Disclaimer: The characters portrayed here are owned by Fox. No infringement intended.

Summary: Angst ridden new season inspired plot with a little joy for the forlorn shippers of our show. (Wink) Milk and cookies might be a nice choice for this one. Enjoy.

Rating: NC17. Language and adult themes/situations.

Thanks: My beta is indisposed at the mo, so no doubt there are countless grammatical flaws present in this piece of fiction. I sincerely apologise for that but I have done my best to correct as many as I can spot. Thank you for your patients and forgiveness in advance. Lebxeb. XX.

Trust.

Sunday October 12th 2010 Three Pines Park, 11.32AM.

'Run, Little man! Run! Go, gooo!' Booth yelled, seeing Parker charging around the bases heading for a home run. Hannah leapt up and down beside Booth excitedly, her blonde locks tossing either side of her peach flawless skin.

'Woohooo, Park! Yey!' she hollered to him, then jumping onto Booth's back, while he instinctually grabbed around her thighs, to hold her on his back. She applauded wildly, generously.

Parker got home to cheers from the other parents and excited observers of the Little League game. He spun to his father and his new girlfriend, and jumped up in the air, fist pumping in triumph at winning the game for his team. Hannah blew him a kiss, then kissed Booth's cheek hard. The lovers were delirious happy with his performance.

'That's my boy. God, did you see how far he hit that?' he gushed proudly, still beaming at his son, while he took the congratulations of his coach and team mates.

'Yeah, he was brilliant, Seeley.' Hannah slipped off his back, and hugged him possessively around his waist from behind. Booth turned, grabbed her to him, and kissed her passionately. She hummed, and reciprocated just as deeply. Her hands slipped up his back to his wide shoulders, and eased him a little closer.

Booth finally broke the sensuous kiss, and smiled hard at her. He drew back a strand of wild hair over her ear, losing himself in her luscious twinkling eyes for a few indulgent moments. Hannah stroked his jaw tenderly, matching his depth of smile. 'Do you love me?' she asked softly. Booth hugged her close, looking over her shoulder with a contented smile.

'I thought I proved that last night and twice this morning,' he said cheekily, fairly convincingly.

She giggled softly, leaning back to look into him again. 'Just say it, just once, Seeley,' she urged, with the softest pretty pout. Booth took her hands in his, kissing both gently.

His Catholic upbringing, morals and sin criteria surged back instantly, tossing his stomach like the interior of a washing machine. The lies he'd told people nearest and dearest to him over recent weeks were starting to mount. They were tainting his soul and weighing down on his shoulders. But being with his Godless partner for so long, he'd began to conveniently doubt his faith and not fear damnation or the confessional. Besides he mused, yet another lie couldn't hurt, it would only make her happy. So he transgressed, again. 'Yeeah, I luv ya,' he drooled. He felt her hug him a little tighter, and sink into him slightly.

Yes, she was eased, he felt. He would fall in real love with her soon, wouldn't he? Then his sin would be wiped away, wouldn't it? She was all he needed; smart, sexy, fun, affectionate and clearly besotted with him. She was honest and forthright and an easy person to live with. She cooked, cleaned and paid her way too. No it won't be long till he could say those words and mean them wholeheartedly.

Parker came bounding over, skipping with joy to the couple who were kissing again. 'Dad? Did ya see, did ya?'

'Yeah, Little man! You were awesome!' Booth picked him up, tossing him onto his shoulders effortlessly, then took Hannah's hand instinctually as they made their merry way back to his SUV.

Parker took great joy in recounting every swing of the bat, every long stride he took all the way to the home base, right down to the slide in the dirt. He wriggled on top of Booth's shoulders, acting out his actions and triumph. Hannah added to his puffed up ego by flattering the small boy generously too. Parker glowed excessively. It was a happy family scene until all three saw Bones standing awkwardly by their car.

Booth lost his smile slowly, while searching Bones' eyes, trying to discover why she was here. That annoying sense of dread tugged at his lower abdomen too, and his heart rate soared. Had she lip read is words to Hannah? How long had she been watching them? he pondered. Guilt flickered over his face like a dark veil.

Booth released his hold on Hannah's hand. 'Oh. God, what's up now?' Hannah droned like an annoyed ventriloquist, clearly pissed off when she spotted her too.

'Hey, Doctor Beee!' Parker exclaimed, not catching the jubilance seeping away from the adults. 'Did you see me get the winning home run?' Booth lifted him off this shoulders to the ground. Parker was used to seeing his father's partner regularly and didn't think anything of seeing her here. Besides he was too excited and the more people who'd witnessed his home run the better.

'Hello, Parker. Actually yes, I did see you get a hole in one, well done.' Parker chuckled at her, being used to her ineptitude when it came to sporting terms. Hannah surreptitiously gave Booth a brow flick, meaning rudely, how trite of her. Booth pretended not to see Hannah's little jab at his partner. Bones caught it though but chose not to comment, although she felt it in the middle of her chest. 'Hello, Hannah, I'm sorry to intrude on your day out but I need to speak to Booth.'

'No problem,' she said casually, with a sweet attractive grin, although Bones could sense it was definitely a problem for her. Hannah kissed Booth hard on the lips, a clear statement of possession, then she and Parker got into the SUV.

'See-ya-later, Bones!' Parker said cheerily, clambering into the back of the car. Bones smiled wide at him, and nodded while Booth closed the door.

'What's up, Bones?' Booth moved away from the car, as they aimlessly walked towards the small boating lake. It was covered with little motorised sail boats and surrounded by children and parents enjoying the warm fall day. The russet fallen carpet of leaves crunched under their shoes and fluttered around them from the branches above. There was a chill in the air and not just because it was mid October.

Bones began with her apology as they got a safe distance from his car, 'I'm sorry to intrude, Booth but this couldn't wait. I know how precious your time is with...'

Booth interrupted her a little snappily, 'What can't wait?' Obviously he didn't want to waste anymore of the lovely day if he could get away with it, Bones realised. She flicked her eyes to his, feeling a distinct coolness towards her in his tone, not unlike he'd been since they got back from their respective trips abroad.

Bones pulled out a letter from her jacket pocket, and handed it to him. He stood still to read it as she explained, 'It arrived late on Friday night at the Jeffersonian. That's a copy obviously. I knew you had Parker this weekend so I didn't call until it was necessary for you to get involved.'

Booth flicked her a glance, and felt his heart tweak. He felt cruel for being so sharp with her. It was obvious that she was walking on egg shells around him at the moment, and was trying desperately to keep their professional relationship on an even keel. Bringing Hannah into the mix was putting a strain on both of them.

Although she'd been very supportive and happy outwardly with his new found romance, Booth knew she was struggling with the third wheel dynamic. Bones had stepped back and given him more space respectfully. They hadn't spent much time alone except on the crime scenes. His evenings were taken up with Rebecca now, so he had no inclination to go to the Founding Father's every night before they went their separate ways. Rebecca didn't enjoy her company much or her social awkwardness. She'd told Booth she found her embarrassing and extremely hard work. Booth understood however Hannah was more than just a little threatened by Bones and their previous close relationship. Although Booth explained it had always been platonic and professionally symbiotic between them. He'd foolishly let slip that he indeed had deep feelings for his partner but she'd rejected him. This didn't seem to placate Hannah though and she still bore some resentment to them being together so much of the time.

Bones leant her back against the tree trunk, and looked up through its leafless boughs to the solid blue sky. She kept her hands in her pockets fisted, feeling the tension in her back and shoulders.

Booth finished reading the letter. 'Shit... You should have called me, Bones,' he scolded gently, finally looking at her. He watched as she closed her eyes, slowly lowered her head, and then looked into him. She could see the grave concern smeared over his handsome features.

'I don't know what happened in Afghanistan,' she began. 'And your reluctance to tell me makes me assume you cannot tell me or you can't trust me with that knowledge. I respect that.' Booth felt his heart ache now, trust had nothing to do with it and it pained him to think she thought he didn't trust her. It had everything to do with seeing her have some emotional reaction by keeping things from her. To set himself apart and putting up a wall between them emotionally. By putting Hannah between them, and proving to her and himself he had indeed moved on, and could function quite happily without his partner in his life. If he were honest, on a subconscious level he did want to hurt her a little for denting his pride.

Bones was still talking, while he struggled to stay focused. His mind was racing, his palms began to sweat, and his throat closed over. 'But we've got two victims at the Jeffersonian. Jackson and my name are the next on the list. But knowing what happened may give us some leads to this sniper.' Booth nodded, stunned by how calm she seemed to be. She went on, 'He's sticking to the time line, therefore let's assume we have a couple of days to apprehend him.' Booth looked to the letter again, nodding.

Bones began to walk back towards her car. 'I'm sorry to interrupt your day, Booth, honestly,' she said impossibly softly, as she brushed past his arm. The merest touch at his elbow snapped him from the page to holt her exit by her forearm. Bones instantly dropped her head, and sighed. Her feet growing roots suddenly, she noted. Her stomach wrenched, she wanted to be held, wanted to be reassured, she needed his strong arms around her but knew that was too much to hope for. She was not allowed that privilege anymore. She felt herself stiffen, and say, 'I'm ok, Booth,' without looking at him.

'You're not safe, Bones. Not out here,' he stated just as softly.

Bones allowed a placatory grin flash across her lips. 'I've learnt some things from working with you, Booth. I have a body guard, two actually...' She took a breath. 'I'll be at the Jeffersonian when you're free.' Bones pulled up her roots, and walked back to her car. It was only as she walked away did she feel the burn of tears in her eyes. She knew he would blame himself if anything happened to her. He may have moved on with a new love but they had an undeniable history which kept them linked, which she knew would come between Hannah and him. Bones didn't want to be the catalyst to ruining his life with Hannah, not since he was clearly so content and in love with her.

Bones waved briefly at Parker, and gave a respectful nod to Hannah, as she got into her Mercedes.

!

Jeffersonian, two hours later.

The whole team were busy raking over the two men already assassinated when Booth walked up the steps to the gantry. The forensic lab was a shell of its former glory. It was improving though, Booth noted. Day by day more equipment was returning and being installed. He was pleased to see Cam, Ange, Jack and Daisy were all hard at work on the corpses. Booth deliberately avoided looking at his former colleagues now still and lifeless on the lab tables, knowing he couldn't help them now.

'Where is she?' Booth threw his question around the gantry for anyone to answer.

'By that I assume you mean Doctor Brennan,' Ange threw back, not bothering to cover her sneer. Booth wilted instantly, he was going to have to get used to the thinly veiled sarcasm from Bones' greatest friend and defender. He knew she would blame him if anything happened to her and rightly so. Then there was the fact that Ange hadn't forgiven him for moving on so fast and pushing Hannah on to them all so blatantly. 'She's in her office, I'd knock first if I were you,' she added bitterly, turning away from him. Daisy barely made eye contact, neither did Jack. Cam was the only one who dared, she gave him a high chin nod to acknowledge his arrival, while everyone got on with her relative tasks.

Booth walked straight across the floor and down the other side. He spotted Bones at her desk, strewn with papers and half drunk coffee mugs. Her door was shut, so he did as Ange suggested and knocked politely.

Bones looked up, seeing him, her brow wrinkled, clearly confused as to why he was knocking as he'd never done that before. She waved him in, standing nervously as he closed the door softly behind him.

'Hey,' she said gently, still anxious. 'Do you want a drink or something?'

'No, no I'm fine thanks.' That chill was descending between them again, although her comfortable office felt cosy and extraordinarily familiar. The only thing missing, he noted was the glass case where her crusty mummy was normally displayed.

Bones asked curiously, 'Why are you standing?'

'Oh. No reason. Shall we?' Booth gestured to the couch, prepared to tell her what happened in Afghanistan. He knew he had caused this awkwardness between them, even before the sniper was after her. He hated it and himself for being so needlessly cruel.

Bones settled on the far chair while he took up space on the couch. He watched as she crossed her legs, and coughed to clear her throat. She began first, avoiding his eyes, 'I umm. Don't need to know details just...' Booth was shaking his head, and wringing his hands so she stopped talking.

'I was ordered to capture a cell...' he began softly. 'Four men, al Qaeda operatives, all well known in the area. It went fairly smoothly.' Bones listened patiently, and nodded as he refilled his lungs. 'We were instructed to get as much information from them as we could; maps, ammo store locations, bomb factories, next targets that kind of thing...' He looked up with clouded haunted eyes that she hated seeing. It made her feel terribly uneasy. 'We were instructed to get this information by any means possible, any means...'

Bones nodded solemnly, her unease transformed into concern for him instantaneously. She said almost without empathy, repressing her emotions expertly as usual, 'Torture...'

Booth nodded to confirm. He took a moment searching her limpid eyes for any condemnation of him due to his confession. Relieved when he saw none whatsoever, and went on, 'There was six of us in the unit, four of them. But... there were actually five.'

'Five?'

'Yes. We didn't realise at the time but one had got away. He waited and watched the house. We never saw his face but he took two of my unit out as we headed back. Two kill shots through the temples.' Bones nodded, looking to her hands clasped on her lap.

Then she asked, looking up, 'What happened to the four insurgence you captured?' Booth dropped his eyes, and slumped back to the couch. Bones didn't need an answer, she knew via his body language what they'd been instructed to do, the orders they'd been given.

He added soulfully, 'You must understand, Bones. They do it to our guys all the time,' trying to justify his orders to her.

'You don't need to explain, Booth. Its a nasty guerrilla war, I understand,' she eased, lacing her words with true sympathy for his predicament. Unable to mask her emotions fully in the light of his tortured expression though.

Bones understood now why he'd chosen not to tell her the full story. If their actions were made public knowledge it would cause major repercussions. Every bleeding heart; Amnesty International, the UN and all the worlds press would vilify the US for their actions, despite having their troops suffering the same horrors. That didn't make it right or excuse their actions but the majority would understand and turn a blind eye, do turn a blind eye. This was war and bad things happen in wars that was a fact of life, Bones rationalised. The tolls never rested with the politicians, high ranking generals or governments. The burden always were with the men on the ground following orders, they were the ones that would be named, shamed and possibly incarcerated. It was those men and women who had to carry the guilt of the acts with them and struggle with the morality of their actions when they returned home. If indeed they came home at all.

However Booth felt he needed to be honest with her now in the light of recent events and the list. 'That's just it, Bones. The reason I came back early. I struggled with what we had to do, what I did. We broke the laws of war fare. Disregarded and violated their human rights and the Geneva convention...' Booth hung his head, saying, 'I'm sorry... this is all my fault, him coming after you.'

'No, Booth, not your fault, it's the governments, the military,' she placated tenderly, seeing his distress and pain. She thought she saw a wave of relief cross his eyes as he lifted them to hers, and his shoulders lose a little of their tension.

Booth continued, 'I was sent back to barracks after I had a bust up with my commanding officer. I went to the mess and got juiced up, that's when I met Hannah. She was on assignment with The Post along with another crew of journalists from England. Anyway, we got drinking, talking, she was extremely sympathetic and, and...' he trailed off, noting her expression turn solid.

Bones realised he'd obviously confided in Hannah all this shameful, painful information and she'd given him some comfort and perspective. In a way she felt pleased that he had someone with whom he could trust with it, but then she had another sensation. The epiphany made her feel suddenly isolated, painfully redundant and ache. She was no longer the person he trusted implicitly, and she understood was going to have to get used to that change between them. 'I understand, Booth. So...' she moved on, wanting to make some progress with the case now, needing a distraction from that uncomfortable realisation. 'Do you have any idea who this sniper is?'

Booth shook his head. 'No, but I can tell you the names, ages and describe their faces for Ange to draw. Maybe we can go from there?' he ask her hopefully.

Bones nodded firmly. 'Good idea. I'll get her in.'

Bones attempted to stand, relieved to be leaving her office as the thick smog of tension inside it made it hard for her to breathe, but froze when he said haltingly, 'Wait, hang on. Umm... I errr. There's something else you should know.' He looked clearly ashamed of what he was about to divulge. She nodded at him to continue. 'I was sent home...' He bravely locked his gaze with hers. 'I didn't come back because of Parker...'

Bones tried not to let her feelings show as she realised he'd lied to her a few weeks ago. She felt the pangs of hurt twist her gut but hid the thorny sensation from her features. The torture and murder of the enemy she could live with, rationalise his reasons for not enlightening her, and even cope with the knowledge that he'd confided in Hannah. But not him lying to her about why he came back early. Cam's predicament was just a coincidence, it seemed and a convenient cover for his expulsion. She mused that, that was unworthy and abnormal of the man she had grown to know and respect over the years.

Bones pondered, had she hurt him that badly that she'd caused this flip in his moral principles? Had she been with him too long spouting her scepticism of formal doctrines and religions, that he no longer feared his faiths teachings? Those facets of his psyche had always fascinated her and found them extremely provocative. Even the thought she may have dented the faith which he always clung to as his compass, made her nauseous now.

'Ok...' she said as flatly as she could, then swallowed, took a breath and went on, 'Thank you for your candour, Booth. You know you can trust my discretion with all of that information.'

Booth felt horrific, even though he'd confessed one of his recent lies he didn't feel any better. Seeing the sorrow caused by his lie that flickered like a flame across her face only made him ache more. He remembered getting that same expression from Hannah when he told her of his experiences. The difference being Hannah had held him, kissed him, empathised and gave him comfort to ease his broken soul. He knew he would never get that from Bones, only; rational, logical, stoic acceptance of the facts and arm's length sympathy. Once that would have been enough for him, not now.

All Booth could do was to nod, and watch her leave the office to get Ange. He rubbed his face with his palms, and sighed heavily, preparing to run Ange's gauntlet now.

!

Bones' office. 3.33PM.

'So, why am I drawing these faces, Booth?' Ange asked, while Bones was absent getting them all hot drinks. He could feel not just a chill but ice slip down his spine caused by her tone and the underlying accusation that was entwined with it.

'Because they may lead us to the fifth face.' Booth refused to rise to her dig at him for putting Bones in mortal peril.

'A fifth face?' Ange said sarcastically. 'I see. So, this fifth face, what's he got against you, Booth? And why is he coming after Bren?'

'I can't tell you that, Ange. I'm sorry,' he said softly, dropping his eyes to her excellent sketch, conjured out of nothing more than his description of one of the men after torturing him to within a inch of his life, then taking it. This face, Booth mused was etched on his soul just like the other three were.

'How very helpful...' More bitter sarcasm leaked through Ange's words.

Booth began to defend himself this time, 'Look, Ange...'

Ange spoke over him, not giving him the opportunity to defend, 'How's that? More hair?' She passed the sketch to him. He took it but looked into her eyes, she lanced back at him. Booth could see real contempt for him in her expression, something extraordinarily rare in the artist he'd grown to adore over the years. It was clear to Booth, Ange had a pretty good idea as to why this sniper was now after Bones. He knew she was either in the loop via Bones or she could read his mind. Booth couldn't rule out either option.

'That's great, really accurate. Thanks, Ange.' Then he sighed, and dropped his eyes away from her vicious stare, knowing he was out classed and out of ammo, so retreated.

The artist was nowhere near done with the special agent. 'How's Hannah?' Ange asked seemingly casually, taking back her sketch pad from his hand. That was one loaded question too far for the strung out Booth.

He felt the bile rise in his throat along with some anger. 'She's great,' he sneered. Then all hell broke loose between them.

'Oh. I don't doubt it for a moment! I was just wondering, is she on the list?' Booth jumped to his feet, about ready to explode. Ange stood too, staring into his eyes, challenging him to say or do something. She knew she was goading him to breaking point.

'No! No, she isn't. That's enough, Ange. This is hard enough for me...' Booth rubbed the back of his neck, looking to his sneakers, cooling slightly.

His comment sent Ange into a rage though, 'Oh! That's right! Hard enough for you! You sel-fish ego centric bastard. What about Bren, eh? She's perfectly happy with the situation as are those two virtually headless corpses on the platform, clearly.' Ange pointed out the office door towards the victims to accentuate her vitriol, while Booth winced. 'You've put her in this mess you better get her out of it pretty damn quick, solider boy.'

Booth bristled, and retaliated, 'I'm trying to, Ange and your attempts to piss me off are not helping matters!'

'It's about time somebody pissed you off and gave you a smack around your arrogant head, Booth. Coming back here shoving blonde bimbo in everyone's faces, Bren's face, it's pathetic. Acting like some camouflaged hero stud around us all! What did you do, Booth? Who did you talk to, eh? Who the hell did you piss off so badly that they are coming after your partner?'

'You're out of line, Ange. It wasn't my intention to push Hannah on you all.' Ange dropped a hip, and planted her hand on it, obviously not falling for his waffle.

'Bull! You wanted to hurt her, hurt her like a wounded school boy because she said no to you.'

'You're wrong, Ange.'

'Am I?'

'Yes! So wrong it's laughable. Bones doesn't see it that way, she's happy for me and Hannah. Very happy and supportive...'

'Yes, yes she is,' interrupting him again. 'Do you know why she is?' Booth opened his mouth to reply but Bones sudden entrance snapped his mouth closed.

'Ange, enough...' Bones warned her friend gently. The feuding pair looked around to Bones, then stepped back from one another slowly. Bones explained calmly, 'Booth cannot tell you why I'm on this list, it's a need to know situation.' Then she walked towards Ange, saying, 'I understand you're looking to protect me and feel that Booth is to blame somehow, but he's not. I don't blame him, neither should you or any of the team, is that clear?' Booth felt a deep longing to hug her close for her sincere defence of him, and her gentle scolding of her greatest friend.

Ange changed her weight from left to right foot uncomfortably, saying, 'God, Bren? If he hadn't gone off to Afganistan...'

Bones interrupted her now, 'That's irrelevant, he did and I went off too. And just to be clear, Ange I would prefer it if you didn't antagonise Booth. This is plainly a difficult situation for all of us and these petty arguments are wasting our valuable time...'Ange took a breath, knowing she was correct, but felt she just needed to vent a little. 'Do you have the faces?' Bones added.

'Yeah, here.' Ange flapped the pad.

'Thank you. Could you please now work on the scenarios of the bullet trajectories which may give us the precise locations of the shooter with respect to where the victims were found and fell?'

'Yes, sorry yes I'm on it.' Ange flicked a glance to Booth, after handing the sketch pad to Bones. As she left Booth let his lungs empty, consequently his shoulders relaxed. Bones walked passed him, to sit at her desk.

'I'm sorry, Booth. Ange can be very forthright with her opinions of late and she's clearly upset by these events. Her hormone imbalance is also a factor in her volatile temperament at the moment.'

'Please don't apologise for her, Bones. She had a genuine point.' He grimaced slightly as he spoke.

Surprised he thought so, Bones asked, 'Did she?'

'Yeah,' he said, then insisting, 'This is my fault.'

Bones looked up from the sketches to him. 'I've already stated that I don't see it that way. Please, let's move on, can we?'

He said, nodding, plainly relieved, 'Yeah. Sure, Bones.'

!

Booth's apartment, 8.07PM.

Booth ripped his jacket off, and hung it behind the door. Hannah walked into the kitchen as he turned. 'What's going on?' she asked. Booth shook his head slightly, avoiding full eye contact. Heading for the whisky bottle and glasses, he barely acknowledged her enquiry. Hannah slipped her hand on his shoulder from behind as he poured himself a healthy shot, then splashed it down his throat. 'Hey, come on, Seeley. Talk to me.' She perched up on tip toes, and placed a deliacte kiss on the back of his neck. Booth poured another shot, and downed that one just as smartly. He bared his teeth to the silky burn, took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. The alcohol numbed him and her gentle affection eased him slightly.

He sat down on one of his high stalls, nursing another inch or so of whisky. Hannah sat opposite, waiting. 'Is Parker ok?'

'Yes, Seeley. We made dinner and played the X Box. Then I read to him a little after his bath. He's been asleep for at least an hour.' Booth smiled warmly, plainly touched and greatful to her for taking care of his son so sweetly.

'Thanks, Hannah.' He sipped a little more. Hannah noted he wasn't quite ready to talk so go up to get her own glass, and join him. Booth flicked a glance in her direction as she reached for a glass, saying softly, 'Afganistan has come home to roost.' Hannah's hand froze on the glass as she regestered his words and their implication. Then she picked it up, and sat back down edgily. They locked eyes for a second, then she poured herself a glass. Booth watched as she knocked it back like a true pro, and poured herself another.

'Granger and Nanno are dead, shot through the head, one shot from distance. Granger's girlfreind got his brains splattered all over her while they were eating McDonalds on Friday night. Nanno was shot through his apartment window Saturday morning as he was doing laundry.' Hannah reached for his hand on his glass in sympathy but Booth drew away from her comforting touch, gritting his jaw. Hannah could see the pain he was trying to endure caused by his buddies demise.

'I'm sorry, Seeley. Really sorry.' Booth just nodded, then stood quickly. His chair scraped on the floor causing her ears to protest. He placed his glass in the sink. Hannah stayed still, watching his body so full of tension his muscles could be seen taut under his T shirt. He bowed his head, his palms holding him upright against the sink.

'A letter was sent to the Jeffersonian, to Bones specifically. In it he makes threats to take out the rest of my unit and... Bones too. There's a time line, he's sticking to it. What he says will happen has so far.'

'I see. When's he supposed to... When...' Hannah trailed off not knowing how to phase her question.

'Tuesday,' Booth clarified briskly, noting her struggling to say the words outloud. There was a long silence between them as they just stared into their own space.

Eventually Hannah asked softly, 'Are you on this list?' Booth nodded briefly, then turned to look at her. Hannah could see that he didn't care that he was on the list. His concerns were primarily for his partner.

'Yes but Jackson is supposed to be today,' he said gravely. 'He's been taken to a safe location and is under guard.'

'What about Bones? Is she in a safe place?' Booth sighed, and shook his head forlornly. Hannah could tell he wasn't liking Bones' insistence that she stays on the case.

'She's determined to keep working the case to try and get some leads as to his identity and whereabouts. She's got two FBI crack shots with her twenty four seven though.' Booth sat back down opposite her, and took her hands, caressing her fingers gently. 'Don't worry, we'll find him, Hannah. My immediate concern is Parker and you. As yet he's sticking to his targets but I'm worried if he can't get to Bones, Jackson or me he will may well look elsewhere...' Hannah nodded solemnly, the colour draining from her pretty cheeks as she realised she was possibly in the line of fire. He went on, 'We're being watched obvously, protected and are fairly safe here. The FBI has flagged a few people who have recently entered the country and are tracking them down. We've put names to the rebels I took out and we're checking their family members to see if anything lights up. We've got some partial evidence from the snipers postions. Angela came up trumps with her trajectories and pin pointed his shot locations for Nanno and Granger. But it's unlikely we'll get a hit off them. These guys are well trained and are clever at masking their tracks'

'So where does that leave us then?' Hannah asked, sounding a little panicked. Booth brought her elegant hands to his lips, and kissed them empathetically.

'You and Parker should stay here in the apartment till we get this guy.'

Hannah jumped in, 'What if you don't get him? I, we can't stay here indefinately!' Booth nodded, sympathising with her concerns.

'I know but just sit tight for a few days. One of the squints will come up with something to lead us to him.'

'God, you put so much trust in these... freaks! What if they don't? These fanatics managed to almost cripple this country in one morning on 9/11! To pick off three people is a peice of cake. He's already managed to get two of your unit! No scratch that, four of your unit!' Booth let her freaks comment slide, knowing she was very agitated and clearly scared. And he didn't need reminding that his unit was being assassinated.

'Hannah, calm down. You're safe here, I've made sure of that. Parker will hear you.'

Hannah riled sarcastically at his reprimand, albeit a gentle one, 'Oh. I'm sorry for having an emotional outburst when my life is threatened!' Booth felt her snatch her hands away from his soft grasp.

'Your life hasn't been directly threatened, Hannah. These are all precautionary measures we're taking. Look, I feel guilty enough for causing this situation, for bringing that shit home with me. Just chill out and relax, ok? It'll be alright. Trust me.' Booth got up, and surrounded her with a warm hard affectionate hug. She snapped her arms around him, and nuzzled into his chest. 'I'll not let anything happen to you...' he added sweetly, feeling her nod on his chest.

The irony of his reassurance made his heart wither. Hannah was in minimal danger compared to Bones, and he was hugging his girlfreind not Bones. Who he knew would probably really need a guy hug and reassurance tonight. He looked out the window of his kitchen to the night drawing in, and rubbed his cheek on the top of Hannah's head, but thinking about his partner. 'You better tell work that you're sick or something till this blows over.' She nodded on his chest again, then looked up to him. Booth smiled back down at her tenderly, caressing her smooth cheek with his index finger.

'Make love to me, Seeley,' Booth kissed her lips softly, dipped to pick her up, and carried her to their bedroom. Hannah rested her head on his shoulder, peppering his cheek with delicate warm kisses all the way there.

!

Booth's bedroom, 12.30.

Booth lay still and quiet, listening to Hannah breathe gently over his chest. She lay draped over him like a warm silk sheet, her skin felt softer to him than the covers tangled at his feet. He'd made love to her gently, doing as she'd sweetly requested to reassure and make her feel safe. The trouble was he had a empty sensation as he watched her ripple under him while she climaxed. She'd whispered his name over and over passionately. It had brought tears to his eyes to know he was loved by this gorgeous woman. He trusted what they had but the act lacked something he couldn't describe. He wasn't so touched by their love making as she clearly was, and that jangled his guilt nodes again.

Now as he looked towards the dark shadows flickering on his ceiling, his thoughts drifted from Hannah to his partner yet again. Was she laying in the arms of a man who could make her feel safe? Was she so loved as he was and had someone to talk to about her fears and concerns? He knew the answers to those questions and those answers weren't allowing him to sleep.

He looked down to Hannah, while his fingers caressed her spine delicately. Booth slipped out from under her as slowly and quietly as he could. She stirred, and rolled to lay flat on her stomach, staying fast asleep. Booth pulled the rumpled sheet up and over her slowly, kissed her head softly, and left the room.

Booth scribbled her a short note and left it by the kettle, knowing that was the first thing she reached for every morning even before she showered. Hopefully he would be back before she realised he was gone. He just had to check in with his partner, it was an overwhelming compulsion he was having to act on.

!

Hannah heard the apartment door click shut, then flipped the sheet off her body. She grabbed her robe, slinging it on, and walked out to the lounge. She spotted the note by the kettle, and read it. Once read she replaced it precisely in the same place as he'd left it. Then she went back to the lounge, grabbed her laptop, and waited impatiently for it the start up. She began to type in the dark.

!

Bones' apartment. 1.40AM.

Booth tapped his partners door gently, already knowing she was still up. He'd seen her lights on dim, and had checked in with the duty officer watching her place from across the road. Randy had told him she would text him when she was retiring, as of yet he'd not received that message.

Booth waited anxiously at her door, watching her shadows flicker under the gap at the bottom of the door as she neared. He looked up to the peep hole, and smiled gently.

The door opened and his partner stood with a wrinkled brow, swathed in her deep purple kimono and cutely bare foot.

'Booth? What's up? Has there been a development in the case?' She stepped aside to allow him entry. Booth stepped over her threshold, and shook his head. He had a surreptitious look around her lounge before he spoke. He smelt good fresh coffee, saw her kitchen island awash with X rays; photographs, papers tumbling out of files, computer print outs, copies of the sketches that Ange had drawn earlier. And her laptop was up and running a program on the scenarios of sniper shot angles and various bullet trajectories. A coffee mug and a cold carton of Thai noodles accompanied the macabre ensemble.

The click of the door closing behind him brought back an auditory memory he'd forgotten. It sounded like a bullet entering the chamber of a Kalashnikov. He snapped out of his memory, and turned.

'No, no progress, no developments. I can see you're still searching for clues. Any luck?' he asked, stuffing his hands in his jean pockets. Bones walked back to the kitchen island, and sat down with a heavy sigh.

'Unfortunately no. Can I get you a coffee, scotch?' she asked politely, gesturing for him to take a seat opposite her. Booth perched on the stool, looking over the accumulating evidence between them. Bones could smell the delicate scent of Hannah all over him, and sensed it swirling in the late air around them. She was getting used to that scent now, she didn't want to smell it or rationalise what it meant in real terms, but knew she had to get used to it. She did note that tonight at least, it was more obvious that usual. 'Booth? Drink?' she tried again to get his attention, seeing him lost in the images of his dead comrades.

He snapped out of his funk saying, 'Coffee, thanks.' Bones reached for a fresh mug, and poured him some, then topped up her own. As she pushed it towards him he thanked her again.

'Are you ok, Booth?' He took a sip, and nearly spat the slurp over photo's with the irony of her genuine concern for his state, rather than her predicament. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, swallowing the caffeine.

'No, not really. Why are you asking me that, when you've got this hanging over you?'

'So have you,' she countered. 'You're still my partner and I'm concerned for your mental state. You seem very distracted. You've come over here very late to check up on me...' she said not accusingly but he took it that way, his nerves clearly raw.

'I'm not checking up on you, Bones. I'm just...'

'Just what?'

Booth sighed softly, and looked into her eyes. 'Look, Bones... I know things have been awkward and difficult between us recently. But that doesn't change the fact that you are my partner and we should watch each others back.' Bones nodded agreeing, while taking a sip of coffee, her eyes equally trained on his as he spoke. 'I came over just to make sure you don't need anything or... anything.' He couldn't bring himself to say; Do ya wanna guy hug, Bones?

Her brow wrinkled again, clearly confused. 'What would I need, Booth?' she asked as if she thought it an absurd question. Booth sighed, taking another sip. Why would he expect anything different from her? He already knew what she was going to say before the words had left her lips.

'I meant, are you happy with the guys, their surveillance and protection of you? Do you feel safe, that kinda thing?'

'Oh! Right, I understand. Yes, yes they're very professional. Polite too and I can call them at anytime if anything happens or I have concerns. I've got my gun, Booth and I'm staying away from the windows as per their instructions. I've no complaints, all-though...' She smiled wryly, looking into her cup cradled in her palms. Booth looked up to her, eager to understand her playful inflection. 'Having to text Randy when I'm going to retire does seem a little peculiar and slightly perverse.'

Booth smiled handsomely. 'Naah. Its common practise, Bones. It lets him know that he needs to get more alert as you'll not be.'

'Oooh. Right, of course, that makes perfect sense.' They looked deeply into each other, smiling affectionately, both amused by her misinterpretation of protocols. Bones looked over his features, his delicate smile and the warmth seeping from his deep eyes making her feel cosy again. The now rare silent gaze almost felt like old times. Then it hit her like a bruising left hook, knowing those days were long gone when they could happily look at each other that way, this way.

She dragged her eyes from his to her cooling coffee, feeling the painful twinge of that loss. 'I was just about to text him actually. I've done all I can do for tonight.' Booth knew that was his cue to leave, although he understood she didn't mean it to push him out the door.

'I better go...' he said, attempting to drain his mug.

Bones said extremely quietly, 'You don't have to...' He hadn't finished draining his mug when she'd spoken. His eyes snapped to hers again with the mug still at his lips, and froze.

Bones noted his curious expression and him waiting for her to continue. 'I didn't mean that to sound as if I was pushing you out. I'm not,' she clarified sweetly.

'I know, Bones,' he replied gently.

Bones felt the surge of adrenalin race her veins, as she took the opportunity to talk to him properly since their return to DC. 'It's just... recently, you're right, things have been awkward between us and I don't know how to deal with that. I don't have that range of skills, as you know. We've not really spoken much either unless its work related... I, I miss that, miss, us...' Booth almost gasped in shock on hearing that stuttered confession from her. She was speaking slowly, gently and from the heart, something he was utterly unprepared for. 'And I felt truly uncomfortable and angry this afternoon when Ange was so unfair to you.' Booth placed the mug on the table still clutching it though, watching her look everywhere but to him.

He could see this was so difficult for her to vocalise her emotions but admired her progress and courage nonetheless. He only just realised as she continued, that his heart was pounding so hard it was bruising his ribs. His jaw was starting to drop too, as he'd never heard her express her feelings so honestly.

'I don't enjoy hearing and seeing them being so insensitive to you. And as for Hannah, she is lovely, Booth,' she said generously, sincerely, with a head tilt, still unable to look directly into him. Booth felt he needed to breathe, but struggled to get the oxygen into his lungs. 'She and Parker seem to get along extremely well, which I imagine is a relief and comfort to you. You looked a complete happy family this afternoon. I am genuinely happy for all of you... but especially you, Booth.' Booth felt his eyes burn, and he twitched slightly on his stool. Bones looked directly into him now, and smiled tenderly, as she said shakily, 'You've got everything you ever wanted and needed now. Someone you can love and who loves you how you deserve to be loved... I confess, I envy you...'

'B, Bones?' he stuttered, almost whining her name, deeply touched, astonished too but felt wholly wretched, and completely lost for words.

The evolved doctor that sat opposite him carried on with genuine opaque emotion in her tone, 'I hope, wish, that one day, you can forgive me for not having your trust in what might have been between us...' Booth swallowed painfully, his vision clouding, as she continued humbly an octave above a whisper, 'I know I hurt you. That was never my intention, believe me... I'm truly sorry for that... I, I didn't trust in myself to take the risk of not ruining us... Ironically, as it turns out I may have inadvertently done that anyway.' Bones' wonky self-deprecating grin and glassy sorrow filled eyes made his thoughts turn to words instantly.

'No, no, Bones we're still solid, we are. Please, please don't think that,' he tried to reassure her in an almost begging tone. Loathing himself even more for his recent antics, lies and distance. Bones smiled, almost, then nodded slightly. He could see she wasn't convinced by his plead and saw a hollowness in her beautiful eyes he'd never witnessed before. It was like a light had been extinguished inside her and was no longer glowing. Each sentence she'd spoken had cut chunks of flesh off him, and were killing him slowly.

Booth mused that when this complex frustrating woman opened her heart up, found the courage from God knows where, she could and was shredding his. He'd tried for years to get her to do this and now she had, he wished he could put the genie back in the bottle. As it had utterly overwhelmed him.

'You best get back to Hannah and get some sleep, Booth. No doubt we have a busy day ahead.' Booth didn't know what else to say. He didn't even realise he was standing facing her apartment door or how he got there until she was reaching around him to open the latch.

He could smell her decadent familiar scent, felt the brush of her silk robe across the back of his hand by his side, his troubled mind still reeling. Instinctually he turned into her radiating warmth, and hugged her hard and possessively without permission sought. As he swamped her in his near rabid clutch, she wilted against him, and her breath left her lungs to caress his ear as it skimmed by. Then finally her arms gently held him back, as they moulded perfectly to each others contours. Their two minute silent embrace was violently loud with emotion.

'Thank you, Booth. You always seem to know just what I need, even before I do,' she whispered gratefully, after a too brief a time for him in her arms. He held her tighter though, clamping his eyes shut. He didn't relinquish his selfish hold until she instigated their separation, giving her as much as she needed to feel safe. He knew it was the least he could and should do, the very least.

Then just as she stepped away, and slid her hands from off his back, she kissed his cheek delicately. Only holding her lips to him for a faction of a second, which was as much as she dare allow herself.

Booth felt his heart empty of blood and collapse in his chest. He knew her gossamer kiss was her apology and thanks again, but in reality to him, it felt like her sweet goodbye. A farewell to all but a professional relationship between them. 'Good night, Booth.' She opened the door slowly and he stepped out in a daze.

!

Bones clicked her door closed, put on the chain carefully, then fell softly against it. She rubbed her brow agonisingly on it, with palms flat to the wood either side of her head. She fought desperately to suppress her tears but they betrayed her and dropped easily from her eyes to the hardwood floor at her toes. She leaked sorrow, regrets and loss for several aching minutes. Eventually she dragged herself away from her door, sat at the kitchen island, and stared into space. Time no longer a constant.

!

Booth found himself sat in his frost covered car, gripping the steering wheel, staring at nothing for a length of time that had no relevance to him. All she had said replayed over and over in his head till it spun and throbbed painfully. He rubbed his temples to try and relive the ache, only then noting his cheeks were wet. He wiped his eyes with the flat of his palm, grit his jaw, and turned the engine on.

!

Booth's apartment, 4AM.

As Booth went to close his door, he saw the flickering glow of light coming from his lounge, and heard a low hum of something electrical. Curiously he walked slowly across his kitchen floor, slipping off his sneakers so as not to alert whomever it was. He saw Hannah on the couch with her laptop on her thighs, feet up on the coffee table. She was staring at the screen, poised to type or thinking what to type next.

She closed the lid before he said anything and beat him to it, 'You've been to her, haven't you?' Booth sagged, breathed in, and walked the rest of the way into the lounge.

'Yes, I had to check she was ok. We're partners, it's what we do, have done long before you were on the scene.' He knew that sounded a little too much like a slap in the face but didn't take it back. Hannah put her laptop to her side, and stood. As she looked at him, she nodded.

'Ok, I accept that. I don't like it, but it seems I'll have to make that adjustment. With one proviso...'

'Go on.'

'You swear to me on Parker's life that there's nothing between you two anymore.' Booth bristled.

'I'm not swearing anything on Parker's life! You're going to have to trust me when I say there isn't.' Booth felt another lead weight attach itself to his shoulders. The load becoming almost too heavy to carry.

'What did you talk about?'

'That's between Bones and me.' She noted him drop his eyes away to clam up but she wasn't going to let him.

'Oooh. No, no, that's not how it's gonna work, Seeley. You want me to trust you, you're going to have to tell me chapter and verse.'

'Well, that doesn't sound much like you trusting me, beside we talk the cases. Its not appropriate or legal I tell you all the details.'

'Actually, as my life and Parker's is in mortal danger, I think you owe me that courtesy.'

'I've already told you more than I should have, Hannah. Can we just leave this now, I'm so tired?'

He went to walk to the bathroom, she grabbed his hand, and pulled him close into her. 'Seeley, I'm sorry. I am. You were gone, there was a note and you come back three hours later in the middle of the night. What am I suppose to think, eh?' Booth held her back tenderly, letting his tension go in a slow blow.

'No its me who should apologise. You're right, this looks really bad. We had a coffee and straightened some things out between us. She said she really thinks you're lovely, and everything I need and want. She knows me better than myself.'

'She said I was lovely?' Hannah wanted clarification, obviously surprised by the revelation.

'Yeah, she did,' he said with a sweet smile. 'She thought we looked like a complete family this afternoon, that's why she felt so bad for intruding on our day.'

'Is she as scared as me?' Booth held her warmly, and more tightly, seeing her needy expression.

'Bones doesn't really get scared, Hannah. She kinda hides that stuff from everyone. She's clearly worried though but determined to bring this guy in. She was up raking over the case files and autopsy photographs when I arrived. I checked she was happy with the guards and the level of surveillance, she was. So, I came away after I had a chat with Randy one of the guys watching her building.' Booth edged her towards the bedroom again to finally to get some rest. Hannah went willingly under his strong bicep. His lies and obfuscating were getting slightly easier if he mixed it with truths, he found.

'Randy? Where's he?'

'He's in a blacked out SUV opposite her apartment armed to the teeth. The other is on the roof with his rifle, watching the other buildings in the area with night vision goggles. Every car plate that passes is run through the database to see if anything flags up. If it does we send someone else in to arrest and interrogate them.'

'Is it the same with me and Parker? Are we watched like that?'

'Yeah. Just the same, you're safer actually.'

'How come?' She settled under the covers, hugging him tightly.

'Well, I'm here. I've got two guns, one here.' He pulled open his top drawer, and lifted it out to show her his service weapon. She looked to it, and nodded as he put it away again. 'The other is strapped to the under side of the kitchen table.'

Hannah yawned, and wriggled a little closer. 'Ok. I feel a little better. And I do trust you, Seeley,' she said sleepily.

Booth smiled weakly, closing his exhausted eyes, saying gently, 'I know. Night, night, Babe.'

!

Monday 6.17AM.

Booth leapt instantly as his cell began to ring and vibrate off his nightstand. He grabbed it bleary eyed, and flipped it open.

'Booth,' he answered. Hannah sat up against the headboard, and yawned hard and wide, flicking her hair over her ears. 'Oooh. Jesus, when?' Hannah looked to him knowing this had something to do with their predicament. Booth rubbed his brow, and paced around the side of the bed. 'Ok. Have you informed the team? Good. Yeah ok. I'm on the way.' Booth shut the phone down, and turned to face Hannah. She saw he looked grey and old.

'What's happened?'

'He got Jackson,' he said painfully. Hannah drew her knees up, and hugged them to her torso, rocking slightly.

'How? I mean, you said he was in a safe place?'

Booth was shaking his head, and scurrying around to find underwear. 'He was, the sniper took out his guards too.' He pulled on his underwear, yanking out a t shirt from his drawers. As he pulled it over his head it muffled his next sentence. 'Get dressed, Hannah while I'll get Parker up. We're all going to stay at the Jeffersonian for a few days.'

'Why there?' Hannah clearly wasn't enthralled by the idea.

'Because!' he barked at her, then checked and calmed. 'Don't argue please, Hannah. Look...' He sat down beside her, kissing her cheek. He explained, 'There's bunkers, bullet proof glass and I'll be able to know where you are all the time. Trust me it will be safer there than here, especially in light of recent events.' Hannah grabbed him around the neck, and squeezed him tight to her. 'Come on, let's get out of here.' She nodded, getting out of bed, feeling her knees weaken.

!

Jeffersonian, Monday 8.33AM.

By the looks on all the squints faces gathered on the platform Booth could tell everyone was surprised to see him walk in framed by Hannah on his right, and Parker on his left. He looked to Bones first but strangely he saw her look to Hannah briefly and smile, then to his worried son. She smiled wider, locking eyes with the little boy. Booth watched as she stripped off her gloves, tossing them in the bin, then walked briskly down the steps towards them.

'Hey, Parker,' she began, as she neared. Parker's smile grew wider, seemingly comforted by her concentrating on him and not the adults. 'Guess what?'

'What?'

'Do you remember I told you Professor Schmitt was bringing back a complete fossilised skeleton of Velociraptor Mongoliensis from the Gobi Dessert?'

'Yeah...' he gushed excitedly, hoping he would get to see it.

'Well, he is back, and I've arranged with him for you to help do some tests and examine it under his strict supervision. I told him what a great pupil you are and how much you enjoy palaeontology and dinosaurs. So he's expecting you down stairs when you're ready.'

'Oh. Wow! Brilliant. Can I go now, Dad?' Parker looked up expectantly to his father. Booth felt a deep sense of relief that Bones had thought to distract Parker from the current events and get him away from the grisly platform.

Booth grinned wide, ruffling his son's locks, saying, 'Sure, Little man.' Bones smiled humbly at Booth who was clearly touched by her thoughtfulness.

'I'll take him down,' Bones said softly to Booth. He gave her a slight nod, as Parker trotted beside her and away from the platform. Booth watched them go deep in excited conversation, then looked to Hannah.

'That was good of her,' he said, still taken aback by Bones' forethought.

'I didn't think top-freak had it in her. That was almost human.' Hannah grinned sarcastically at Booth. His smile froze, and his nostrils flared slightly. He didn't think that was called for, he sighed out hard, and dropped his head. Two emotions rippled through his limbs, the first was of anger. Anger that Hannah could be so cruel about Bones when she'd arranged such a nice treat for Parker in the circumstances. The second was guilt, for it was him that had told Hannah that Bones sometimes seemed like she was from another planet. He was the one that had put her down and even made fun of her ineptitude socially to Hannah. When he had told Hannah of his partner, he let all those annoying embarrassing attributes out, retelling stories of her pop culture faux pars and emotional naivety. He had done that to cleanse himself of his partner, to make fun and ridicule her to make himself fall out of love with her. By telling Hannah about her glaring faults to convince himself that they could never be and it was a ridiculous notion he had harboured for so long. It seemed to Booth now, that yet again, he was guilty of tainting Hannah's opinion of Bones, and had simultaneously let not only Bones down, but himself.

Booth spun away from Hannah, and began to walk up the platform steps. Hannah caught his arm. 'Seeley, what's wrong?' she asked, concerned by his pained expression. Booth stilled, then turned slowly, and lead her away from the others now busy with Jackson.

Booth controlled his anger but it still seeped out through his tight lips, 'Don't, in this place, her place, say anything about my partner like that again. Do you understand?' Hannah quirked her brows curiously, and stepped back a little.

'Yes... I understand, Seeley... But you were the one that told me she was such a weirdo, remember? I'm just confirming your observations.'

'You don't know her,' he sneered, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand to attention, Hannah's words hitting home.

'Neither it seems do you...' Booth nearly staggered at that comment, rocked back by the implication of it.

Was he so arrogant to think he indeed knew everything there was to know about Bones? Bones' actions over the last two days had him knocked back and confused the hell out of him. Her emotional revelations last night, her honesty and loyalty to their partnership and his revelations about Afghanistan, humbled and shaming him in one blow. Then this morning, doing something so thoughtful for Parker and him was so out of character. She never had shown herself to be anything but self-centred and singular, now she was showing a softer, more caring side of her personality. He couldn't deny it, he liked it but it was unnerving him. Had she always been that way but he hadn't allowed her to be? Had he stilted that side of her, being always the care giver and supporter in their complex relationship? Or was it something else, something he hadn't seen or worked out yet?

Hannah walked away towards the gantry steps to get herself a coffee in the lounge. Booth watched her stride off, then looked to the platform. It was clear their exchange was witnessed by Ange and Cam. Cam went on with her duties while Ange deliberately held his gaze for a few moments. Booth could see no sign of the bitterness in the artists eyes today. He made his way up the steps slowly.

'Trouble in paradise?' Ange whispered at his elbow, holding her clipboard. Booth's eyes were on the corpse of Jackson, they didn't shy away today but soaked up the violence of his demise.

Booth said slowly, 'Paradise is where we go after our hearts stop beating,' He looked into her eyes now. 'Now, life is all trials, tribulations and heartaches.' Ange nodded, reading the sentiment beneath his words, now ashamed of her attitude towards him yesterday.

'Booth...' Ange began her apology but he interrupted her with a slight shake of his head.

'No... No apologies, Ange. Not from you. You had every right...' Ange looked over his face, seeing his eyes skimming the corpse. 'Your loyalty to Bones is admirable and humbling.' Then remembering his ridiculing conversations with Hannah about his partner, he added, 'I wish I had your conviction and strength.'

Stunned by that statement, Ange straightened slightly perplexed, and looked into his eyes. 'Don't doubt yourself now, G man. You've always been her white knight,' she said with a smile. Booth dropped his eyes, and changed his weight on his soles.

'You don't know what I've done, Ange who I've betrayed.' Ange placed her hand on his forearm, seeing him so clearly upset. Booth patted her hand, and walked away.

Bones was heading out of the elevator, so Booth went to meet her halfway. They caught each other's glances, and held on as they met out of earshot of the others.

'Thanks for that, Bones. That was really good of you.' Bones shook her head as if it was nothing but he saw her cheeks colour slightly.

'I promised him a few weeks ago. It was just timely is all. When you text this morning about Jackson and staying here, it just made sense.' Booth nodded, still grateful. Bones went on, catching Hannah watching them from the gantry, 'There's a webcam set up in the Palaeontology lab so you can watch him down there. I understand the need for parents to know their offspring are safe.' Booth smiled wryly, Bones dropped her gaze from him, seeing him almost laugh at her explanation. 'Sorry, I just thought...'

Booth had done it again, nearly making fun of her, this time in front of her and what was most painful was that she understood, and had tried to apologise for herself. Booth reached for her hand, and slipped his fingers around hers. 'Don't apologise, Bones. You're just blowing my mind these last few days. I don't know what is going on but...' He paused when she squeezed his hand, then drew her fingers out of his slowly.

'Hannah's watching, Booth. And I don't think physical contact between us is appropriate anymore, do you?' she said softly, putting her hands in her pockets. Booth looked at her incredulously, his mouth parching.

He explained delicately, 'I was just thanking you.'

'I know, and I appreciate it but I don't want our partnership to become a obstacle to your happiness with Hannah. I'm not good with body language but I can tell she was not impressed with your gesture, however innocently meant.'

'She'll just have to get over herself and deal. We're partners and occasionally we may bump together or touch, it doesn't mean there's anything going on between us,' he explained, with a devastatingly handsome smile.

'I know.' Bones smiled back warmly, then flicked her eyes up to Hannah again over his shoulder. 'I've arranged with Cam and security a room in the basement for your family to sleep in.' Booth wanted to hold her hand again in thanks for saying his family but also felt a twinge of something unquantifiable. 'Its got surveillance cameras and no windows and is very secure, three floors down. You should check it out to see if you need anything else.'

'Yeah, I will do later. Where're you staying?'

'At my apartment,' she said, slightly confused by his enquiry. 'There's no need for me to stay here too.'

'Oh. Yes there is! I need to be able to see you too, you know?' He placed his hands on his belt loops while she clenched her fist in her pockets.

'Booth, that's wholly impractical and unnecessary. Randy and Jason are perfectly...'

Booth chimed in quickly. 'No, here, no arguments. Don't fight me on this, Bones.'

Bones bristled, 'You're not my keeper, Booth. I'm very capable of looking out for myself.' Annoyed by his insistence, Bones began to stride away but Booth caught her arm, and held her still.

'Look...' he whispered against her cheek, so close she could almost taste the toothpaste he brushed with this morning. 'I've seen how this guy works. He's good, too fucking good.' He told her surreptitiously, not wanting their conversation overheard. Bones sagged a little at his knowledge, understanding he was right. She looked up to Hannah, who now looked pissed off with her man. 'He took out Jackson's guards he could take out yours too. This is the safest option. Everybody in one place. I... I don't want you out there while I'm tucked up safe, ok?'

Bones lifted her face up to look into his eyes, seeing his plead, she gave him a tiny nod in compliance.

Hannah seeing their interaction, and feeling she needed to intervene, trotted down the steps towards them. Bones saw her coming, and stepped back from him, offering her a slight smile.

'Hello, Hannah.' She pulled a key from her pocket, and held it out to her. 'This is your key to the safe room. It's the best we can do at the Jeffersonian.' Hannah took it, looking it over.

'Thanks, Temperance. Where're you staying?'

'Here. In my office, I expect,' she told her flatly.

Booth interjected, convincingly, 'Yeah, I think its best all of us in one place.'

'Yeah, great, where he can get us all in one place,' Hannah said sarcastically, although her tone suggested true anxiousness. Booth slipped his arm around her waist, and pulled her closer.

'Hey now come on, Hannah. You've been in worse situations before. We'll get through this together.' Bones smiled warmly at her, and nodded to agree with Booth's words. Hannah looked at both of them in turn, then nodded slowly, pocketing the key.

'Is there anywhere I can plug in my laptop?' Hannah asked casually.

'Oh. Yes. Help yourself to my office, Hannah. It's WIFI too. And to call out just hit eight,' Bones told her helpfully. Hannah nodded, smiling closed mouth at her.

'Great thanks. Password for the WIFI?'

Booth and Bones similtaniously said, 'Lilly.' Both sets of eyes snapped to each other's. Booth grinned smugly, while Bones dropped a hip, and shook her head slightly. 'How?' Bones didn't complete her question but sighed, and walked back onto the platform. Booth chuckled softly, watching her indignant exit. Hannah didn't look so amused.

!

Bones' office, three hours later.

Bones strode into her office to see Hannah had made herself comfortable on her couch. Her feet were bare and crossed at the ankle on her coffee table with her Apple MAC balanced on her thighs. Hannah looked up as Bones made her way to her chair and desk.

'Got everything you need, Hannah?'

'Yeah thanks, except my freedom.' Bones smiled, and took a seat, flicking on her computer.

'Yes well, hopefully we'll all get that back soon.'

'Yeah, I hope.' Hannah got up, after closing her laptop down, and came over to the chair opposite Bones. As she sat, she asked, 'So... you and Seeley, what's the deal?' Taken aback a little, Bones snapped her eyes to hers. Hannah's brows were raised in expectancy of a reply.

'We're partners. That's it.'

'Huh. Succinct, clear but, Doctor Temperance Brennan, I'm not buying it.' Bones took a breath, and sighed it out, looking to her file absently. This was the conversation she was hoping to avoid but it was clear she was going to have to have it now.

Hannah slumped back casually in her chair, waiting. Bones got up, and closed her door, before she turned back, she took another breath.

'Booth and I are good friends,' she began softly. Turning, she resumed her previous seated position. 'We've always been friends and nothing more. I'm sure he's been honest with you so you already know that he had feelings for me. Not anymore, clearly.' She smiled at her, just.

'Do you still have feelings for him?'

'Yes.' Bones gave back in a heartbeat, then clarified, 'As the closest friend I've ever known, that's all. I care deeply for him, as much as I'm able to, but that wasn't enough for him.'

'I see... Booth tells me you never lie and can be brutally honest.' Bones nodded firmly, stony faced. Hannah went on, 'Sixty four thousand dollar question...'

Bones brow wrinkled attractively. 'I don't know what that means.'

Hannah grinned slightly, saying, 'You don't need to understand but answer honestly.'

Bones nodded. 'Ok.'

'Do I have anything to fear from your deep friendship, or professional partnership?'

'In what way?'

'Don't play dumb, Temperance,' Hannah sighed, almost exasperated.

'If you are refering to us becoming romantically involved in the future, no, nothing to fear. If indeed we had anything together that has now dissolved for both of us.' Hannah eyed her hard for a few seconds, then a silky smile flickered across her lips and then her eyes. She leant forward, and offered Bones her hand. Bones slipped hers in Hannah's, and shook it gently.

Bones said softly, clearly surprised, 'That was refreshingly civilised and painless.'

Hannah settled back, flicking her hair over her shoulders with her finger tips, obviously reassured. 'Ha! Why do you say that? What did you expect, for us to have a fist fight, start whacking each other with our purses?'

Bones grinned, saying sneakily, 'That's what happened to me last time I had a conversation like this.' Shocked but highly amused, Hannah belly laughed.

'Ha! Did, did ya win?'

'Yes, course.' Bones answered as if her question was moot and slightly insulting.

'Ha! You're priceless, Temperance, one in a million. Ha...'

'Thank you.' Bones grinned happily.

'Aww. Ya'welcome.'

!

Jeffersonian conference room. 7.38PM.

'So, what we got?' Booth enquired, leaning on his knuckles, staring around the team at the huge oval conference table.

Cam went first, 'Jackson was shot from point blank range with a Berretta 92A1 that was left at the scene. The serial number, although it was hastily etched off, we managed to get enough to trace it back to a batch recently imported for the NYPD. It was one of the new sidearm replacement shipment. None had been allocated or registered to a specific officer as they were still in customs. We have a partial thumb print but nothing flagged the database, Interpol are crosschecking as are our partners over the pond.'

'We've got the NY FBI field office checking the shipment as we speak. Three were stolen from the customs lock up. The guys down there are gathering particulates from the break in and should be with us by the morning.' Everybody nodded solemnly.

Bones went next, 'Jackson was a life long Ranger. Unmarried, no children. His remains show evidence of torture, I presume prior to his death by the perpetrator of this crime as there was no remodelling. His face reconstruction was fairly straightforward although his mandible showed signs of repeated blows with a blunt instrument. Multiple fractures which would have made it difficult for him to speak or tell this aggressor much at all. We've ascertained the Berretta left at the scene was the implement used. Tests on the firearm have confirmed this. His hands and feet were bound by a silicone covered cable which Hodgins is tracing, as similar cable was not found in the safe house. We again assume he brought that with him. Have you any trace particulates on the cable, Doctor Hodgins?'

'Yeah, a little... but a little is my job. We also got two boot prints in the soft ground outside the house. Size twelve, standard military issue.'

'Which military?'

'US military.' There was an uncomfortable silence from around the mahogany table.

'Go on, Hodgins,' Bones pushed.

'Yeah, so I got gunpowder residue on the cord which matches the bullet compounds used in the rounds stolen from the shipment. So we can connect the thief to the weapons fired, when we get them and presumably the guy that fired it. As he must have tied up Jackson and left the residue on the cord.'

'DNA?'

'That's my area,' Cam intervened. 'Yes, but most was from Jackson, the second sample from the cord was indeterminable. Certainly not enough to test.' Booth nodded, Bones looked to him for the next question.

'What about the FBI guards?'

'They were different. Shot from one hundred yards and sixty six yards with a Berretta 501 sniper rifle. Single kill shot each. Right frontal entry. Their families have been informed.'

'Shit, he got close,' Booth mumbled, already knowing the range of that particular weapon. 'This guy loves the Italian connection,' he said to the ether, then, 'Any luck with prints on that?'

'No, Booth. He didn't leave the weapon. We ascertained the weapon from the calibre and shot residue and spent cartridges.' Booth nodded slowly, then sat down in the green leather carver, and rubbed his face with his palms.

Sweets sat quietly listening, and watching the team cogitate on their findings but he watched Booth more closely then the others. He knew he was deciding whether or not to add something. Sweets decided to help him onwards.

'Agent Booth, tell them.' Booth lifted his head slowly to look in the direction of the question. Then his haunted eyes slipped to Bones' beside him. He wrung his hands, out in front of him on the desk.

'When I was in Afghanistan...' he paused as everyone held their breaths. The silence so loud it was almost deafening. Seeing him struggling to tell them his sin, Bones slowly, carefully slid her hand to his thigh, and gave it a tiny squeeze of reassurance. Booth closed his eyes, and dropped his head, only opening his eyes to look at her slim elegant hand on him. He could feel the warmth seep into his muscle and travel his leg. Her tender un-witnessed action brought him comfort and strength. He looked back up to her eyes.

'You can trust all of these people, Booth,' Bones said gently, sympathetically. 'What's heard in this room will never leave it.' Booth looked around the table. Ange, Cam, Jack, Wendell, Sweets then back to her. Each friend had nodded as his eyes fixed on theirs, all confirming Bones' statement. All he saw was compassion and kindness in each and everyone of them.

'My unit, of which I am the last member, tortured and killed four insurgence for information. Those were our orders. We tortured them, I tortured them,' he corrected bluntly. 'Each in turn, making the others watch till they told us what we wanted to hear. Then I shot them at point blank range with a brand new Berretta 92A1.' Booth took a deep breath suddenly, looking back to Bones warm hand on his tension filled quad. He didn't hesitate, placed his palm over hers, and squeezed it.

'I, I used several techniques to obtain this information. I told them things about my life at home and made nice, getting them to talk and sympathise with all of our predicaments. I told them things about... about Bones and me... personal things.' He hesitantly snuck her a glance, it was shame filled and fleeting, his head still bowed.

Bones may be naive with social norms and relationships but she knew the horrors of wars all too well. She had witnessed and was privy to interrogations of victims of torture in Bosnia and Guatemala. She was fully aware of the techniques Booth was speaking of. That was how she knew why her name was on the list. Booth had mentioned her clearly and this fifth insurgent must have heard and watched his brothers in arms perish by Booth's hand. That was why he was coming after them all now.

To Booth's relief Bones rolled her hand under his, then sweetly entwined her fingers with his. It was then to his surprised she spoke for him, seeing him unable to continue. 'There was a fifth insurgent obviously, he heard and watched these events unfold. Then when Booth's team left the house, two of his team where shot from distance by him. We must assume this is the man we're after. Booth has requested the bodies of these soldiers killed in action to be exhumed, so we can do autopsy's on them tomorrow.'

The gathered silent team all nodded, and readjusted their positions in the chairs. It was then the Sweets spoke up, 'Does anyone around this table have any reaction to what has just been divulged, does anyone have an opinion to air? As I believe this is the moment to have your say, then we move on.'

'I do,' Jack said swiftly, looking to Bones then Booth still with his head down. Bones felt Booth leg twitch under her hand, and his fingers grip a little tighter. 'I just wanna say, Booth...' The agent lifted his head slowly to look the bug man in the eye. 'I may not agree with the tactics of this government and the atrocities of warfare and their resulting cover ups. But what I can say and truly mean is that you are the bravest man I've ever had the privilege to know and work with. This is clearly a heavy burden for you and your conscience, I wish you well and peace in dealing with that. Your honesty and trust in us I shall always respect and treasure. And know, you have my sympathies, and silence.' Booth swallowed, then nodded slowly. He felt like weeping, he felt like jumping across the table and hugging the furry little guy, but didn't.

'Anyone else?' Sweets asked gently, looking around the table.

'Jack said it all.' Cam smiled warmly at Booth, giving him a sweet cheeky wink as a bonus.

Ange got up, and walked behind him, held his face in her palms, tilting his head back slowly. She smiled enigmatically, as she kissed his brow tenderly. 'You know I'm really crazy about ya,' she whispered against his brow. Booth grinned wider, nodding.

'Thanks, Ange.' It was as she moved away, she noted Bones' hand clasped securely in his. She flicked a glance to Bones, loosing her smile somewhat. Bones registered her glance but avoided the exchange, then let go his hand gently, to gather the papers into the folder in front of her.

'So, anyone for Thai?' Sweets grinned all around the table. The confirming hums and yes's was all he needed to pull out his cell, and hit four on his speed dial.

The atmosphere changed rapidly while all the orders where shouted at Sweets. The tension left the room, along with Bones. She hurried down the corridor and away to her office with an armful of files. Her hand still felt overly warm, a seductive residue from his flesh, she tried to shake off. It was just as she entered her office Ange trotted up behind her, placing her hand on her shoulder.

'Bren, Sweetie? You ok?'

'Yes, why wouldn't I be?'

'Don't play me girlfriend. You're playing with fire and your heart is gonna burn to ashes.'

'I don't understand that metaphor, Ange.'

'Sweetie, you were holding his hand. You had a huge heart to heart last night too, which by the look of things has freaked him out. You're doing yourself no favours here...'

'What would you have me do, Ange? My partner is in emotional turmoil, his family, his life and mine are threatened. How many times has he stood by me and comforted me? Scores of times, I'm only giving back a little. I'm doing everything you wanted me to do for years and Booth too. Now I'm freaking people out? I can't win. It's a catch twenty two scenario.'

'I know, I know, I'm just worried that you're gonna get so hurt, Sweetie.'

'I'm already an emotional quagmire, Ange. Hannah had a chat with me this afternoon too. She wanted to know was there anything between Booth and me. Do you know how hard that conversation was or me? Do you? I didn't want to lie... but.' Bones could see over Ange's shoulder, Booth coming towards her office with Hannah draped over one of his shoulders and Parker leading the way. Bones snapped on her regular smile.

'Hey, Parker how was Velociraptor Mongoliensis?'

'Awesome, Doctor Bee, awesome!'

'Excellent.'

'Professor Schmitt said I could go back tomorrow if I'd like.'

'Do you want to?'

'Yeah, course!'

'Temperance, where are the bathrooms? Do we have showers, that kinda thing?'

'Oh. Goodness, Sorry, yes of course. I'll take you down to the decontamination suite in a moment.' Bones threw the file on her desk, and began to take off her lab coat.

'Haa! I'm not that filthy!'

Bones grinned at her joke, and turned just as Booth said, 'Depends who you talk to...' Booth mumbled in Hannah's ear, then kissed it seductively. Ange and Bones exchanged glances at his double en tendre, while Parker grabbed Bones' hand, the innuendo was thankfully lost on Parker.

'Come on, Doctor Bee, food will be here in two shakes of a lambs tail.'

'Wow that is quick. Where're we going, Parker?' Bones was being hauled along by the small pre-pubescent with a gleeful smile that was utterly infectious.

'You're going to show us the de-con suite so I can have a shower and get changed for bed. This is so cooool sleeping at the Jeffersonian. Doctor Saroyan got me a TV too, that's awesome. Have you got a cell to sleep in too?' His rambling illogical musing and questions made Bones' mood lift instantly. Temporarily she forgot about tomorrow, Tuesday, the day she was supposed to be targeted by the sniper.

!

Tuesday, 3AM, Bones' office.

Bones lay face up hands behind her head, looking up at her featureless ceiling. Still unable to sleep she sighed, but jolted when she saw a shadow flickering across her closed slatted blinds. Her heart began to pound as she reached for her gun under her pillow.

'Bones?' came the question from outside her glass doors. 'Bones? You awake?' She drew her hand out and away from her cold revolver. Recognising his voice but debating with herself if she should reply. Was she up to another heart to heart with him? Could she deal with him right now, was she lucid and strong enough? Those questions went unanswered and were irrelevant when he opened her door, and peered into the darkness.

He whispered again, 'Bones? You awake?'

'I am now.' She sat up, pulling the blanket over her a little more, as she saw him smile and tread carefully inside, then re-close the door sneakily. 'What are you doing, Booth? It's really late, really early, whatever.'

She heard him snort a chuckle, then curse when he stubbed his toe on the coffee table. She smelt a tinge of something come in with him and it wasn't Hannah's fragrance.

'Shhhh. Bones. I brought you something.' She heard him flop to the chair opposite with a groan, and felt the rush of displace air ghost over her face. It was then that she realised he'd been drinking. Bones reached to her side, and flicked on the side light. The yellow glow threw him into stark relief and out of monochrome, and he squinted his eyes instantly.

'Where did you get that?' Bones accused, seeing him holding a glass flask of clear liquid. 'This is a dry house.'

'Arrrh. Well, I have friends at the Jeffersonian. Good trusted fffri-ends,' he slurred cheekily.

'Hodgins I presume...' Booth chuckled again adorably.

'May-be, poss-i-bly,' he tried to lie, then, 'Yeah, it was bug guy. It's good stuff, Bones, try it.' He thrust the flask in her direction. Bones gave him the once over, he was naked but for a pair of stripy clinging boxers in viciously ugly colours and his St Christopher.

Bones swung her legs around to mimic his position, and reached for the flask of homemade firewater. Bones took it, sniffed it, then took a gulp.

'Oh. God. That's just...' Bones couldn't describe the brew, it was still stripping her oesophagus and stomach lining while numbing her brain functions.

'Good?' he asked, grinning stupidly from ear to ear.

'No, dangerous...' Bones put the flask between them, and sat back crossing her legs lotus style on the couch. 'What did you want, Booth. I was sleeping.'

Booth huffed ironically, then said, 'Liar. You were no more asleep then I was,' a slight challenge in his tone. 'I know what you're going through, you see. I know, Bones,' he added softly.

'Do you? That's good then.' Bones was trying to keep her emotional distance, struggling to control her fears by deflecting him but it never worked with him before. Why would those tactics work now? she mused. He'd always had an uncanny knack of seeing right through her walls no matter how thick she built them.

'Don't be like that, Bones. I do, I understand truly I do. You've been lying awake probably looking at the ceiling and wondering...'

'Wondering what?'

'Wondering if he will get us before we get him... You've been thinking about the what if's and why's of it.'

'The what if's?' she queried, her brow wrinkling.

He rocked a little towards her direction, loosing his smile slowly. 'Yeah you know, for example, what if I'd said yes to Booth. Why didn't I take a chance on him...' Bones felt suddenly extremely uncomfortable with his statement, not just because it was true but because of where this drunken conversation was leading.

'You're talking in the third person, Booth. And you're very inebriated.'

He gestured towards her with his open palm, saying, 'See? There you go, pushing me away again.' Then he looked saddened and exasperated. 'Why, why can't you just be...'

She snapped at him, 'Because I am what I am, Booth.' Bones checked, this conversation was too close to the edge and she didn't trust herself. 'You should get back to Hannah and Parker. You'll be missed soon. This will not look good.' Booth eyed her intently, and sighed. She saw his torso deflate, clearly he agreed.

'Ok, ok. yeah I'll get more grief, I know,' he confessed. 'I came to give you this though.' Booth slipped off the chair onto his knees, and shuffled cutely towards her. Bones felt her body begin to tremble, as she could feel the air between them heat up as he neared tentatively. 'A little something to give you hope and peace.'

'I don't need those things,' Bones hadn't realised that her breath had shortened so much that her words came out feebly. Booth was now face to face with her, staring intently into her eyes in the half light.

'I know you're lying, Bones. Don't lie to me...' he rolled his head as if in pain, as he spoke the words. He placed his hands either side of her on the seat pads, propping himself up for a moment.

'Ok. I'm lying,' she placated. 'If you give me what you wanted to, will you go back to Hannah and Parker?'

'Yes.' He agreed with a short sharp nod.

'Ok. What is it?'

'This.' Booth reached around his neck, and took off his St Christopher. Bones felt her eyes burn suddenly, and an ache manifest under her sternum. Bones knew that this symbol of his faith was what he believed brought him home safe, that he trusted in its powers to protect the wearer. She also knew, he knew she didn't have his trust in such trinkets. It seemed to her this was his way of protecting her, the only way he could now and it would make him feel better if she wore it.

'I don't believe in...' Before she could finish he was placing the chain around her neck reverently, as carefully as he could.

'I know, I know, wear it for me then, ok? For me...' he urged sweetly, almost begging.

She went to protest, the old habit not dead yet, 'Booth...' Then she tensed as he stroked over the metal with the very tips of his fingers to the medallion over her sternum. She closed her eyes to his delicate touch and the warmth radiating from his fingertips. 'Enough,' Bones whispered her entreaty. She knew she sounded panicked as his face lent in impossibly slowly. She also knew he was going to kiss her now.

Frightening images of dams breaking and flooding lush valleys rushed across her line of sight, but strangely the devastation felt pleasant and welcome. The next image brought her back to the reality. It was of Hannah, Parker and him at the park all smiling and happy, the complete family, then being washed away by a terrifying deluge. The metaphor clear and shocking for her. If she let this happen, she would indeed wash them away and spoil what he found with Hannah. Bones couldn't let that happen. She understood he was feeling guilty, and confused then to top it all he'd been drinking, so his inhibitions were weakened. He wouldn't do this otherwise, and she knew he would regret his actions when sober.

She felt his lips make contact with hers, just barely. 'Please don't, Booth. This isn't fair.' She wanted to move away, to push him away but her arms wouldn't do what her brain was insisting. Not again, she couldn't do it again to him, she wasn't strong enough.

He didn't move away either but stilled. She could feel the heat from his lips permeate hers, weakening her own resolve. Finally her mouth engaged with her brain and said the only thing that came to mind, 'We said goodbye last night.' She felt his breathing stop, then her own. He sobered up instantaneously.

There are moments in people lives, in times of great stress or high emotion when time seems to slow down, Bones once read. This she realised was one of them. Time had paused for them. The elongated minute of silence felt like an eternity.

Booth leant back slowly, and opened his eyes to hers. She saw nothing but trauma in them, Bones wondered if hers reflected the same. She looked to his lips then back to his watery eyes. 'I knew that kiss was your goodbye,' he stated, desperately sadly. Then his actions tonight shamed him again, 'Oh. Bones, I'm so sorry.'

'I know you are, I am too.' Bones wiped her cheek, taking a ragged breath. 'You must go back to them now, your family.' Booth looked over her face, lifting his hand to her hair, and tucked an errant strand back into place carefully. He smiled broadly once done, as if it was the last time he was going to do that and had cherished it.

Taking her hand, he kissed the back of it, and said, 'Forgive me.' Bones nodded her absolution and watery smile. Then her partner stood shakily, walking out her office and into the darkness as if in slow motion.

Bones rolled to her side on the couch, clasping the small medallion in her palm, and silently cried herself to sleep.

!

Decontamination suite Tuesday 8AM.

The billowing steam rose from the power shower, the force of the water was pummelling Bones' shoulders. She leant her palms flat to the tiles, bracing herself against the barrage. It felt good, like a deep Swedish massage. She rolled her head on her long neck to flex out the kinks from her couch. Her virtually sleepless night had dulled her senses because she didn't hear Ange enter the room.

'Sweetie, you ok?' Bones jumped, scared for a moment, then relaxed when she realised it was her dear friend. 'You've been in here ages.'

'Yes, I'm fine, Ange. It was long night.' Bones flicked off the shower, and stepped out. Ange handed her a towel, while looking over her features.

'You look like crap.'

'Thank you.' Sarcasm was not her strength but it worked this time, Ange gave her a wonky smile. Bones took the offered towel, and tied it around herself. The next thing Ange noticed was she wore Booth's St Christopher. Instinctually Ange reached for it, and cocked a brow at her friend, holding it in front of her eyes.

'When did he give you this?'

'Last night. He needed me to wear it.'

'Needed?' Bones took it out of her hand, and sat at the mirrored dresser to attend to her hair.

'Yes, It seems to comfort him if I wear it.'

'I see.' Ange sat next to her, and stared at her reflection. Bones dropped her eyes, and sighed heavily.

'Your spouse gave Booth alcohol last night,' Bones said accusingly. Ange grinned.

'Yeah I know. Jack's got a head on him this morning like a grizzly, serves him right,' she said, showing no sympathy whatsoever. Bones began to brush her hair out, but Ange took over kindly. She was amazed when Bones didn't protest, and relaxed into her gentle friendly grooming.

'Booth and I nearly...' Bones stopped, flicking her eyes up to Ange now standing behind her. 'Never mind. Have the soldiers arrived?'

'Yes, Cam's already doing her thing. The particulates samples and crime scene photo's have been delivered and faxed over from New York.' She watched Bones nod, while looking into her own reflection.

'If anything goes wrong today...' Bones said softly. Ange turned off the hairdryer, and shook her head.

'Don't think like that, Sweetie. Nothing is gonna go wrong today, ok?'

Bones knew not to disagree with Ange when she looked so stern and determined. 'Ok.' Ange kissed the top of her head sweetly, and began to finish her hair.

Hannah strode into the suite, and stilled, when she saw the colleagues at the dresser. 'Oh. Hey, I thought you'd be done by now.'

'Nearly,' Ange said brightly. 'We'll be out of your way in a jiffy.'

'No rush... Actually I was wondering if I could have a private word with Temperance.' Bones caught her pretty smile in the mirror, and nodded.

'Sure, Hannah.' Ange finished her hair, and left swiftly after giving Bones a curious glance. Bones stood, then began to dry herself, unashamed at her nakedness. Hannah sat down, crossing her legs casually. 'What did you want to ask me?'

'Booth tells me you don't get scared, is that true?'

'No not really. I get scared like everybody else but I have a mechanism to deal with fears.'

'Wow, tell me then cos I'm terrified and could use the advice.'

'I know that the adrenalin which is released into the bloodstream at highly emotional situations is completely natural and instinctual. All you have to do is acknowledge that fear is just a mixture of chemical signals and suppress the urge to run and hide or fight what scares you. I choose most often to stand and fight. I make a conscience decision to hold firm and distract myself with other things to let the chemicals dissipate.'

'I see... Booth gave you that, didn't he?' Bones stopped dressing, and froze. Hannah had spotted the chain and medallion around her neck. Bones looked into her.

Hannah smiled, and said, 'I noticed it was gone this morning. I guessed he would give it to you. You know he gave it to me for a while out there.'

'Did he?'

'Yes. When I got injured, he put it around my neck and carried me to the Medivac helicopter. He said I had nothing to fear if I wore it, he kissed me and promised he would come and get it back when I was better.' Bones nodded gently. 'I don't mind, Temperance. I know he's terribly concerned about you and this situation he feels he caused.'

'Really, you don't mind?'

'Yes, really. If he feels better with you wearing it, I'm happy,' she told her sincerely.

'I have to admit I was reluctant to accept it from him. I was concerned what you might say. I can assure you there's nothing between us.' Bones insisted again, much to the amusement of Hannah.

'I know, Temperance, don't sweat it. How's progress on the case?'

Bones began to explain casually but precisely what they had discovered from the forensics while Hannah got into the shower. By the time she was out and drying her hair, she was fully up to date on their progress. Bones found her to be very easy to talk to and didn't need to explain her technical speak as she knew Hannah was very well read.

'I best get on, Hannah. Please feel free to use my office again.'

'Great thanks, Temperance. I'll see you later, no doubt.'

'Yes. See you later.' Bones left the de-con lab, and got into the elevator to start her working day.

Hannah went to the door, looked along the corridor to check she was alone. She closed the door, and locked it, then went to her backpack. Within moments she was set up at the dresser table and tapping frantically on her keyboard.

!

Bones considered as she rode the elevator up to the Medical forensic lab that maybe she shouldn't have divulged so much information to Hannah. As she thought she may have worried her more with the little progress at getting to the sniper's identity, but brushed that thought away as the doors opened. Booth stood facing her in one of his usual Italian cut suits, with a hesitant smile fluttering across his lips. She could see he was indeed embarrassed about their nocturnal assignation and what had nearly transpired between them.

'Morning, Bones,' he said softly.

'Morning, Booth. Hannah's currently in de-con...' she paused when he shook his head, that was obviously not why he was waiting to use the lift.

'I was waiting for you actually. There's been a development,' he said gravely. Bones felt that fear hormone flood her veins just seeing his expression.

'Ok. What is it?' she asked, admirably hiding her anxiousness whilst leaving the elevator. He stopped her progress by handing her a letter in a clear plastic evidence bag. She checked his eyes, then took it.

'It arrived by hand ten minutes ago,' Bones eyed him curiously. 'Yeah, I've got the delivery guy in your office. Ange is plying him for a description as we speak. You should read it.' Bones did.

'It was sent to me this time. He knows we're all here clearly.' Booth switched his weight uncomfortably impatiently, as he watched her eyes scrutinise every word written. Suddenly Booth saw something in her expression he'd often witnessed from his genius partner. It was like a light was switched on in her temporal lobe and highlighted something vital and empirical. He felt his fingertips vibrate and itch and his energy rise.

'What is it, Bones, what ya got?'

'I think we've been looking in the wrong places for this man.' She strode off towards the platform then began to trot, hastening her pace. Booth trotted after her, butterflies taking flight in his stomach. Bones sat at one of the microscopes while Cam and Jack gathered around her. The letter blew up on the LCD screen as Bones pointed to the letter. 'Look here. See the weight of the pen used is heavier on the left of the down stroke of the letter L and the T's? Arabic is written right to left so the natural emphasis is on the right. And again here...'

'I don't get it, Bones,' Booth asked confused, not seeing the relevance of her discovery.

'If this was written by someone schooled in an Arabic state then the emphasis would be on the right predominately. And why if he is indeed an Afghani, did he write this letter in perfectly phrased English and grammatically perfect and not in Arabic? Unless he's not Arabic.'

'Hang on, Doctor Brennan that's a bit of a leap,' Jack splashed water on her theory.

'I know, but take into consideration the footprint impressions. You said they were size twelve standard army issue. American issue. And who trained the Afghan military during the Russian invasion in 79-88 in counter terrorism?'

'The US and UK special forces,' Booth chirped in, his lips pursed in concentration.

'Exactly. Then there's this...' Bones read a part of the letter out loud. 'Our nations will pay for what we have done in this land with their innocents blood. God will be our only judge... He says God not Allah. Surely he would say Allah and not the western alternative. Then this...He's speaking directly to Booth remember; Your atrocities do not counter their's. Their's? Why not ours? If he was talking about himself again he would say ours. It sounds like he's in between the two cultures or at the very least confused to which side his loyalty's lay.' Cam nodded, Jack scratched his head.

'But that doesn't get us any closer to who this guy is,' Jack added.

'I know,' Booth said sternly, 'But it's a place to start. I'm gonna check the AWOL lists and any soldier who had a beef with what we were doing out there. Possibly with a God connection too, somebody a little too vocal in the mess. He maybe one of our own gone bad who just happened to be there that night.' Bones clearly agreed with his line of thinking. She stood, whipping the letter from under the microscope. Booth went on, talking to Bones directly, lowering his voice a little, 'There'd been a rash of incursions into our compound, road side bombs to disrupt our food and water supplies and regular mortar attacks. The reason we were ordered to find this unit was because we knew they were getting good information on our routes and movements. Our interpreters were being picked off at will it seemed too. Family members taken and ransomed, tortured for information. It's a viper pit out there.'

Ange appeared on the platform waving a fresh sketch. 'Here you go. I don't know if its any use to you, he doesn't look like an Afghan I've ever seen.'

Bones looked at the image on the sheet, Booth looked at it too from over her shoulder. She looked up to him, Booth shook his head not recognising the face. Then she handed it back to Ange, saying, 'Run it through the US military database, Ange. See if anything lights up.'

'On it.' She was off back to her office while Bones made for her office, Booth trotted behind her. Unbeknown to him Hannah was close behind them too.

'What's happening? There's a distinct change in pace around here?' she enquired, looking concerned. Booth spun, as he grabbed Bones phone and began to tap in a number.

'Take a seat, Babe. We've had a break in the case.' Hannah did as she was told but watched the partners go about their respective tasks efficiently. She marvelled as Booth spoke almost in code to the phone and Bones scribbled notes, and passed him a pad and pen instinctually.

She flicked on her computer, then brought up the web cam in the palaeontology lab where Parker was, and tuned the screen towards Booth. He smiled at her gratefully, offering her a high chin nod in thanks as he spoke to his colleague back at the Hoover. She smiled back in silence and humility, neither of them needing the words.

Hannah heard Booth arrange for full surveillance of the Jeffersonian, and SWAT team coverage, while Bones faxed the image of the man to them. Bones then called up security camera images of the Jeffersonian. She started to scour them for his image. Booth finally came off the phone, and half sat on Bones desk, he let his lungs empty.

Hannah took her opportunity, coming over to him to stand between his legs, and loop her arms over his shoulders. 'You ok, Honey?' she whispered compassionately. Bones snuck them a glance, feeling the third wheel especially when Booth held her back round her waist, and kissed her softly on the lips whilst nodding.

'Bones had a flash of her usual genius, I said she would, didn't I?' Booth told her proudly. He looked briefly behind him to his partner, then went on, 'She sussed from the second letter which arrived this morning that he's not Arabic but possibly an American GI with a point to prove.'

'He's clearly delusional and...' Bones stopped mid sentence as Ange came bouncing into her office, stony faced. She headed straight to Bones computer keyboard, and brought up a US military record of Lieutenant George James Macalvoy. The resemblance was undeniable to the sketch she'd made earlier.

Bones read his record out loud as they all looked at his image, 'George James Macalvoy III, 36, from New Jersey. Joined the Marines in 2000, special ops and a three month joint assignment with the British SAS last year, which he was hand picked for. Three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Refused three promotions and sited for bravery and courage under fire twice. Awarded several distinguished service medals. Married in Feb 2001, widowed later that year, one child, a boy...'

'That's curious...' Ange said, straightening slightly. Bones looked into her eyes but instantly got the reason for her statement. Bones started tapping on her computer, and brought up a web page. Hannah was astounded by all the simple glances and silent exchanges which were switching, seemingly perfectly understood by the colleagues.

'What's curious, what?' Hannah urged, not understanding the flurry of fingers over Bones' keyboard.

Bones leant back as Ange read the FBI record on her, 'Mrs Maria Macalvoy, formerly Maria Khan from Brooklyn. She was one of the victims of 9/11...' Not needing to say anymore Ange went silent.

'Oh. God,' Hannah sighed.

Bones added solemnly, a few moments later, 'She was a Muslim, an American born and bred Muslim, who married a God fairing Marine from Newark, New Jersey.'

The tragic infused silence in the office was cut by a security guard tapping the glass door, 'Agent Booth?'

'Yup, yeah?' Hannah moved off him, as he stepped over to the portly guard.

'What do you want me to do with the delivery boy, let him go?'

'Yeah. Have we got his address?'

'Yes, Sir.'

'Ok, Tony. Tell him not the leave the city. I'm gonna want talk to him in a couple of days.'

'Sure. I'll escort him off the premises.' The guard left as quickly as he'd arrived. Booth spun back, planting his hands on his hips.

'Ok. The way I see it is we sit tight and let him come here to us. My guys are out in force and we know what he looks like now. He only wants Bones and me...'

'You don't know that, Seeley. He might want us all.' Hannah wasn't convinced by his logic.

'Hannah's got a valid point, Booth. He had no compunction in killing Jackson's guards. This warped vendetta has already spiralled for him.' Surprised Bones agreed with Hannah he shook his head, and smiled wryly.

'Do you see this, Ange? The two women in my life ganging up on me...' he asked, faking exasperation.

Ange huffed a chuckle, patting his back as she left him too it, saying, 'Suck it up, big boy.' As she left the office, Booth took a breath.

'Ok. The other way is, I put myself out there...' There were horrified gasped of disapproval from both of his women at his suggestion.

'No, no way, Seeley. Don't tempt fate.'

''I'm not tempting fate, Babe.' He slunk over to Hannah with sexy grin, playing it cool, as he slid his hands around her trim waist. 'You can't stay here indefinitely. It makes sense for me to draw him out. I won't go out unprotected obviously.'

'Those Kevlar helmets won't protect you from a Berratta 501 sniper rifle round, Seeley and you know that.'

'How'd you know that?'

'Temperance explained to me what the team had discovered this morning in the de-con suite.' Booth looked around to Bones in astonishment but touched she had trusted his girlfriend as much as he did.

Bones took a breath, and held it, then said in her defence, 'I've observed over that last few weeks that you trust Hannah implicitly. Therefore whomever you trust, so do I, just as strongly. Ergo, I told her what she needed to know. Hannah has a remarkable memory for details and facts, Booth. In her profession you shouldn't be so surprised that she recalled verbatim what I'd explained about the calibre to distance ratio's of the Berretta 501.'

'Riveting conversation.'

'Don't be facetious, Seeley. It's unbecoming.' Hannah chastised, winking surreptitiously at Bones over his shoulder. Booth looked like he'd been smacked around the face with a wet face cloth. Bones let a grin whisper over her lips, dropping her eyes away back to her keyboard.

'Ok I'll think of something else. Maybe he'll show up and one of the guys will take him out.'

'Is that necessary? We're not even sure he's the perp yet.' Hannah queried. Bones looked up to Booth, her expression of conceding to Hannah's point.

'You're right, this man clearly needs professional help,' Bones agreed, then, 'The military files have a DNA sample we can match that with the sample we retrieved from the cable.

'I didn't think there was enough to test?' Booth enquired puzzled.

'Doctor Saroyan is an excellent diligent forensic pathologist, Booth. She and Doctor Hodgins stayed up late last night gathering enough to perform one test on the trace DNA. There's enough to do one test, unfortunately it will destroy the sample in the process but we can get a result. They're already testing it. The results will be available by nine-ish tonight, all being well.' Booth grinned hard and wide.

'Awesome, Bones, awesome.'

'Yes, they're quite accomplished in their respective fields.' Her brow furrowed, then, 'Oh. You were attempting sarr-casm this time.' Booth's mouth dropped open in stunned amazement, seeing a cheeky smile ripple across her features to brighten her and especially when she winked at Hannah now. Hannah laughed heartily, pulling him out of the office by his hand.

'Come on, Seeley. Let's go see Parker,' she urged.

'Good idea. Oh. Wait, do you need me for a while, Bones?'

'No, no, you two go. I've got some remains to examine. Unless... you want to assist me?' Booth eyed her suspiciously for a moment, then his face broke into a beaming smile, realising she was attempting another joke.

'Awww. Stop it now, Bones.' He wagged a cute finger at her in reprimand. 'I can't take it!'

Bones smile, was to him glorious and breathtaking, and she was just as delighted to see him so happy with her attempted humour. 'Go on, go.' She looked back to her computer screen, still smiling.

Booth and Hannah walked away towards the elevators, chuckling.

Bones found she was enjoying the new techniques she was employing to be more affable, humorous and personable. She revelled in the smiles and shocked expressions she was getting from her partner and others when her learned skills paid off. She'd made a conscious and determined effort while she was away to make those changes in herself for him. However since Booth had come back with Hannah those changes were all for naught. She chose to continue with them though, reasoning that those new attributes may smooth over the bumps in their professional relationship, and ease some of the tension between them. She'd discovered that indeed that was the case. Hence her sweet smile lingered long after they'd left her office.

!

Jeffersonian medical forensic platform, three hours later.

'Where's Booth, Sweetie?' Ange asked curiously, not having seen him for a while. Bones looked at her wristwatch, and straightened up from one of exhumed service men she was examining. She looked around the platform to make sure it was just them.

'I've observed since Hannah arrived in DC that Booth goes home for his lunch most days. As Hannah is co-habiting with him I assume they... they have sexual relations during those occasions. His scent is different when he returns and I've also observed that at around four he seems extremely tired. Its the surge of prolactin to counteract the dopamine after sexual gratification.' Ange grinned salaciously then lost it slowly, finally pouting at her dear friend, feeling for her suddenly. Gossip was always welcome but when it clearly caused her friend to look like she did now, Ange didn't welcome it.

'Oh. Sweetie. I'm sorry.' Touching her forearm in sympathy.

'What for? Oh. You're concerned for my metaphorical heart.' Ange nodded a few times. 'Don't be. I'm happy Booth's content physically and emotionally.'

Ange squeezed her arm, then waved a finger slowly over her lips an inch away from them, saying, 'Your mouth says one thing, Sweetie but your eyes tell a whole other story. You can't bluff me.' Bones swallowed, mute, taking a shallow breath, she looked at her watch again.

'They went to see Parker in the palaeontology lab three hours ago. This encounter would be abnormally long,' she said, thinking out loud. 'I'll look on the webcam for them.' Bones paced off with Ange in close pursuit.

Bones' apprehension grew as she waited for the computer to click up the video feed from the palaeontology lab. As the image cleared, her smile returned. The calming view of Booth's wide back with his arm around Parker's shoulders from behind placated her. 'Look, they're fine...'

Bones then lost her smile when she saw a man out of focus in an ill fitting Jeffersonian security guards uniform, facing the camera. 'Oh. God...' Bones ran from the office towards the security office. Ange gasped too, when she saw who it was.

'Jesus! Cam! Cam!' Ange yelled. 'He's in the palaeontology lab with Booth and Parker!' Cam ran off the gantry, followed by Jack who looked ashen.

'How the fuck did he get in?' Jack demanded, as they all ran to the security guards office. Bones was already in control of the camera joy stick and all hell was breaking out in the office.

'He's wearing a guards uniform,' Ange explained as the office filled with people.

Silence descended over the room when Bones said, 'Quiet! All of you. Get this up on the screens on the wall I need to see more clearly.' The regular guard known as Harry to them all, hit a few buttons and the wall lit up with the ominous sight of Booth and Parker. Bones adjusted the small joystick to pan the camera. They saw Hannah sitting on the floor to the right with her hands and feet bound, and a strip of silver duck tape over her mouth. She panned to the left to see Professor Schmitt sprawled out on the floor lifeless, with a pool of grey blood seeping from a gaping fatal head wound. There was gasped of shock and horror from all assembled. Bones then centred the image, and zoomed in on Macalvoy's face.

'Is there sound with this?' Bones asked, her voice sounding a little strained.

'No,' came the reply from Harry.

'Ok. What are his points of egress?'

'There's only one way in. The double doors to the left, Doctor Brennan. The room is sealed and vented automatically. A password for entry and exit.'

'What is it?'

'I don't know, only Professor Schmitt knows it. I do know he only just changed it after he got back from the Gobi.'

Bones' mind was racing, clicking through each possibility and scenario. As it worked much faster that most she logically spoke her assessment of the situation and what was going to happen, 'He shot professor Schmitt the moment he opened the door to him but not after coercing the password from him. This is a suicide mission. You're not to sound the alarms as that my hasten his plans. I need to get in there.' Ange looked horrified at her calm insistence. Cam shook her head as Bones' eyes never left the wall as she spoke.

'Wait, what? You can't go in there, Doc, let special forces go and storm the bloody room!'

Bones shook her head, looking around to Jack with a solid cold expression. 'He'll kill them where they stand, before they could get passed the door. They could try to gain entry via the ventilation shaft but I suspect he's got that covered, possibly booby trapped. I wouldn't risk it.'

'Why hasn't Booth shot him? He's got his gun on him.'

'It's not in his holster, see? The line of his jacket is smooth. I suspect Booth relinquished it to him fearing he would shoot them immediately if he didn't.' Kevlar clad officers arrived to pack the small office, weighed down with their formidable fire power. Bones gave them a half glance.

'Ange, your superior computer skills are needed. I want you to hack into the Jeffersonian databanks and get that password.' Ange nodded gravely, and hurried out of the office. Pushing aside the curious onlookers she halted, and turned. 'Bren, don't you dare go in there,' she warned. Bones smiled at her calmly, and nodded. Ange disappeared from view.

Bones continued, 'Once she's got it, get her to override the system and unlock the door. Nod the camera three times to let us know it's done, ok?'

'You just told Ange you weren't going in,' Cam stated, surprised.

'I didn't confirm or deny verbally. Besides he wants us all in there, he's counting on me to come to him.'

'Why? Why give him what he wants?' Cam queried, with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Her body language giving away her acute anxiousness.

'To buy them time, Cam. He's talking to them, look... He's wanting to justify his murderous rampage to Booth, to anyone who'll listen.'

'Where are you getting all this from?' Wendell asked incredulously. Bones looked to him kindly.

'Booth. Booth taught me these nuances of the human condition,' she said with great modesty but deep admiration leaking through her words for her partner. 'Booth knows I'm coming.'

'Oh. Doctor Brennan, you can't.'

'I can and I will. Clear this office... Cam, I need to speak to you privately.'

Jack instantly started to push people out the office with little regard for their personal space or comfort. 'Out! All of you, into Doctor Saroyan's office, and stay there. I want all your cells and Blackberry's too. Come on hand them over.' Wendell aided him just as passionately, glad for something to do.

The three man SWAT team stayed, along with Harry and his colleague. Bones tuned to them now. 'I suspect your colleague that escorted that young man off the premises is to be found in the grounds, dead or near death. Please go and find him.' Harry nodded at her, then flicked his head to call his colleague with him.

Bones waited till they left the room, then closed the door behind them. 'Cam, we'll need five paramedic teams on standby. One for each of us.' Cam nodded, her caramel flawless skin paling. 'Parker is your priority, do you understand me?' Cam eyes clouded, as she nodded, taking a deep breath. 'Then Hannah, Booth, him... then me.' Cam shook her head forlornly, realising why she was putting them in an order like that. She knew Booth couldn't survive without Parker or bare the guilt if he survived and his son perished. And she knew all too well that Macalvoy would take priority over her because those he'd killed and their families could get justice if he survived to trial and prosecution. Cam also understood, Bones was the single entity here, with no ties or people who relied on her. Her responsibilities were her own as she didn't belong to anyone.

Bones caught her expression, and understood it, saying softly, 'I'm not being noble, Cam, just logical.' Bones tried to suppress her tears, but they again betrayed her. Cam was around her in a second, holding her tight.

She whispered in her ear, 'I know, Tempe. I know.'

'Anyway it may not come to that.' She wiped her wet cheeks dry. 'I need a weapon small enough to kill him with or pass to Booth. Small enough not to be found on me which I can conceal about my person.' She'd addressed her question to the heavily armed SWAT team leader. He looked at her as if she were insane.

'How small?' he asked. Bones ripped off her lab coat to show him what she was wearing beneath it. He smiled then laughed. 'The only thing you could hide under those jeans is a credit card, Doctor,' he said sarcastically, seeing her figure hugging jeans and skimpy white blouse.

'What about a three inch, two mill bone razor? That's flexible enough, surely,' Cam offered quickly, with wide eyes having her own genius moment. Bones nodded in agreement, thinking her suggestion brilliant. Cam left the room to retrieve one from the platform instruments.

'Make sure she follows my instructions to the letter.' They all nodded.

'Kevlar?'

Bones shook her head, with a wry smile. 'No use a point blank range officer, just a hindrance. He'd take it off me anyway.' They nodded again, agreeing.

Cam returned with the flimsy stainless steel blade, and handed it carefully to Bones. She slipped it into the rear pocket of her jeans, then rubbed her hand over the thin blade in her pocket, and smiled.

'Almost invisible, good. Right, I better get down there.'

'Paramedic's teams are on their way, Tempe.'

'Excellent,' Bones said absently, looking at the screen again. Then suddenly spun catching them off guard, and walked briskly to the elevators. They had to trot to catch up with her. She passed Cam's office, now full of peering bustling faces being guarded by Wendell and Jack. Ange, she could see frantically tapping away on her keyboard reassuringly and thankfully missing her exit and betrayal.

Bones pushed the button and the silver doors slid apart. She stepped inside but didn't turn till the doors closed behind her. Only then did she push the button to descend into the bowels of the Jeffersonian.

!

Cam went back to the security office to watch from the screen the events unfold. The two man SWAT team members however, followed Bones down to the basement when the elevator returned. The third stayed with Cam so he could give his team instructions. They took up positions along the corridor. They stayed low, and watched as Bones prepared herself, poised to knock the bullet proof window to the lab to warn Macalvoy of her arrival.

Jack was in with Angela now, hoping to assist her if he could. While Wendell stood guard outside Cam's office with the gaggle of technicians straining to see anything through the glass fronted office.

Harry rushed back into his office pale faced. Cam looked to him, he didn't need to explain anything she could tell from his hollow expression that the guard was dead. 'The paramedic teams are asking where you want them, Doctor Saroyan.'

'They need to take what equipment they might need down to the corridor and wait. I want them as close to that room as possible without putting themselves in harms way.' Harry nodded.

'We found Tony half hidden in the shrubbery of the rose garden. His uniform, security pass and sidearm missing,' he told her with a waiver in his voice. 'One shot... Tony didn't see it coming.' Cam sighed heavily.

'I'm sorry, Harry I knew you two were close.' Harry dropped his eyes to his boots, nodding. 'Could you direct the paramedics for me?'

'Yeah, I'll do that now.' Then he looked at the screen as Bones tapped the glass with her knuckles.

!

Bones felt the rush of adrenalin sicken her to her stomach as Macalvoy turned to her rap on the round glass window in the door. She saw him smile, clearly he was expecting her to come down. He kept his gun pointed at Booth as he made eye contact with her, and walked towards the door. Macalvoy tapped a seven digit code into the keypad.

Bones reached for the handle, noting her fingers trembling. She scrunched her fist twice to rid it of the excess hormone, and grasped the handle. As she opened the door all eyes went on her. Booth looked relieved but equally tormented by her appearance. Hannah's eyes widened and her brow crinkled, she was clearly surprised Bones was willingly coming into this nightmare. Then Bones looked to Parker. He was clinging to his father's waist and looked petrified. His cheeks were flushed and sopping wet. His chest rose and fell quickly with his stifled sobs and ragged breathing, she noted. Bones managed to smile at him although she wanted to weep for him.

'Finally. We're all here,' Macalvoy drooled coldly. 'Close the door behind you,' he ordered even colder and scarily calm.

Before she did as instructed, she asked, 'It's Booth and me you want, can't you let Parker and Hannah go?'

'That's not the plan, Bones.' She was taken back by the use of her nickname but hid it from her solid expression. 'Close it!' he barked suddenly, pointing the gun in her direction. She saw Parker startle a little as Macalvoy shouted at her. Bones closed it immediately. It sucked shut, sealing them in again and clicked ominously, leaving them all alone and in silence.

Macalvoy gestured with his gun for her to join Booth and Parker. She stepped over Professor Schmitt's remains carefully, respectfully. Then she stood with Parker between her and Booth, her back to the security camera, while Hannah was on her right still sat on the floor.

Bones took the opportunity to assess the situation as she took her place beside her partner. She flicked her critically observant eyes around the room. She knew they were being avidly watched from the security room via the camera and somehow, irrationally it made her feel a little safer. She saw Macalvoy held one loaded Berretta 92A1 with a spare magazine on the bench behind him. Duck tape, and a few loops of silicone covered cable were on it too. Then there was Booth's weapon in its holster balanced on those items. The low hum of the ventilation system had stopped too as she closed the door. She realised they'd turned off the circulation to make the small room uncomfortably hot. The fossil strewn benches looked undisturbed, and she couldn't see any other weapons. Then she scanned the lifeless body of Schmitt. He'd been shot through the forehead, a single entry but the back if his skull was missing along with half of his grey matter. Most of which was splattered over the floor, bench and on the sleeve of Booth's suit.

'So, this is Bones, your partner then? I've been anxious to meet you,' he asked rhetorically, as he began to frisk Bones down expertly. 'Booth told us all about you, you know?' said, while staring her down. Bones didn't flinch from his intense eyes, or react to his loaded statement though. He slid his palm extra slowly over her buttocks and then up over her breasts, while pointing the berretta at her midriff. Bones felt her skin crawl like she was covered with insects. Temporarily she forgot she should be scared in case he found what was concealed in her back pocket. Thankfully he didn't and when he stepped away she felt it a small victory.

'Why is Hannah gagged?' Bones asked, holding his curious gaze.

'I've just done what our government does and gagged the press,' he sneered at Hannah. 'Besides she asks too many questions I'm not comfortable answering. We met briefly in Afghanistan, nosey bitch.' He perched up on one of the benches, after sweeping it savagely clear of fossilised bones and palaeontology implements. Parker flinched again, grabbed closer to his father's waist, and sobbed as everything crashed and clunked to the stony floor. 'Shut him up will you, snivelling brat,' he warned Booth, then, 'Or I'll do it...'

Bones reasoned with him gently, 'He's ten; seen you shoot a man in cold blood and you're holding his family captive at gun point. I think he's got every right to be scared and cry.'

Macalvoy tilted his head, conceding sensibly, 'Point taken, Bones.' Then instructed a little softer. 'Come here, Parker.' Booth held him tighter to him though, refusing to let him go. Seeing Parker's scared expression and another cascade of tears leak over his cheeks, Macalvoy pouted at him. 'I'll not shoot you, Parker, but I will shoot your dad if you don't come here.' Although he said it with a smile, Parker was reluctant to leave his father's side. He sniffed, then wiped his nose with the back of his hand, and looked up to his father for instructions.

Booth's jaw was clamped, as he said, 'If he was your son Clem, George would you let him come to you?' Macalvoy leapt over, and grabbed Parker's hand, holding the gun to his head. He dragged him away from his father, and held the trembling whimpering boy to him. Hannah made a muffled screech from under her gag while Booth stilled, not wanting to agitate Macalvoy any more. Bones stomach wrenched seeing Parker's pathetic face awash with uncontrollable fear. It was then that Bones saw the front of his jeans turn a different darker colour and heard Parker whimper ashamed.

Bones said to Parker calmly, as gently as she could, 'It's ok, Parker. It's gonna be ok. Just do as he says.' Bones could feel Booth's body tighten more beside her, coiling like a watch spring when he too realised that terrified, Parker had lost control of his bodily functions.

Booth mumbled, 'You bastard.'

Macalvoy ignored his insult, and said, 'Take off your jacket, Booth and put that chair here.' He pointed to where he wanted him to place the chair. 'Do it slowly, please.' Booth hesitated for just a second, looking to Bones first. They exchanged solemn looks, understanding instantly what he had planned. Bones managed a tiny bolstering grin, and nod for him to do as he'd been asked. Booth muttered again, 'Bastard.'

Booth dragged the jacket off his shoulders, and placed it on the floor gently. Bones could see his shirt was soaked with sweat beneath his arm and down the line of his spine. His torso muscles were heavily defined too and bulging with the extra blood flow coursing his veins and arteries. He was preparing his body to endure torture.

Booth pulled the chair to the spot facing Hannah, and went to sit on it. 'Oooh. No, you've got it the wrong way round, Booth,' he said sarcastically, still with the barrel at Parker's temple. Booth stilled, took a second to understand, then looked at Bones.

Bones swallowed to try and moisten her parching throat but she had no saliva left to perform that simple task. The realisation sent another shot of adrenalin around her bloodstream. She flicked a glance to him then to her partner. Booth rolled his head slightly, clearly distraught and feeling utterly impotent. 'Sit down, Bones. Tie her up, Booth, just her hands through. I need some information from her.'

Everybody fell ominously silent as Bones sat gently on the chair without hesitation. Then she placed her hands behind the chair back, and relaxed her shoulders. Surrendering herself voluntarily to the poisoned chalice with dignity. Booth watched every confident move she made, astonished by her apparent tranquillity. His admiration for her became boundless.

Bones picked her spot on the blank far wall opposite, two foot above Hannah's head, and locked her focus.

Booth took the offered cable from Macalvoy's hand, and began to bind her hands slowly but as gently as he could. Macalvoy spoke calmly, as he watched Booth carefully, 'That's it, just like you did to those men in the house that night. Good, bit tighter, please.'

While Booth was tying her hands Bones wiggled her thumb slowly towards her back right pocket, hoping he would see the minute gesture. Then she turned her head to Macalvoy, and spoke to distract him. 'What do you want to know, George?'

'I ask the questions, you're not in control here, Bones.'

'I understand that but you don't need to do this.' Bones felt Booth adjust his position behind her to shield what he was doing from Macalvoy, pretending to tighten the restraint. She felt a finger slip into her pocket then still.

'Yes I do. You see, Parker has to know that his dad is not to all American hero he claims to be or would have you believe. He needs to understand what he did out there. The atrocities he's guilty of. The international laws he flouted with impunity. What our government makes us grunts do in their name. The righteous son's-of-bitches! Everybody turning a blind eye to what's going on over there, its sickening... My story will not be silenced or covered up, not now. Not with what I'm going to do.'

While he ranted Booth eased out the thin blade from her pocket, and stood, slipping it into his pant's pocket secretively. Bones felt another rush of triumph that they'd managed the swap the weapon unnoticed. Macalvoy looked back to Booth who'd walked around to Bones' side now.

'Was it you that fed that cell with information?' Booth asked, just for the record.

'Yes, course and others. I'm sure much will be written about the why's and wherefores by self-serving idiots like her.' He pointed in Hannah's direction. 'Just spell my name right, blondie,' he sneered at her.

Booth then looked into Bones' eyes. She could see a flicker of relief in his eyes but that faded when Macalvoy half cocked the trigger against Parker's head. He was obviously ready to move on with his plan.

Booth's breathing stopped as he heard the ratchet sound of the trigger. 'Please...' he begged him. 'Please don't.' Bones could hear the pain in his voice, and smelt the panic ooze out of him.

'We understand each other then, don't we?' Macalvoy said quietly, staring hard at Booth then Bones. They both nodded imperceptibly, independently. Macalvoy released the trigger but still held the gun to his head. 'First question; how many SWAT team men our outside the door?'

'Two,' Bones told him instantly.

'Hit her,' he ordered Booth.

Confused, Booth asked, 'What?' Parker stopped crying instantly, just as confused. 'She told you how many there were?' Macalvoy drew back the trigger again, locking eyes with Booth. 'Jesus, what are you doing? She told you, God damn it!' Bones felt like vomiting, the tension in her limbs starting to cramp her already. Her brow began to bead with perspiration and began to tickle her skin. Her chest felt tight and it almost hurt to breathe. She was now fully aware of what this madman had planned for Booth.

'Booth, do it, its ok,' she said quietly. Booth dropped his eyes to her with incredulity at her accepting her fate so easily.

'I'm not going to hit you, Bones.'

'Yes you are...' Macalvoy said, 'Show your son how our military does things. Or I will splatter your son's brains across the fucking room. Do it! Do it now!' Macalvoy aimed the gun at the seated Hannah, and fired off a round. Then he snapped the hot barrel back to Parker's head. The rock wall spewed plaster dust all over her hair and shoulders, while all their ears rang, protesting the deafening echoing crack.

Hannah scrunched herself into a ball when she saw him aim at her, she even felt the round whistle past her right ear. When she opened her eyes again, realising he had missed her, she felt euphoric for being alive.

Relieved he missed, Booth asked, 'Jesus, you ok, Hannah?' She nodded fast. Booth went on, 'What will that prove to Parker? Don't you want a bigger audience? For your story to be heard?'

'Not really I don't like crowds. This is fine.' He pulled the trigger back another notch against Parkers skull.

It was clear to all of them this man was seriously psychopathically disturbed and had a warped sense of justice. Which was a lethally dangerous combination when he was so highly trained. The trauma of losing his wife in such a horrific way then fighting a war he thought was just but became increasingly conflicted by the immorality on both sides. All of which had tipped him over the edge. Witnessing what Booth had done was plainly the straw that broke the camel's back. He'd then directed his rage onto him and his closest companions. Bones suspected Macalvoy maybe suffering from; post traumatic stress disorder, Gulf War syndrome and depression. Or a combination of all three.

Hearing the click of the trigger and Parker's tragic sounding whimper, Bones insisted, 'Just hit me, Booth!' She saw Booth's eyes cloud, and flick around the room to all the faces staring at him.

'That was a warning shot, I won't miss with the next,' Macalvoy said menacingly. 'Go on, Booth, from what I heard that night from the roof, you've always wanted to have a crack at her. Now's your chance.'

The partner's locked eyes again, Bones could see the turmoil in his features, the shame and guilt mixing with his boiling tears. 'Do it, Booth, I'm prepared.' There was one more click on the trigger urging him on.

'Make it a good one,' Macalvoy warned again viciously. Bones saw Booth bristle under his shirt like ice had just run down his spine to chill him to the core. Booth made a slow fist.

Bones heard the blow in her ear before she felt it on her face. Her head had snapped sideways as it landed flush on her left cheek. She thought she was prepared but she wasn't, however refused to let it show on her face. Knowing Booth felt it too and not just literally. She took a breath, and waited for the endorphins to make there way to her face to numb the area. When she looked back to him, the tears that had been boiling on his lids slipped over them and trickled unchecked down his cheeks. Booth couldn't look her in the eye, as his shame was to deep to bear.

'How many SWAT team men are outside the door?' Macalvoy asked again.

'I told you, two. There's two of them,' Bones muttered.

'Hit her,' he said again. Parker began to shout at his father not to and Hannah muffled her protest too. Both of them aghast this was his cruel plan.

Booth mouthed to Bones his apology, and she braced herself. This blow was less heavy but still stung, and echoed off the walls back to her. However it was not good enough for Macalvoy and he screamed manically at Booth, 'Fucking hit her man!' Booth grit his molars, as he struck her with full force.

Bones felt the thump connect fully with her mandible this time and she could sense her bottom lip start to swell immediately. The endorphins, it seemed were taking a very long time to get to work as that punch made her feel like being sick. She instinctually licked her lip to feel the damage, and snatched a breath. 'That's better. How many SWAT team men are outside the door?'

'Two,' she said truthfully, hearing herself sound muffled as her swelling lip interfered with the pronunciation of the word. Booth hit her again without an order given this time, shocking all of the horrified watchers in the room and upstairs.

Bones felt her lip split, the soft flesh tearing easily. Snatching a ragged breath, she gasped with the pain that resounded through her head. Scarlet warm drops fell onto her white blouse and soaked in. Trying to disconnect herself from the pain, she forced herself to think about something else. She landed on how hard it was going to be to get those blood stains out of her blouse, then she looked back to the blank spot on the wall.

!

Jeffersonian, security guards office.

'Christ! Why'd he do that? He didn't say to hit her then?' Harry asked incredulously. Cam ignored his question, and picked up the phone.

'Ange, any luck?'

'Its a seven digit code, the computer is crunching as fast as it can, Cam. I've got the first three numbers.'

'Ok, good. As soon as...'Ange interrupted her.

'Yeah, I know. I'm all over it, Cam.' Ange disconnected the call.

Cam hit another button, and waited for it to be picked up.

!

Palaeontology lab, Professor Schmitt office.

Bones coughed to clear her dry throat, and drag a breath in, hoping it would numb the pain, it didn't. Lifting her eyes to Booth's, she saw a rage in them she had never witnessed before and it was directed at her not Macalvoy. Then he asked, 'How many SWAT team men are outside the door?'

'Dad? What are you doing?'

'Shut up!' he barked at his son viciously. Hannah gasped, utterly confused in the sudden irrational change in him. 'How many SWAT team men are outside the door?' This time Bones shook her head slightly, and her brow wrinkled. 'How many?' he raged in her face, centimetres away. Bones pulled her head back slightly, staring into his flaming black pupils.

'Two, there's two SWAT team men out ss-side the door,' she told him again. She didn't witness it but Macalvoy grinned hard as Booth unleashed a right hook which not only rattled her teeth but her brain against her skull. She rolled her head, fading from consciousness then coming back, she flickered her eyes to focus on the wall. Booth was rubbing his knuckles. She thought idly that the last blow must have hurt him just as much as it did her.

The room was deathly silent but for Bones taking deep calming breaths until the shrill sound of the phone pierced the air. All eyes went to the phone except Bones'. Macalvoy picked it up, and hit the speaker phone key.

'George?' Cam asked softly. There was palpable relief in hearing her voice around the room. Bones looked to Booth who was staring at Macalvoy and then Parker. She turned her head to see Parker, still held firmly by George. She saw he was no longer crying but looking at his father as if he was just as evil as Macalvoy. A ghastly aberration he didn't understand or know anymore. Bones heart quaked for him and for Booth too.

'Hello, Doctor Saroyan. We're a little busy down here at the moment but if you'd like I can leave you on speaker phone?'

'Thank you,' she said politely. Bones thought fairly calmly. 'Do you require anything? Water, food, an escape route?'

'Haa! So witty. You and me both know no one is leaving this room.'

'What about your son, Clem?'

'My son? Oooh. You mean the one this government took away from me? No, apparently he's fine, healthy and being looked after in a... Fucking care home by strangers!' he screamed at the phone. Cam's enquiry had obviously touched a raw bleeding nerve. Also confirming what Bones had suggested, that this was indeed a one way ticket to hell for him. He clearly had nothing left to live for now.

'Not surprising really in light of your mental instability,' Bones said, looking towards him. Her comment incensed Macalvoy, whose nostrils flared as he gave a sharp head gesture to Booth. Booth set his jaw and fist, then smacked another cracking blow across her face. Bones legs shot out in front of her in reflex to the fracturing of her cheek bone. She groaned in agony, felt her eyes water and splash over her cheeks, and it felt like her skull was splitting open.

'Dad! Stop it! Stop it! That's Bones, your Bones,' he sobbed. 'Why you hitting her? Stop hitting her!' He struggled in the hold of Macalvoy and squirmed out of his clutch. He ran straight to his father, and began to thump his father's belly madly, kicking him too. Macalvoy watched on gleefully without going after him.

Bones tried to focus on a face, any face but couldn't, her eyes refused to stop rolling in their sockets. Booth grabbed both Parker's flailing arms, and lifted him off the ground, and carried him roughly to Hannah. He looked totally manic and his features were twisted out of sync. Parker attempted to bite his father's hand but missed, as he twisted in his grip, and tried to kick him.

'Sit there, you stinking piss soaked wimp and shut the fuck up or I'll shoot you!' he yelled at him. Parker cowered on the floor against the wall close to Hannah, clearly terrified of his father's contorted face, and lethal warning. Even Hannah looked at him horrified, and mumbled something under her gag, enraged.

'I haaate you,' Parker growled at his father. Booth turned away from him, and looked into Bones' eyes, seemingly untouched by his son's contempt for him.

Bones' eyes were swelling, one closing slowly with the oedema he'd inflicted. She was bleeding from her lip and a gash across her left eyebrow. The blood from that wound seeped into her good eye making it blur and sting.

Booth grabbed a fist full of her hair, yanking her head up and back to face him. He got so close to her face that she felt the specs of saliva hit her hot face as he ranted viciously, 'You caused this, you! Do you get it, Bones?' He shook her head by her hair to accentuate his vitriol. 'You got us all in this mess...' She groaned again, her eyelids fluttering to the waves of pain rippling over her head and down her spine. 'If you'd stayed, not left me I wouldn't have gone to fucking Afghanistan and all those good men on both sides would be alive today!' Macalvoy nodded vehemently, agreeing with Booth's words, and twitched with his own adrenalin rushes now.

Booth went on savagely, 'You're the catalyst here... You screwed everything up! You're a self centred, cold hearted freak of nature with the emotional maturity of a gnat, whose poisoned everything!'

'Bra-voo!' Macalvoy praised, standing close to them watching this unfold at close quarters, obviously turned on by the violence of his rants.

Booth walked slowly behind her, ignoring Macalvoy's comment, still pulling her hair to tip her head right back. He sneered in her ear from behind, 'I loved you... not anymore, no more. You missed your chance. That woman over there...' He pushed her head down to look at Hannah. Bones fixed her eyes on her, she saw Hannah wincing for her humiliation and the sight of her battered bleeding face. 'Hannah's everything you can never be; beautiful, sexy, open hearted. A normal human being that doesn't embarrass me in public with her social ineptitude and scientific bullshit...' Booth swapped to her other ear, while slicing through the cable she was bound with. He left the blade in Bones now free hands. She felt it slice into her palm, as she caught the cable preventing it from dropping to the floor. Macalvoy was too pumped to notice the surreptitious releasing of her hands or the switch back of the blade.

Macalvoy thought this was better than he'd envisioned this going, surpassing his expectations even. He was so wound up by the events that he was dropping his guard and his aim.

Bones' pulse rate tapped out knowing the moment approached. Her mind was still fuzzy but she flicked her eyes to the camera or attempted to, to see if it was moving. Her eyes wouldn't focus though, she could only see a milky unstable image with one eye totally shut over, the other half closed. Her adrenalin surges were a constant flow. She couldn't feel any physical pain now, understanding the endorphins were working finally or at least taking the edge off, making it bearable. But she could sense a rush of energy to her leg muscles and biceps. She noticed she was trembling and tried to control it but couldn't. Her breathing was fast but shallow as her lungs fought for air. She did have a nagging ache under her sternum but it had nothing to do with her injuries or the stressful situation. It had everything to do with what Booth had spat to her. Realising that he had, at some point recently, meant every bitter angry word. Those were his thoughts, his sentiments and his truths. The agony she felt there now was her metaphorical heart breaking and filling her chest with shame and sorrow for what she had done to him. Hopefully now, she reasoned, in this room she could do something selfless for once and put that right. She saw this as her chance to make reparations.

Booth's next whispered words at her ear brought her back to this particular nightmare, 'Hannah and Parker are my life now, Temperance...' He stood, pushing her head away nonchalantly, with no empathy for her considerable discomfort. Her neck snapped back causing a surge of agony to catapult bile into her throat to burn it. She coughed, and choked on it, swallowing it back down. She tasted the metallic tint of her own blood mixed in with it.

Those elusive moments where time stretches long and measured never signal their arrival or can be summoned at will, they just happen. The next few moments did just that for the people in the fiery hot, sweat and blood soaked lab.

Bones saw from the corner of her eye, movement high on the wall to her right. She realised it was the nodding of the camera, signalling Ange had over ridden the door protocols. She wasn't the only one to notice it, Macalvoy did too, and he curiously looked to the camera. Booth went for his gun on the bench, in slow motion it seemed to Bones. She heard the bolts of the door behind her unlock simultaneously too. The hollow unhurried clunk made a black shadow descend over Macalvoy's face as he understood what was about to happen. Booth put himself between Macalvoy and his family, shielding them from any bullets.

Macalvoy began to turn and aim the Berretta at Booth. Instinctually Bones stood, lifted her bleeding hand, and sliced through Macalvoy's neck, severing his bulging jugular vein. Thick dark blood pulsed out of the gash and covered his shirt almost instantly. The shock hit Macalvoy instantly causing him to squeezed the trigger in reflex. Bones positioned herself between the family facing Macalvoy. Booth pulled his trigger at precisely the same time, his aim perfect though. Bones watched as Macalvoy's bullet left the barrel of the Barretta and spun towards her stomach. She heard the whistle of Booth's bullet pass by her ear from behind, and watched as it entered Macalvoy's skull between his eyes. She felt her body relax seeing his cranium explode backwards to spray the SWAT team as they charged into the room. Macalvoy slumped to the floor to the horrified screams from Parker and the yelled warnings from the SWAT team.

Bones staggered back, and fell into Booth's arms, looking down at her stomach and the oozing ugly hole. Booth collapsed down to the floor with her, discarding his firearm with a clatter.

'Bones? Jesus, Bones,' he begged for her to answer. 'Paramedics! Paramedic!' he yelled, frantically pushing on her wound. His hands became bathed in her blood and stomach acid.

There was pandemonium in the room. More guns and people than could possibly squeeze into the room came in, filling up all the voids of it. People were dragging Parker and Hannah screaming and crying out of the room to safety. Corpses were being moved aside, making room for a gurney and green clad paramedics who rushed towards Bones.

'Are they ok?' Bones asked feebly, looking into Booth's weeping eyes above her. He bit his bottom lip, nodding as the paramedics swarmed around her and got to work. 'Good... D, Don't cry, Booth. It doesn't hurt.' She lied for him, seeing him in enough agony already that she didn't want to add to.

He could see her eyes start to loose light and roll in their sockets, drifting into the abyss. 'Bones. Oh. God, Bones. Hang on. Help her, help her!' Blood and fluids frothed out of the corner of her mouth as he chanted desperately, 'Why, Bones? Why'do-ya-it? Why'd ya-do-it?'

She struggled to stay conscious after hearing his distress and plead. She forced herself to focus on his traumatised pupils. She managed to lift a trembling blooded hand to his face, and stroke his bristling jaw tenderly. 'Don't blame yourself, promise me.' He rolled his head in anguish, holding his palm over hers on his jaw. Bones gurgled, 'Prom-promise me...' She saw him nod through her obscuring vision. Trusting his silent reply she let go. Everything narrowed and faded to black for her.

!

Emergency room corridor, waiting area, one hour later.

Cam and Ange eyed the blood cover doctor with prayers in their hearts and hands as he neared. 'Ok, we've taken her to surgery. We nearly lost her but managed to stabilise her for surgery. The quick attention of the paramedics may have saved her life.'

'May?' Ange asked with a tremulous voice.

The doctor quirked his lips, tilting his head. 'Gunshots to the stomach are fraught with complications. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. We will know more in a couple of hours.' Cam nodded, then dropped her eyes looking to her pumps, knowing all too well what he was implying. 'The other three people brought in have minor flesh wounds and a few bruises. I've cleared them to go home but they're very traumatised, obviously. They might like to see a friendly face. I've suggested a trauma councillor too...'

Cam glance around, hearing footsteps approaching at pace. She smiled, saying, 'We have our own.' Sweets stood beside them, looking traumatised himself.

'Oh. Good. Ok, I'm gonna scrub up and join the surgery team. When we have any news...'

They all nodded solemnly. The doctor walked way leaving them looking anxiously at one another.

'Where's Booth?' Sweets asked.

'In with Hannah and Parker.'

'I should speak to them immediately...' He went to go but Cam held his arm to stop him. 'What?'

'You need to know what happened before you go in there, Sweets...' she said gravely. Sweets brow wrinkled curiously, then he nodded. They all sat down on the chairs against the wall, while Cam explained the events to him chronologically. She explained in detail Parker's reaction to witnessing his father's violence towards Bones. She left nothing out and told him almost without empathy. Ange though couldn't hold back her distress and felt her eyes leaking on hearing all that transpired while she'd been getting the password. Once Cam had finished recounting the terrible events Sweets nodded, deep in thought.

'Ok. Has his mother been notified?'

'Yes I rang her half an hour ago. Jack has gone to collect her and bring him home.' As she told him so Jack appeared with a distraught looking Rebecca in tow. They all stood to greet them.

'Is he ok? Is he?' she insisted on an answer. Jack went to his wife and they hugged tight, while he asked her quietly how Bones was fairing.

Sweets explained calmly, 'Yes, yes, Rebecca physically just a few bumps and scrapes. He's been discharged but our concerns are for his mental state. He witnessed some traumatic, shocking and possibly confusing events and with your permission I would like to have a talk with him before you take him home. Maybe set up a few counselling sessions over the next few days.' Rebecca nodded, looking grey and older than her years.

Rebecca set her jaw, and ranted, 'This is the last time...' shaking her head. 'The very last time that man has anything to do with my boy. I'm not going through this again, never again.' Ange and Cam exchanged glances, if they were honest they couldn't blame her for her anger and distress.

'That maybe a rash decision at this juncture...' Sweets stopped mid sentence, seeing the livid look set itself in Rebecca's eyes.

'Well, that's your opinion but its my decision to make those choices for my son, for his safety and sanity.'

'Yes, yes of course. I apologise, Rebecca. Please take a seat, you need to be made aware of what transpired in that lab today.' Rebecca took a heavy seat reluctantly, itching to get into her son though. Sweets sat next to her, and explained what Parker had endured and witnessed. Again, like Cam, he left nothing out. By the time he'd finished her hands were full of wet tissues. Her eyes were bloodshot and she felt sick. Sweets didn't think she would change her mind about letting Booth have visiting rights, as his frank honest disclosure of events probably had compounded her decision.

Cam had hovered close by while Sweets explained it all to Rebecca. She'd clarified and answered Rebecca's questions gently when they were directed at her. But she couldn't help her thoughts drifting off to her great friend now fighting for her life in surgery. Eventually Sweets stood to lead Rebecca into the emergency room to speak to Parker. Rebecca took a deep breath, flicked her hair back over her ears, and prepared herself.

Ange and Jack waited, and watched as they went into the room.

!

Sweets scanned the scene. The brightly lit room housed two wide beds and three comfortable green chairs. The window was open slightly to freshen the bland functional room. Hannah was sitting on one of the beds with her legs dangling over the side, looking absently at the floor tiles. He saw she looked exhausted. Next to her was Parker in the same position. His jeans were still wet and starting to smell of drying urine. Sweets noted he didn't look up when they walked in. Booth was sat on the opposite bed with his legs over the side too, facing them. His shirt was crimson, turned colourful with Bones' blood, which was starting to congeal. The scent of stale sweat and blood fragranced the room too. He hung his head just like his son's but lifted his it to see who'd entered. His expression was of expectant terror, Sweets noted. He assumed that Booth was expecting a doctor to tell him the news of Bones' death.

When Booth registered their faces he didn't look relieved, he looked resigned. The agonising heavy silence was cracked by Rebecca. She ran to Parker, and lifted him straight off the bed, gripping him to her as tight as she could. She kissed him violently through his messy sweat soaked hair, muttering her love and relief into it. It took a few moments of her muttering to bring Parker around. Finally he wrapped all his limbs around her as tightly as he could, and started to sob in her neck. Rebecca carried him away from Hannah and Booth. She sat on one of the chairs, and rocked him backwards and forwards in her arms, comforting him. Sweets watched Booth watch them with tears dripping from his eyes, his expression unchanging and unreadable.

Sweets headed softly for Hannah with his hand out. 'Hey, Hannah. My name is Doctor Sweets I'm a colleague of Agent Booth's.' She nodded a little, and attempted a smile.

'Yeah, Seeley has mentioned you. How's Temperance?'

'She's in surgery at the moment. We should know more in a few hours.' He noticed Booth shift his position slightly out of the corner of his eye, clearly agitated by that piece of information. Hannah nodded, looking to Booth with his head down. 'You've all been discharged but I wondered if we could spend a little time now, while you're all together to discuss the events of this afternoon. I believe some things need to be explained to Parker, Seeley. He might be confused and need to express his feelings and ask some questions of you. Would that be acceptable?' Booth barely nodded, twitching again on the bed.

Sweets looked around all the faces, Hannah and Rebecca nodded but not Parker. He was still clinging to his mother like a limpet, his face in her neck still. Sweets pulled a chair to the middle of them all, and sat on it. It was clear to him that Parker was not ready yet so he decided to move on despite his refusal to acknowledge anyone other than his mother. 'From what I've been told and understand a man came into the Jeffersonian this afternoon and held you, Seeley, Hannah and Parker captive while you were in Professor Schmitt's lab.' Sweets phrased his statement as a question however no one answered or acknowledged that fact. Sweets went on, 'This man, George Macalvoy was a American solider who was decorated by his country, had lost his wife in the attacks on this country on 9/11. He had a son, who was taken into care. He served in Afghanistan at the same time and place as you Booth, is that true?' Booth nodded but didn't verbally reply. As Parker was turned away Sweets urged Booth to reply. 'Is that true, Seeley?'

Booth said weakly, 'Yes. As far as I know.' Sweets heard Parker stop weeping slowly, and still but he didn't look around to his father.

'This man, George, had witnessed things while he served his country that upset him deeply. He saw and was ordered to do things to the enemy which were illegal and brutal, that's true isn't it?' Again Booth nodded, then he looked up to Sweets, realising he should speak up.

'Yes. He did things he was ashamed of but thought were necessary to end the war.'

'Yes that's true. Did you do things you were ashamed of in Afghanistan, Seeley?' Booth took a breath, looking over to his son.

'Yes. I did terrible things in the name of my country.'

'I understand that some of those things you did there you repeated today, is that true?'

'Yes, I hit Bones. Tortured her.'

'Yes... You hit Bones repeatedly. You punched her face many times and hurt her very badly, didn't you?'

'Yes.'

'I'm curious as I suspect Parker is too, Seeley. Why did you hit Bones?'

Booth shook his head, not willing to explain, too ashamed and distraught. Sweets looked over to Parker who was attempting to look around from his mother's shoulder, clearly wanting to look at his father and understand but didn't want to make eye contact with him.

'I know and understand why you hit Bones. Shall I tell you why, then if I'm wrong you can correct me, ok?' Booth nodded, taking a deep breath. then sighing it out. Booth felt a strange mixture of emotions while answering Sweets questions. Firstly relief, relief that he could tell the truth. It was a refreshing sensation after all the lies he'd been telling of late. Secondly, apprehension because he feared his truths would turn Parker even further from him. However he began to realise the way Sweets was getting him to answer, made what he said easy for Parker to understand. He also realised that Sweets was being very frank and open about what happened in that room, so Parker had to accept what had transpired. Booth knew that Sweets was attempting to get Parker to trust him again if he could.

'Ok. The reason you hit Bones was because George told you to...' Parker twisted around on his mother's lap to look at his father out of the corner of his eye. 'If you hadn't he was going to shoot Parker, wasn't he?' Booth nodded, his eyes leaking again. The vision and the sound of the ratchet of the trigger coming back to haunt him. 'Wasn't he?'

'Yes.'

'Did anyone tell you not to hit Bones?'

'Yes, Parker. He got very upset.'

'Yes, so I understand. I suspect that's because he knows boys shouldn't hit girls. And to hit a really good friend, like Bones is to you, must have confused him and made him think you're a bad man, friend and father.'

'He is!' Parker yelled, then, 'He hit her even when George didn't tell him to!' Sweets turned to the little boy who looked livid with his father. His little face contorted in rage.

'Is that true, Seeley? You hit Bones even when Parker shouted at you to stop and punched her even when you didn't have to?'

'Yes, yes... Oh. God yes. Is this necessary?'

'I'm afraid it is, Seeley. Look, Parker is very angry with you but what he doesn't understand yet is that you were so scared that George was going to shoot him that you would do anything to make sure Parker survived, is that true?'

'Of course it is! I'd give my life for Parker! Willingly. I'd kill anyone, do anything even if it meant hurting the people I cherish. It's what mother's and father's do for their children.'

'That's true, Seeley. And Bones knew that, didn't she? That was why she willingly sat in the chair, let you tie her up and never said a thing when you started punching her.' Booth nodded, wiping his tortured face.

Parker's tears returned as he looked at his father. Sweets looked to Parker, speaking directly to him, 'Bones understood your father had no choice, Parker. He had to hit her to save your life.' Parker's eyes snapped to Sweets'. The reality and understanding slowly settling in.

'But... But he said awful things to her? Really nasty things, why did you say those things, she was your friend?' Parker pleaded for an answer.

Booth couldn't give it, 'I... I...'

'You kept asking the same question, over and over, why? Why? It was stupid she didn't lie. Bones never lies, you told me that!' Parker ranted his questions at his father from the safety of his mother's lap.

'I know why your father asked that question over and over, shall I tell you why, Parker?' Parker nodded, calming slightly.

'When Bones came into the room she knew that either her or Booth could free you all. She brought in a little knife and hid it in her back pocket. When George made her sit in the chair and make your dad tie her up, she showed him where it was secretly. Your dad took it out of her pocket and hid it in his pants. Then George asked her a question, the answer to that question was irrelevant. When people torture other people, sometimes they try to make that person believe something they know is true to be a lie. It confuses the person being tortured and makes them doubt everything, even themselves, weakening them. It's a cruel trick. Bones and your dad knew of this form of torture and understood what George was trying to do. So... to give them time, because Angela was trying to open the door, they went along with his evil game. Then when the situation got very bad, George got distracted by your father saying those horrid things to Bones. Your dad was hitting her without having to order him to. George thought that was brilliant he thought your dad was on his side, so dropped his guard. You father saved you, Parker. You got so angry with your dad for hurting Bones that you ran away from George. Your dad picked you up and put you with Hannah. In the safest place he could in that room away from his gun. Their plan had worked.' Sweets paused, seeing the light come back into his large blue eyes. He was looking at his father this time not with contempt but with hesitant understanding. 'It was all a lie and deception, Parker. Bones knew it, they both knew it.'

'Did you know all that?' Parker asked Hannah. She shook her head slowly.

'No, Parker. I was just as taken in by it. I thought your dad had gone mad or something.' Parker looked a little better knowing he wasn't the only one who hadn't understood what was going on.

'So that's when things got very unpleasant, wasn't it Seeley?'

'Yes. It wasn't supposed to happen like that. I cut through the cable holding Bones' hands and gave her back the blade. Then the camera moved making him look away. That's when I went for my gun.' Booth was now talking directly to his wide eyed son. Parker was nodding, silently agreeing with him. 'Bones beat me to him and cut his neck...' Booth couldn't continue as his throat closed over again. Reliving the event was just as painful as the first time for him, plainly.

'She was fast,' Parker said softly, Booth nodded agreeing. 'You stood in front of Hannah and me to protect us from his gun.' Booth took a deep breath, holding it, his eyes locked on his son's. Then he nodded, letting the lungful go in a long blow. That a gesture of relief his son understood.

'And Bones stood in front of me,' he said agonised. 'All of us.'

'Yes, that's true. She protected us all.' Parker now comprehended it all. Sweets had got him talking to his father and made the boy realise that he wasn't the monster he thought he'd become.

Sweets spoke now, 'Yes, Doctor Brennan, your Bones, deliberately, willingly stood in front of George's bullet. Sacrificing herself for your family. For each of you.'

'Why? She's not my mother or dads girlfriend?' Parker asked innocently, confused as to why she would do such a thing. He understood why his father had stood in front of the bullet, because that's what parents did, protect their offspring, give their lives for them even.

Sweets said slowly, softly, with a tiny smile on his lips, 'You know the answer to that, Parker.' Then Sweets looked over to Booth. 'And you know the answer to that too, don't you, Seeley?'

Booth looked to Hannah for several elongated moments. Hannah smiled at him, then nodded slowly. Her expression of gentle acceptance of the reality. Booth then looked to Rebecca. She avoided his eyes though, preferring to look at her son. Booth knew he was far from forgiven. Finally Booth fixed his eyes on Parker, saying, 'Yes, it's true. Only someone that cares deeply enough for us could do such a selfless, generous thing.'

Sweets let Booth's words settle in before he stood. 'I suggest that you take Parker home now, Rebecca. I hope you'd allow me to call tomorrow and arrange another chat with Parker.' She nodded. 'Is that ok with you, Parker?' He nodded too. 'Ok. Cool.' Rebecca picked up Parker, who locked himself around her again, and they started to leave. Just as she got to the door Parker said, 'Dad?'

'Yes, Parker?'

'Knuckles...' Parker put his fist up. Booth slipped off the bed, and came over. They tapped knuckles softly, exchanging tiny smiles. Rebecca shot Booth an icy glance, as she went out the door. Booth tried not to wince in pain, understanding what that look was to mean for him.

Sweets saw the exchange, and understood it too. 'She'll come round, Booth. Give her time...' he told him sympathetically. Booth rubbed the back of his neck, shaking his head slightly, while looking at the floor again. 'I'm gonna make sure she gets home safe. I presume you're gonna hang around?'

'Yeah. I think I will.' Booth glanced over to Hannah. Her smile suggested she was willing to stay for a while. 'And thanks, Sweets. I thought he would never speak to or trust me again.'

'No problem. I'm just glad you're all ok. Well, you know. Call me when you hear anything.'

'Sure.' Booth watched him leave. A few moments later he felt hands slip around his waist from behind, and watched them lace over his stomach. Booth rested his head back on Hannah's, and sighed.

!

The following day, 10.01AM Jeffersonian. Cam's office.

Harry tapped the glass door, looking to Cam. She looked away from her computer screen to him, 'Any news?' he enquired gently. Cam slumped back to her chair, and sighed forlornly.

'Not yet, Harry. She's still in intensive care. When I know so will you.' Harry nodded, and went to go.

'Harry, hang on a sec. Could you help me with something?'

'Sure, if I can. What's up?' He came in, Cam pointed to her computer screen. He looked over her shoulder at it.

'What does that suggest to you? I don't want to involve Miss Montenegro. She's got enough on her plate at the moment...'

!

Booth's apartment. Sunday 11.23 AM.

'Yeah well, I've gotta speak to her! Put her on the God damn phone now!' To Booth's bitter anger the phone disconnected. Enraged he ripped the Bakelite vintage phone out of the socket, and threw it savagely across his apartment. It hit the new flat screen smack in the middle. The phone disintegrated while the screen of the TV split in a spider's web pattern, and the whole lot fell backwards off the stand. He sank to his couch with a flop, covering his face with his palms.

!

The Hodgins Estate. Sunday 11.45 AM

Jack stood in his kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. While it rattled on its plate he idly flicked through the Sunday supplement. 'Oooh. Shhh-it, shit, shit, shit... Ange, get down here!'

'You come up! Where's my tea?' she yelled back, with a smile attached. Ange heard the thunderous footsteps of her barefooted husband come up the stairs. He skidded into the bathroom, clutching the supplement.

'Read it,' he urged, handing it to her.

She took it from his hand, flicking through it, she asked, 'Bugs take over the world, or is it the super rats again?'

'In a manner of speaking, page twelve. And don't shoot the messenger.' Ange flicked casually to the suggested page curiously.

'Ooooh. Jee-suss...' Ange's face fell along with her heart.

!

Booth's Apartment. Sunday 13.47.

Cam tapped the plain dark door of her former lover's apartment, and waited for him to answer. After hearing nothing and no movement from inside she tapped again, a little harder this time. Still she heard nothing, so looking at her key set, she quirked her lips, and made a decision.

'Seeley?' Cam closed the door behind her gently. Stepping into his kitchen, she saw a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and half eaten take out cartons scattered over every kitchen surface. The tap was dripping slowly onto a spoon on the pile. The drops hit it and splashed spray onto the floor. There was a small puddle signalling it had been doing that for some considerable time. Two liquor bottles exhausted of their contents lay next to each other against the kettle. The air smelt stale and her nose twitched. Cam shook her head slightly, reaching for the window blind. As she pulled it open, she called out again, 'Seeley, its Cam? I know you're home.' She lifted the sash window a few inches to let the cool fresh fall air come in.

Walking into the lounge she stopped, seeing the broken remnants of his phone scattered across the carpet and the TV smashed in the corner. On the coffee table she saw this mornings Washington Post pages strewn over it. The supplement that came with it was open at Hannah's article, and lay on top of the large white and black sheets. 'You read it then?' Cam nearly jumped out of skin as he'd spoken.

'Yes,' she said, with as much sympathy as she could muster. That was when his head popped up from the couch. He looked over the back of it to her. Cam thought he looked atrocious. He wore sweats and a take out stained t shirt. His eyes were dark ringed and lacking their usual lustre. 'I've come to check your ok.' Booth just nodded, picking up the supplement, looking at the picture of soldiers in Afghanistan in full combat fatigues.

'She wasn't specific Booth. No names.'

'No but everybody is gonna know it's about me. Rebecca, the FBI, Jeffersonian, everybody,' he said painfully.

'Have you spoken to her?'

As if he didn't hear Cam's question he went on, 'I thought something was off. I got up Thursday and she was gone. She left a note. I thought it was because of Bones and all that on Tuesday, you know? Well, that's the reason she gave. Said she was bowing out gracefully.' Booth chucked the suppliment back on the table. Cam came to sit next to him. 'That was just a lie, she's lied about everything. I was just a means to an end. She manipulated me, betrayed all of us. It was all about getting her story and a Pulitzer probably,' he said bitterly. 'She never loved me, Cam.'

'Neither did you...' Cam challenged gently. Booth didn't react. Cam thought he didn't have the energy to. She could feel the humiliation coming off him in ever increasing ripples. 'Look, Seeley, scratch her off the list and move on.' He huffed ironically, and sat back, looking physically exhausted and emotonally drained.

'How's Bones?' he asked, staring into the void.

'She's doing better. Still out but better.' Booth nodded slowly, unblinking. 'It might be nice if you sat with her a while, maybe talk to her just to let her know...' Booth grit his jaw, and shook his head.

'After what I did and said... I'm the last person she'll want to see when she comes round. No, Cam.' Booth rubbed his knuckles as if remembering his violence on her still resonating through his bones. Cam could see the bruises only just starting to fade from his skin.

'Booth, I have to tell you some more bad news...' She flicked her eyes to his as he looked at her curiously. 'This.' Cam pointed to the artical. 'Isn't the last of it.' Booth's brows crinkled. Cam felt she neded to explain, 'On Tuesday George said something about meeting her before in Afghanistan and her asking too many questions.' Booth nodded. 'I got curious, the investigator in me reared its ugly head, I'm afraid. Anyway I did a bit of wizardry on the Jeffersonian computer after I bled into her laptop, which she'd left there in the furore. Basically I checked the emails she'd sent from there. I managed to hack into them.' Booth's eyes grew wide. 'Yeah I know, I broke the law but something kept me going. Ok, take a breath, Seeley...' He did, scared all over again so did Cam. 'Hannah... was in communication with George for months. She'd decided he was too volitile to follow and when he went AWOL she chose another project, you. Hannah sent an e mail from this apartment via your broadband connection to him on Sunday night, late Sunday night.'

Booth nodded, looking off into space. 'Yeah, when I got back from Bones' apartment she was on her laptop. Christ! Was she passing him information?'

'I don't think she realised how dangerous he was, how disturbed. There was nothing specific in it but from the wording of it I think she realised this sniper after you and Bones, was him. That's a gut feeling I've no evidence to support that,' she added quickly.

Booth rubbed his face with his palms, then pushed his fingers through his hair. He wondered if she'd used George too to get her story on, Home And Helmand; The Effects Of This War On Our Service Men.

'The really bad news is that the Post has got three more articles coming out by her.' Booth looked totally desolate and slightly panicked too, she thought. Closing his eyes, he feared what else she was going to say and reveal. 'So...' Cam said firmly. 'I made a few discreet calls to some friends in the press and negotiated to stop two of the articles which could cause major repercussions on Capital Hill, and elsewhere.' Booth looked relieved, realising what Hannah had written must contain the time bomb that nobody wanted to go off. Cam had snuffled out the lit fuse just in time, it seemed.

'The third and last article is about what happened on Tuesday at the Jeffersonian. My friend is going to edit it without her knowledge before it goes to print.' Booth rolled his head with his anguish. 'It's big news, Seeley, he wouldn't back down on that one. But he assures me that it will show us all in a good light. I trust him.'

'You trust him?'

'Yes, as much as I trust you.' Booth sighed heavily as she patted his thigh compassionately.

'You're a true friend, Cam. Thank you, thank you so much.'

'You're welcome, Seeley. Now, get that cute toosh in the shower and clean yourself up.'

'No I can't go see her today, Cam. Not today,' Booth said, while shaking his head weakly, and avoiding eye contact with her.

'I know. We're going to see Parker and Rebecca. We've had a little chat and Sweets has been working on her all week.' Booth's brows rose an inch with that snippet of information and a little spark reappeared in his dark eyes.

!

Georgetown, St Martha's private medical facility, three days later.

Ange sat reading an article from the New Scientist to her dearest friend and colleague. Only interrupted by her heart monitor bleep and the occasional click and hiss from the morphine pump and her own yawns.

Thankfully Bones was off the ventilator and breathing on her own now. Most of the swelling on her face was starting to dissipate and the bruises had turned paler midnight blue. Ange thought she looked almost normal now or it could it be wishful thinking on her part, she mused? Bones' hand was bandaged where the blade had sliced open her palm, luckily compared to her broken cheek and the ghastly gunshot wound, that was seemingly irrelevant.

A mums-y plump nurse came in and smiled warmly at her, making for Bones to check her pump and vitals. 'Hey, June. Is it that time already?'

'Haa. Yes it is, Miss Montenegro. Would you like something to eat, drink?' she offered kindly, while injecting Bones' cannula with a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory's and a blood thinners.

'Aww. How kind. No I'm good. My Jack will be along soon to take me to lunch, but thanks anyway.'

'You're welcome.' June wrote her findings on her charts, then said sweetly, 'She's doing fine. See you later.' Ange grinned hard, and nodded reassured. As she left the room Jack was coming in, followed by Cam.

'Speak of the devil,' June said, stepping aside to let them enter Bones' room. 'Hello all, she's doing well.' Jack and Cam smiled, thanking her as she closed the door. Cam when straight to the charts, and checked for herself while Jack kissed his wife.

Cam then took a seat beside Bones' bed, saying, 'Right, off you go you two. Sweets is coming later so there's no need for you to rush back. One of us will be with her.'

'Ok. Only if you're sure.'

'Positive. See you later.' Ange kissed Bones' brow, and handed the magazine to Cam. 'I was reading her the CERN experiment article, page fifteen, enjoy...' she said, loaded with sarcasm. Cam huffed a chuckle, and watched them leave. 'Right, page fifteen, let's see...' Cam muttered, flicking open the magazine to the article. She settled comfortably, and began reading it out loud.

!

Sweets yawned, tossing the New scientist magazine to the side, and pushed his arm up above his head stretching his back out. Bones flickered her eyes open, and swallowed carefully. Sweets instantly shot her a excited smile.

'Doctor Brennan, Temperance. We thought you were never gonna wake up!' How are you feeling?'

'Like I was shot. I had to wake... as I now know all there is to know about particle accelerators in Europe,' she said groggily. Sweets grinned charmingly, while pushing the call button.

'Angela, Cam, Jack. Max, Russ and me have been taking it in turns to sit and read to you.' Bones looked over herself, cataloguing what all the tubes and machines were monitoring and administering. Once that was done she looked around the room. It was filled with beautiful bouquets of flowers; get well cards, fluffy toys and in the corner by the window was a clump of gaudy helium balloons. They gently swayed and bumped the wall with the breeze coming in through the window. Her eyes were drawn to the bright crisp fall day outside and the maple tree that had turned rich vermilion. Sweets watched in silence as she assessed her situation and the day.

'You've been in and out for just over a week. Eight days to be precise.' Bones nodded slightly, felt her fracture tweak and touched her face gently, assessing the damage. 'You look a hell of a lot better that you must feel, believe me.' Bones slowly placed her hand back by her side.

Bones rolled her head to look him in the eyes. 'I didn't think I would survive the bullet,' she said honestly. Sweets nodded, seeing her eyes cloud slightly. 'Not where it entered me. The paramedics were extremely skilled, clearly.'

'Yes. The surgeons did a fine job too. Do you remember much at all?'

Bones licked her stitched lip, nodding. 'Unfortunately everything...' Then she asked carefully, 'Is Booth ok?'

'Yes.' His answer was so short that Bones suspected something was wrong immediately. Sweets could see he had to elaborate, 'A lot has happened in the last week or so since you've been in here, Doctor Brennan,' he told her softly.

'I imagine it has.' Just then the door opened and in came Cam, Jack, and Ange follow by nurse June. They all beamed at her. Bones could see by all their faces they were relieved and delighted to see her awake and lucid. Ange made straight for her, kissing her one side, while Cam kissed the other delicately. Bones managed a slight chuckle at all the attention she was getting but it hurt her stomach wound, and she grimaced, sucking in a gulp of air. All the smiling faces dropped and froze with concern.

'I'm ok... Obviously I shouldn't laugh yet.' Bones managed a watery smile to ease them all. They all visibly relaxed, and settled around her either on chairs or on the edge of her bed. 'Tell me what's happened,' Bones asked, but it sounded like a gentle command. They all exchanged nervous glances, deciding whether to tell her so soon after she'd come around. 'Please, I need to know.' Sweets took a deep breath, and began to recite what had occurred in her lost eight days.

!

Bones' apartment. Tuesday, two weeks later.

Bones crossed the threshold of her apartment gingerly, while Ange and Jack held the door open wide for her. She let go a satisfied breath for being home finally. Although the hospital was comfortable and pleasant enough, she'd been itching to get home and have her own things around her.

Max stood up from the couch, and welcomed her home with a careful hug and sweet kisses. 'Hey, Honey. We're so glad your home.' Bones went straight to her couch, and sat down slowly. She looked around as Jack placed her medications on her kitchen counter in order of ingestion. Ange put the kettle on to make tea for all and Cam took her case into her bedroom, and unpacked it for her. Max sat next to his daughter on the couch, looking her over critically. 'You've got loads of mail to wade through, I'm afraid.' He nodded in the direction of the huge pile by the door. 'All the cards that came with the flowers and things I've put on there too.'

'Thanks. I'll get round to replying when I've settled.'

'Tea, Bren?' Ange asked from the kitchen. Bones looked over, and smiled, flaring her eyes.

'Camomile please, Ange.'

'I'm gonna pop in before work every morning to help you get dressed and washed. I know you said you didn't want me too but it will make me feel better, so don't argue. Since you won't let me stay with you.'

'I told you, Ange I want to get back to normal as soon as possible.'

'Yes, yes I know. You've been warned not to do too much too soon. So just sit back and relax and let us take care of you.'

'Do I have a choice?'

'No, suck it up girlfriend.' Ange placed her tea on the coffee table in front of her. Bones took a sip, and sighed contentedly.

'Lovely...' Then Bones asked cheekily, 'What's for diner?' They all looked surprised by her readily accepting the help offered and not arguing further.

'Oooo. How's spinach ravioli with a cheese sauce sound?' Max said happily.

Bones grinned wide and hard. 'Sounds wonderful. Thanks, Dad.' Max took a double take of her for calling him by that affectionate term rather than calling him by his Christian name. Bones could see he was deeply touched by it, and smiled sweetly at him. He kissed her cheek, and went to prepare her lunch.

!

Bones' apartment. Thursday 11AM.

While Bones was making a cup of tea, her cell bleeped a message received. She picked it up off the kitchen counter, and read it. Her face creased into a sweet smile, and she began to text back her reply.

!

Bones' apartment Thursday 13.00.

The bell ring of her door urged her up out of her chair, from where she'd been reading a book. She took a deep breath, checked the peep hole, then opened the door with a generous smile for the visitors.

Bones locked eye contact with Parker, his hesitant expression blossomed when he saw she looked a whole lot better than when he last saw her. His relief was palpable. 'Hello, Parker. It's great to see you.'

'Great to see you too,' he said sincerely. Bones then looked to Rebecca, and smiled tenderly at her.

'Please, come in.' Bones stood back to let them enter. Parker came in, looking around the room cramped with vases of flowers, cards and silly get well balloons. 'Take a seat. Would you like something to eat? I was just going to make some macaroni and cheese. I'm sure I can stretch it...'

Parker's eyes lit up, and looked to his mother. She smiled, and nodded. 'Sure, why not, thanks. Do you want some help?'

'Yes, that would be most welcome, thank you.' Bones made her way over to her kitchen while Parker climbed up on one her island chairs, and pulled out a letter from his back pocket. He placed the letter on the counter carefully while his mother and Bones began to work around one another to prepare their lunch. 'So, are you back to school, Parker?' Bones asked casually, glancing over her shoulder at him.

'Yes. I went back on Monday.'

'That's good. I can't wait to get back to work, I've been so bored. I think I've read every book I possess several times now.' She smiled at him then Rebecca.

'How long will that be, Tempe?' Bones poured Parker a glass of milk, and pushed it along her counter towards him. Rebecca smiled, utterly charmed when she saw her natural caring act. Bones missed how touched she was with her.

'Oooh. Another couple of weeks or so, I understand. But I've asked Cam to bring me some things I can do here. She's a little reluctant to oblige though.'

'Haa. Yes I expect she is. You're supposed to be taking it easy.'

'Oh. Rebecca I am. Too easy. All I seem to do is sleep, eat and read. I'll just have to be patient, I suppose.'

'Yes, you will.' Giving Bones a knowing cheeky smile.

Parker asked nervously, seeing her move slowly and carefully around her kitchen, 'Does, does it still hurt, Doctor Bee?' Bones stilled, looked at Rebecca then around to him. She let Rebecca carry on with the lunch, while she took a seat beside him.

Bones smiled tenderly at him, taking his hand gently. 'No, not so much now, Parker. I have plenty of pain medication, see?' She pointed to the different tubs of tablets on the counter. 'But day by day I need less and less. The human body is extremely resilient.' She saw Parker hanging on her every word. He was clearly trying to gage if she was being honest with him, so Bones was. 'The muscles are bruised and still repairing themselves. When I'm stronger I will have to do some exercises to strengthen them. I'm expecting that to be uncomfortable. As for my face, as you can see it's looking much better.' Parker looked over her face critically, and nodded slowly. Bones kindly wiped his top lip of the milky moustache he'd just grown. Parker grinned, feeling her gentle touch.

'Sweets told me that you knew why Dad was hitting you, did you?'

'Yes, Parker. I knew.'

'You were really brave. He hit you so hard.'

'Yes he did, he had to, Parker. Doctor Sweets told me last week that you were very upset with your dad. I understand why but you shouldn't be any more.'

'Are you upset with him, do you hate him?'

'No. I'm not angry with him. I don't hate him either. I thought our plan worked very well. We worked as a team to get everybody out of that horrible room safely.'

'Have you spoken to Dad?' She shook her head gently, dropping her eyes a little from his.

'No. He hasn't contacted me yet, nor I him.' Then she looked back to him, with a gentle smile. 'I understand your dad has had a few issues to deal with recently. He's been very upset about what he did and feels ashamed for hitting me and with Hannah leaving him too. So I completely understand the lack of communication between us.'

'Hannah did an terrible thing to him, I think,' Parker said, with a glitter of anger in his eyes directed towards his father's former girlfriend.

'I agree, Parker. She did.'

'Foods ready...' Rebecca said, dishing up their lunch.

'I've written you a letter, Doctor Bee, here.' He pushed the letter towards her hesitantly. 'Can you read it later cause I'll get embarrassed if you start crying 'n' stuff?'

'Haa. Ok. Thank you, Parker. I'll read it as soon as you've gone.' She smiled, enamoured. 'Shall we eat?' Everybody started to tuck into their lunch. 'Have you seen your dad recently?'

'Yes. Mom didn't want me to see him again after what happened but she's changed her mind now, haven't you, Mom?'

'Yes I've calmed down a little now.' Bones swallowed her mouthful, and nodded gently, as she looked into Rebecca eyes. Rebecca understood her little nod was her thank you for her relenting. 'We're going to see him this afternoon actually. Would you like to join us? We're meeting him at the park at three.'

'Oh. I errr. I don't know if that's a good idea. Maybe I should wait for him to contact me.'

'You could wait forever, Tempe. A little fresh air might do you good and a change of scene?'

'It's tempting, believe me. It is a beautiful day.' Bones looked wistfully out of her balcony window.

'Pleeease come, Doctor Bee. It'll be ok. You won't have to walk far, there are loads of benches to sit on.' Bones looked to Rebecca who was urging her to agree to the outing.

'Ok. Why not.' Then adding, 'If the mountain won't come to Mohammed...' Bones muttered, with a wry smile to Rebecca.

'Huh?' Parker queried not understanding, while Rebecca chuckled attractively at her comment.

!

Arlington. Three pines park. 15.06.

Rebecca pulled up in the car park, and turned off the engine. She looked at Bones, who looked distinctly nervous about seeing Booth, she thought. Patting her thigh gently, she whispered, 'It'll be ok, Tempe.' Bones gave her a high chin nod, and a closed mouth grin, not wholly convinced.

Parker undid his seat belt, and got out of the car. 'I can see him, he's by the carousel,' he announced excitedly. Bones felt her wound tingle not with excitement but with anxiousness. Parker opened her door chivalrously, and waited for Bones to slide herself out.

Rebecca locked the car, and looped arms with Bones to aid her walking, as they made their way towards the carousel. 'You go ahead, Parker. We'll catch up.' Parker went off instantly, running towards his father. Rebecca took the opportunity to talk to Bones.

'That Doctor Sweets has been a God send, Tempe. I didn't think after what Parker had witness and went through he would recover. But he's been wonderful with him and us. He got him to realise that Seeley was protecting you all. He made him understand it was necessary to save his life and Hannah's. He got him to trust him again. He still has a few nightmares but Sweets says that's to be expected. He suggested that I let him talk about what he saw and his fears. He gave him permission to cry. Parker wanted to come and see you in hospital but Sweets thought it best to wait awhile as you still hadn't recovered enough physically. He thought seeing you like that, at your worst, would set him back and his relationship with his father.'

'Yes I can understand that. That makes sense.'

'What you did, Tempe...' Rebecca teared up slightly, hesitating to swallow to moisten her closing throat. 'For my boy I will never forget, never. This letter Parker wrote, I've read it, helped him with the spellings but its all him, from the heart too. Its very sweet and part of his healing process. Its a thank you letter for saving his life.'

'I understand,' Bones said, with her cheeks flushing slightly. 'That's extremely generous of him. He's such a thoughtful young man with a strong sense of morality. You should be very proud of him and your expert parenting skills.'

'Haa! Expert? Haa. Thank you, Tempe, but most of the time I'm feel like I'm floundering in the dark and making all the wrong choices and banging into walls.'

'That's clearly not true with all the evidence to the contrary.' Bones gestured in the direction of Parker to cement her point. Parker ran, then leapt into his father's arms. Booth hugged him hard, and spun him around, clearly delighted to see him. It was a wonderful display of open hearted affection and joy.

On such a beautiful day with the warm air rustling her hair and the milky sun on her face, Bones felt her anxiousness dissipate. Her heart started to beat a little faster. It was a wonderful sensation and conformation that she was alive, a survivor. To see a clear powder blue sky, hear the easy laughter from the other families in the park. The trees ablaze with warm colours and laying down a crunchy carpet for her to walk on. All of which lifted her spirits and her recent melancholy. She reasoned that this was indeed an excellent suggestion and was delighted she'd agreed to it.

'Can we sit here, Rebecca? I can watched them for a while without disturbing them.'

'Course, Tempe. Are you feeling ok?' Rebecca asked, concerned for a moment but when she saw her radiant expression, she didn't require an answer.

'Yes. Never better.' They sat down on the bench, watching Booth playing with his son in the sunlight. Rebecca snuck her a glance, seeing her smile enigmatically at the pair of them. Her eyes fixed on them solely. Bones said softly some moments later, 'It was worth it.'

'What was?'

'To see them like this, so happy and carefree. It was all worth it and justified. Moments like this are rare in life, I've found, and should be treasured. Peaceful, contented moments.'

'You're not wrong, Tempe,' Rebecca echoed her tender sentiment.

'It is true, I'm rarely wrong. I am a genius,' Bones said straight-faced with no sense of humility. Rebecca belly laughed at her, rocking on the bench. Bones looked at her surprised, realising her error, then began to laugh too at herself. She held her stomach, ouching through her giggles. 'Sorry... Haa. I am trying to be less egotistical. Booth says I'm a work in progress but I clearly have a long way to go.'

'Haa. No, no. Don't change, Tempe,' Rebecca insisted vehemently. 'You're perfect as you are and always have been. Don't let anyone tell you different.' Bones' giggles subsided slowly, as she searched Rebecca twinkling eyes, deeply touched by her generous statement.

'Thank you. That was a lovely thing to say... I have been making efforts recently to curtail my obnoxious self important traits. To become more likeable to people.'

'For people or Seeley?' Bones smiled wryly, then looked back over to the boys. 'Yes, for him predominantly, if I'm truthful.'

'Seeley loves you just the way you are, Tempe...'

Bones looked back to her slowly, her expression unreadable to Rebecca this time. They then talked casually about anything and everything, while they watched the boys mess around with a ball from a distance for an hour or so. Breaking their conversation Parker came bounding over with wild hair and panting, his face all aglow. Booth followed a few meters behind, but checked his stride when he saw Bones sat on the bench. Their eyes met and locked on. Parker was talking fast and excitedly but Bones nor Booth were listening. Everything around them paled and faded in a blur around them, till they were alone in each others eyes.

It was one of those moment where time stalled not just for her this time, but for him too. Bones got to her feet, and stepped forwards a little to meet him, not conscience of her movements. She could read his expression and what was in his eyes. She could almost hear the words he spoke with them, almost. They were full of remorse, apology and guilt. Like before, instinctually she lifted her hand to his cheek, chastising his silent words, 'You promised me.' Booth closed his eyes to the warm palm on his cheek he never thought he would feel again. He held it to his face under his, stepped closer, then wrapped her in his careful tender embrace.

The werr of the Earth starting to turn again brought their surroundings back into focus and the voices around them became audible again. Life had begun anew, fresh and pure for both of them.

'Ok. Well, we better get going. You can drop Tempe back home, can't you, Seeley?' Booth looked over Bones' shoulder, and nodded mute, while Bones thanked them for visiting and getting her out. Booth and Parker hugged again, and said their goodbyes. The partners watched them go, waving as they did. They both suspected that Rebecca and others had contrived this meeting in the park to put them back together. However neither party openly acknowledged that suspicion.

'Do you want to go back now, Bones?' She sat down on the bench, feeling exhausted suddenly. She realised that although she was well on the way to recovery she still had some way to go. All the excitement of the car ride; getting out, the emotional conversation and reconnecting with her partner was a little too much too soon. 'Are you in pain?' he asked, sitting next to her, with concern etched over his face.

'No. I'm just extremely tired. I hadn't realised I was still so weak.'

He was up, saying, 'I'll get the car.' Before she had time to protest he was trotting away towards the car park. She watched amused as he bumped it over the grass with his blue lights flashing but thankfully not the siren and stopped a metre from her. Bones giggled, seeing all the shocked, disgruntled and perplexed faces staring at them.

Booth jumped out, and opened the door for her, twitching nervously as she slipped in gingerly. Booth leant over to reach her belt and secure her in. Their faces got very close to each others as he did the buckle up. She could smell the familiar comforting scent of his aftershave, just his aftershave with no infection of Hannah. 'There you go, Bones.' he said with a sweet smile, and closed the door. Bones watched him walk around to the drivers side and get in, noting she had missed his scent and seeing his face dreadfully.

'Thank you, Booth but I could have done that myself.'

'I know. So... home then?'

'Yes, please.'

!

Bones' apartment. 17.12

The drive home had been a silent one. Neither party knowing quite what to say to each other or how to start again. So they said nothing but exchanged awkward smiles occasionally.

Bones put the key in the lock, and stepped inside. 'Ok then, home,' he said, forcing his hands into his jean pockets.

Bones began to take off her coat but as she did, by twisting she winced in pain. Booth's face fell seeing her considerable discomfort, and he stepped back over the threshold to help her. 'Here, let me help.'

Grateful, Bones said quietly, 'Please stay a while, Booth. I've been quite lonely.' Her surprising admittance stilled him as he was hanging up her coat.

'I'm sorry, I should've come to see you sooner,' he confessed apologetically. Bones walked to her medications, and threw two pain killers down her throat rapidly. As she turned he was standing awkwardly at her open door.

'No, please don't apologise, Booth, I understand. With the articles, Parker and Hannah you've had a difficult emotional time.'

Booth riled at her easy forgiveness, 'How can you be so damn understanding? If I was you I'd have... have...' They booth looked at each other in silence for a few moments. Booth turned to leave, feeling unworthy of her unwavering friendship and loyalty to him.

Dismissing his chastise, she tried to make him stay with, 'I didn't expect to live. Booth.' He stopped mid stride with his back to her. 'If you leave me now when I need a friend, then...' He interrupted her.

'I'm unworthy, Bones,' he explained so quietly she didn't catch what he said.

'Sorry?' Booth turned slowly, looking at his sneakers.

'I said, I'm unworthy of you, of your friendship.'

She replayed his statement over three times in her head, feeling her anger rise with each. 'Really?' She snapped sarcastically, 'Well, that's just peachy.' Booth looked up to her with his jaw slack. She went on, 'Logically then if you're unworthy then it follows that I am too. Which clearly makes a mockery of what happened to me, to all of us. If you're unworthy then why the hell did I step willingly in front of that bullet? I thought I was saving something, protecting and preserving something very worthy, I was clearly mistaken!'

Booth was so taken aback he couldn't speak for a moment. He looked at her as if he had never met her before. He'd never heard her get so angry like this or shout at him. 'I trusted you,' she challenged, seeing his lips begin to form words but they snapped closed as she continued. 'You promised me you wouldn't blame yourself for what happened to me. I know you're sorry and ashamed but get over yourself! It was my choice, my rational choice to do what I did. If I wasn't so tired and sore I'd throw you out I'm so annoyed with you!' Bones held her stomach, wincing. Her reprimands had tweaked her stitches and her brow furrowed with the waves of pain. She reached to support herself on the kitchen island for a few moments to recover, and let the tablets she'd taken make their way to her pain.

Booth was beside her in a split second, the door having been kicked closed. He picked her up effortlessly, and carried her to her bedroom without a word. However she muttered all the way there, 'So annoyed. Unworthy indeed. Feeling sorry for yourself. It's absurd...' Kicking that door open, he laid her carefully on the bed, and slipped his hands out from underneath her, then took off her sneakers. She looked into his eyes, plainly still annoyed with him. 'Thank you. You can go now,' she said with more strength than she thought she could muster.

Awestruck and made dumb Booth shook his head slowly, deliberately. Bones sighed out a breath. 'Are you staying to keep me company for a while then?' Booth nodded this time but just as slowly, still with the mute button on. 'Ok. That would be most welcome, thank you.'

Booth knelt down beside her, and stroked a wayward strand of hair off her eyebrow. It was his turn to sigh, and look totally relieved. She saw his shoulders lose their tension, and his eyes looked warmer and less confused. They softened when she looked deeply into them. The storm that had raged in hers began to ebb away.

'What I'm so sorry for is that I made you trust Hannah.' Booth nestled his chin in the deep covers a few inches from her healing face, holding her close attention as he spoke softly and slowly. 'She made a complete fool of me. I was so angry and hurt by you I jumped straight in with her. Convincing myself and others that I loved her and that she loved me.' Bones confirmed his statement with a slow nod, and with a tiny almost invisible pout of compassion. She took his hand, and pulled him up. He was so lost in her caring eyes, that he didn't even notice he was obeying her command blindly. She moved back a little on the bed giving him room to join her.

'I'm not blaming you, don't think that.' She nodded her head to show she understood, as he settled on his side next to her. 'I'm just explaining how foolish and short sighted I was.' Booth toed off his sneakers and they thudded to the carpet, not breaking eye contact. She continued to hold his hand in hers though, keeping it between them. More long held tension left his body, she noticed, as they both stared into one another at very close quarters. It felt deliciously cosy, immaculately calm and so natural to be laying with him this way. For the first time in a couple of months she relaxed. There was no longer a field of egg shells to timidly negotiate between them.

'I'm not making excuses for my behaviour, its just... people do crazy things when they get hurt by the ones they love.' Booth's last words were said with a quiver in his voice. She could see, and feel he was petrified but determined to tell her she was still loved by him. He was courageously putting his heart on his sleeve again. Bones tried to stop the euphoric dilation of her pupils but knew it was pointless exercise. She saw a flicker of recognition in his. Booth hadn't said those three powerful words to her directly but then again, she mused he didn't have to.

Bones didn't shy away from this chance, her second chance. She grabbed it with both hands, just as determined as him, and refused to relinquish it. 'Yes, don't they?' she said, with a surprised expression. Booth's brow wrinkled curiously. 'Take me, I jumped in front of a bullet for you and Parker. Not so much Hannah but definitely you and Parker.'

She hadn't said those words either but when she saw his pupils dilate with euphoria, relief and amusement at her witty comment about Hannah, she knew she didn't have to. Booth squeezed her hand just a little which she reciprocated. It took some time but eventually they were smiling stupidly at each other. They lay looking at each other for moments which slipped easily into minutes then lovely hours, till darkness fell. Never having sunk into another human so deeply for so long was a remarkable experience not only for her but him. Now they were free, they realised to do this whenever they wanted. They breathed in and out together in symbiosis, finally finding the truth in one another.

Bones lids began to droop, she fought, blinking slowly to keep their silent connection. However, the drugs; quiet calmness of her room and him, submerged her mind into sweet oblivion. She let them close giving up her fight, and succumbed when she heard him whisper tenderly, 'It's ok, sleep.'

Booth stayed awake, watching her sleep soundly, privileged to be witness to something so beautiful and tranquil. Her measured soft breathing was like dopamine oozing through his mind and body though. He too fought the urge to sleep as he didn't want to miss another moment with her.

They had almost come undone and lost everything they'd built together, that had terrified him. But now, he mused that catastrophe had been narrowly avoided. She'd accepted his lies; bitterness, faults and frailties with graceful reserve, without hesitation or complaint, humbling him. Greatest of all, she still loved him despite all that.

Before he slept he sent up a prayer of thanks for their deliverance to the other side, to a brighter side. His last task was to ease her comforter over her battered but healing body, then kiss her smooth brow as delicately as he could.

!

Bones' apartment, the following morning.

Ange let herself in to Bones' apartment like she had done every morning for the last few weeks. She went straight to the kettle, and filled it, flicking it on. Then she opened the fridge, putting a fresh carton of milk in there along with a vegetable lasagne she and Jack had prepared last night. She took out the eggs, and began to make scrambled with toast for two. She flicked on the radio, humming a tune that took her fancy. She made up their breakfast trays, and placed the recently delivered post and newspaper on it too.

Ange and Bones had got into an easy routine. Ange would come in; make breakfast, and they would sit on her bed together and eat it. She'd watch her take her tablets, chat and gossip, then she'd run her a bath. Help her get in and out then leave for work. This was her intention this morning although she knew her friend was healing fast and insisted that she do more for herself. Ange was quietly saddened as she knew she would be obsolete soon, but in a good way.

Ange tapped the bedroom door with her knuckles, balancing the tray expertly, and walked in.

'Rise and shine, Sweetie. Oh. Shit! Sorry...' Bones turned her head to look at her, only able to open one eye, still sleepy. Booth lazily looked to the door too. 'I thought. Oh. Ok, you've got clothes on, good. For a moment there I thought you were... never mind what I thought.'

Bones gave a feeble chuckle, and began to ease herself up to nestle gently against the headboard, saying, 'You thought wrong, Ange. We just slept together. Booth kindly stayed to keep me company last night.' She flicked him an affectionate glance.

'Hey, Ange. Oooo. Scrambled.' He started to salivate, propping up to copy Bones' position. Ange pouted cutely, knowing she was going to have to give up her eggs but went over to them anyway. Bones flicked on her side light as the sun wasn't fully up. Ange placed the tray over her lap.

'They're mine but seeing as I luv ya, you can have them.'

Booth cooed, 'Aww. Ange, thanks. I love ya too.' Bones flicked him another glance, he looked back, and smiled sweetly at her this time. It was a understanding glance they shared. Those casual I love you's were too flippantly swapped. Those three words were stronger when they're not spoken aloud but silently exchanged through selfless acts; simple innocent touches or tender gestures. At least for them it was and meant more deeply and honestly.

'You're welcome. Make sure she takes her tablets and when you run her bath put the green bubbles in and not too hot either. There's fresh milk and a veggie lasagne for her lunch in the fridge. You'll have to have something else.'

'Ok. Tablets, bath, green bubbles, pasta, got it,' he said, shovelling the expertly prepared eggs into his mouth, not too elegantly. Bones picked up his napkin, and placed it under his chin thoughtfully. Ange kissed her cheek sweetly, winking at Booth as she went. She closed the door softly, smiled strongly to herself, then sighed contentedly.

!

Booth watched her eat heartily but slowly, while she opened her mail and read each letter in silence. Giving each piece mail her complete concentration or so he thought. To his surprise she picked up the newspaper, pulled out the sports section, offering it to him without looking at him. He grinned hard, as he took it with a quiet thank you. Bones felt her lips curl surreptitiously, and a warmth spread up from her wound to her just under her sternum.

Booth started to read the scores panel, charmed by her relaxed casualness with him along side her, as if this was an everyday occurrence. It felt almost as if they had been dong this for years. 'Huh. Phillies are doing well,' he muttered, confirming their progress to himself.

'Are they? Good,' she said just as softly, then asked, 'World series results?' Booth slid his eyes sideways, aghast she was aware of this sporting even was on at the moment. He saw her in full concentration mode on her next piece of mail but she was grinning so hard she couldn't disguise her complete joy at surprising him.

'Yeah,' he oozed, utterly enamoured. Nonchalantly she scooped up a forkful of eggs, and popped them into her mouth almost unable to chew as she was smiling so solidly.

After seeing her slightly smug smile, he instructed gently, 'Take ya tables,' looking back to the scores, and pretended to be reading them. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her pick up the small cup with them in, and throw them down her throat along with a mouthful of juice.

She glance at him now, he was grinning just as hard as she'd been a few moments earlier. Bones felt her toes curl with a delicious sensation traversing her legs heating her up from the her extremities. Booth saw the sweet happy wiggle of her sock covered toes, distracting himself from his own rush of hormones with, 'I'll run ya bath in a sec.'

'No rush. This is...'

'Umm. Very,' he confirmed, turning the page casually to read the next, flexing his toes now. Bones finished with her mail, and began on the paper, sipping at her juice.

'Cam's bringing me some paperwork to do later.' She turned the papers page, slowly scanning the columns. 'Just a little, nothing too taxing.'

'Just to keep the brain ticking over.'

'Yes, precisely. Are you going back to work soon?'

Bones finished her glass of juice, licking her lips. Turning to the next page, she stilled when he replied with, 'Depends.' She looked at him with a slightly wrinkled brow adorning her face. Booth folded the sports section, and put it aside. 'Depends on how long you want me to keep you company for.' He looked back to her, with a subtle smile hovering on his lips. He folded the napkin, and placed it on the tray.

Bones was deliberateing whether she should answer with what had immediately popped into her mind. She thought if she said, forever that would be too forward of her. Before she'd decided to go with her stock answer he was smiling hard again. His warm eyes glittered at her as if he read her mind. She felt her cheeks flush slightly. 'Tell you what,' he went on. 'Lets just hang out and chillax, we can decide on a time scale later.'

'Sounds reasonable.' She nodded slowly. 'For the record, I don't think chillax is a word, Booth,' she educated, with a wry smile.

'Haa.' He chuckled adorably. 'What is it with you recently? All these jokes, witticisms and...' He stopped when she interrupted him, flushing a deeper shade of pink which he found totally fascinating on her.

'I've been making a conscious effort to be more human for...' As she said human she knew it was a bad choice of word. He had used that as a derogatory term to humiliate her that fateful afternoon, and saw him shrink slightly. She tried to back track, 'I'm sorry, I meant personable.' She took his hand, and gave it a little squeeze. Booth's breath caught with her simple comforting touch that sent thrills up his arm.

'For?' he said, wanting to know what she was going to say. 'Human for?'

She answered with honesty and bravery, 'You.' Booth searched her twinkling blue irises, lit by the sluggish sunrise. Bones saw his bottom lip drop the merest amount and his cheek muscles flicker under his stubbly jaw. Bones thought she best move on when she saw him close to moved tears. 'Could you run me a bath now?' Her voice sounded impossibly soft and weak although she felt the complete opposite; strong and empowered with her own courage.

He said just as softly, 'Sure.' He lifted their hands to his lips, and kissed her knuckles tenderly. He slipped himself off the bed, and made his way to her en suite. He walked slowly like the day, looking back to her before he entered it. 'Not too hot and the green bubbles.' She nodded to confirm, smiling closed mouthed at him.

!

Booth closed the door carefully behind him. As he looked around the elegant bathroom, he smiled. The footed Victorian styled enamelled bath was the centrepiece of the comfortable calm room, and was the first thing to capture the gaze of the user. 'Wow,' he muttered impressed, turning the chrome faucet on. He used the facilities, washed his hands, and cheekily used her toothbrush. Beside the double sinks and shower cubical he saw packets of dressings, obviously for her wound. He lost a little of his smile on seeing them. He also saw the green bottle of bubbles. He sniffed the contents first, thinking it smelt gorgeous, then poured a healthy stream under the rush of steaming water. The condensation of the steam on the large mirror obscured him, and made the room feel cosier. Booth knelt beside the bath, and elbowed the water to test the temperature as the bubbles started to billow exponentially. Her heard a cute snigger behind him, and turned.

'I'm not a infant, Booth.' He stood instantly, seeing she had prepared for her bath and now just wore a robe. He thought she looked unbelievably sexy barefoot, her hair a little unkempt too was just pure magic, he admired.

He said, shyly she thought, 'Ange said not too hot.' Booth went to go although he didn't want to. He was intrigued to see how much more beautiful she would look covered in sweet scented bubbles and adorning the pristine elegant bath. 'Anyway... I'll leave you to it.'

'Oh. Then this is going to be a little awkward,' she said hesitantly as he turned off the faucet. He stood straight, looking at her while she looked everywhere but to him.

'Why?' he asked innocently. Bones was again deliberating whether she should be so forward seeing his already slight awkwardness. She took a breath, and lifted her chin, fixing her eyes on him.

'I apologise, maybe I should shower instead.' It wasn't really a question but a deflection from what she wanted to say.

'You're not supposed to stand in case you fall or slip, Bones. That much is obvious,' he told her with a concerned brow.

Bones said quickly, hoping if she said it fast it wouldn't sound so needy. 'I-need-help-to-get-in-and-out.' Booth eyes widened slightly when he realised their predicament.

They stared at each other, wondering what the other was thinking. Booth again chose a little humour to cut the awkwardness and steam filled room. 'Arrr. Right. Well. I've run the bath now, with the green bubbles that smell pretty darn good, see, lots of them.' He waved cutely in their direction. 'And... I've tested the water with my trusty infant friendly elbow.' They both smiled affectionately at one another. 'It would be such a shame if after all the troub...' Booth shut his mouth suddenly when there was a swirl of colourful silk and a warm gust of Bones scented air rushed towards him. He blinked several times as the gust tickled his lashes, saying, 'Ok, I can do this,' when he realised what she'd done. Bones grinned a little wider at his muttered nervous statement that clearly wasn't meant for her to hear. Naked but for his St Christopher she stood, emotionally and physical for the first time, unabashed in front of him.

'Tit for tat,' she said sweetly. Booth heard tit, and alarm bells sounded and looked directly at her totally confused. Bones saw his misunderstanding in his expression and clarified, 'I've seen you naked, tit for tat. It means...' she trailed off, when seeing his smile fade and his eyes drop to her midriff and the patch of dressing covering her wound. She could see his eyes cloud, and his brow furrow deeply, as he catalogued the savage bruising which surrounded it. She swallowed nervously as he stepped closer, seemingly taking eons to get to her. She felt her pulse quicken and his distress at her being so damaged.

'Oooh. God, Bones,' he wined sympathetically, as he placed his palm delicately just below the patch.

'Take it off,' she instructed quietly. He looked up into her eyes, silently checking with her that's what she wanted. 'It has to come off to bathe,' she explained. 'It's not as bad as you think, Booth. I barely feel it now, it just looks unsightly,' she said, trying to stop his heart breaking all over again.

Booth took a moment to lift an edge of the patch, seeing her stomach twitch as his fingers brushed her skin. He stilled, thinking he was hurting her, and looked into her eyes to check. She grinned, saying gently, 'It tickles.' Booth grinned at the same magnitude, happy he wasn't hurting her. 'Go on,' she urged. Booth looked back to the patch, and began to ease it off her skin. To his considerable relief it peeled off very easily.

Bones looked down to it, inspecting her progress like she did everyday with a critical eye. Then she saw both his hands caress around the neatly stitched former hole, that almost took her. She idly mused that she'd never felt such a caring touch as this one, one that imparted so much deep emotion. She swallowed slowly, letting him have as much time as he needed to be sure she was mending. Then to her surprise he knelt on one knee then both, while his hands stayed in contact with her skin. She looked down just as he kissed around the wound as delicately as he could. Tears pricked her eyes, and dripped instantly over her lids. He kissed and kissed, warm, soft and slowly, as if he was kissing her all better. She felt her body respond to the sensual touch of his lips and caressing hands, and her mind to the joy that it was him kissing her so reverentially. Her hands, that had been twitching at her sides, went to his head and they stroked over his hair in a gesture of thanks and comfort.

One of his palms slid around to her back and then up a little higher. She felt her knees weaken slightly, and trapped her moan in her throat.

Booth stilled when he felt another smaller patch under his fingertips. He began to peel it off blindly, while he looked up to her eyes. She tilted her head in empathy when she saw he was weeping silently too. She wiped his tears away with her thumbs, as he discarded that patch too. 'How did you know?' she asked, surprised he knew their was another patch to change, happily noting his hands refused to leave her body though. He half smiled at her, getting to his feet. 'Unless...' Bones had her own epiphany.

She reached for the hem of his t shirt, and pulled it off over his head slowly. When his head emerged from the garment she was already touching his flesh wound with just as much emotion and care as he'd done to hers. 'It's nothing, Bones, nothing,' Booth quickly dismissed it as insignificant. She flicked him a glance, but went back to inspect it with her finger pads delicately. He marvelled at how tender her touch was, she had never caressed him and he found it dangerously exciting.

'Through me into you,' she said wistfully. He nodded, wiping her eyes now.

With his loins on fire and thickening, he thought he better change the subject, 'Water's getting cold, Bones.' She didn't rush though then kissed the tips of her fingers, and placed them back over the small Sterie stripped hole in his side. Kissing him all better too. It was his turn to stifle his aroused moan.

Finally Bones walked to the side of her bath as he held her hand. 'I just need a little support,' she said, he nodded as she placed her arm around his neck and shoulder. She lifted her leg but it tweaked her inners. Booth heard her sucking in a breath and saw her grimace.

He instructed delicately, 'Wait, hold on.' Booth undid his jean's fly, and pushed them down along with his boxers unashamedly. Then he discarded his socks, throwing them on the pile of his clothes. Gallantly he picked her up carefully again, and placed her in the water just as gently. She sighed softly as the water rose over her body, and the cooler bubbles fizzed on her flesh. To her delight and joy he stepped in behind her, and sat down too.

'I haven't done this for years,' she admitted, turning her head around to look at him, 'Share a bath.' Booth wrapped his legs around her, his torso flush with the silky line of her spine, their new scars lined up again.

'Relax on me,' he said, scooping the water up her arms to her shoulders. It trickled down her torso and spine together with a seductive sensation. She moulded herself to him as he'd suggested. 'Are you comfortable?' She nodded, then rested her head back onto his clavicle, while he rested his chin on hers. There were several long minutes of comfortable silence as they just cherished being together. Although they couldn't clearly see one another's eyes they both knew how sensual this was being held by each other. The bubbles exploding on their heated sensitised skin; the clouds of steam rising taking the scent of the green bubbles to their heightened senses, all made for a gentle start for them.

His chest rose and fell in rhythm with hers while they caressed each others hands and forearms, discovering what the other really felt like. For so long they had imagined, dreamed, now they took their time with the reality. He rolled his head slightly, placing his mouth close to hers side on. She could sense his breaths whisper over her lips to make them tingle lusciously. She rested her brow against him. 'Dreams fulfilled are sweeter by design in reality,' she muttered slowly, closing her eyes.

Booth nodded to agree, then after a few more quiet moments he asked, 'Can I bathe you?' as if it was a illicit enquiry. Bones grinned, turning her head slightly to look at him.

'Of course,' she said, as if she was expecting him too before he'd asked permission. He smiled a little wider, reaching for her buff and cream. 'As long as I get to reciprocate sometime.' Booth huffed out a little chuckle, nodding, as he soaped up the buff.

'Count on it.' He began to swirl the buff over her shoulders and back very slowly, watching as the streaks of soapy bubbles created intricate crazy patterns on her skin. He attempted to etch every contour of her to his memory. He felt her delicate hands rest casually on his thighs either side of her. Then she began to caress him not in a sexual way but as if she was just getting to know the feel of him.

Booth began on her left arm now, reaching around her carefully so as not to hurt her. Booth slid his free hand down her other arm and caressed it, mimicking his slow left hand movements. Bones grinned unseen by him, dropping the full weight of her head onto his shoulder, sinking into him. Surrendering herself to his tender touch, the trust between them stronger, more magnified than at any point in the past now.

Bones could feel his physical excitement grow against her back. It sent a delicious thrill to somewhere she'd forgotten existed for some time. However she could also sense he was struggling to curtail his male response and was hugely flattered that at least he was trying. She was surprised that he didn't apologise or make some jovial remark about it. The fact that he didn't, suggested to her that he was concentrating on his task and not looking to be intimate other than a non sexual intimacy. She changed her thinking when he slipped the buff across her breasts even more slowly. They tightened instantly while she sighed out the sweet sensation into the air around them, closing her eyes to it. 'You ok?' he whispered into her ear. She could feel his warm breath seep into its curve, and made her tilt towards his lips.

'Yes.' Booth nuzzled into her neck, and began to kiss. She found his kisses agonisingly slow but tantalisingly deliberate and could hear his breathing rate increase slightly. 'I want to say that I'm sorry about Hannah, but that would be a lie.' She felt Booth's lips curl to a smile at her neck. Booth kissed over her collar bone Bones took the opportunity to look at him, forcing her eyes to stay open as his diligent hand slipped over the top of her thigh. She covered his with hers, and they entwined fingers tightly. She pecked at his lips slowly, unable to be passive any longer, however he stilled slightly when she did. She focused on his expression. 'Aren't we allowed to kiss?' asking, marginally confused by his hesitation to reciprocate.

'Yes we can kiss, Bones.' She grinned, delighted to hear that. 'I wanna kiss you.' Her grin got big and bold, radiating in her eyes. 'But you must know, must understand...' he said solemnly, then with teary conviction a few heart beats later, 'She wasn't you, she wasn't you, Bones.'

Bones squeezed his hands in hers, her own tears broiling and bubbling to the surface now. Bones understood that he was confessing that Hannah was a bland imitation of what he truly wanted and needed.

Wasting no more of their precious time Bones mouthed delicately over his lips, Booth didn't hesitate this time. Bones hand came up to the back of his head as they deepened the kiss. As this first intimate encounter continued at a leisurely pace and their tongues slid circles around the other, so did their innocently exploring hands. To Bones' disappointment Booth refused to touch her intimately, skimming around those throbbing areas she so desperately wanted him to explore. She broke their moist warm kiss, panting a little, however he continued to kiss her lips, cheek and neck.

Closing her eyes to his restrained passion, she asked breathily, 'Are we letting her fade away then?' Her question a reference to his statement a while ago about giving time and respect to previous lovers memories before people moved onto another.

'No need, she's already gone, Bones. Long gone,' he explained just as breathily, lavishing kisses over her lower neck. Bones rolled her head away slightly, offering him more of it to plunder.

'Then please, Booth, I'm extremely ready for a sexual release.' Booth smiled at her reverting back to his old straight talking Bones with little finesse.

He knew exactly what she needed and was prepared to give her that, but feared that in her delicate physical condition he may hurt her, or make her relapse. 'Are you now?' he said playfully sarcastic, but couldn't disguise his smile at his tease.

She confirmed without shame, 'Yes.' Then stilled, opened her eyes to look at him, realising he was being a tease. He stopped kissing her, lifting his eyes to hers. 'Please, Booth, or I'll fly solo...' As her sultry words registered along with their meaning, his handsome smile ghosted away, and his member rose higher and strengthened.

'We can't make love, Bones, not how we should, not yet,' he apologised tenderly, his lips returning to hers. 'But,' he whispered against them. His hand unlocked from her grip, and slid tentatively to her inner thigh, she jolted with the surge of stimulus it created. The breathy sigh she allowed free from her throat signalled she understood his intent. 'Still, be still,' he warned tenderly.

Muttering, 'Difficult.' Bones trembled in his arms, easing his free hand up to her breast. Booth brushed against her intimate lips with his finger tips of the other hand, 'Ooooww,' she purred.

Booth watched her get lost in his multi pronged caressing. His lips never ceased kissing her, nor hers his. With one palm on her breast he squeezed its pliant fullness, languidly swapping from one to the other. Then like his fingers were caressing out a note on the rim of a crystal glass, so they rolled around her tiny clitoris. 'How's that?' he asked not to inflate his ego with her praise, but to be sure it felt good enough to give her full relief.

Bones fluttered her eyes open, her lids heavy with how compliant she was, and stopped kissing him. She thought he looked concerned for her. As she stroked his face with her foamy palm, she said, 'Wonderful. I have no pain just complete joy.' His smile grew, and his eyes lost their flex of concern.

As that had clearly placated him, so he relaxed further. He slipped down slightly in the bath, taking her slowly with him so she was almost laying on him. He picked up one of her hands, and placed it on the rim of the bath, saying, 'Ok, we're gonna take this real slow, Bones.' Then he placed the other on the opposite side, so she was suspended by him and the water, in a position of total submission. The water swirled and rocked them unsteady for a while. They let it calm. 'Any hint of pain then I'm stopping,' he cautioned her seriously, kissing her brow as she nodded she understood. Bones opened her legs and drew them up slightly leaning them against his.

Booth had total control over her pleasure in this position and made every effort to exert it. He began with subtle caresses with both hands over both peaked nipples, while his attentive mouth and tongue drew more moans and sighs from her throat.

Booth's excitement grew as he began again his delicate swirling technique on her slippery centre, and saw her passion rise again. He watched every subtle movement she made, every exquisite expression, and deciphered each and every sound she purred. Measuring her desire to its almost peak, then when he noted her get close she tensed. So he hatched a plan. When that happened he stilled his movements for a few seconds till she relaxed again. Then he would build the tension again. His intention was not to frustrate but get her so high that when her body was on the plateau, what cascaded through her would be a slow slide into the welcome bliss and not a jarring shock and sudden release to her body. Which would inevitably cause her discomfort and pain that he couldn't bare to inflict ever again. It was a slow process but a excellent learning curve and utterly sybaritic of him.

Bones' hands clenched to fists to start with as she neared each release as if bracing for the impact, then he'd take her back from it. However as he continued with his altruistic scheme, her fists eventually held the tension constantly. He watched every nuance, fascinated by her, having always wanted to witness what she looked like at moments like this. He had imagined millions of times, even convincing himself she would be vocal, loud even and possibly bossy. However she was none of those and had trusted him completely, willingly giving up her control and body to him.

Bones realised fairly early on what he was endeavouring to do for her and why. She didn't feel out of control or the inclination to give pointers like she'd done with other less versed lovers in the past. She'd become so saturated with those magnificent feel good hormones that she never wanted him to stop. But she could sense the end approaching leisurely, especially when he whispered in her ear sensuously, 'Oh. Temperance...' and didn't stop his intimate unhurried caress.

It was then that he saw her eyes flutter closed, and heard the deep throaty, 'Arrrh...' escape. Her fists unclenched and her fingers flexed, losing their tension. She indeed slipped gracefully into a long breathless whole body orgasm, literally floating unhurriedly through it. The only part of her in contact with him was the back of her head while she flew solo and silent.

Bones flickered her eyes open as the intense beauty ebbed away, looking straight up to the spotlights of her bathroom. It took a few moments for her brain to engage and understand where she was and what she'd just experienced. Her hearing was muffled by the water covering her eardrums. She realised that she was floating in her bathtub and her Booth was waiting patiently for her to return below her. She felt his large hands slip around her hips and ease her back down to him on her side. She laid her cheek over his heart, slipping her hand in one of his, the other under and around him. He closed his eyes, resting his head back to the rim of the tub, with a deeply content expression enhancing his handsome features. His beautiful embrace tender but equally, possessive.

No words were exchanged, no compliments, no thank you's or words of affection as they silently wallowed in the delicious afterglow. This was grown up love, earned love and needed nothing so puerile to taint it.

!

Jeffersonian, two weeks and one day later.

Bones had made a bright start this morning, wanting to get into work early and not make an entrance like Ange had insisted she do. She wanted to be in full Doctor Temperance Brennan mode before anyone arrived. As she walked into her office, she remembered the last time she left it, with terror at seeing her partner and Parker held at gun point. Bones let go that memory quickly, not wanting to go over old ground as it still came to her some nights. She was lucky enough to have a antidote to those painful dreams now though. She no longer slept alone. So when those nightmares resurfaced, she rolled over, and held him to her or he her.

Bones put her case on the floor beside her chair, and took off her coat. With hands on hips, she muttered, 'Right,' looking at her two stacks of mail in her in trays. She sat on her large leather chair, and got to work.

One by one people came in to start their day. Seeing her office lights on they each came in to welcome her back with open arms, wide smiles and genuine affection for her safe return. Some, she noted left choked up emotionally, which she found extraordinarily touching. To know you have been missed or cared deeply for, she mused was life affirming and gave her a great sense of humility.

By nine she had only two inches of mail to open and deal with. As she swivelled on her chair to get herself a coffee, her action tweaked her stomach muscles. She was fully healed on the outside and the mild ache was now not even worth the effort to take pain relief for. However it was a unwelcome reminder that she had nearly died. She went up to the gantry to the coffee pot, and poured herself a healthy shot, stirring in sugar.

'Hey, Cam,' Bones welcomed her onto the gantry, pouring her a mug too. Bones thought she looked like she could do with one. Cam smiled hard and wide, giving her a tight hug. Only having seen her a few days ago Cam didn't make a huge fuss of her return. Cam knew Bones wanted to just get her head down and back to normal as soon as possible.

'Great to have you back, Doctor Brennan.' Bones grinned wryly, hearing her official title from her. Bones had got quite used to Cam calling her Tempe recently, and noted she missed it.

Handing her the mug, Bones asked, 'What's up, Cam?'

'Oooh! Michele, what else! She's just told me she is not going to North Western like she'd planned as Perry has decided to go travelling and asked her to go with him. Its crazy thinking...' she trailed off, seeing Bones grinning hard almost radiating sunrays with its power. 'What? It's not funny!'

Bones lost a little of her beaming smile. 'No, no it isn't. Its just wonderful.'

'What? Wonderful, you've gotta be kidding me?' Cam challenged.

Bones chuckled, shaking her head. She started down the stairs leaving Cam utterly confused. Bones stilled halfway down the stairs, to turn around and say, 'Just like old times. You sharing your parental traumas with me. I didn't even consider I would miss that so much.' Cam dropped a hip, and a tiny smile crossed her lips. Bones added sympathetically, 'My advice, for what its worth... let her go. College will be there when she gets back and if Perry and Michele are serious then, what will be, will be,' she said, with a shrug of her shoulder. Cam's mouth dropped open, then snapped shut as Bones resumed her descent.

'Not helping, Doctor Brennan!' she shouted after her. Cam heard Bones chuckle all the way back to her office. Her sweet chuckles made Cam smile too as they echoed around the lab long after she was invisible.

!

Three hours later.

Bones, Jack, Cam, Ange and Daisy were all examining one of the backed up murder victims as Booth ran up the platform steps, after slipping his card through the reader. Everybody turned to see who'd arrived except Bones. Everyone smiled hard at his energy filled swagger across the platform towards Bones. 'We gotta case, Bones. Chop, chop,' he said, waving a manila folder under her nose to lift her eyes. Bones looked up impossibly slowly, clearly not rushing on his command. Everybody watched the partners closely as she took the folder from his hand. 'You're gonna love this one,' he twittered on excitedly.

Bones noted that although she'd seen him last at around six this morning, the rush she got at his loud arrival made her flood with excitement, and happiness. She was desperately trying to be as professional as she could under everyone's scrutiny. She opened the file, and skimmed the preliminary report.

'Did you load the dishwasher?' she asked almost casually, with her head down. Booth looked around at all the faces who were grinning crazily at him. He looked back to Bones, still with her head down as she starting to walk off the platform. Booth wined, 'Yeeess, just like you said, cups on top...' He buzzed around her like a mosquito as she made her way towards her office. She snapped the file shut, and stopped. Then patted the file on his torso, treating him to a blinding smile, 'Good, Boothy.' Booth lost his smile, looking around at the straining to hear gathered colleagues, who'd heard what she called him affectionately and were now nudging each other surreptitiously.

'You said you wouldn't call me that at work...' he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

'I lied.' Then to his astonishment she pecked his lips wetly, and went on her merry way to get her kit.

!

Bones' car, en route to body dump.

'You kissed me, Bones? In the lab? Everybody saw...' Bones grinned enigmatically, concentrating on the road ahead.

'I know. I thought,' she began sensibly, with her usual analytical explanation. 'That we should get it over with.'

'Huh?' Booth was clearly confused again. She glanced at him, smiling a little wider.

'In our sessions, Sweets explained that our colleagues were not only happy for us being a romantic couple but they would be curious at how we'll interact on a professional level now. He warned me that they may gossip, conjecture about our sexual relations and...' she trailed off, seeing him squirm uncomfortably in his seat.

'That's none of their business,' he muttered.

Bones continued, turning onto the freeway, 'That's what I said but he said they would do it anyway. So to stop all the gossip and intrigue we should be open about our affections towards one another. As well as talk of our domestic situation as naturally as possible to them. So taking away from them the mystery and speculation. Then they should be placated and life would go on as normal. Ergo, we would no longer be the centre of attention and their idle gossip, and they would move on to another subject. I just took his advice. Although I don't always agree with what Sweets expounds, in this case I thought it wise and bowed to his better knowledge of social interactions in the work place... Did I do wrong?'

Booth snapped his head around to look at her, placing his hand on her leg. He could see she was now concerned that maybe she should have consulted him first. 'No, Bones. To be honest, I loved it,' he cooed, smitten with her. He gave her thigh a gentle squeeze to confirm. Bones' smile returned to warm him up.

'Good,' she said softly, looking back to the road.

'Although the Boothy comment was a tad too much, Bones.' She laughed a this cute pout. 'Has he given you any other advice I should be made aware of? Just so I'm not caught off guard next time you do something un-Bones-y.' Bones kept looking out the window, not reacting to his question. Sweets had in fact given her a lot more advice on one more subject but she was keeping that quiet for now.

Although they were practically living together and had one sexual experience in the bath, they hadn't since. If she were honest she was still healing and after that encounter hadn't felt the need. She'd been so busy with her sessions with Sweets. As it was a requirement of her reinstatement to duties that she attend them, so did diligently. The same went for Booth. She had appointments and check ups galore too. In the evenings they just ate and discussed at length what happened and shared their feelings about that afternoon. Sweets had recommended that if she had any residual anger or suppressed emotions about what he did or George, she should tell Booth. Then they could work through them together and that was precisely what they'd done. It was a few days ago that they'd had a joint session with Sweets. After he was assured by both of them that they had come to terms with what happened, the consequences and the revolution in their relationship because of those events. Sweets released them both back to duty. Her doctors had signed her off too and wished her well.

So with all that to contend with, making love was unnecessary it felt. They were constantly touching, talking, kissing and holding each other though, expressing their profound love in those ways. They slept in each others arms every night, finding solace and peace there. However Bones had gone to Sweets apartment last night to talk off the record with him. Over the last few weeks Bones had grown to appreciate Sweets' expertise in human relationships and wanted to discuss something more personal with him. Sweets knew them better than anyone else and the complicated nuances of their interactions, so trusted him. He was generous with his time, listened patiently to her and was gentle with his advice. Bones recalled what he'd said as she turned off the freeway...

'Booth is resisting making love to you because he's a gentle man, Doctor Brennan. He has a deep sense of morality which I'm sure you're aware of. This is the most important episode in his life to date and he has adored you from afar for the better part of a decade. He simply wants to let you adjust to your new situation and the revelations about your deep affection for each other, now openly aired to all. He also wants to be sure Hannah is gone from your mind so she cannot taint what he expects to be his last romantic relationship with anyone. You are it for him, so he's being cautious and doing things the right way as he perceives it.

There's also the fact that you've been severely injured and clearly he doesn't want to, in any way cause you pain or discomfort. Especially after what he did to you. You must understand he has his own mental scars to heal. Any man would have reservations in those circumstances. You're probably confused as to why then, he gave you pleasure that morning and nothing so intimate since... You've been extremely frank about that experience, which I truly appreciate your trust in me for that... The reason he pleasured you that morning, Doctor Brennan was because you asked him to. He knew and understood you so completely that you needed to feel something other than pain. That you needed to feel alive and loved and there's no better way to know those wonderful sensation than through orgasm, given as tenderly as you eloquently described. As you explained earlier, Booth has no physical problem attaining an erection around you when you are... close and kissing, being emotionally intimate. So I can deduce from that he's prepared to wait till you're sure. He's waiting for you to decide for both of you when the time is right. My advice is; if you feel well enough, secure enough in your new relationship and its dynamics, and have the inclination, you should instigate making love to him. He will not resist or reject you if you tell him or show him you're ready to move forward.'

'Hey? Bones? You ok? You look miles away.' Bones glanced to him, brimming her best smile.

'Yes, I'm fine but I did leave some paper work at home which Cam will need later. I was just thinking we could pop in to collect it before we head back to the Jeffersonian.'

'Sure, yeah,' he said eased, then lost his smile. Then saying, while narrowing his eyes, 'You just wanna check I did load the dishwasher right, don't ya?'

'Haa!'

!

Bones' apartment 13.34.

Bones registered in herself a distinct sense of apprehension countered by excitement as she unlocked her apartment door. Booth followed her in,heading for the well stocked fridge to snatch something for lunch.

Bones watched him rummaging in the fridge, clattering about as she stood motionless, deciding how she should approach this. She had got him back here on a pretence and now she didn't know if she should be subtle of full on.

'Do ya want a cheese sandwich, Bones?' he peered around the side of the fridge door at her. He had a lump of cheese gritted between his teeth and looked adorable to her. 'Think we got some pickle somewhere... Did I see pickle the other day?' he questioned himself, closing the door, then flicked the kettle on. He opened a cupboard over the kitchen counter, examining the contents closely. 'Pickle, pickle...'

Bones took a breath, and walked over to him. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and laid her cheek on his back, squeezing him to her. She felt her eyes burn and her throat close over as she held him. Inexplicably, she mused she felt suddenly extremely emotional. Then rationalising that she was about to make love to him finally, something she had fantasised about and imagined doing for years. Now the reality was open to her, the gravity of what that meant was nearly overwhelming her. If she was it for him, was he it for her? she thought. The answer to that question was simply answered and consisted of three letters.

Booth stilled as her hands slipped around him. 'What is it, Bones?' he asked quietly, placing his hands over hers on his stomach, their cheesy lunch forgotten.

Pulling in a stronger breath, she turned him around carefully. His brow furrowed, seeing her eyes glint with the extra water they held. Holding his hands in hers, she said, 'I'm fully physically and mentally recovered, Booth.' Then she pushed his jacket off his shoulders, and placed it on the counter. It was then that the penny dropped for him. He began to feel a mixture of tingling apprehension, and covert elation.

'I'm certain I've found in you, everything I need to be happy, for as long as I live.' Booth knew the words forever or eternally weren't in her emotional dictionary but he was dizzily content with; for as long as she lived. It was also a confirmation that she was convinced of their future stability and endurance as a couple.

Bones started to undo his shirt buttons slowly one by one, while searching his warming eyes. 'Its time we consummated this amazing bond we have together.'

'Bones, are you sss...'

Interrupting him with a phalange to his lips, she put him on pause with, 'I love you.' Booth's enwrapped smile crept across lips travelling the short distance between them to hers. Booth adored how effortlessly it rolled off her lips and how her irises sparkled. 'I don't need to prove it to you because you've known that as fact longer than I have, but you are going to allow me to make love to you.'

A slightly nervous yet aroused, 'Ok,' slipped from his lips. Bones' eyes grew smoky hot as she held her lips to his, thanking him for not refusing her with it. She flared her eyes just for a seductive fraction, while slipping her fingers under his pants waistband over his cocky belt buckle, and pulled him gently with her. She saw him swallow and suck in a breath.

'Oooh, wow, Bones,' he drooled appreciatively. Bones grinned hard, feeling the front of his pants start inflate.

Booth was totally compliant, and stood nearly still as she set about releasing him from his tight pants. He on the other hand, eased his fingers through her hair, holding her head in his palm, then leant in to kiss her. Bones tilted her head up to attach herself to his mouth. As their lips parted to allow their tongues to parry, he moaned. They changed angles and delved deeper and harder. It was a kiss not shared like this before, it heightened both of their passion and desire. The taste of the other familiar now but they still revelled in the exotic compound.

Booth felt her warm palms push him to sit on the edge of the bed. He reluctantly broke the kiss, as he bounced slightly on the bed. Bones greedily licked her lips of the moisture he'd left, as she knelt down in front of him to remove his pants. 'Bones? Oh. Are we doing this? Are we?' he asked as if petrified this was some sort of cruel dream. He watched wide eyed as she removed his shoes and socks too.

'Yes.' Bones' reply although short was weighted with her own wonder that they were finally at this point. 'Lay down, please.' she encouraged, as she slid her hands up either thigh, then eased his boxers off over his engorged manhood to reveal him. She had grown accustom to seeing him sexually excited around her but this was her first true sight. She had felt him against her in the mornings and when they shared a bath or shower. Also when they had a long lazy kissing session while lolling on the couch of an evening. However this was an unrestricted and clothes free view.

As she placed her hands on him gently, he flopped back to the bed with a throaty groan. 'Beautiful,' she muttered to herself, expressing her female appreciation of his form. She understood that many women didn't enjoy the look of the male sex organ, she wasn't one of them. The fact that this organ was his, made it all the more attractive and fascinating. Bones thought it wonderfully proportioned and adored the way he throbbed to full extension when he heard her breathy compliment. He squeezed his buttocks together slowly which forced more steaming hot blood into his shaft. She grinned, feeling it pulse with his quickening heartbeat in her palm.

Booth lay trembling slightly as she studied him. She began stroking firmly along his length, as she ghosted her thumb pad repeatedly over his sweet spot. He felt a rush of endorphins and a twitch of panic, as he knew he was very close to sensory overload already. He thought he better warn her. 'Bones, I'm a little worried I'm about to blow.'

Bones seemed unconcerned, but took her hands off him, leaving them on his thighs. He relaxed a little, lifted his head to look down at her, with a crooked apologetic grin. 'Sorry. It's just...'

'I know. We've waited so long, wanted this for so many years. It's inevitable. I'd imagined we would get naked and go a little wild,' she confessed sweetly what she had fantasised.

Booth appeased with a smile and, 'We can another time.' Then he sat up, and palmed her hair through his fingers. She lifted up to kiss him again, slipping her hands around his back. He felt palms push him back again after their succulent exchanged. Bones stood, with a tiny smile, healed off her shoes, and began unbuttoning her blouse. She watched as Booth swapped his gaze between her eyes, and what her delicate hands were uncovering slowly. She saw his organ pulse and him take in a deep calming breath. Booth attempted to cool off his libido but seeing her undress for him was having the opposite effect.

She could see his muscles tensing again and his eyes flare with his primal instinct. She felt her own primal rush, saying huskily, 'Relax, Booth. Just relax.' She discarded her blouse with a flick of her wrist, then eased her pants zip down.

'Trying, Bones.' Then he said earnestly, 'God, you're beautiful.' His practised right hand gripped around his shaft, and he began to stroke up and down slowly, his attention fixated on her though. Bones flushed with more arousal, seeing him masturbating. She thought it terribly erotic and that sight was doing wickedly delightful things between her thighs.

'That's not relaxing, Booth.' His eyes snapped to hers, then he laughed softly. 'You're not the only one trying to keep calm, you know? You're not helping...'

He seemed to ignore her gentle reprimands, by keeping his hands pace leisurely. 'Can't wait to see you come again,' he confessed. She could hear the tension in his voice, the yearn.

'Well, you might very soon if you don't stop that.' She now stood in black satin and lace with purest smile on mouth. Booth went to get up but she stilled him when she shook her head slowly at him. She stepped a little closer to be between his legs. Reaching behind her, she unhooked her bra, and slipped off the straps, finally it dropped away. Booth rolled his head with his own male appreciation.

Booth wrapped his arms around her instantly, and latched on to an already puckered nipple, guzzling as much of her flesh into his mouth as he could. Bones gasped, surprised by his sudden action and the jolt of electricity his hot smooth mouth sent up her spine. He swooped to the other fast, as his hands slipped down her spine, to slide inside her panties. He pushed them down, at the same time as he gasped himself. 'Fuck' he muttered, his body quaking, panting on her breast.

Bones instantly understood what was happening, as he stated to boil. She reached for his shaft, and squeezed its head, saving his blushes and seed for her. He groaned long and deep, and rested his brow against her sternum. His exhale of relief skimmed across her moist nipple as he felt his cock wane. 'Better?' He nodded, so she released her clever knowledgeable grip.

Embarrassed, he said, 'This isn't going very well.' He looked up to her, his eyes full of sulky apology.

Amused, Bones laughed ironically, 'Haa. How can you say that? That's the highest compliment I've ever received.' She caressed his jaw affectionately, then pecked several times at his lips. That soothed him into a cautious smile. 'Does this normally happen to you?' She slipped her panties off the rest of the way down her legs, and kicked them away casually.

'No! Never, I pride myself on my stamina, usually.' He quirked his pout, but seeing her glistening pussy and breathing in her arousal, his cock snapped back ridged.

'Aaww, Boothy,' she cooed, then cheekily whispered, 'You might have some trouble with this then...' Bones sank back to her knees, took him in her hand, and licked slowly around his velvet crown. Then covered her teeth with her lips, deliberately squeezing him passed her lips into her hot mouth. Her reverential moan was drowned out by his, as he froze under her.

Bones held him inside her, closing her eyes, and freezing herself. She waited till he took a breath to restart his lungs after the initial shock, then she sucked back off him. Her breaths sensitised the wetness she'd left on him. 'Oooooh. God, woman.' His words sounded pathetic and feeble but dripped with veneration, the sentiment was as clear as crystal to her.

Booth felt movement on the bed beside him, and her hand slip into his. He dared to flicker open his eyes, and looked to her. She tugged gently at his hand, saying softly without any hint of ego, 'Come on.' Booth rolled to lay on the bed properly, while she knelt between his legs. He couldn't take his eyes off her, and realised she wasn't done with him yet.

She could see him quivering, and his manhood pulsing dangerously. His breath was coming in short regular pants. He was also flushed all over. She leaned in to kiss him again, licking his swollen lips to opened them a little more so she could gain access to his tongue. He opened his mouth, and kissed her slowly, trying to force himself to slow down. His body jerked as her hand went to his cock again and gave him a slow sexy rhythm. He continued to kiss her but his breathing became a priority so gasped to break the kiss, as his loins screamed at him to explode. Knowing she needed to let him release, she whispered sultrily against his wet open mouth. 'Please let me see you come, Booth.' He didn't think he had any option other than doing just that as his cock pulsed violently, and he felt the eruption and ecstasy tear through him.

'Booones...' he crooned her name in shame at going off like a rocket. He grunted with each glorious pulse, panting her name on each.

'Feel a little better?' she asked sweetly, while slowly kissing her way down his middle. He felt her hand release its strange grip on his hyper stimulated organ. Thinking he should reply sometime soon, but changed his mind when her mouth went over his sensitised crown again, and she was lavishing him with her twirling tongue. If he could get on his tip toes he would have, as that was what he felt he should do. He did gripped the sheet either side of him, and clenched his fists instead.

Booth was astounded that he was still going strong after that ripping climax. He did feel a little less like a volcano but as she continued, he sensed the next violent eruption was imminent.

Bones toyed with him mercilessly, by kissing, sucking and caressing areas which had his eyes rolling back, and his head tossing from side to side. She made calm love to him till he was almost delirious with pleasure, not unlike he had done to her.

Recalling his heightened excitement when he saw her so wet and ready for him, she had a little inspiration. Slipping her fingers along her glistening centre to coat them, she placed them against his parted lips. 'Taste me,' she said. Booth caught her wet fingers between his lips before her last syllable left her lips, suckling off her essence hungrily, with a feral groan. 'Ummm, Bones, fantastic,' he muttered. Flexing his hips, he begged, open mouthed, 'More, more.' To him her riches were similar to snorting pure rhino horn, guzzling half a dozen oysters all swilled down with a crystal flute of Dom Perignon 33'. Bones happily obliged his plead once more.

Her idea had lit his fuse and it sizzled shorter. 'Bones? Arrrhh, Bones. Its, I'm,' he stuttered his rambled warning, feeling the imperative over take him again, defeated he groaned, 'Christ, not again...' Bones could have laughed at his resigned comment but her mouth and delicate hands were a little busy.

Booth thrashed his legs a little, as another breath snatching climax hurtled from his groin and swamped him. It bombarded him with rapture and sensations which weakened him bodily. He savoured it this time and her taste on his tongue. It was then he comprehended what she had done to him, was able to do to him. She'd held his seed back twice now but lovingly gave him wonderful orgasms. Her skill as a lover was not bravado or inflated ego but simple fact as now he had direct knowledge and proof.

Bones watched him glassy eyed, swivelling her buttocks around in a circle, to relieve some of the tantalizing itch of frustration she felt at her sopping apex. She could feel that her inner thighs were drenched with her own arousal. The feel of his silky organ pulsing in her mouth was almost enough to satisfy her. Her own breathing was rapid and her lips were swollen with overuse. Quietly she reflected on the last few weeks as he settled and she tenderly laved at his fraenulum. Those reflections brought tears to her eyes not of sadness but of indestructible joy. Seeing his bliss was as good as feeling her own. That, she mused was the generosity of loving someone, the paradox. She understood now that by giving so freely, unselfishly nothing was lost but gained, as it was received back tenfold.

Bones slowly kissed her way up towards his parted lips. She hovered over his face till he opened his eyes, and focused them lazily on her. Carefully she edged his legs together a little, to straddle him gracefully. Booth's smile grew as she pecked at his lips. His palms slid up her thighs to rest on her hips. The look they shared said everything and yet nothing.

Bones adjusted her hips slightly to rest him at her last unknown to him, pausing for just a moment to lace hands. Then together, they slipped into one another. Gentle simultaneous moans of elation, wonder and relief filled the air between them.

Bones willed time to stop its relentless march forwards as the bliss overran her. Then as he started to move inside her she changed her mind, wanting time to stop now. Then as she began to mimic his subtle movements she wanted that moment. Then the next and then the next. Till she gave up on willing and surrendered to every sublime moment.

Maybe that was why we mortals don't get to chose when those moments occur. Maybe its because we can't decide or we are not the best judges. Maybe we cannot be trusted to make the those decisions, so it's better left to a higher intelligence or being, she pondered.

With his passion now under slightly better control Booth eased her down to his lips, and kissed her deeply. He rolled with her onto their sides. Bones hung her leg over his thigh easily, while he whispered his fingertips across the heated flesh of her buttocks. 'We got here, Bones. I knew we would.'

'Yes you did.' Kissing him again, unable to lose her conciliatory smile. 'What else do you know?'

'I know we're gonna move in officially here first, then get something a little bigger. Room for the kids.'

'Kids?'

He explained, 'Yeah. Gotta go for a girl.' Bones grinned, stroking over his chest, while gently rocking her pelvis against his. 'I'd asked you to marry me but you'd only turn me down.'

'You don't know everything then.' Booth's mouth dropped open in shock. When his elated grin returned, and he rolled her gently under him. They readjusted their limbs a little, getting extremely comfortable.

'I know something else,' she said, as she held the man she loved a little tighter.

'What's that?'

Bones told him honestly, 'I know, I don't want to fly solo anymore.' Booth's expression turned to misty understanding and he nodded almost imperceptibly. Pulling his knee up the sheet to lift her thigh up and out a little more, and began to roll his pelvis against her. His actions unleashed a throaty groan from her, and she bowed under him.

'Oh. Seeley.' She felt him lift off her a little, and considerate fingers caress her where they were melted together. She felt warm drops fall softly on her face, and fluttered her eyes open concerned for a moment. Then realised in her near orgasmic state she'd uttered his name, which had moved him to weep with joy. Seeing his tears tugged hers free again, as their tender pace increased.

They entwined free hands, eyes and sealed themselves together, sharing the others ragged breaths. Then they stilled as the ecstasy built beyond endurance or anything previously experienced. They aimed high, and flew together with their newly acquired wings.

The barricades they'd previously positioned between them now were breached. Born on different sides of life they now stepped over the barbs, dismissing the bloody thorns to find the healing powers of a simple truth. They were born for this, for the other. Denial of that truth would have been a travesty, a lie, a sin. Those quiet weighty lies and deflections were fading shadows in their history now. Absolute trust and honesty were now their future.

!

Bones lay half covered by him, her personal human blanket and protector, she thought happily. He had kept a heavy leg over hers and his body flush with her side. She watched him sleep, while caressing a few of his vertebrae with her fingertips.

She wore three things; a divine smile, the scent of their love and his St Christopher. She gently removed the chain, and looped it back over his head. He snuffled, and nuzzled her ear as she disturbed his sleep but he didn't wake. Kissing his forehead, she imbued it with as much love as she could impart. 'It worked,' she whispered into his ear.

Extricating herself slowly from under him, she pulled the sheet over him carefully. She prepared to go back to work. Before she left their bedroom she kissed him again, this time through his hair.

!

Epilogue. Jeffersonian. One hundred minutes later.

'Miss Wick, did you notice anything anomalous around the exit wound?' Bones asked, with a mysterious smile which seemed to be unnerving Daisy and all the gathered squints.

As Daisy started to point out what she'd observed from the decomposing corpse, that had just been delivered by the FBI recovery team. Angela slipped to Bones' elbow, clip board in hand, and whispered in her ear, 'Where's, Booth?'

'Sleeping,' she said just as quietly, while still listening to Daisy, multi-tasking efficiently.

'And here, next to the parietal suture there's a...' Daisy prattled on, oblivious to her mentors second quieter conversation.

Ange's brow rose, as she looked at her wrist watch, with a knowing smile on her lips. Her watch read 4PM. Bones caught her looking at her watch, and smiled a little wider. Ange whispered, 'Dopamine and what was it?'

'Prolactin, lots and lots of it. We won't see him again today,' she said a little ego filled in Ange's ear, then brightly, 'That's correct, Miss Wick, excellent. So what does that indicate?' Ange summoned her prettiest wry smile.

'A good time was had by all?' Ange said, nudging Bones, giving her a cheeky wink, as she left the platform. Bones' smile blossomed again. She looked back to the remainder of her colleagues, they were all looking completely perplexed by Ange's comment.

Bones suggested professionally, 'Let's move on, shall we?'

!

Authors Notes: Thank you for reading this far. Healthy critiques always welcomed and responded to. This piece of fiction was in response to the first two episodes of the new season. A little angst-ridden but I hope you saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Till the next time. Lebxeb XX.