Author's Note: Here we go, everybody. The final chapter. Always so bittersweet for me haha. Close to 1,000 reviews for this thing, and I've been overwhelmed with everyone's response to this fic. I've loved writing it, and I appreciate all of you so much for sticking with it. It's been an angsty ride, and I hope you've enjoyed it. Without further ado….your conclusion. As always, I can't wait to hear what you think.

Song is "All This Time" by OneRepublic.

Chapter Fifteen

All This Time

Six on the second hand till new year's resolutions
There's just no question what this man should do
Take all the time lost, all the days that I cost
Take what I took and give it back to you

All this time we were waiting for each other
All this time I was waiting for you
We got all these words, can't waste them on another
So I'm straight in a straight line running back to you

Booth watched Brennan move away from him, disappearing into the crowd. His instinct was to follow her, but for a moment he stood frozen, shell shocked by what had just happened.

He lifted his hand, unconsciously touching his fingers to his lips. Her taste lingered there, and Booth wanted it back.

This realization propelled Booth forward, panic beginning to descend over him.

Pushing through the crowd, Booth swept his eyes over the room, but he didn't see her.

"Did that just happen?" A delighted voice said from behind. A second later, Angela was grabbing his arm and turning him to face her.

"Ange," Booth began urgently. "Did you see Bones-"

"-kiss you? Oh yeah." Angela was grinning. "And I saw you kiss back-"

"She left, Angela," Booth cut her off sharply. He ran a shaking hand through his hair, in no mood to gush like a couple of middle school girls. "She ran away, I have to…I have to find her."

The mirth faded somewhat from Angela's eyes. "She went outside." Booth turned instantly on his heel to run, but Angela caught hold of his arm. "Hey." She met his eyes. "Go easy, okay? Be patient."

He barely nodded before pulling away from her slackening grip and heading out the door of the apartment, leaving his party behind.

~(B*B)~

Moments later, Booth burst out into the warm night air.

Brennan was standing on the sidewalk in front of the building, her back to him, her arms crossed in front of her.

"Bones…."

She turned, startled, that panicked look still in her eyes. She said nothing.

Booth gritted his teeth, biting back the childish opener 'but you started it'. Instead, he asked quietly, "Was that…was that not okay?"

Brennan closed her eyes briefly. "I shouldn't…I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry."

His throat narrowing, desperation gripping him, Booth moved a few steps closer to her. "Why? Why are you sorry?"

She was shaking her head, face twisting. "I…I can't. Booth, last time we did this, and…and what I said after… that, that was the cataclysmic moment that caused…everything."

Immediately, Booth softened, "Hey…" He took the last few steps toward her, gently touching her cheek. "You don't have to worry about that, okay? I'm not going anywhere. Not ever again." He paused, eyes boring into hers. "So you can say anything to me. Okay?"

Brennan was quiet for a moment, catching her lower lip between her teeth. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"Fine, okay, I…I'll talk." He sighed, steeling himself. "I am not sorry you kissed me, Bones. Or that I kissed back." Booth smiled at her, nervously. "I want to kiss you again. I….I want to do more than kiss you. I…I want to be with you, Bones." His next words tangled in his throat, terrifying him, and for a moment he wrestled with himself.

"Booth-"

"I love you," Booth blurted out, her voice shocking the truth out of him. The words stopped Brennan instantly; her eyes widened as she stared up at him, her chest constricting. "I love you, Bones, and I want us to be together, but…if you don't want to be with me, I get it. I mean, of course I get it, but just…" Booth swallowed hard. "Just tell me. And I won't go anywhere this time, I swear, it's okay. If you don't feel that way about me anymore, you can tell me."

Drawing a long, shaky breath, Brennan lowered her eyes, and admitted in a quiet voice, "It isn't that."

Hope flared in Booth's chest, though the pained expression on Brennan's face kept him cautious. "Then what?" He questioned gently.

"I…we just started being friends again," Brennan told him thickly. "And…I can't lose you again, Booth, okay?"

"You won't!" The protest tumbled out in a rush. Booth was holding her arms, his tone vehement. "You won't, Bones, I told you, I…I want this, okay? I want us."

There was a silence, and then Booth felt Brennan go limp beneath his grip. She dragged her eyes to meet his, her face tight. "I know," she told him softly. "But…you said that before."

"I….oh…." Slowly, Booth slackened his hold on Brennan, taking a step back, his stomach tightening. "You don't trust me."

"It's not you I don't trust," she told him. "It isn't, it's the…consistency of romantic feelings. I…I've always said romantic relationships are ephemeral, that a person can't guarantee how they'll feel about someone for an entire lifetime-"

"Come on." Booth grabbed her hand impulsively, his eyes wide and pleading. "Come on, don't do that, Bones…you feel it, too. I know you do…"

"Yes, but Booth…." She laughed once, desperate and humorless. "You said you wanted to give us a chance, and then…then you met Hannah and fell in love with her."

These words hovered between them, echoing in the silence. Booth took a few steps back, rubbing his hands over his face, remorse filling him. His legs were suddenly trembling beneath him, and Booth walked the few paces to the curb and sat down.

Tears rose to Brennan's eyes as she watched Booth sink down in defeat. Terror clawed at her throat, that they were starting all this over again.

She sunk down beside him on the curb, giving Booth an uncertain, desperate look. Brennan touched his shoulder. "I just really don't want to lose you," she said in a choked voice.

Booth closed his eyes. "I get it."

And he did.

He'd always been the one to try to convince Bones that love was worth trusting, that it was more than chemicals in the brain…that it could last.

But he'd told her how he felt; assured her of five years worth of certainty, that he'd known since the very beginning.

Then the next sentence out of his mouth was that he had to move on. And in less than seven months, it seemed like he had.

So he got it, why Bones didn't trust him, didn't consider it worth the risk.

Once again, it was all his fault.

Booth turned to look at Brennan, and his heart caught instantly at the naked fear on her face. Immediately, he wrapped an arm around her, and Brennan gratefully leaned her head on his shoulder. "It's okay. I told you, Bones, you can tell me anything. I'm not going anywhere."

"Good," Brennan murmured into his shirt.

Booth tilted his neck, his temple resting on the crown of Brennan's head. She reached over and slipped her hand into his free one. They sat like that together for awhile.

Finally, Booth pressed a kiss against her hair, hating that that was all he was allowed, and softly broke the silence, "You want to go back to the party?"

"In another minute."

Both nodded, not sorry.

As the silence returned, though, Booth's mind began to churn.

He was remembering what Angela had said, nearly two months ago, during their dinner. She'd asked him why he didn't fight for Brennan the first time, why he gave up so easy.

He couldn't do that again.

~(B*B)~

They eventually stood and walked back to the party, fingers laced between them.

As they walked inside, Booth squeezed her hand once before disentangling his grasp.

They stayed close for the rest of the party, Booth introducing Brennan to the people she didn't really know. He suspected her motivation for staying close was avoiding the questions swirling in Angela's eyes, and the way Cam was looking at him made him grateful.

Still, for the last two hours of the party, Booth was barely there. All his mental energy was dedicated to wracking his brain for some way to prove to Bones that they were worth taking a chance on.

So Booth was grateful when people began trickling out of the apartment. He said his goodbyes and thank you's to all his friends. He saw Angela whisper "We will talk later." to Brennan as she and Hodgins left.

Then the two of them were alone again.

Brennan closed the door behind Angela and Hodgins, and turned around to smile at him, slightly uncertain.

He returned it. "Good party, Bones." Surveying the apartment, he offered, "I can help you clean up."

Frowning, Brennan walked toward the living room, beginning to pick up plates and other trash scattered around the room. "I don't think it's customary for you to clean up after a party that was thrown for you."

"Ah, screw the custom," Booth said with a grin. "I don't mind."

She paused long enough to give him a small smile. "Thanks."

For the next fifteen minutes, they moved around the apartment in companionable silence.

When they finished, Booth dropped beside Brennan on the couch and lightly bumped his shoulder against hers. "Thanks for the party, Bones." She turned, meeting his eyes. Booth smiled. "Thank you for doing that for me it was…you're amazing."

Brennan's lips curved in a tiny smile. "You're welcome." She hesitated, then asked softly, "Are we okay?"

"Bones. Yes, okay? We're fine, I promise." He draped his arm over her shoulders on the couch. "We're good." He paused, then, before he could change his mind, muttered, "Let me take you to dinner."

Her eyebrows drawing together, Brennan drew back to look at him. "We go to dinner all the time, Booth."

Booth's mouth was suddenly dry, his hands shaking slightly with nerves. "Yeah, um, I…I know, but, uh…I mean like…" He paused, then, in a rush, finished, "….likeonadate."

Her eyes narrowed in confusion. "What?"

Booth paused, drawing a slow breath. "Go on a date with me, Bones.

A myriad of emotions flickered across Brennan's face in quick succession. Booth swore she nearly smiled, but then she gave him a doubtful look.

"Booth, I told you-"

"I know," he interrupted quickly. "But…just give me one date, Bones. One chance, that's all I'm asking. I think I…I think I can prove to you that you're wrong, that what I'm feeling…it's for real."

"Booth, I never said it wasn't-"

"-and that it's for good. Just give me one chance to prove that, Bones, please. And, anyway, we deserve at least one date, right? We've earned that much, we owe it to ourselves to just-"

"Yes."

"-give it a try and…" Booth's voice trailed off as Brennan's last word sunk in. He blinked at her, something swelling in his chest. "I….really?"

The expression on Brennan's face suggested that she wasn't at all sure about what she'd just said. Still, she nodded once. "Yes, I'll…one date."

Booth was suddenly smiling so wide his cheeks ached. "Yeah. Okay, I…that's good." Booth laughed once. "Friday? At like….seven?"

Lowering her eyes, Brennan bit back a smile. "That would be acceptable."

His voice several octaves higher than usual, Booth replied, "Great, that's…wow. Okay. Friday. That's great, Bones, it's…" He hugged her one, quickly. "Thank you. For my party." He stood up, some vague part of his mind telling him to go before she changed her mind. "And…you know. I'll see you Friday." He paused at the door. "I mean, I'll see you before Friday because we…have work, but…." He smiled, voice softening. "Goodnight, Bones."

"Goodnight, Booth."

He backed out of the room, smiling at her until the door closed.

It was Saturday. He had less than a week to plan a perfect date.

~(B*B)~

"I need to talk to you," Brennan said under her breath.

Angela whirled instantly, her face lighting up. "My thoughts exactly, Sweetie." Seizing her arm, Angela fell into step with Brennan as they headed to her office. As soon as they were inside, Angela closed the door and led Brennan forcibly to the couch. "Tell me everything."

"I think I did something…foolish last night, Ange." Brennan began.

"Brennan, I saw you kiss him, and there was nothing stupid about that."

Brennan sighed. "I wasn't talking about that, but….that wasn't my most intelligent moment either."

Shaking her head, Angela gave her best friend a look that was equal parts exasperation and affection. "Sweetie, I'd say it was the smartest thing you've done in awhile." Angela smiled. "So what were you talking about?"

For a moment, Brennan was quiet, trying to decide how best to explain. Finally, she simply admitted. "Booth said that he loves me. And then I agreed to go on a date with him."

Brennan endured the squealing and exclamations that followed for a minute or so after this revelation, and then sobered her friend up instantly. "I told him I couldn't do it."

"What? Sweetie, you just said you agreed to go on a date."

"No, I…I did, that's…that was the foolish thing." She sighed, and quickly gave Angela a summary of their conversations outside her apartment and in the apartment after the party.

When she finished, Angela nodded for awhile then, choosing her words carefully, stated, "I'm going to resist explaining to you why exactly you're wrong, Sweetie, because I feel like it's only right that I give Booth a chance first."

"Angela-"

"But, Sweetie, you said yes to a date," Angela couldn't suppress a smile at the words. "Even after all that , you still said yes."

"I know." Brennan's fingers were twisting in her lap, and she stared down at them when she admitted, "But…he asked, and…I wanted to go."

"Of course you did."

"I shouldn't have, though. I think…it gave him the wrong idea." Brennan sighed, threading her fingers through her hair. "A date doesn't change anything."

Angela exhaled slowly, tilting her head at Brennan. "Bren, Sweetie….Booth loves you. And I know you love him."

"That…doesn't matter, Angela," Brennan stammered.

Arching an eyebrow, Angela smiled wryly. "Glad you're not denying it. But Brennan, what I'm saying is…you two love each other. That is all that matters."

"Now, Angela. He says he loves me now. But…four months ago, he was in love with Hannah."

The smile slowly faded from Angela's face. "Bren, like I said, I don't want to go into this whole thing until Booth has a chance first…if he messes it up, we can have a real talk." Angela laid a hand on Brennan's arm, squeezing gently. "But, Sweetie…just think about something for me, okay? Hodgins and I, we broke up for awhile. We were in love and then….we were with other people."

Leaning forward, Angela held Brennan's gaze, her expression serious. "I never loved anyone the way I loved Jack, Bren. And even when I was with other people…Roxie and Wendell…I realized later that I never really stopped loving him. And we found our way back to each other." She smiled. "It happens, Bren. People get lost for awhile, sometimes. But love, real love….it doesn't just go away. Even if you're pretending it has."

Brennan looked away, swallowing hard. "Why…why are you telling me this?"

"Just…think about that, okay? Especially when Booth starts in on whatever he's planning to do to change your mind." Impulsively, Angela hugged Brennan quickly. "You deserve to be happy, Brennan. More than anyone I know, okay?" She drew back, smiling teasingly at her friend. "And I've even decided that Booth does, too." Angela paused, voice soft, "It's okay to want that."

Throat too tight to speak, Brennan just nodded.

Angela smiled. "Now, I think we should leave here a couple of hours early on Friday….Brooke and I can come over and help you get ready…"

~(B*B)~

For the rest of the week, Booth and Brennan were almost nervous around each other, prone to silences and shy, frequent smiles.

Booth spent the week planning the date and, even more importantly, planning his strategy for convincing Brennan that it wouldn't be their only date.

He had it planned down to every last detail, from the restaurant to the music playing in the car (a mixed CD, softer than what he usually blasted).

They closed a case Thursday, so Booth didn't see her Friday during the day. He was grateful; it only would have exacerbated his anxiety.

Still, Booth was a ball of nerves by the end of the day, and he ended up leaving the Hoover an hour early. He filled his gas tank on his way home, then called to triple check their reservation for the evening. He showered, then spent far too long deliberating before deciding on a light blue dress shirt. He picked up flowers.

Then he ended up sitting in his car outside Brennan's apartment forty minutes before he was supposed to pick her up.

~(B*B)~

"Oh, Sweetie…" Angela sighed happily. "You look incredible."

Eyes clouded with doubt, Brennan moved in front of the mirror, staring at her reflection. "You don't think it's too much?"

"Of course not," Angela said absently, holding up two pairs of earrings next to Brennan's head before deciding on one and handing them to her. "It's your first date with Booth. And he's going to love it."

She had on a deep, dark purple dress, low cut, with thin straps, that fell loosely a few inches above her knee. Angela has sprayed something on her hair that made it wave slightly, and she'd spent far too long on makeup.

At Angela's assurance, Brennan smiled slightly, "Yeah?"

"Of course." Angela hooked her chin over Brennan's shoulder, smiling at her in the mirror, her eyes bright. "You look beautiful, Bren."

"I'm scared," Brennan whispered softly.

"I know," Angela replied, stepping back and gently turning Brennan to face her. "You're gonna have a great time. It's going to be perfect."

Laughing once, Brennan said, "That's what I'm afraid of, Ange."

Angela shook her head, smiling. "I'll let Booth do his thing. But if he doesn't talk you into committing to about fifty more dates, just as a start…then I'll do it."

"Ange-"

There was suddenly a burst of loud babbling from behind them, and Angela lifted Brooke from her carrier, set in the middle of Brennan's large bed. "What do you think, baby?" Angela turned back to Brennan, her daughter balanced on her hip. "Doesn't Aunt Bren look pretty?"

The doorbell rang, cutting off Brenan's protests. Brennan whipped around, her expression suddenly terrified.

Angela, though, broke into a delighted smile. "He's here," she said unnecessarily. Shifting Brooke slightly, Angela freed one hand and nudged Brennan gently toward the door of her bedroom. "Go. Have fun. Call me." Brennan was nodding along, and finally she started out of the room, but Angela's voice stopped. "And hey….listen to him, okay?" She smiled encouragingly. "Give it a chance. You both deserve it."

~(B*B)~

Booth rang the doorbell a second time, his throat narrowing as he did. Bad flashbacks hit him, standing on Hodgins' doorstep, knowing they were home even when no one answered.

He was edging slowly toward panic, wracking his brain to reassure himself he had the time right, when the door opened and she was standing in front of him. "Hey."

All the breath rushed from Booth's lungs as he stared at her. "Wow….Bones…you….wow."

Giving him a small smile, she laughed self-consciously. "You, um, too."

"You're beautiful," Booth said softly. He thrust his left hand in her direction, giving her the bouquet of daffodils he'd been clutching in a death grip. "Not the most traditional first date flowers, I know," Booth admitted with a grin. "But they're your favorite, so…

"They are," she repeated, taking them with a widening smile. "Thank you."

Booth smiled, inhaling deeply. "You ready to do this?"

Brennan took a second to look at him, his warm, chocolate eyes bright with hope. "Yeah. I think I am."

~(B*B)~

It took a few minutes in the car for both of them to relax and calm their nerves, but once they did, the conversation flowed steadily between them, just as always.

Only when she glanced at the clock and realized they'd been driving for forty-five minutes did Brennan ask, "Booth, where are we going for dinner?"

He cut his eyes at her, grinning. "It's a surprise. I found this place…we'll be there in about a half hour, but believe me, it'll be worth it."

"You didn't have to do that-"

"I know…I wanted to." He took his eyes off the road just long enough to smile at her. "Besides, it's a big night. Didn't want to take you somewhere we always go. It's gotta be special."

Brennan smiled back. "Alright." Slowly, her smile faded. "Booth…."

He, too, was squinting ahead of them. "Damn it…." Ahead of them on the highway, two cars were stopped, one in the median and one in the shoulder on the opposite sides, both thoroughly crushed.

And debris from the cars littered the road in front of them.

"Shit, shit, shit…" Booth craned his neck. "Can I get over…"

"Not if you don't want to hit that car…."

On cue, their car started vibrating heavily, shaking as they sped over the littered road.

Within seconds, the drive became smooth again. Booth clenched his jaw, knuckles white on the wheel, as Brennan lifted her cell phone, "It may not have been reported yet…"

Booth was only dimly aware of Brennan's voice on the phone. In spite of the fact that he was driving, he closed his eyes, praying fiercely, Please don't get a flat tire. Please don't get a flat tire, come on…

~(B*B)~

"Yep," Booth gritted out, straightening up, his jaw clenched. "They're both flat." He aimed a violent kick at the back tire before walking around the SUV to where Bones was standing. He gritted his teeth. "And I have one spare."

They'd made it about fifteen miles before the damage had set in, and now they were pulled over on the side of some road middle of nowhere.

Calmly, Brennan pulled out her cell phone. "I'll call for a tow."

Defeated, Booth leaned against the side of the SUV, clutching his head in his hands as Brennan talked on the phone.

He stayed like that until he felt Brennan's hand on his arm. "They said it could be a few hours," she told him softly. Booth kept his head ducked. "Hey…" The concern in Brennan's voice made him look up at her. "You okay?"

A soft laugh escaped him, humorless and shaky. "No, Bones. No, I'm not okay."

"It's not a big deal," Brennan told him uncertainly.

Before he could stop himself, Booth slammed his palm against the side of the car, taking a step away. "It is! It is a big deal, I just….I wanted this to be perfect! I…I screwed everything up for so long that I just…I didn't want to screw this up, too. And I had the whole thing planned, I found this restaurant, and it's really nice and famous for vegetarian stuff and I really, really wanted to take you, because…I don't even know if you really wanted to come, so I wanted it to be perfect so you'd have this amazing time and, and now…now I have two flat tires in the middle of God knows where and it is a very huge deal!" He stared at Brennan, and then sighed. "And, and now you're laughing at me. Fantastic."

Brennan pressed her fingers over her lips, her laughter slowly subsiding. When she looked at him, her blue eyes were bright with affection. "Booth. I'm not laughing at you, it's just…I don't care where we eat, or what we do, I just…I said yes because I really wanted a date with you." She walked up to him, putting a hand on his chest, and smiled. "Even if it is only one."

Slowly, Booth felt the tension unfurl inside him. A smile stretched his lips, transforming the frustrated expression on his face. "You said they'd be a few hours?"

"Two at least."

Curling his fingers, Booth slowly slid them the length of Brennan's arm. "Saw a scary looking pizza place about a half mile back. Shall we?"

Brennan smiled back. "I don't think it was eat in."

Booth rolled his eyes skyward. "Of course it wasn't." His eyes snapped back to Brennan's and suddenly both of them were laughing, so hard they were leaning against each other.

When they finally calmed down, Booth reached down and threaded their fingers together. "Let's go. Pretty sure I promised you dinner."

~(B*B)~

Forty-five minutes later, they had climbed on the hood of the SUV, a pizza box between them.

"I gotta admit," Booth said, swallowing a large bite of cheese pizza. "This worked out. I wasn't looking forward to all that veggie crap."

Brennan gave him a strange look, "Then why did you make a reservation there?"

"I told you," he said casually, glancing over at her. "I thought you'd like it."

For a moment, Brennan just watched him, smiling, but she said nothing.

After a moment, Booth asked, a teasing note in his voice, "So where would you have picked to go? You know, if you were trying to impress me?"

She shrugged, considering. "You like the diner."

"The diner?" He repeated, making a face. "C'mon, Bones, you could do better than that. First date, big event…where do you take me?"

"Um…" Brennan paused. "Somewhere with really good pie?"

He grinned, pretending to think about it. "Okay, I could get behind that…"

"Or maybe somewhere with really good gourmet macaroni and cheese."

"Aw, Bones…" Booth nudged his shoulder against hers. "You know your mac and cheese is my favorite."

Brennan smiled. "Then I'd just make it for you. Instead of taking you somewhere."

His smile softened. "I like that idea." Booth swallowed, then added lightly, "Maybe we could do that on our next date."

She glanced away, not answering. For the first time, the silence between was slightly uncomfortable.

Booth finished the slice he was holding in his hand, then waiting for Brennan to do the same before saying, "Lean back, Bones. Look…"

She raised an eyebrow, but obliged without question; the two of them leaned against the windshield, gazing up at the sky.

His gaze barely lingered on the stars before Booth turned slightly to watch Brennan.

"They're beautiful, aren't they, Booth?" Brennan spoke in a hushed voice.

"Yeah," he said quietly, voice rough. "Beautiful."

Brennan's hand moved slightly, the edges of her fingers brushing his. Smiling to himself, Booth looked back up at the stars, sliding his fingers into hers.

He slid over on the car, minimizing the gap between them, when his foot hit something.

"Shit." Booth craned his neck in time to watch the pizza box, with half the pizza still inside, slide off the car onto the ground.

"What happened?" Brennan craned her neck, too, following his gaze.

With a soft, incredulous laugh, Booth dropped his head back against the windshield. "Lost the food….you know, pretty typical of this date so far."

"Booth?" He turned his head, meeting Brennan's eyes. "I think it's been a more than sufficient first date."

He smiled, "More than sufficient?"

Brennan's voice dropped, barely more than a whisper, "Really, really good."

He closed his eyes, brushing his lips with hers.

Brennan responded immediately, and Booth reached over, tracing his thumb gently across Brennan's cheekbone. He kissed her softly, movements languid, as if they had all the time in the world.

But then she was slowing, and murmured against his mouth, "Booth….Booth, wait…"

He drew back, drawing a breath, slowly opening his eyes to find Brennan's inches away, swirling with conflict. Booth half-smiled at her. "Okay….I can do this now."

"Do what?"

He laughed a little, nerves seeping back in. "I can go ahead with the speech."

Brennan pursed her lips, uncertain. "Speech?"

"Yeah…see I have this whole speech planned for you, and…well, I'll just go ahead." Booth paused, steeling himself. He didn't move his hand from Brennan's cheek, still rubbing his thumb absently against her skin as he began, "I know what you think, Bones. I get it. The two of us, the…the whole time we've been partners…I've always been the romantic one. Even back when you were insisting love was just this…chemical process in the brain and that none of that was constant…I was always the one trying to prove you wrong.

"I wanted to make you change your mind to…to believe that love was real and that it could last. And I think I always knew, in the back of my mind…that I was really trying to get you to believe in the possibility of love for…for us." He paused, smiling sadly. "And then…then I ruined it. I know I did, Bones, I…I told you I was that guy, the guy who knew what he felt about you, who had always known. And then five seconds later I said I was moving on.

"So I know what you're thinking, Bones. I know why you're scared…you think what I was feeling before went away, and that I started feeling it for someone else." He lowered his voice. "And you're scared that will happen again."

Brennan closed her eyes briefly, and when she opened them, Booth was close enough to see the tears spiking her eyelashes.

"You're wrong," Booth continued, his voice catching. "About all of that. I messed up, I did, and you know I know that, but…Bones, how I felt about Hannah…it wasn't anything like it was with you. And…that never went away." He paused. "Loving you never went away. I pretended it had, I even thought that it had but…God, I was kidding myself. I had to become this whole different guy to even pretend I wasn't in love with you.

"But I still was. And the second I found out Greg Thomas had you…I knew." Booth's throat narrowed, and he held her eyes, intensity growing. "I would have chosen you, Bones. You were wrong down there, in that basement. If I'd have had to choose….God, I couldn't have let you die."

At this, Brennan's eyes had gone wide, a shaky sigh escaping her. Booth gently traced his thumb across the track of a tear rolling towards her temple and continued softly, "I'd spent months trying so hard to be in love with Hannah, trying to pretend I wasn't with you…but there was no question. You're the one…I couldn't survive losing. Ever.

"I woulda chosen you, Bones. It breaks my heart that I made you think I wouldn't but…I'll always choose you. Always. Just like I've always been…so in love with you that I can't…I can't hide that without losing myself. And that's never gone away, and it's never going to. No matter what you say when I get done rambling…even if this is the one and only date we ever get to have." He shuffled sideways just a little, touching his forehead against hers. "I've never loved anyone like this, Bones. And…and I've never needed anyone this much."

It was this word, need, that broke her. A sob rounded in Brennan's throat and escaped, tears spilling over.

The ghost of the old Booth, the guy who'd stood in Brennan's office after months of neglect and claimed he didn't need her, hovered for a brief moment.

Then Brennan smiled, the memory gone, and when she fiercely captured his lips with her own, Booth was aware of the dizzying taste of redemption.

They kissed fervently, breaths harsh but soft. Booth rolled on his side, supporting his weight with one knee on the hood, bracing the hand not threaded through Brennan's hand against the windshield as he bent over Brennan, kissing her hungrily, as though were reclaiming what was rightfully his.

Brennan shivered beneath him, her fingers softly stroking Booth's neck, her other hand wrapped around him, fingers splayed on his back.

"My God, Bones…" he murmured after a few moments of this, his words falling on her lips. Brennan laughed softly, a low, throaty sound that nearly did him in.

Booth tipped his face toward hers again, his nose brushing hers briefly before he recaptured her mouth, intensity increasing.

Moments later though, he lifted his head again. "What's that sound?"

He felt them the same instant he saw them; raindrops pelting against the windshield, sparse at the moment, but slowly growing.

"Raining…perfect," Booth muttered. His hand, braced against the windshield, slipped as he shifted, and Booth barely caught himself before cracking his skull against Bones'. Aware of how harsh his breathing sounded, he told her, "We're gonna fall off here, Bones."

Chest heaving, she just nodded, and he reluctantly moved away from her, sliding off the car and grabbing Brennan's hand the help her down, the rain already increasing around them as they ducked into the backseat of the SUV.

Booth slammed the door behind him and turned back to Brennan, who was shaking her damp hair, her cheeks flushed; he couldn't help but smile.

"God, you're beautiful, Bones."

She slid toward him, without saying a word, kissing again, slow and heavy, her fingers trembling slightly as she undid the buttons of his shirt. She slid her hand beneath the material, grazing the warm skin of his chest, feeling the thundering of his heartbeat.

Booth ran his hand down the bare skin of her back, down to her hip, finally teasing his fingers beneath the hem of her dress, just as Bones fingers began fumbling with his belt.

"Bones, wait…" Booth's voice was strangled.

Sucking air, Brennan looked down at him, panting. "What's wrong?"

He cleared his throat several times. "I just…God, I can't believe I'm going to say this, but…we can't do this now." Hurt flickered across her features, and Booth hurriedly said, "Not…not like this…I want our first time to be…perfect. I want it to be magic, Bones." He laughed unsteadily. "I want it to be special, not…in the back of a car like a couple of high school kids after homecoming."

She arched an eyebrow at him. "You had intercourse in a car after homecoming?"

"Um, I…that's not important. What matters is…" He ran his knuckles down her arm, smiling up at her. "It's a big deal, Bones. A really big deal. It's gonna be our last first time. Ever."

For a moment, Brennan's expression was uncomprehending, but then her eyes widened as his meaning sank in. "Booth, you can't-"

"Don't say I can't know that," Booth told her, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, away from her eyes. "I can. I do."

Brennan looked down, and fear knotted in Booth's chest, but when she looked up again she was smiling luminously at him. "Okay." She shifted slightly, onto the seat next to him, and Booth wrapped an arm around her as Brennan leaned into his chest. "Booth?"

He pressed his lips, feather light, against her hairline. "Yeah, Bones?"

There was a pause, and then she said in a small voice, "I love you." Booth's heart caught, his vision blurring unexpectedly.

She looked up at him, expression earnest. "And I still don't know if I trust that." Again, Booth's chest tightened, fear prickling at him. But then Brennan added softly, "But I trust you."

Sighing in relief, Booth tightened his grip on her. "That's good enough for me, Bones." He laughed once in disbelief. "I don't know what I ever did to deserve it, Bones. Or you."

"Plenty," she murmured against his chest.

They sat there in silence, entangled, listening to the rain pounding on the windows of the car, and Booth closed his eyes. Even now, he didn't feel worthy of so much perfection. So much joy.

But then Brennan tilted her head again to look at him, their eyes meeting, and she smiled at him.

He smiled back, every part of him feeling the full truth of that word, need. He really did need her, so much.

His mistakes added up; Booth knew he'd never stop regretting them. But one smile from Bones, and they felt far away, dark reminders of some guy who wasn't really him.

She'd brought him back to himself. Maybe he didn't deserve her, maybe he never would…but Booth made a promise to himself, right there, that he'd spend the rest of his life trying.

"Hey Booth?" Brennan tilted her head. "The vegetarian restaurant did sound appetizing...maybe we could go for our second date?"

Booth had to swallow against the tightness in his throat, and he rested his head on hers as he answered, "I think I could handle that. If you'll cook mac and cheese for our third date."

He felt her nod beneath him, and Booth placed his hand over hers, linking their fingers. "We got a deal, Bones." He sighed in contentment. "I think it's gonna be perfect."

~(B*B)~

A/N: So there you have it. All That You Can't Leave Behind is now complete. I've loved writing this fic, and I've loved reading your reviews. To go all award show for a second, I have to thank my incredible beta, Biba, who's been such a help with making me write, helping me figure out what to write, and telling me when something works or not. This fic wouldn't be what it is without her help.

And, yet again, thank you all for reading it. You're all amazing. I'm proud of this story, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it half as much as I have writing it.

My new fic will be up in the next week or two, most likely. It's called "Truth Doesn't Make A Noise", and I'm incredibly excited to get it started. As you can all guess, it's a dark and angsty ride, full of love and redemption and struggling. Won't say much about it yet, but just to tease 1) It's the first time I've written Booth and Brennan in an established relationship and 2) It began because I wanted to explore the depth of Booth and Brennan's love, specifically, how far they'd go for each other.

Intrigued? I hope so. I hope you'll check it out, and I hope you'll tell me what you thought of the conclusion to this one. Thanks again for reading.

~Hannah (obligatory apologies for my name)