A/N: Just for the record, for those of you unsure about Kira's presence and Brennan's sudden change of personality - in chapter 4, at the end with Brennan's date, just because she said all those things about putting Booth in the past doesn't mean that she all of a sudden has moved on. She's obviously very heartbroken over him.

And Kira, as I've stated in chapter 5, is Brennan's blast from the past, from college even. Whoever Brennan was in college, how ever she acted, she wouldn't be as strong as present day Brennan would be, what with everything she'd gone through with losing her family/being in horrible foster care. And it isn't all that hard to imagine that Brennan would be easily used by someone she cared for and not even realize it, is it?

I'll explain more in the coming chapters (Kira will be gone in just two chapters or so, by the way, for those of you who really aren't fans at all), but the main point of Kira coming back at all was for the development in Brennan's heartbreak with Booth, not anything else. I hope, even if you hate the storyline right now, you'll stick it out just a little bit longer.

There's practically no Kira or Hannah in this chapter, however. Just a lot of BB…Hope that's okay with you. And if it's not then you're insane. Get outta here!

Also, in this chapter, BB have a case together where the murderer (Sarah) had a lot of bad things happening in her past. The case wasn't even really touched on but Brennan said some things about Sarah near the end of the chapter…I hope none of you take offence to anything she said. I don't mean anything bad about people who had gone through anything that Sarah had. It's just that Brennan could see parts of herself in Sarah and was demeaning herself instead of Sarah…I just wanted to clear the air first because some people could get offended pretty easily and what Brennan said wasn't exactly kind.

Thanks so much for bearing the wait, for reading this ridiculously long A/N and please continue on with the story. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave a line or two to tell me how you felt about this chapter.

P.S. The Jeffersonian scene at the end was one of the main scenes floating around in my head that persuaded me to sit down and draft down this story in the first place. I've had it in mind for a long time and I don't feel like I did it justice but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Disclaimer: Hart Hanson owns Bones, not me.


Hold Onto Me by Sugarplum Fairies

From Where You Are by Lifehouse

Poison and Wine by the Civil Wars

Light Years Away by Mozella

Where I Stood by Missy Higgins (the Jeffersonian scene at the very end of the chapter)

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."

William Shakespeare.

November 2011.

"This pie is the best pie in the whole wide world," Booth stated, his tone a little dreamy as he scooped up another morsel of the pastry into his mouth. "Did I mention that?"

Brennan rolled her eyes. "Once or twice," she replied wryly, sipping at her third cup of coffee, her eyes falling on the colorful artwork beneath the glass of the table.

Booth simply grinned impishly at her. "Well, that's 'cuz it's true," he insisted almost childishly before finishing up the last piece of the pie. "I'm gonna have one more."

Brennan reached out and slapped his arm down when he tried to call the waitress over. "Booth, you've already had two pieces," she said disapprovingly. "It's incredibly unhealthy."

"Oh, what are you, my mother?" he teased, shrugging off her hand and calling for the waitress anyway.

Brennan shot him an icy glare. "No, I'm just your partner who wants you to live a long, healthy life that isn't ridden with diseases like diabetes," she said testily.

Booth hummed happily as the waitress slid a new plate of pie in front of him. "Aw, you want me to live a long life," he teased, causing her to throw him a cautionary look over the top of the case file she was reading. Chuckling, Booth dug into his new piece of pie with gusto. "Anyway, as you can see," he gestured to the file in her hands. "Hacker wants you to give confirmation on possible homicide."

Brennan nodded as she studied the photos the FBI field office from Oregon had sent. A group of high school seniors had gone on a camping trip in the Oregon forestry for the sole purpose of burying a time capsule. They had dug into the dirt and found a terrible surprise: the upper half of a decimated skeleton. They'd panicked, scrambled back to town and called the authorities who had been shocked to discover more than one set of remains buried at the site.

Without a forensic anthropology expert on their team, they had no idea if this was the act of a serial killer or some sort of a mass grave for people who had perished under natural causes. Knowing the work done by Brennan in DC, they had forwarded CSU pictures over to the DC field office. Hacker had then bumped it to Booth, requesting that Dr. Brennan take a look at it as soon as possible. If Brennan could identify any signs of murder from the pictures, the two of them were to head to Oregon to take point in the investigation. If she couldn't be sure, they were still to head to Oregon so she could determine the COD for each of the possible victims.

Squinting at the pictures – and causing Booth to stifle a smile before she could see it – Brennan took in every minute detail. "The first set of remains here…They're that of a child. Probably around four or five - no older than seven, at the very most," she stated, causing Booth's lighthearted attitude to darken immediately. "I can't say with certainty what the cause of death is for the child…The pictures aren't very conclusive. As for the second set of remains…There are several fractures that I can confirm are caused peri-mortem, most probably caused by the victim fighting back. There are no obvious signs of murder for two out of three remains that I can tell but the third one has a kerf mark at the sternum…The discoloration right there indicates that the victim bled out here. I can confirm that the third set of remains was a victim of murder," she informed him, taking hold of her coffee and taking a languorous sip.

Booth nodded, a sudden grimness in his expression now. "That probably means the other two were murdered, too," he said.

She frowned at him. "Conjecture," she chided.

"Deductive reasoning," he retorted with a half-smile. "I'm gonna report back to Hacker. You okay to leave at two?"

She sighed, nodding. "Sure, I guess," she muttered, draining the last of her coffee and throwing some bills on the table before standing up along with Booth.

Booth shot her a look. "Wow, don't look so enthusiastic, Bones," he commented, raising an eyebrow at her.

She smiled slightly. "I'm sorry. I just had plans with Kira tonight," she sighed again. "I already had to cancel our plans last night – some colleagues of mine in Berlin needed a consult. She's not going to be happy."

Swallowing down the slight uneasiness he felt at the mention of Brennan's girlfriend – a concept he still wasn't entirely used to after three months; Jared had found out by a slip of Booth's tongue and had proceeded to get misty-eyed, breathing out, "That is so hot…" until Padme had slapped some sense back into him – he gave her his most convincing smile.

"How's that going, by the way?" he asked as casually as possible. "You and…Kira?"

Brennan didn't catch his discomfort, too wrapped up in her own. Although she was trying her best to move on – and, admittedly, Kira being in her life made her forget her pain for short bursts of time – she found herself still drowning in a tidal wave of mixed emotions, still too much in love with him, still too heartbroken over losing him.

Not wanting him to see that, however, she smiled and said, "Things are going good."

He shot her a sideways glance as they stepped towards his truck. "Yeah?" He wasn't sure why he kept prompting her for more when he really didn't need any sort of information on her new relationship.

She shrugged. "She gets a little mad when I have to work late some nights or go out to a crime scene unexpectedly," she admitted. "But I'm sure Hannah's the same way."

The mention of Hannah made them both freeze, their eyes locked on one another.

Hannah hadn't come up in conversation in months even though she was a very big part of Booth's life. At first he'd tactfully avoided mentioning her around Brennan to allow her some peace of mind, knowing that if it were the other way around, he'd appreciate the same. Then it had just become easier not to include Hannah in his conversations with Brennan. He'd felt as though they had regained some semblance of their partnership from before and he didn't want to ruin good progress.

He was far more reserved when it came to Brennan these days and his work life and personal life were two separate things whereas before, they had meshed together, everything in his life revolving around Parker and Brennan solely. It was easier now for him to keep his personal life out of the workplace, not including Brennan or any of the Squints in his home life.

Sure, he missed them sometimes – missed her most of all – but he just had to keep reminding himself that this was for the best. It wasn't just for her benefit, but for his as well. The last thing he wanted was to be ensnared by her again. It was a very distinct possibility so distance wasn't just a precaution, it was a necessity.

A loud popping noise – a car tire blowing – shocked them out of their daze.

They averted their eyes, a thick uncomfortable tension settling over them. Booth cleared his throat. "Uhm…Want me to drop you off at your place?" he asked her.

She shook her head immediately. "No, I, uh, I should get to the lab first," she said, slowly backing away from him. "My car is there and I should tell Cam I'm going first."

Despite knowing that she could've told Cam over the phone and she could've left her car in her special reserved spot at the lab's parking lot for days if she wanted to, Booth nodded, accepting her answer.

"I'm just going to walk there," Brennan continued, not meeting his eyes properly. "It's near. I'll meet you at the airport?"

He nodded. "Okay," he said quietly, knowing she wouldn't hear it due to the distance she'd placed between them, walking briskly away from him.

Booth frowned as he watched her walk away. A breeze knocked her scent back his way and he took a ragged breath of the familiar lavender. It took him a moment to remember he was only supposed to be enamored by roses now.

Brennan did her best to calm her racing heart and soothe the bitter sting she felt in her chest as she walked as fast away from the diner without actually breaking into a run. Her broken heart rebelled strongly against her stubborn mind and her bruised ego.

You have to stop being childish, Temperance, she chided herself silently as she walked up the steps to the Jeffersonian. No matter how rocky things are right now between us, Booth is still my partner.

While things were still tensed between them, Brennan wanted things to return to normal at some point. She wasn't sure if that was possible or if they had to settle for 'almost normal' but if either one of those things were to happen at all, she had to stop being so hurt by Booth moving on. Especially now that she was supposed to be moving on with Kira.

Doing what she did best, she shoved every unresolved emotion and every warbled thought about Booth into the very back recesses of her mind, rushing into her office to get whatever she needed to do before leaving as quickly as possible and making a list of things she had to delegate to Wendell as well.

"My new batch of interns would be starting on Thursday," Brennan said to Cam as she tidied up her office hurriedly. "Hopefully I will be back by then so Wendell wouldn't have to deal with them by himself."

Cam nodded. "Sounds reasonable," she said, dark eyes following Brennan's every move from where she stood at the doorway.

Brennan paused as she passed by Cam for the third time in five minutes, dropping a stack of files in her arms. "But if I don't make it back by then, have Wendell read these," she said, nodding at the files. "They are the credentials and information on my new interns, and the file at the very top contains instructions on how to handle them when they arrive."

Shaking her head, Brennan said, "I know they're here to learn but they shouldn't be trusted with valuable work from the getting go." She was wincing as she remembered the unfortunate mishap involving Daisy Wick shattering a fragile skull. Admittedly, Daisy was more competent now but she'd rather avoid similar situations with the new interns just the same.

Cam raised an eyebrow. "First of - I think you mean 'the get-go'," she corrected with a small, fond smile. "And you want Wendell to read all of this?" she asked, her tone growing incredulous. The weight of the stack of files she was carrying was starting to make her arms feel tired and it had hardly been twenty seconds.

Brennan replied with a stern glare. "If I read it, he has to read it, too," she said, in that patented tone that never failed to make Cam feel as though their roles as employee and employer were reversed and she was getting a lecture from her boss. "I don't encourage work done lazily, Dr. Saroyan, and neither should you."

Cam felt a spark of indignant anger. "I don't," she said defensively. "You know that."

Brennan nodded her head once, briefly. "Alright, I'm going to say a quick goodbye to Angela…" she froze, her words catching up to her harried mind. It was still something alien to her, after over two months of not being a part of Angela's life the way she used to be.

"Um, I mean…I-I'm heading out," she corrected herself quickly, averting her eyes when she caught Cam's knowing look.

Clearing her throat, she took one more glance around her office in case she'd missed something. Swiping her kit from the floor near the door, she stalked past Cam as she made her way out. "I will contact you as soon as we reach the scene."

"Good luck in Oregon, Dr. Brennan!" Cam called out as she turned to head to Bone Storage, where Wendell probably was.

"She's going to Oregon?" the trying-too-hard-to-be-nonchalant voice startled Cam. She turned her head to the right and saw Angela casually walking next to her.

Cam tried her best not to roll her eyes. The two 'ex' best friends had been 'separated' for about two and a half months and it was clear they were both miserable about it. Things were tensed and uncomfortable whenever they bumped into each other at work and when they weren't around each other, they'd 'subtly' try and get someone else to tell them the tiniest tidbit of each other's lives. It was obvious they missed each other but every time someone would try and broach the subject of a reconciliation, they'd both get defensive and shut the words out.

"Yes, she is," she answered, figuring it was probably the easiest solution to try and ignore that there was a fight to begin with. "She and Booth have a case up there."


"Well, it's more of a 'possible case'," Cam clarified after a few awkward moments of silence. "They'll have to make sure it's not just a mass grave."


"She'll call once she's there."


They stopped outside of Limbo, both of them staring at one another for a few seconds. Cam sighed and started with, "Angela…"

Recognizing the 'this-has-gone-on-long-enough-please-just-go-make-up-with-Brennan-so-we-can-all-stop-walking-on-eggshells' tone, Angela held up a hand. "I don't want to hear it," she interrupted swiftly. "I have some work to do so I'm just going to head back to my office."

Cam rolled her eyes at Angela's back before heading inside Limbo. At least I can't say I didn't try, she thought wryly.

Brennan and Booth barely acknowledged each other when they met up at the airport. They nodded briefly to one another before heading towards the terminal together. The flight was quiet for them, Booth with earphones stuck in his ear and Brennan with her attention focused entirely on the book she'd brought with her.

When they'd landed, they both walked silently beside one another. They didn't need to head to baggage claim, the only thing they'd brought with them were their duffels as their carry-on; even if it had been a long time since they'd taken a trip like this together, they were still familiar with the routine.

After a few awkward bumps and uncomfortable pauses, they made their way to the car rental and got a Tahoe SUV for their duration in Oregon (Booth would've gotten a convertible but there weren't many choices to begin with…Besides, it wouldn't be a practical choice at all considering the drive up to the woods. He wished they were headed to California instead).

Brennan busied herself with the case file during the drive up to the possible crime scene while Booth fiddled with the radio knob, twisting and turning this way and that, trying to find a station he liked.

He couldn't find one; most of the channels came out full of static anyway. He gave up after ten minutes, settling on a twang-y country/rock station - the only one that wouldn't give him a static headache after listening for longer than five seconds. He wasn't a fan of the music but he needed something to fill the air in the car. The silence was killing him and the possibility of conversation was daunting.

"Coming up, a three-song super set from Hootie and the Blowfish!"

Booth groaned and Brennan shot him an amused look, shaking her head as her eyes drew back to the file opened on her lap. He lasted all of fifteen seconds in the Hootie and the Blowfish marathon, and a quick glance at Brennan told him she was trying her hardest not to laugh at him, her shoulders shaking with the effort.

He scowled embarrassedly. "Shut up," he muttered.

She threw him a smirk before clearing her throat, making an exaggerated show of bringing up their case. "So who are we working with here?" she asked. "Anyone you know?"

Booth made a disgruntled noise at the back of his throat. "Someone we both know, actually," he said, frowning. "Do you remember Agent Wilkins?"

Brennan frowned as she remembered the condescending man they'd worked with a few years ago back when they'd had go to Arizona for a case. "We're not in Arizona, Booth, we're in Oregon," she pointed out, making him roll his eyes.

"Yes, I know that, Bones," even though he was irritated at her obliviousness, he couldn't help the pang of fondness he felt at the familiar 'I don't know what that means' look on her face. "He transferred. He's in charge of the scene."

Brennan blew out a frustrated sigh. "Fine," she muttered. "But if he calls me 'hot stuff' or insinuate that the only thing I'm good for is standing around following orders from men, I will kick him in the testicles this time – and you won't stop me," she warned, throwing him daggers with her eyes.

Booth stifled a grin. "I wouldn't dream of it," he promised.

They stopped at a convenience store near the exit leading to the woods where the remains were found, getting a few bottles of water for their trek up to the site. They drove up to the wooded area, meeting up with the agent in charge.

Special Agent Wilkins was even more of a Neanderthal than Brennan remembered and she glowered at him unhappily as they followed him through the woods, trekking on foot. She was glad to be partially rid of him when they finally reached the yellow tapes, speeding up and leaving Booth and Wilkins behind.

She flashed her ID at the agent standing by the yellow tapes and he nodded, granting her access. She ducked under the tape and took out her gloves, putting them on as she slowly approached the first set of remains. It was still partially buried in the dirt and she placed her kit beside her as she crouched down next to the remains, working on carefully uncovering it.

She spent almost the rest of the day at the site, still crouched over the remains when the sun had already set and most of the techs had already left. The day had grown inexplicably grimmer as another much smaller set of remains were uncovered, so clearly that of a child, and Brennan was able to confirm that all four were murder victims.

"Okay," Brennan sighed as she stood up for the first time in hours. She turned to the two techs still helping her. "I'm done with all initial examinations. Please carefully bag the remains and send them to the Jeffersonian."

They nodded and begun work immediately, eager to leave the site and return home, no doubt.

Brennan stretched her aching back and sore arms, sighing once more as her eyes swept across the ground, looking for anything she might be missing. She had already sent samples of soil, particulates on the victim's clothes and anything else that her colleagues back at the Jeffersonian might find useful earlier on. They would be contacting her the next day with anything they would've already discovered.

Booth, who had been leaning against a tree outside the taped-up area, straightened up slightly as she neared him. "Done?" he asked. "So fast?" he couldn't help the sarcasm.

She threw him a glare. "Do you want me to do my job right or not?" she snapped at him.

"Sure I do," he agreed. "But I do my job right and I don't make you wait until it's eleven thirty at night to do it."

She shrugged. "It's hardly my fault your job's easier than mine," she said nonchalantly, swiping an unopened bottle of water from the knapsack at his feet and taking a swig of water.

His eyes flashed. "My job is not easier than yours," he retorted. "Just because I don't sit around playing with dirt all day and poke skeletons and…"

Brennan shot him a look. "Can we go already?" she complained. "I'm starving."

He snorted derisively. "You're blaming me?" he asked incredulously.

"You're the one holding us up by standing there arguing with me," she pointed out.

He glared, crossing his arms over his chest. She did her best not to stare at the impressive muscles of his arms and his chest.

"Okay, I wanted to go hours ago, okay?" he reminded her. "I told you the bones will still be here tomorrow but you insisted on staying. If anyone's to be blamed, it's you for waiting too long."

His last few words struck a nerve with both of them and, again, they were staring at one another, muscles tensed, breaths held, hurt eyes unable to look away.

This time, however, there were no blown tires or horns blaring or friends calling out their names, interrupting them. This time, they continued to stare as though they were about to start hashing out everything again, both fully aware that they still had unresolved issues between them and that there seemed to be a ticking time bomb, threatening to make them explode and let it all out.

"Um…Dr. Brennan?" one of the techs called out tentatively.

Just like that, their gazes were broken, their attention thankfully diverted.

Brennan turned around and answered whatever questions the tech had before she turned back around. Booth already had the knapsack slung over his shoulder and, wordlessly, they walked side by side, trekking back to his rental car.

It was far too late for anything to be open. Booth found the nicest place he could find within a hundred miles of the woods, hoping they'd have room service. Twenty minutes into his search, the dark skies overhead parted and rain started to pour down heavily. He was about to give up his search, resolved to a night with an empty stomach at a motel.

Thankfully, his tired eyes caught sight of a bright sign up ahead. Driving closer, Booth smiled triumphantly as he realized it was a three-star hotel he could just afford with his FBI budget. Pulling into the parking lot right in front of the building, he shook Brennan awake and climbed out of the car.

"Hello," the night manager smiled brightly at them from behind his desk. "Welcome to the Cheshire Cat."

"Right," Booth grunted.

"Room for you and the missus?" the manager asked, turning appreciate eyes towards Brennan.

Booth felt an immediate dislike for the man, heightened when Brennan immediately corrected him, "Oh, no, we're not together,' the vehemence behind her words making the man smile wider.

Booth could understand the man's appreciation for Brennan's beauty. Not that I notice now, he was quick to think. But back when he was infatuated by her, he'd noticed her ability to look beautiful even when she was tired and had been at a crime scene all day. It wasn't the kind of glamorous beauty that was so common, but a more simplistic beauty. She'd be free of all make-up, her hair would be up in a high ponytail, her eyes would be slightly red and she would still look…Stunning.

He could remember thinking how unfair it was that she managed to keep him in awe of her without even realizing it, without even trying.

Of course, just because he had moved on didn't mean that he was fine with a twenty-something year old still-looks-like-a-boy man eyeing her up and down like she was a Porterhouse steak.

"Could you hurry?" Booth asked impatiently, startling the manager who had been staring at Brennan a little too leeringly. "It's been a long day."

Brennan shot him a look that said 'stop being so rude', quirking an eyebrow when she noticed him sidle a little closer towards her.

He checked his computer and winced, looking up at the two of them apologetically. "Oh, I'm very sorry, but there's only one available room left."

Brennan blew out a breath of frustration. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me," she complained through gritted teeth.

Tired as hell, Booth shook his head and waved his hand dismissively. "Fine, we'll take it," he told the manager.

Brennan's head whipped around to give him an incredulous look. "Are you insane?" she hissed at him. "I'm not sharing a room with you."

He gave her an annoyed look. "Look, it's not like I'm thrilled about it, either," he snipped. "But I'm tired as hell, it's past midnight and we've got nowhere else to go. Unless you want to go drive around looking for a place by yourself, we're gonna have to share."

She wasn't pleased by this, but recognizing that she had no choice, reluctantly agreed. "Is there room service available?"

The manager nodded. "Oh, yes, there is," he smiled at her as he handed her the key to their room. "There's a menu up in your room. It's available all the way until three thirty in the morning."

Brennan thanked the manager while Booth merely grunted wordlessly, throwing him a glare as he settled a hand on Brennan's lower back, guiding her towards the elevator. While this action was expected two years ago, now it was still a rare occurrence. Fortunately for him, Brennan was too tired to notice, one hand pressed to her mouth as she delicately hid her yawn.

She took the first shower – frankly, she'd stormed straight into the bathroom, slamming the door while he had collapsed on the single bed in the room; he would've argued but she had been the one working with dirt and skeletonized remains all day – and he took a few moments to rest his tired body before looking around for another place to sleep.

Finding a couch, he walked up to it and tried seeing if it was a pull-out. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't a pull-out and it was a little too small for him to be comfortable in it. Hell, it was probably too small for Brennan. Sighing, he searched the wardrobe for extra blankets. He found a comforter and an extra pillow, grabbing both and throwing them on the couch.

Brennan came out of the shower in a billowing steam of lavender. Oh, good, just what I need, he thought sarcastically to himself.

"All yours," she told him as she breezed past him without looking at him, going straight for her duffel she'd dumped on the bed earlier, carrying her balled up clothes from earlier in one hand and a bag of toiletries in the other.

Booth stared at her back for a few moments before heading into the bathroom, stepping gingerly onto the cool tiled floor. He closed the door quietly behind him, taking in the smell of lavender around him. It wasn't overwhelming but it wasn't easy to ignore, either.

He groaned as he stripped his clothes off. "Like I really need this right now," he grumbled. Stepping into the shower stall, he tried his best not to think of Brennan and her scent or anything to do with her. Ten seconds into the shower and he turned the knob from red to blue, letting ice cold water rain down on him instead.

When he finally stepped out of the bathroom, he noticed that Brennan had already called room service. She was seated on the floor, her back pressed against the foot of the bed, a plate of ravioli on her lap and her cell pressed to her ear.

She had a small smile on her face as she spoke on her cell phone. "I know," she murmured.

The fondness in her tone, that soft quality, made him want to pick up the phone and call Hannah. Of course, she was out of town on some important lead and he wouldn't be able to reach her. She would call him whenever she was available. He sighed, wishing both he and Hannah were back in DC already.

If he were to say so himself, he was doing a pretty good voice ignoring the steady, dull throb in his heart that was aching for the past when he could call Brennan up at four o'clock in the morning, reeling after a nightmare, and her soft, husky voice would murmur quiet words to him to calm him down before she sat up until the sun came up, listening to him patiently, even if all he could babble on about was pie and how he was missing Sid's food.

"I'm sorry again about having to leave so suddenly. Yes…" Brennan sighed into her phone. The sound of her voice brought Booth away from his thoughts and back to the present. "I know it's late. You should get back to sleep. Okay. Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow. Goodnight."

He quickly turned away from her as she hung up, busying himself with making a comfortable spot on the couch, fluffing his pillow and spreading the comforter.

"That Kira on the phone?" he asked her casually.

She looked over at him. "Hmm?" she hummed, still smiling a little from her conversation with Kira. "Yes, it was."

"Oh," he blinked. "You ordered room service?" his abrupt change of subject went unacknowledged.

She nodded at the plate of food covered by a silver dome-shaped cloche cover. "I got you some dinner," she told him. "I hope you don't mind. I was starving."

He shook his head. "No, not at all. Thanks," he muttered. Walking over towards the table, he lifted the cloche cover and smiled as he caught sight of the steak and potatoes on it. It looked pretty good and the smell alone was making him salivate, but that might've been his hunger speaking.

"Thanks, Bones," he gave her a grateful smile, picking up the plate and the cutlery next to it.

He paused, looking around for a place to sit. He supposed he could just sit on the couch, where she had no doubt avoided sitting due to the pillow and comforter on it. Debating over it, he decided to sit next to her on the floor. Gingerly settling on the floor next to her, he crossed his legs under him and placed his plate on his lap, digging into his late dinner.

Brennan looked over at him in surprise, having not expected him to sit next to her. Feeling her eyes on him, he turned to look at her as well. For the first time in a long time, their eyes locked together and they didn't feel unbearable tension. Instead, their lips pulled up and they smiled at one another. It was a far cry from a lighthearted moment - and an even farer cry from 'their moments' that they had shared for so many years before everything in their world was tipped out of balance - but at least they felt comfortable enough to relax around each other, smile and eat their dinner together in peace.

Reaching to her left, Brennan handed Booth an unopened, still chilled bottle of beer. Seeing it as a sign of truce, even if he knew she didn't see it in any other way but literal, he took it and nodded his gratitude.

"So what are we watching?" he asked, taking a sip of his beer and staring at the familiar faces on screen.

"The TV guide said it's some show called 7th Heaven," Brennan murmured, eyes riveted on the show, soaking in the family drama.

The two of them sat in silence for a long while as they watched Mary and Lucy fighting about some boy with big lips. "Do you think Angela will ever have a life like this?" Brennan asked out of the blue.

Her question was so unexpected – not to mention strange – that he almost gave himself whiplash as he turned to look at her. He swallowed the bite of steak he had in his mouth and gave her a confused look. "What?" he asked, bewildered.

"I mean, I know it won't be exactly like this because Hodgins isn't a reverend – I honestly don't think he's all that religious – and I can't picture Angela being a housewife anytime soon. Or, at all. But she wants a lot of progenies and she and Hodgins have a very solid marriage, don't they?" her blue eyes were clouded as they flickered towards him. "Maybe someday, they'd end up with five children."

"Actually, in the end, they have seven," Booth corrected her. Catching himself, he winced, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone I said that."

She ignored him. "They'll have as many children as they can, then she'll open an art gallery and he'll retire when it's time and they'll live happily ever after," even though her words painted a pretty picture, her tone was sad.

Booth shot her a knowing look. "You miss her." It wasn't a question but rather a stated fact.

His words reminded her that she wasn't supposed to be missing Angela when she was with anyone other than Kira. She didn't want anyone else to know just how terribly she longed for her best friend back. After all, Kira understood the loss of Angela's friendship. While the bond between Angela and Kira hadn't been as strong as the one between Angela and Brennan, Angela was a terrible person to lose in your life. Kira could sympathize without being overbearing unintentionally.

However, as she opened her mouth to deny his claim, he quirked an eyebrow and she was struck by the thought that even if they had drifted apart somewhat, and even if they had a lot to re-learn about each other, those deep chocolate brown eyes still knew who she was.

Sighing, she nodded. "I do," she admitted, not surprising him at all. "I've gone seventeen years with her in my life in one way or another. Our sudden separation isn't an easy thing to get used to."

He leveled her with a look, his dark eyes boring into her blue ones in one of those intense gazes she couldn't help but dread some days – it always felt like he knew exactly what was going on in her mind when he gave her one of those looks. Then again, lately, this particular look wasn't a common occurrence. She didn't know whether she should be relieved or saddened by that.

"You don't have to get used to it," he pointed out to her.

She shook her head, throwing him a warning look. "Booth…" she trailed off warningly.

He sat up straighter, placing his half-finished steak to the side. "No, hear me out," he insisted. "Look, I know you and Angela both don't want anyone to meddle on this-"

"No, we don't," she agreed, glaring at him when he ignored her and continued.

"But it's been almost three months, Bones," he pointed out unnecessarily. He sighed when she pointedly ignored him, her eyes fixed on the screen in front of them. Shaking his head, he tried again, "I have never seen the two of you fight like that, and have it last so long."

She sighed, sensing he wasn't going to stop. Grabbing the remote by her feet, she aimed it at the television and pressed the mute button. Turning to look at him, she fixed him with one of those 'I'm only going to say this once so listen up because I'm right and you're wrong and that's just the way that it is' looks she was so good at giving. He was very rarely a recipient of that look. She normally saved it for one of her interns.

"I know how long it's been, Booth," she said, her voice low. "She was my best friend, not yours."

He held up his hands defensively. "Hey, I'm sorry, okay?" he said carefully, aware he was treading on thin ice now. "I didn't mean to step on anyone's toes."

She threw him a bewildered look. "You're sitting down," she pointed out to him as though he was slow enough not to notice that. "You can't possibly be-"

"Figure of speech, Bones."

"Oh. Right," she cleared her throat. "My point is…I know you're concerned, and thank you for that…"

He was still staring at her as though she was making the worst mistake of her life and she was the only one who didn't realize it. His eyes were filled with pity, which she hated. It only reminded her of their heated exchange in the rain a few months back regarding Hannah.

Getting a sudden strike of inspiration, she looked him straight in the eyes and asked, "Disregarding everything you must've heard from Angela-" Because she knew Angela and therefore she knew that there was no chance she hadn't ranted about Kira's presence to the people closest to her. "What do you think of Kira?"

He looked a little surprised at the question. Shifting a little uncomfortably from his position on the floor, he shrugged. "I think she's…Okay," he said carefully. At Brennan's raised eyebrow, he sighed and told her, "I don't really know her well. I've barely spoken to her."

"You spoke to her in Virginia," she reminded her.

He gave her a pointed look. "She was a suspect then," he dismissed. "I didn't make it a point to bond with her – unlike you."

She glowered. "I already knew her prior to our meeting in the vineyard. It would've been rude of me to ignore her," she sniffed. "And I knew she had nothing to do with our case whatsoever."

"No, you hoped she had nothing to do with our case," he corrected her. "Hoping and knowing are two completely different things."

"Excuse me, but nothing I did with Kira in Virginia compromised our case," she snapped defensively.

He held up a hand. "Okay, you know what? We're getting off topic," he said hastily. The last thing he wanted was to get into an argument with her at one thirty in the morning.

She nodded, agreeing. Taking a deep breath, she continued making her point in a much calmer tone of voice. "Look, Kira is a good person," she said. "And you know that, even if you won't say it to me. She's nice and she's here and she's…It's my second chance with her."

"Third, actually," he couldn't help but interject.

She smacked him on the arm. "Approve, don't approve," she said, shaking her head at his stubbornness. "But I'd appreciate it, as my partner…And-and my friend," she added slightly shakily. "I'd like it if you supported me."

Booth gazed at her for a long moment. "Bones…" he said softly, reaching out as though to take her hand. His fingers hovered over hers for a moment before he retracted, their skin not touching.

She ignored the sting his hesitation caused her and swallowed back the wave of longing she felt at the tenderness in his voice.

"I supported you when Hannah came along," she blurted out, completely shocking him. "Even when I was…When I had my own things going on."

He suppressed a wry smile. "Yes, you did," he nodded. "Support me, I mean."

"There was the time I got angry at you," she conceded. "But that was long time coming by then. And you went behind my back by sending that e-mail. And I was still in shock over Hannah's presence…"

"Bones," he tried to interrupt.

"But I still supported you," she reminded him. "If you needed to go home earlier to her, I covered your paperwork. If you brought her to the diner to have lunch with the rest of us, I welcomed her. When she came by Jared's place and no one knew how to react to her, I held your back."

"You had my back," he both corrected and agreed with her all at once.

"I mean, Angela hated Hannah," she told him, making his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline.

"She did?" This was news to him. Hannah wasn't exactly chummy with his work buddies but that he had mostly attributed to him trying his best to keep the two aspects of his life separate.

Brennan nodded. "Yes, she did."

"Why?" his forehead wrinkled.

She shrugged, "It's a principle thing," she assured him. "She's over that now. I think. I mean, Hannah's lovely. We all know that. When she first showed up, it was just a shock for everyone."

He nodded slowly. "O…Kay…" he muttered, blinking rapidly.

"But I supported you and I defended Hannah," Brennan informed him. "Even if I wasn't exactly fond of her presence, I did that."

He sighed, running a hand over his face.

"Booth," her voice was softer and the slightly pleading edge made him look at her, albeit a little warily. "You and Angela…You're my closest friends. I've already lost her. Please tell me I'm not losing you, too."

The vulnerability in her voice wasn't something he heard often. It was only something he'd only ever been born witness to during rare moments like when her father and brother had abandoned her again and she felt like she had no family in the world, or when she had been grieving Zack's betrayal.

It made him want nothing more than to gather her in his arms and hold her close.

Instead, locking his muscles in place so he wouldn't be able to act on his temptation, he assured her quietly, "You won't lose me."

She gazed at him for a long moment, her eyes searching his, before she nodded. "Okay," she murmured quietly. Sighing, she stood up. "I'm going to head to bed," she told him, grabbing her mostly empty plate and placed it on the bar near the door, covering it with the lid once more.

He watched her for a few moments before deciding to do the same. There was still food left on his plate but, for some reason, he was no longer hungry, his stomach churning slightly. Doing the same with his plate, the two passed by each other quietly, not meeting each other's eyes as they moved.

"Goodnight, Booth," Brennan called out quietly as she slipped underneath the covers of the bed.

He nodded, "Goodnight, Bones." He felt like there was something else he should say to her but, not knowing exactly what else to say, he sat down on the couch, releasing a groan as he stretched out supinely on the couch.

Brennan watched a part of some comedy show she didn't recognize for a few minutes before her eyes began to droop. Turning off the TV, she placed the remote on the nightstand next to the bed and snuggled further into the covers.

Her weary mind took a few minutes to shut off, as usual. She was just about to drift off when she heard Booth. He was tossing and turning, kicking the arm of the couch slightly as he attempted to get comfortable. She squeezed her closed eyes tightly, hoping he'd stop moving around so she could go to sleep. Every slight movement he made was loud in their entirely too quiet room.

However, he continued to shift around, the comforter crinkling every time he did so. When he let out a low, quiet groan at how painful his back was at having to sleep on the crammed couch, Brennan sighed, her eyes snapping open.

In the darkness, Booth hadn't realized she was awake or even aware of his uncomfortable position. She allowed herself to look at him from her spot in bed, her thoughtful gaze going unnoticed by him.

In spite of how, just two hours ago, things had been beyond uncomfortable between them, Brennan found herself contemplating letting him take the other half of the bed.

It wasn't as though they had never shared a bed before. They'd had to share plenty of times before in their partnership. By their third and fourth years as partners, whenever they'd go out of town for a case and ended up having to share for some odd reason (like having to live in a trailer to give the illusion that they were a Russian married circus couple), it wasn't even questioned by either of them. It was just sort of…Accepted. Expected, even. They'd get ready to sleep, slip into bed, say goodnight to one another and fall asleep. And if they woke up wrapped in each other's arms – which happened more times than anyone would believe – then all they would do was smile, whisper good morning and get on with their day.

Of course things were different now. Not only were they with other people – unlike how they'd both somehow remained single for the better part of three to four years in their partnership before – they were no longer on too-friendly terms like they had been back then.

It was shocking how much change a year could bring.

Still, even with everything in their lives putting a solid steel wall between them, Brennan was concerned about him. That was one thing that she knew would never change.

She knew that a year couldn't have cured his back. He liked to believe he was invincible sometimes, and she'd had moments when she couldn't fathom the thought of a world without him (he seemed so sure of his abilities, after all, and she was doubly more so), but with his increasing age, she knew that sleeping on the couch was an even bigger horror now than it had been three years ago – or even a year ago.

Sighing as she heard his comforter rustling once more, she spoke up, "Booth."

Her utterance of his name startled him. He hadn't been paying attention to anything else but the uncomfortable way the couch was digging into his back. He hadn't realized she was still awake. She hadn't moved an inch when she'd broken the silence in the room, still snuggled underneath the covers in bed, and she hadn't turned on the light.

"Jesus," he swore, his heart racing. "Bones…You scared the hell outta me."

"I did?" she sounded surprised. Still, the room remained dark.

"Yeah," he drawled dryly. "What's wrong? Why are you still awake?"

She reached for the lamp on the nightstand but paused, the fear of a possible uncomfortable rejection from him making her hesitate. She let her arm drop away, tucking it back under her pillow.

She ignored his question, asking instead, "Are you uncomfortable?"

The question was so out of left field, he laid in silence for several moments, blinking in her general direction. "What?" he asked blankly.

"Your back," she elaborated, silently wondering why it was that her words were coming out far less eloquent than she would've liked. "Is it painful sleeping on the couch?"

It took him a moment to feel guilty that he was shocked by her concern and another to realize that it was probably alright for one partner to be concerned over the other. That was just the way it worked, right? You had your partner's back. Nothing romantic about that whatsoever.

"Oh, well, yeah," he admitted sheepishly, quietly. "A little."

She remained silent for a few long moments. Just when he'd thought she had drifted off to sleep, this being the extent of her mild concern for him, she spoke again, interrupting another one of his attempts at finding a more comfortable spot.

"You could just sleep here in the bed."

The overwhelming silence that followed her suggestion made her incredibly glad that the room was drowned in darkness. She didn't need to see him looking reluctant and looking stoic while he turned her down. She didn't need him to see the embarrassment on her face, either. The vulnerability of her offer was enough of a humiliation for her.

"Bones…" he trailed off, and she knew he was going to decline.

"I promise to be on my best behavior, Booth," she \told him, her tone slightly wry. "There's plenty of room here. It doesn't make sense for you to sleep on the couch."

"Yes," he disagreed. "It does."

Brennan sighed. She sat up slightly, glaring at him even if he couldn't see her in the dark. "Booth," she chided.

"Bones…" he said, his discomfort showing blatantly in his tone. "I just don't think it's a good idea…I mean with everything that has happened between us…It's just not the same, you know? We-we can't just…" he trailed off.

She rolled her eyes. "I'm not about to take advantage of you in your sleep, Booth," she said dryly. "I'm merely concerned about your back."

When he remained silent, she sighed heavily. "You know what? Why don't we switch places? I'll take the couch, you take the bed," she offered instead.

"No," his reply came instantaneously. "Bones, you don't have to do that."

She sat up completely, tugging the covers away from her body. "Apparently I have to, since you're being such a child about this," she snapped.

He'd retort but he couldn't sense any anger behind her words. Besides…She was trying to do something considerate for him and the last thing he wanted was to repay her by being ungrateful and snappish. They were already treading on shaky grounds as it was. He didn't need to make things more difficult.

"Bones…" he started to protest.

"Booth, I don't have back problems," she pointed out. "You do."

Thank you, Bones, for making me feel old, he thought sarcastically.

Oblivious to his grumpiness, she continued, "It only makes sense that we switch places."

He sighed heavily, letting his head drop back on the hard arm rest he had been trying to sleep on. Swiping a hand down his face, Booth closed his eyes tiredly for a moment, placing his arm over his eyes. He opened them when he felt a sharp poke on his arm.

"Bones, what the hell?" he grumbled as he saw her dark outline standing over him.

She placed her hands on her hips and quirked an eyebrow at him. "Would you just get in bed already?" she snapped at him. "I'm very tired and would like to get some sleep."

"No one's stopping you," he retorted finally, his own tiredness overpowering his surprise at her actions and his gratitude.

She reached out to yank at the string attached to the floor lamp next to the couch. Booth blinked rapidly at the sudden brightness, reeling away from the harsh light. "Jeez, Bones!" he swore.

When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, Booth looked up to find Brennan glowering at him. "You know I can hear you, right?" she asked him. At his blank look, she elaborated, "When you move around. This room is very quiet and every move you make is highly amplified to my ears."

He grimaced embarrassedly. "Oh," he muttered. "I'm sorry."

She sighed, rolling her eyes. "Just go sleep on the bed, Booth," she told him wearily. "I'm fine on the couch."

Seeing the determined look in her eyes, he knew very well that he wouldn't win against her. Besides, he reluctantly admitted. It would be nice to sleep on that bed rather than on this thing.

He exhaled loudly. What I'm doing is not cheating, Booth told himself as he threw back the comforter. All we're doing is sharing a bed. As in, she sleeps on one side, I sleep on the other…Maybe I should put pillows between us…

"Fine," he agreed after another moment of hesitation. "But you're not taking the couch, either, Bones."

She blinked at him, surprised.

"Do you know how uncomfortable this thing is?" he gave her a weak smile. "I can't let you sleep on it."

She bristled. "'Let' me?" she repeated, incensed.

He held up both hands, backtracking. "You know what I meant, Bones," he said hastily. "I just meant, you know…As your friend…It would be wrong of me to let…Uh, I mean, to take your bed while you take this uncomfortable piece of crap."

She shuffled her weight from one foot to another. "You know I've been to war zones and third world countries," she reminded him. "I've slept on surfaces much more uncomfortable than that."

He quirked a humorless smile. "Yeah, me too," he retorted gently. "But I still…Look, you were right. We'll both take the bed."

She eyed him warily. "Are you sure?" she asked him, their roles reversed now. "Because just two minutes ago…"

He shook his head, swinging his legs over the edge of the couch. "I'm sure," he said in a final tone. They could do the back and forth thing all night but he was frankly a little too burned out for that. "Let's just go to sleep."

She nodded. Both of them headed towards the bed, Booth gripping the pillow he had grabbed from the closet in case he really needed it to place between them.

An awkward silence filled the air as they both stood on either side of the bed.

Brennan, fully aware that she was occupying the side Booth was used to sleep on (they both preferred the same side; whenever they had to share a bed, they often took turns after arguing the first few times), gestured towards the crinkled sheets. "I can move, if you'd like…" she offered.

He shook his head, a flash of hazel eyes and blonde hair going through his mind as he remembered his play fight with Hannah in his bed her first night in DC with him, her laughter ringing through his room as the two rolled around on the mattress. It had been a meaningless 'fight' since they both slept on separate sides of the bed, but she had looked so beautiful and he'd remembered starting the silly game just for a reason to touch her.

He swallowed, wondering why his heart ached so badly as he stared across the bed at Brennan, and why a tiny lump of bile started to form in his throat at the memory now. "No, it's okay," he assured her once he was sure his voice wouldn't crack when he spoke. "I'm fine on this side."

She nodded, then turned her eyes away from him. He sent a silent pray of thanks to the big guy upstairs for that – he was starting to get that 'heart-beating-madly-butterflies-in-his-stomach' symptom he'd always get around Brennan and he just wasn't ready to consider what it meant. Not when he suffered the same symptoms around Hannah.

Brennan didn't look at him again, or uttered another word, as she slipped under the covers. The moment her head hit the pillow, she turned on her side, facing away from his side of the bed, and her body stilled completely.

He knew she wasn't asleep, of course. Her body was far too tense to be in slumber. There was nothing he desired to say to her to break the awkwardness, however, so he merely stayed silent as he gingerly pulled back the comforter on his side and slipped inside.

He laid on his back, his arms stiffly stuck to his sides and his entire unmoving, until he lost consciousness. Eventually, their breathings slowed and their bodies relaxed as they drifted off to sleep.

She was jolted awake barely two hours later by the loud crash of thunder. She sat up in bed, startled awake by the sound, and looked around the darkened room, heart racing wildly. She was a little too disoriented by the little sleep she had managed to get, and was confused as to what had awoken her for a moment before lightning flashed and thunder boomed in the distance once more.

Brennan stared out the hotel room window. It was too dark to see anything, but she could still hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops falling against the window. She gazed out into the dark night outside for a long moment, her knees drawn to her chest as she listened to the thunderstorm outside.

It was funny how, when she was a little kid, she used to love thunderstorms.

When it had still been appropriate for such a thing, she had rushed into her parents' room at the mention of a thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Her parents would always be waiting for her, knowing what she desired: they'd cuddled under the covers and listened to the loud rain and, if it went on for hours, her mother would make hot chocolate, wake a grumpy Russ up and they'd 'camp' in the living room together.

If she and her childhood best friend Christopher were having sleepovers, he would be included in the thunderstorm festivities, of course. She and Christopher had their own 'traditions' for thunderstorms - most of them were things he had made up because they had sounded like 'fun'.

When she had grown older, she'd enjoyed thunderstorms simply because it seemed peaceful to her somehow. She'd lay in her own bed, and stay up listening to the rain and reminiscing over the days when she was younger and things had been so much simpler. Thunderstorms were a soothing balm after a bad day at school or a fight with her parents.

Christopher still maintained their 'thunderstorm traditions' even as they reached adolescence. They weren't allowed to have 'sleepovers' anymore, of course, considering the inappropriateness of the matter but he would still call her each time and they'd stay up talking all night, eating marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate, as the rain poured outside.

Christopher had always indulged in his inner child, no matter how old he grew, and he never failed to encourage her to do the same. It made her feel silly but the thing about Christopher was that she could be as goofy, as nerdy, as awkward as she was…And he wouldn't care. He had never made her feel like she was out of place. He was the only person she'd ever known to make her feel as though all of her oddities were normal, and that she fit so wonderfully into his life.

Then, of course, she had turned fifteen and her parents had disappeared. Entering the foster system, she and Christopher had been forced to abandon this particular tradition of theirs. He could barely keep up with her ever-changing phone numbers as she was carted off from one home to another, and even if he could, her time on the phone was always limited.

A year later and he had been forced to part with her even more when his family had moved to Japan due to his father's business ventures.

Thunderstorms were marred for her now.

Instead of the happy, peaceful feelings she'd had in her younger days, these days all she could remember during thunderstorms was the particularly horrible night at the foster home she'd spent only one night in. The couple – a married pair in their mid-forties who had become foster parents because they 'had no children of their own' – had taken her in a few hours earlier in the day.

It had been pouring rain since morning, and even though her social worker had kept up a steady stream of chit-chat mentioning how the weather was a 'downer', Brennan had felt at peace, maybe even hopeful.

Of course, that had all changed when she had met the Olivers'. Mr. Oliver had been a drunk, but social services had never caught on to that. Mr. Oliver had, in the dead of the night during the heaviest thunderstorm of Brennan's life, crashed into her new room, kicked open her door and gave her the worst beating she had ever received in her life.

She could still remember the nurses commenting on how lucky she had been to be alive after she had 'run away and stumbled into a group of drunken men' – a cover story provided by the Olivers', no doubt. Her social worker had gotten suspicious, nonetheless, and had taken her from the Olivers' and placed her in a group home for the next two months.

Brennan gasped quietly as a particularly loud clash of thunder brought her back into the present. Shaking her head, Brennan ran a hand through her messy hair. That was a long time ago, she reminded herself. You're a stronger woman now. No one can hurt you.

Resisting the urge to look behind her at her sleeping partner, Brennan slowly unfurled her legs and laid back down on her side. Tucking her hands underneath her pillow, she tried to fall back asleep. Her eyes remained wide open, however, as they continued to unseeingly gaze stubbornly out the window.

Her body tensed when she felt a strong, warm arm slide over her stomach, curling protectively around her body.

Even though she had to take several deep breaths to calm her quivering insides at the feel of his touch, so intimate for the first time in the longest time, she could literally feel the nauseating wariness of thunderstorms receding and a calming feeling spreading over her lax limbs. Her eyes were already drooping tiredly once more, her lack of rest catching up to her again.

Nuzzling her face into her pillow, she mumbled a quiet, "Thank you, Booth."

In the still of the night, her words felt far too loud.

She felt his arm squeezing her gently once around the middle. "You're welcome, Bones," his rumbling, sleepy voice replied just as silently.

She fell asleep, her mind and body completely at ease for the first time since they'd boarded the plane to Oregon, his arm still wrapped around her.

They had booked out of the hotel the first thing in the morning. Although their situation couldn't be helped on that one rainy, too-late night, neither one of them wanted a repeat of the awkwardness. They had checked into another hotel which had two separate rooms available for them. It was farther away from the crime scene but, for once, Brennan hadn't complained.

They had woken up completely entangled in each other's arms.

While Booth had offered her some platonic comfort the night before because he knew of her 'fear' of thunderstorms (though she would never actually admit to being afraid) and the reason behind said fear, he hadn't intended to fall asleep with his arm around her. He had been much more tired than he remembered and after their small, sleepy exchange, he had conked out until morning.

He had woken up to find that he had wrapped both his arms around her slim figure while she had rolled into his side, one hand resting on his chest, the other arm flung across his mid-section. Her cheek was pressed into his shoulder, a tiny spot of drooling forming as she snored away…And he had stared at her, completely mesmerized.

The rain had ceased by the time the sun rose, and the warm sunshine had drifted in through the hotel room window. He had watched, entranced, as the ray of natural light had lit up her porcelain cheeks and highlighted the red in her hair.

He had gotten that same wonderful feeling he had gotten with her a year or two back as he held her in his arms. It felt as though he was at peace from the inside, as though all the horrors and all the pain he had endured in his life meant absolutely nothing at all thanks to her.

He had cursed – because if a year apart from her hadn't erased that feeling, what would? – and he had rolled her over onto her back and out of his arms before lightly getting to his feet and taking the first shower.

Once more, as they were checking out, Booth was annoyed by the man-child behind the front desk. Having received information from the source herself that she wasn't together with Booth, the manager offered Brennan a flirty smile and said, "Dr. Brennan…I was wondering…If you're going to be in the area for a little while longer, maybe we could go out for dinner sometime…?"

Booth was too busy glowering at whatshisname to pay much attention to his surroundings – which was why, when Brennan gave her reply, Booth almost choked on his own saliva.

"Oh, that's quite thoughtful of you but I play for the other team," she threw in casually. Giving the stunned manager another smile, she grabbed her duffel and walked out of the hotel with her head held high.

It took Booth a moment to catch up to Brennan and, when he finally did, she was already out front in the parking lot, waiting for him to unlock the car so she could throw her duffel in the trunk. "First of all," Booth said as they both settled into their seats. "It's 'bat for the other team'. And secondly…Where did you even learn to say that?"

She shrugged. "Angela taught it to me once," she said, a hint of wistfulness in her voice. "We went to some college party I didn't enjoy at all and when all these fraternity boys kept coming up to me, it irritated me. Angela told me to say that, implying that I was a lesbian, so that they would leave me alone…" She pursed her lips, thinking it over. "It didn't work as well as I hoped it would but Angela had been strangely gleeful."

Booth stifled a smile. He could just imagine the reactions of hormonal frat boys when they saw two beautiful girls sitting close together and one of them publicly declaring herself to be a lesbian. Angela had probably meant to lighten her friend's mood a little so she'd enjoy the party better.

His good mood was diminished slightly when Brennan murmured, "Of course, now I suppose it's true to an extent…"

Shaking his head, Booth pulled out of his parking space. If I ever thought this trip was a good idea, then I was an idiot, he grumbled to himself.

They were finally back in DC after over a week in Oregon.

Brennan had found that the female remains were older than the rest. She'd estimated that the woman had died about a year and a half before the others. The case had gotten a little complicated when Brennan had found genetic markers between the two little children and the woman. After Angela had sent in her sketch of the four murder victims, they had been able to connect the dots pretty easily.

They were a family of four: a woman by the name of Stephanie Glaser, her husband Robert Glaser and their two young children, Melanie and Danny, aged three and five respectively.

Booth had poked around and, after getting stonewalled when it came to most of Stephanie's life, had found a link: Sarah Anise.

She had been a very close family friend of the Glaser family for years, though she had started out as Robert's best friend. Sarah and Robert had met when they both first started working together at a private wellness center around fifteen years ago. They had become instantaneous friends and others had mentioned that they had never seen one without the other.

Robert had met and fallen in love with another woman named Stephanie eight years into his friendship with Sarah and Sarah had seemed as though she supported the couple fully. She grew close to Stephanie, helped them move in together, was Stephanie's maid of honor at Robert's and Stephanie's wedding and was godmother to both Melanie and Danny.

But, of course, things were never that simple with human beings: Sarah had been in love with Robert since the very beginning. Many of their friends admitted that they were surprised when Stephanie first came into the picture as they had all expected Robert and Sarah to get together in the end. A few of their closest friends admitted that something 'almost happened' between the two but it ended before it began, and then Stephanie had swooped in.

Sarah, who had finally 'snapped' after Robert had confided in her plans for him and Stephanie to move to New York City to be closer to her family as she went through her third pregnancy, had killed Stephanie first. She had made it look like Stephanie had 'ran away' though no one in her family had heard from her since.

Sarah had 'been there' for Robert, in hopes of taking Stephanie's place. But Robert, too deeply in love with Stephanie, had fallen into a sort of depression – one that Sarah couldn't pull him out of no matter how hard she tried.

A year and a half of her futile attempts, Robert had found out about Sarah's hand in Stephanie's 'disappearance'. Aggrieved, they two had fought – violently – and Sarah had stabbed him without actually meaning to. Robert dead, Sarah had 'gone crazy' according to Booth and killed the two young children as well. She'd buried them in the same place she'd buried Stephanie almost two years ago but the act of killing the man she loved shook her up more than killing Stephanie had. Sarah's alibi had been very weak and, after a few tiny prods from Booth, she had broken down and confessed to murdering all four of them.

Now, the crime-fighting duo back in DC, they sat with Cam and Wendell in the Jeffersonian lounge overlooking the platform, doing the 'quiet contemplation' they always did after a horrid case. Angela and Hodgins had gone home before Booth and Brennan had even arrived at the lab, citing Angela being 'too tired' as the reason for their early departure. Brennan tried not to be too upset about that.

"It's just so tragic," Cam was saying, shaking her head as she and Wendell received the full story behind Sarah's crimes. "I can't help feeling sorry for her."

"Who?" Wendell asked, his eyebrows furrowing together.

Cam blinked. "Sarah," she said, as though this was the obvious answer.

Wendell looked at her, bemused. "You feel sorry for a woman who killed four people, including two little children?" he asked her incredulously.

Booth interrupted, "She didn't set out to be a murderer, though. She just…"

"It was a crime of passion," Cam finished for him.

Booth snapped his fingers together. "Exactly!"

Wendell shook his head. "On some level, I can understand that," he acknowledged. "But a part of me can't sympathize. I mean, she butchered two little kids in cold blood…That takes a special kind of crazy."

Cam shuddered. "Okay, you know what?" she said, standing up from her seat and grabbing her coat. "This is just too creepy for me to think about before going home to an empty house in the middle of the night." Internally, she cursed her boyfriend Paul for having to go on a conference out of town.

Wendell nodded. "I should head home, too," he said, standing up as well. "I'll walk you to your car?" he offered Cam.

Cam smiled at him. "That'd be great, Wendell, thank you," she turned to Booth and Brennan. "I'll see you guys tomorrow."

Both the partners waved at Cam and Wendell as they walked down the lounge stairs and exited the lab. Booth and Brennan were silent for a long time as they leaned against the lounge railing, gazing out at the empty lab down below.

"You've been quiet the entire time we were talking about the case," Booth finally said, turning his head to look at her briefly.

It had struck him as odd considering Temperance Brennan had an opinion on just about everything. But ever since he had made the connection concerning the case and they'd gotten the confession out of Sarah, Brennan had grown silent. She hadn't spoken a word to him all the way back to DC and had let him do all the talking to explain Sarah's arrest to Cam and Wendell when, normally, she would've jumped in to correct him at every turn.

She shrugged. "The case…Sarah…" Brennan sighed, running a hand down her face. "I guess I've just been doing a lot of thinking about it all." Offering him a weak smile, she said, "You'd laugh if you knew my thoughts. They're far too close to psychology for my liking."

He smiled slightly. "Well, I'm not saying I buy everything Sweets say, but sometimes psychology can be pretty useful," he pointed out. When she fell silent again, he asked, "Do you want a sympathetic ear?"

She blinked at him. "Excuse me?"

He couldn't help his full blown grin this time. She looked positively incredulous, as though he had actually offered to cut off his ear and give it to her. If she hadn't understood the phrase, then he supposed that was exactly what it had sounded like to her. "I meant, do you want to talk about it?" he clarified.

She nodded. "Oh," she said understandingly. "I…Not really."

He gave her a knowing look. "You don't sympathize with Sarah, like Cam does?" he guessed correctly.

Her head snapped towards him, her eyes wide in shock. "Wha…How did you know that?" she asked him, sounding shocked beyond belief.

His grin had a slight swagger to it, and she found that she missed his cocky moments - she had long ago stopped being truly annoyed by his cockiness, even if she continued to pretend that she was. "I noticed your face got all pinched when Cam said she felt sorry for Sarah," he said, gesturing at her face with his finger.

She scowled at him, swatting his arm lightly. "My face did not get all pinched," she chided him playfully.


Despite the lighthearted exchange between them, Brennan could still feel the expectant look he was giving her. Sighing, she admitted, "You're right. I disagree with Cam. Sarah was…She had a lot of things in her past, Booth."

He nodded. "Yeah, I read her files," he reminded her. "Abusive home…Raped by her step-father for five years…Entered an abusive marriage when she was nineteen. Diagnosed with bipolar disease from when she was a teenager…Had two miscarriages in a row in her twenties…She had a bad past. Everyone has that. I mean, not always to that extreme but still…"

She shook her head. "Sarah…" she sighed. "Sarah was damaged goods."

Booth stared after her in shock. Brennan had missed the look on his face, having turned away to walk down the stairs of the lounge. Shaking his head to clear it, he jogged slightly to catch up to her. "Whoa, that's a little harsh, don't you think?" he asked, taking the steps one at a time alongside her.

Brennan shrugged. "Well, that's what she was, Booth," Brennan pointed out. "I'm not saying it to her face but even she knew that she was…" Trailing off, Brennan sighed. "She was so messed up over everything that had happened to her. I mean…She was able to murder Stephanie, hide her body and then head back to Robert and the kids and pretend like everything's fine. That isn't normal, Booth. She had to have known that, somewhere inside her mind…Sarah could barely think clearly enough for herself. What made her think that she could be someone else's wife and mother?"

Booth shrugged. "She was in love with the man, Bones," he said quietly. "Love makes people do crazy things sometimes."

"If she really loved him, she should've let him go," Brennan argued. "She was…Too conflicted. Her past made her so confused, so unable to be normal enough for someone like Robert. Robert had none of the bad things in Sarah's past."

Booth shook his head. "He was in the Marines for a while," he reminded her.

She waved that aside. "It doesn't compare," she dismissed. "What she went through…It affected her badly enough to change who she was, morph her views on life. She was too…" she swallowed hard. "Stephanie, on the other hand, was so much better for Robert. She was able to give him things he greatly desired – a normal, loving family, children, marriage…All the things that Sarah coveted but would never be able to live out."

Booth halted in his tracks in the middle of the lab and, noticing his lack of movement, Brennan stopped as well, turning around to face him. One look into her sad blue eyes and Booth knew that she was no longer speaking about Sarah, Robert and Stephanie.

Staring at her for a long while, he searched for his voice. "So," he said finally. "You think that, if you were in Sarah's place, you would've been able to step aside? For Stephanie, I mean."

Brennan nodded, her eyes never leaving his as they stood opposite one another. "I would."

"Just like that?"

"I'm not saying it would be easy," she acknowledged. "I know it'd be difficult…Essentially one of the hardest things I would ever have to do."

Without even realizing their actions, Booth and Brennan took one step closer to one another, their eyes conversing words that weren't spoken by their lips. "But Robert…" Brennan stuck to the story. "He was a good man, wasn't he? He was faithful to his wife, he was a good father, he had a sense of what's right and wrong and he did his country and his family proud…He was a good man."

Booth nodded. "He was," he agreed quietly.

"Then he deserved…" she sucked in a deep, shaky breath. "Everything. He deserved everything. And that wasn't something that Sarah could've given him. She was…She had too much hurt in the past to be able to open her heart enough for him. Even though she desired nothing more than to give him everything, it wasn't in her to let that happen."

"Given time…" Booth whispered, afraid that if he spoke any louder, he might start to tear up.

She shook her head, wordlessly interrupting him. "No," she protested firmly. "It wouldn't be enough. And Robert knew that. He knew that if he and Sarah had ever taken that step, someday he'd look at her and see it all ending."

"It wouldn't have," Booth denied immediately. "It wouldn't have ended. It would be too amazing, too great. They had a real chance to-to have it all."

She smiled faintly at him. "But would it be what Stephanie could offer him?" she challenged. Booth fell silent. With a heavy heart, Brennan knew that she had been right. "Stephanie could love Robert the way he deserved to be love. If-if I were Sarah…I'd grant him that happiness, even if it pains me to do so."

Booth and Brennan stare into each other's eyes, silence overtaking them.

What she was saying to him he knew was her way of letting go. Even if she had decided to move on before – going on 'casual dates', getting back together with Kira – this was different. This was her saying goodbye to the possibility of them ever being together and giving him up to Hannah, allowing him the freedom of being happy without the burden of feeling guilty.

A part of him, a very profound part of him, mourned the loss of the possibility that they could ever be anything more than 'just partners'. He had seen a beautiful future with Brennan for such a long time, dreamed it for so many years, that letting go was painful. He could still see glimpses of that future with her and closing the door to it was causing a sharp pain in his chest.

Booth reached out, his fingers lightly curled over the tips of hers. His eyes traced over her beautiful face, and he finally opened his mouth to say something – he wasn't sure what it was that he was going to say but he knew that he couldn't give 'them' up without saying a proper goodbye, at the very least.

He was interrupted by Hannah calling his name, "Seeley!"

Startled, he looked over Brennan's left shoulder to see Hannah there, waiting for him and smiling. She had been back in DC for a few days now, as she'd told him over the phone while he had still been trying to figure out the person behind the murders of the Glaser family. He had completely forgotten that he had texted her to pick him up from the lab considering his truck was still at the Hoover.

He turned his head back around to look at Brennan once more. He found a small, pained smile on her face as she saw the slight glitter in his eyes – a happiness at the sound of Hannah's voice.

Opening her mouth to say something – a final goodbye – but was interrupted by Kira's voice. She looked over his left shoulder to see Kira standing on the other end of the Jeffersonian as Hannah.

Kira was grinning wildly, waving excitedly at Brennan, and the look in her eyes told Brennan even from afar that she had gone through some sort of 'adventure' in the week that Brennan had been gone (be it signing up for belly dancing lessons impulsively after yoga class one morning, or planning a deep sea diving trip for them, Kira was always on the move and was always looking for something that would challenge herself and make her life more interesting, having never been interested in the stuffy, frivolous lifestyle her parents had) and was itching to tell her all about it.

Her eyes drifting back to Booth, she offered him a small, slightly awkward smile. They retracted their hands, and shared a secret smile, marred with the sadness of having to let go and the grief of having to start over without the other. Of course they were still going to see each other all the time but being involved in their work lives was a lot different than what they could've had.

"I guess I'll just…See you Monday," Booth said finally, breaking the awkward silence. They had to leave at some point, especially considering Hannah and Kira were standing right there, waiting for them.

"If there are dead bodies around," Brennan attempted to joke.

"There are always dead bodies around," Booth's silent, unspoken promise that no matter what, he would always be there for her if she needed him. The glimmer in her cloudy blue eyes told him she understood exactly what he was trying to say.

They gazed at each other a second longer.

"Goodbye, Booth," Brennan whispered in a monumental moment for them – the goodbye he had been dreading ever since he realized exactly what she was trying to say at the beginning of their conversation.

Unable to say anything, however – how could he when the woman he had moved on with and fallen for was standing ten feet away from the woman he had tried so hard and failed epically to stop loving? - Booth simply nodded, his throat closed up.

They moved past one another, reminiscent of two people who had crossed each other's paths and would've been great together had they not simply passed and not stopped to look and admire the wondrous possibilities of 'what could've been'.

It was as though time slowed down when Booth and Brennan moved past each other, and sped right back up as they reached the people they were with, the people they were trying so desperately with to recapture the glimpse of the beautiful future they had seen with no one but each other.

"There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things that we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go."