having forgotten a pair of his jeans last time he had stayed the night in her guest room. Yet the prospect of writing a paper of what she strongly suspected would contain a lot of memories about him…Brennan wasn't sure if she wanted him there to read her expressions as she wrote. It was about the control. She was perfectly willing to tell Booth about her emotions, but not at the same time they were occurring.

She was stalling and she knew it. She had folded the blanket over the back of the couch three times. She had done the laundry. She had scrubbed the kitchen immaculately. She had even phoned Russ, her reticence to talk over the phone fading in the dawning wake of that daunting paper lying so innocuously on her kitchen table. However, when she only got his answering machine, Brennan sighed and steeled herself to her fate. She perched gingerly on the edge of her chair, and read the prompt.

If you could relive the last five or even ten years of your life, yet remembering everything you know now, what would you change and why? How would this affect your other life decisions? Would you change several or only one? How do you think your life would be different? Remember, your consciousness and memories would not be affected.

Booth snorted. Ten years? – this kid probably thought he was fifty years old or something. Booth shrugged it off. He was only…38. Thirty eight? How had the years slipped by without him noticing? As a kid…hell even as an adult he had seen himself differently at this age. He was old…Booth flexed a bicep. Admittedly still studly, but old. Almost 40.

He looked at the prompt again. If I could relive the last five years… Booth thought about it. Well five years ago…He frowned. Nothing much had changed in five years. It was as long as he and Brennan had been working together – not to mention the year before on their first case. He had been 32. His unconscious grin grew. She had only been 27. But that was only their searing tequila flavored kiss in the rain. That was six years ago – outside the parameters.

Booth concentrated. Five years. I'd change it all, he thought to himself. I should have manned up and confessed attraction while we were still receptive. I should have not opened the fridge. We should have sung to Foreigner and I'd have taken her to that beautifully big bed of hers and worried about the mob later.

Oh yeah? Asked a snarky little voice. And what would happen if she had slipped out of bed to get some water in the middle of the night? She was too small to survive the blast.

She's not small, Booth argued with himself. She's five nine. She's the perfect height.

For what? The voice asked again. Booth had to take a deep breath and say a few Hail Mary's before his brain got too far off topic onto his favorite fantasy.

I'd have at least made sure we were together. Five years wasted. Booth mulled for a while, slowly tapping his pencil against the paper, oblivious to the chalky charcoal mess it was making. I wouldn't have let her push me away when I kissed her. Regardless of being with her or not, he still had been with her. Next to her, learning her inside and out. Just as she had been learning his patterns and his mannerisms. His heart ached to realize how perfect they were together. He gritted his teeth, bringing a sarcastic edge to his thoughts only to be confounded yet again by his own mind. He realized with an irritated sort of snort, that the last five years were the best of his life.

In her own kitchen, unconsciously mirroring Booth's posture and absentmindedly nibbling on the cap of her black ink pen (some old school habits never truly died), Brennan huffed in outrage. The last five years.

"Besides the obvious?" she murmured sardonically aloud to her empty apartment. No one answered. Predictably. But what was the obvious? Was it that she should have slept with Booth on that night six years ago? No. That would have gotten her into an awkward relationship neither had been ready for. It would have been messy and ended poorly. And she would have ended it, because she hadn't been ready to be anyone's partner. She worked solo.

But working solo, playing solos, even being solo was all about the spotlight; a light that ferreted out your most embarrassing mistakes and shone a glaring ray upon imperfections. But she felt that when she was with Booth, they stood back to back, hiding their weaknesses from everyone save each other.

So the other obvious answer was that she should have said yes just a few scant months before, and should have taken the chance when Booth had poured his heart out to her. Her pen tapped little irritable freckles all over the top of her page. She couldn't write that. Sweets didn't know that had happened. And she couldn't let Booth read it unless that was absolutely sure that was what she wanted.

The terrifying thing was she didn't know what she wanted. Brennan was all about control, and being on her own and playing her own solos had made her a perfectionist. She worked perfectly, efficiently, and completely 100% on her own steam. She had a single-minded drive and a big taste for ambition, with a side dish of distaste for other people. However, now Brennan realized she didn't know what she wanted. She was ambivalent. Her career was everything to her, yet deep in her heart she knew that if Booth asked her to sail around the Caribbean with him selling sandwiches, as Sully had done, she wouldn't have had to think. She would have begun to inform him of the resident diseases without even a pause, taken for fact that their partnership would be normal. And that frightened her more than even perhaps the gravedigger. She would follow him to the ends of the earth, if he asked her to give up her career – the one she had obsessed over and worked for her entire life for – but she felt safe knowing he would never ask. He would sooner sacrifice his own happiness than compromise her own.

The last five years. Brennan clicked her pen a couple more times, tired of gnawing it and making little slashes along the corners of the page, falling into her old habit of doodling during those completely wasteful and banal math classes of high school. As if anyone didn't understand advanced calculus as a sophomore.

What else happened, she asked herself. Most of what flashed through her head were cases with Booth, little regrets like jabs of needles. She regretted killing, though she wouldn't change her actions as both times they had saved her partner's life. She regretted not listening to Booth more, or understanding him sooner. She regretted the gravedigger incident, but she wouldn't change that, as she was unsure of what the ramifications were. Perhaps the gravedigger would have taken someone less strong than Booth – someone like Angela who couldn't have muscled her way out of the cargo hold of the ship and would have been drown in her own terror, crammed under the ocean in a submarine. Brennan tried to get her breathing under control, realizing she had left a streak of rage over the top of the paper, as her hands shook. She tried to wipe the visual image of Angela's decomposing corpse resurfacing years later and Brennan herself having to pry her out of the submarine. Brennan stood to make herself tea as she thought further.

Hot water sloshed on her hand as she sat abruptly down. She scribbled her first line, a completely listless opening before penning her agony over Zack. She should have seen it. She stopped, confused, as another thought wormed its way into her head. She wouldn't have the prestige or the rotating knowledge of so many interns without Zack. She tried to tell herself she would have gotten around to it but knew before she completed a thought what a false and shallow lie it was. She had been comfortable around Zack, and many cases couldn't have been solved without the different walks of life from the interns casting new evidence on the facts.

Her thoughts (predictably from jail to jail) skipped from Zack in a mental institution to her own father. Was she bitter he had found her? Ruined her life with new questions and discoveries about her family?

But she got to be with Russ now. She had a father who brought her cookies again. As always, her mind flickered to what Booth would say. She ground her teeth realizing he had advised her over and over to give her father a chance. For what? She wanted to say, for his amazing criminal abilities? Unbidden, an image of her father smothering a woman on a pillow sprang to mind. She immediately tried to push it down but realized with some shock, without Max's help, Brennan would have never found Booth when kidnapped by Gallagher. He would have been tortured to death. He would have died, alone and petrified behind a calm demeanor. She wondered if his last thoughts would have been of her. Disgusted, she crossed out what little she had and flung herself back into her chair. Without Max, Booth would be dead. Without Max, her mother's murder would have been unsolved. Without Max, Brennan would have never known what had happened. And that lack of closure would have eaten her up inside until she was too bitter to form new connections. It had come close anyways, long before she herself was an old woman.

She realized with a start, that the last five years had been packed full of so much angst, anger, death, and violence, yet also filled with new people, with joy and fierce new friendships. Those tumultuous times had been weathered with her best friend, and in her heart she knew it wasn't Angela. She wouldn't change the last five years for anything.

Booth had already snapped through his first Ticonderoga. It lay in little yellow pieces beneath his palm as he had mulled and tensed over the last five years. He sighed. He was getting old; ten years then. Sweets was smart. He had known when he had written the prompt Booth would have to back track more than the last five years. Booth ground his teeth. He was positive Brennan had loads to say on the last five years. All that she regretted. His blood ran cold, wondering if she regretted partnering with him. He snapped at himself. Focus.

The last ten years. He would be twenty eight. His burgeoning career into the FBI. His rookie years when he gambled too much. His relationship with Rebecca. Booth smiled sardonically. Here were years, he thought to himself, that were easy to regret and to fix. He set his pencil to paper, the first two broken shards rolling off the table. First of all, he would have been straight laced in the FBI. He wouldn't have taken the "freaky" cases. He would have been a neat arrow – soaring to the top in a straight shot. He would have cleaned up his life to match his career. He wouldn't have gambled, if he knew what he did now, he'd have sought out Gordon Gordon, plopped himself down, and spilled his entire past about Iraq. Rebecca was someone he loved once, but he shouldn't have waited. He should have either proposed sooner – Booth's mind rejected that almost immediately – or broken it off when they felt the thing between them waning.

Grinning now that he was on a roll, Booth thought a little harder. His thoughts immediately coalesced into this new image that far outstripped where he was now. He would be rich. Well, at least richer, not living over a liquor store. He'd have a house and collect art like dogs playing poker. Maybe he and Cam would have had a shot. His mind fumbled suddenly. But if Cam was working for the Jeffersonian…he would meet Bones even then. But Cam wouldn't work for the Jeffersonian, said a nasty little voice and Booth's burgeoning lungs full of joy and regret deflated as he listened. She only got the job because you recommended her. Because you knew how much she deserved it. You would have condemned her to a life of basements. Of death without drains. You wouldn't know anyone at the Jeffersonian – not even Zack. He briefly rose out of his dark spiral to wonder if that was at least worth it – never having to know Zack. Although his face grinned, his heart did not. His thoughts continued snidely.

You would have been the straight shot; no working with squints. Your partner would have been a middle aged man likely to be a handful of years older than you were. You wouldn't be in a relationship. You wouldn't be friends with Hodgins or Wendell or even know who Angela was. Cam would be a distant memory since she would still be living in New York. And you wouldn't have a son.

Booth's heart stopped as he realized the implications of his self-righteous regrets. He wouldn't have a son. Parker wouldn't exist. If, as the prompt said, he could travel back in time and fix his life and still retain his memories…he would know of Brennan, and she wouldn't know who he was. He would know Cam was stuck in a dead end job. He would stare at his kitchen table after work, knowing that the son he should have hugged didn't even exist.

Furious with himself for such traitorous thoughts, Booth viciously rubbed out his brief self righteous paragraph of changing those crucial years to his life. He ripped the page in his anger and threw the entire thing across the room. How could he even think such thoughts?

He opened another beer and took a break, balefully glaring at the blaring television to eradicate his selfish mind.

Brennan sighed, wondering if she could possibly white out the page and recopy it so as not to turn the mess before her into Sweets. One corner of the page was almost beautiful – a maze work of spirals and sunflowers. The other few things she had written had been effectively struck through, and re-struck through so that they were nearly impossible to read. She didn't want Sweets to read mistakes. She chewed viciously on the pen cap and started when she heard a clean snap. She yanked the pen out of her mouth, irrationally afraid of splintering her teeth, only to have a blinding moment of relief upon realizing she had gnawed cleanly through the cap in a nice slit. Disgusted at herself, she quickly threw the cap in the trash can so the temptation would no longer be there.

She had realized quite quickly, that Sweets had predicted she would need to think outside of her years with Booth. It irked her knowing that the young psychologist could see through her façade, and it made her wonder why he didn't take more advantage. It was like he didn't even know the cards he held in his hand. Although she never out rightly told him so, he had lumped her and Booth together in most of his gestures, syntax and emails. He had told her on a purely grammatical, anthropological level that he regarded them as more than just a team. As one person. Brennan carefully neutralized her expression; she knew she had flawless skin and couldn't imagine permanently wrinkling it with something so preventable as a scowl.

The last ten years. She breathed evenly, trying not to scare herself. Twenty-three. She smiled self-consciously.

"Oh Michael," she said to no one in particular. Twenty-three was the height of her graduate school. She was a double PhD candidate and people, instead of laughing at her, were mostly impressed and took her seriously. For the first time in her life, even if she behaved rigidly without social reserve, she felt as if she were in a place where people understood and accepted her.

"I might have taken more classes," she murmured as she idly scratched the sentence lightly onto the paper. She didn't dare to darken the strokes; she was afraid she'd end up crossing them out again. In less than a second, she had struck through even that line, reminding herself of her egregious debt and struggling to find an amenable job during her graduate years as a source of income without even a brother to see her through some of the most financially hard times in her life. Brennan had never breathed a word of it to Booth, as he was constantly berating and teasing her for her superfluous author's salary, yet she had known a full year of starving herself on one meal a day just to get through school. She had allowed herself to pay for the cafeteria food once a day, as it was an unlimited buffet, as she sat alone day after day, shielding herself both literally and figuratively from her peers and professors with books.

Michael had been her professor; it was he who first noticed her voracious eating. She sometimes wondered if she hadn't slept with him that first time just to get a free meal. To Brennan, seeing the refugees and starving children in developing countries was not as foreign of a concept as everyone seemed to believe. She knew what it was like to be hungry every moment of the day.

She idly toyed with the idea of going back in time and getting a job simultaneously as she was studying and writing her theses. She would, after all, retain all the information from her current age. She immediately dismissed the idea as ludicrous. The writing and researching and organizing alone was the most difficult and tedious part. The education had been fascinating and only a tenth of her effort, if that. There was no possible way she could have been employed as well. Brennan found she had a new sort of grudging respect for Wendell Bray. He was the American Prodigy; he had pulled himself up 'by his bootstraps' an idiomatic expression that baffled her.

Brennan realized that although she had not engendered nor encountered any difficulty in getting the best possible job available, she might have striven to be more effective in her interpersonal relationships. She mulled silently for minutes, lost in space, her teeth voraciously tearing little strips of white off the end of the pen, liking the feel of the grooves against her tongue.

Hodgins, to begin with, had been impossible. Rowdy, crude and most definitely rude, she had been firm but not unfair. His incessant rubber band snapping had almost driven her to punching him. She thought she had done fairly well given his state over six or seven years ago. Brennan almost shook herself. Had it really been that long? She hadn't even considered him a friend for more than four. A pang of guilt seized her gut. Even with her knowledge of him now, and all they had braved together - fervently believing (although she would never for one second confess it to another soul) that there was absolutely no chance they would survive the last explosion in the car – she found it unlikely that they would have gotten along ten years before, when they had both been radically different people.

Mulling over the rest of her relationships, Brennan concluded she was pleased with the state of affairs and how they had developed; like cell biology and reproduction, she didn't want to change or vary any of the stages lest it differentiate an already likeable outcome.

She did think she should have been nicer to Cam. But she didn't write that particular regret down.

There was one regret she did have. Breath hitched, Brennan hastily scripted her confession for answering the phone on one of her birthdays; the call from Russ she had ignored for over ten years.

She would have had a family again.

Her breath, at first ragged, now stopped; but that would mean sacrificing the family she already had. It meant giving up a sister like Angela. It meant giving up a younger brother like Zack. It meant she would have never grown close to Booth.

And if she hadn't grown close to Booth…

The images flashed over her vision in a way they never had during her close brushes with death. Her father returning, the closure of her mother, the saving of her life. She swallowed. She owed Booth her very life. But deep down, she knew she owed him more than that.

That hot molten feeling that comes with just enough steaming raspberry chocolate cake, or from holding a newborn child, or from realizing with a start that you're the first person to ever have walked a particular place; Brennan didn't know what to call that fierce rapturous joy. Love didn't begin to cover it.

It was only a day later did she notice the warped tear stains that saturated the wording and shimmered in the light, reflecting a dim facet of her previous exultation.

Booth was tired of writing. He almost laughed a short bark of ironic comedy. He hadn't written one goddamn word he hadn't erased with long grey streaks. He knew, more clearly than he could read the label on the long necked green bottle of beer in his hand, he would have to go back fifteen years or more to find anything that was possible to change. Booth wanted to laugh derisively; he had thought this assignment would be easy. Sweets was now asking for the most touchy, the most sacred, and the most secret part of his life. Booth mulled it over.

No way. No way. I'm not telling that little punk anything.

Deciding this, he went to change for bed. It was too early to sleep but he couldn't stand to stare at the paper. He would just tell Sweets he didn't regret anything.

He turned off all the light as he sighed heavily, crawling like a child up the sheets of his bed, slinking hand over hand like an army crawl until he turned heavily onto his pillow, squirming the sheets down around his legs and folding his hands over one another over his abdomen.

His phone rang.

Cursing, Booth threw himself on the floor, catching himself handily by his toes and the palms of his hands. He forced himself up with a soldier's quick ease and snatched his phone to flip it open on the last ring.

"Booth." His voice was terse.

"Booth." Her voice was tremulous.

"Bones." His voice had changed radically. He didn't need to say the screaming question 'what's wrong,' or 'is everything all right?' Even she could hear the concern.

"I'm fine."

"Then what…"

"I finished."

"Yeah. Me too."

"Oh." Her voice was very small.

"Want to come over?" Booth's eyes popped open as that popped out.

"It's late." Hesitant, but eager.

"So long as you don't care I'm in pajamas."

"I suppose I can pack a bag." His lips twitched against the speaker.

"I'll make a surprise."

"Coffee." Her voice smiled.

"You got it."

"Ten minutes."



His 'I love you,' hung in the air.

Packing her bag, Brennan heard it. She ignored it.

"I brought you a present."

"Ice cream?" Booth asked, pretending to eagerly search her person with his hands, like a cop feel up a suspect. He could have killed himself for not thinking of it earlier. Squirming and ticklish she pushed him away with just enough force so that he knew she would use deadly force if he continued. She fished the bottle out of her bag.

"Better. Wine."

"Better?" sulked Booth and Brennan had to smile. The tension was palpable and hummed in the air like an acapella choir hovering on a discordant note.

They sat, and Booth brought over a loaf of bread still crackling in the bakery bag and warm from where he had popped it in the oven. Butter and jam already were set.

"Sourdough! My favorite," savored Brennan inhaling. "Booth-" she tried to reproach him. He had to have bought the bread on his way home. He knew her far too well.

"yeah, well, fresh from the oven," he smiled crookedly as he unearthed a very large bread knife.

"Would you like to do the honors?" Brennan took the knife thoughtfully, but, pursing her lips, laid it on the table and seized the bread. Tearing it in half she handed the steaming loaf across the table.

"To gluttony," she toasted, and stuck her finger in the butter to spread on the bread, giggling.

"There's a knife," he observed mildly, but his tongue had swollen up after those words, watching her delicately suck the butter from around her finger, nibbling on the sensitive flesh of her finger pad and falsely swooning.

"No silverware," she laughed.

"But the jam…" protested Booth, but laughing, stuck his entire hand in the jar. For several moments he was like a raccoon coming upon a trap; too greedy to withdraw with nothing, Booth had clenched a squashy handful of jelly. Reluctantly, since his fist didn't fit through the lid, he withdrew his jelly besmeared hand and held it to her. "Jam with that bread?"

Laughing, Brennan copiously wiped her steaming loaf over the palm of his hand. Booth did the same to the back and began licking off the extra. Brennan concentrated on swallowing the bread in her mouth upon noticing exactly how big his hands were.

"What did you write?" he asked in a low voice, his anxiety apparent even to her oblivious social skills. She was silent for a long minute, taking a large bite of bread from the center (leaving the crunchy toasted outer layer to be mixed with butter), to gain time.

"I…couldn't," she confessed quietly. "I couldn't write anything." His expression immediately cleared.

"Oh, well I wrote all about you and my regrets of ever partering with you." She squeaked in indignation, her round blue eyes wide over her distended chipmunk cheeks. Booth, chuckling, hastily amended his statement, his eyes flipping dark, brooding and completely serious.

"I couldn't change anything."

"Because changing even a minutiae of details would radically alter the very satisfactory time period in which we-"

"Because if I changed anything, I wouldn't have what I have." They spoke overlapping each other. Booth's simple sentence finished first and Brennan, scowling a mock frown at him petulantly replied,

"That's what I said."

"It just took you so long to say it Bones, just such a long time." He was teasing, but his eyes were the same serious cast. Brennan swallowed a gulp of wine, flustered. For once, he didn't put her at ease by qualifying his statement.

The moment fluttered between them, a butterfly in a jar, before, sighing, Booth removed the lid, and let it go.

"What did you think you'd regret?" Brennan asked instead, and Booth brightened, eager to explain his thought process.

They talked long into the night; Booth suggested a walk and Brennan, never fearing for her own safety, though protesting she was both in pajamas and sticky, accompanied him.

The September air in DC was nice and cool against their skin at the hush of night. The streets were veritably deserted. Booth noticed her goosebumps running up her arms first. He immediately shrugged out of his jacket over her protests. When he looked pointedly down at her shirt, she flushed a brilliant crimson and took it without protest.

"Where is everyone?" she asked, enjoying the walk up and down the pretty streetfronts of town homes.

"It's late," said Booth in a quiet voice.

"Not so late," countered Brennan, tugging at her phone. "It's only…Booth! It's three in the morning!"

"I know." His voice was amused, and she couldn't see his face with the dark shadows the occasional streetlamp cast his sharp features into. "I checked the time before we left."

"It's completely ludicrous to be walking about – we should be asleep!" her voice was escalating slightly; she had always been a stickler for rules. "We have wo-"

He could have been covering her mouth with his; it would have been equally effective as stifling her words as he had with a big hand around her head. She squirmed and he simply forced her face into his shirt patting her on the head absurdly as if she were a child.

Both out of a physical response to his solid warmth, and for reasons Brennan didn't want to understand, her arms encircled his waist in the dark. The tension was humming more ferociously now; a swarm of bees instead of a high keen.

"What are you doing?" she whispered in her husky voice and Booth felt her hot breath leech through his thin t-shirt and her voice vibrate over his skin. He tensed without meaning to and felt her huff a silent laugh at his response.

"Come on Bones," he whispered right back. "You never like walking at night?" She turned her face toward the sky, looking at the stars.

"It is very beautiful. The pollution isn't quite as visible without solar lighting clouding the stars." Her face was tilted at the perfect angle. He could have kissed her in a whispered breath.

A car alarm screamed so loudly they both jumped apart guiltily and defensively. The loud screeching grated on their nerves. Booth, cursing cosmic luck, grabbed her hand without thinking and pulled her into a run.

"Come on Bones! Come on!"

"Why are we running?" she laughed giddily, the brush with something more leaving her breathless with adrenaline.

"We're going swimming!"


"Come on! Come on!"

"I don't think this is a good idea!" panted Brennan. They ran on regardless, finding themselves suddenly frozen in the midst of the World War II memorial, the 50 rushing waterfalls falling into the greater fountain leading into the stretch of water in front of the Lincoln Memorial the loudest thing besides their pounding hearts.

"There are security guards," she hissed. He shrugged, and she could see his teeth flashing whitely.

"We work for the FBI," he hissed right back. "If we want to play in the fountain, we can play in the fountain."

"I figured you would be upset at the sacrilege. Don't you consider it disrespectful." For a moment Booth froze, and Brennan immediately regretted hitting a nerve. But when he spoke his voice was low and thoughtful.

"I think…as much as I can think…since Pops served in this war – they were all so young. They would like it. It's a testament to life. To friendship. To-" he didn't continue but Brennan finished for him, with the unsatisfactory word they both reverted to when they didn't want to voice what they truly meant.


"Yeah, to partners." Both were aware of the growing meaning implied behind the word.

"In our clothes?" whispered Brennan and Booth thought his head would explod from the brief flashed image of his partner stripping.

"What and add indecent exposure if we get caught?" laughed Booth and pushed Brennan, who gave a clipped cry, into the fountain. He jumped in after her, splashing and playing as they enjoyed themselves in excited whispers of joy. It was half an hour before they saw the bobbing flashlight of the security guard finally circling around the memorials walking – at a distance yet – towards them.

"A penny for luck," whispered Booth, making Brennan squeak a he growled the words in her ear. She hadn't heard him get so close. She felt him press something into her hand and she curled her palm around it instinctively.

"Let's go!" she whispered fiercely back, hauling herself dripping from the fountain. In the moonlight, her plastered clothes left very little to the imagination. It was a full second before Booth had enough breath to splash her and haul himself out with a "Ten four - West march!"

They both, skittering and shivering, jogged lightly away into the shadows of the streets, both marveling at the ridiculousness of being alive and soaking at 4:45 in the morning.

"We have to go back!"

"I'm lost," sulked Booth miserably. Brennan shot him a sidelong glance, not believing him for a second.

"I'm freezing," she complained instead. Compliantly Booth wrapped his arms around her, exaggeratedly straddling her as she walked so that his stiff legged waddle made her laugh loudly in the early morning.

"The sun!" he whispered, his breath fanning and raising goosebumps along one perfectly sculpted jaw. They both looked, huddling for warmth, at the dawn.

"Okay, now we can go back," Booth rumbled and Brennan felt his words in the pit of her abdomen. She was suddenly very, very warm.

"Booth?" she twisted in his grasp, and there they were, inches apart. He looked down, his face a mixture of firmly tamped hope and puzzled brows.

"Yeah Bones?"

"This was perfect." She leaned up, kissed him quickly on the cheek and then blew heavily in his ear until he was dancing backwards, yelping.

She began to run again, their city their playground, the streets quick blue slides as he pelted after her. By the time they were standing before his apartment, they were walking once more, and damp.

"We stayed up all night," she moaned.

"No use sleeping now," Booth returned cheerfully.

"I suppose," she glared.

"Our meeting with Sweets is at 8."

"Only 2 hours!"

"You'll have to do something with your hair," laughed Booth and horrified, Brennan felt her stringy waves of hair.

"You don't have a hairdryer do you?" Booth looked sufficiently insulted enough that Brennan laughed at her own question in the stairwell.

Sweets was surprised to find that his office lights were on and his door wide open. He looked around with his mug of coffee, and almost spilled it on the couch. Booth had startled him with an immense snore and Brennan, who was lying vertically across him, using one of his cradled arm and a knee as her pillow, murmured sleepily in an almost adorable way. Booth's neck was bent at an odd angle, his body slumped over the arm of the sofa, his feet flat on the floor. Both of their hair was soaking wet; Dr. Brennan's in an unusual and tight braid.

Sweets cleared his throat significantly as he took the seat across from them, steepling his fingers, content to watch them for a few moments.

"That's creepy," murmured Booth, his voice hoarse. His eyes weren't even slit open. Sweets almost jumped out of his skin; Booth's sniper reflexes were obviously full in effect. Interesting.

"What's creepy?" Sweets asked, blinking.

"Watching us sleep," groaned Brennan, her voice equally hoarse and her ribs digging into Booth's groin as she shifted and stretched.

"Ouch," grouched Booth.

"Quiet," snapped Brennan. Sweets had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the Partners' banter even half awake.

"Why are you two wet?" Sweets thought it a valid question. He followed it up with, "and did you even write the essay? It didn't have to be long."

"We didn't write the essay," moaned Booth forcing stiff arms over his head and yawning hugely. Whimpering a complaint as her head dropped forcibly into his lap, Brennan began levering herself into a sitting position, helped along immensely by a shove from Booth.

"What?" squawked Sweets, unsurprised and hurt.

"We did," Brennan placated, also yawning. "There are our answers." She pointed a shaking finger at the table as a huge yawn had overtaken her. She felt something irritating on her face.

"What the—BOOTH!" she griped, peeling the penny with her fingernails out of her the indentation on her face. Booth was consumed by helpless laughter.

Sweets, in silence, looked at their papers. It was easy to tell who's was who's. Dr. Brennan's was covered in a corner of doodling in pen, irritated tap marks, multiple crossed out sentences scribbled past legibility and a huge stain where it looked as if the entire pen had in fact exploded. Agent Booth's was a large smear of grey graphite rubbed out and a gaping hole in the middle where he had rubbed too hard.

"These," Sweets pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand, trying not to get angry, "are your essays." Booth leaned forward and poked a finger through the hole in his paper.

"Yeah," he said, but his voice was serious now. "If I changed anything…I'd get a huge hole in my life. People like Parker…like Jared…like…well they just wouldn't exist, wouldn't be the same. Where I'm at now, who I'm with…this is where I want to be, regardless of how I got here." Sweets stopped, impressed despite himself. He reexamined the paper. It was obvious that Agent Booth had labored heavily over the prompt. He could read words that hadn't entirely been erased.

"And you Dr. Brennan?"

"My life belongs to Booth," she said simply, and saw from the corner of her eye, both Sweets' and Booth's jaws drop. "He has literally saved my life, my family's life and the lives of my friends on so many ocassions, I owe him my life both physically and metaphysically. I could either be biologically dead, or be living in a reality where I knew a better one, yet lost everything to something Booth has prevented. Why should I change something like that?"

"Because partners don't change each other," added Booth and she looked at him, a smile warming her face.

"Exactly," she said quietly. "Exactly. How could I ever regret the last five years?"