A/N: Sorry for the delay. This chapter started to take on a life of its own. I hope that the resolution doesn't seem to "easy" or OOC. I needed some happiness after last night's episode (which I thought was very well done). I am considering writing a sequel to this, so if you'd be interested in reading more let me know! Oh, and for the purposes of this story/chapter, the events of the Doctor in the Photo never happened.
Chapter Title is inspired by "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.
"Can I come in?"
Wordlessly, Bones opened the door three quarters of the way, allowing Booth to enter. He crossed her threshold, acutely aware that it has been quite some time since he'd done so without Hannah on his arm.
"Would you like something to drink?" Bones asked.
"No, I'm fine, thanks," Booth replied.
Bones retreated to the kitchen, presumably to get herself a drink. Booth wondered if she still had his favorite beer in her fridge. He hoped she didn't. He hated the idea that she was somehow waiting for him, although that was just what she'd been doing.
"Sit down," Bones instructed when she returned with a glass of wine and Booth was still standing.
Booth did as he was told. For a moment, Booth and Bones just looked at one another in silence.
Booth broke the silence, "I ended it with Hannah. She's gone."
Bones nodded hesitantly, "I'm sorry that she had to get hurt."
"So am I. I never intended to hurt her or you," Booth said placing emphasis on his last word.
"I know," she muttered not quite meeting Booth's eye.
"Bones, hurting you was the last thing I ever wanted to do, but I know that I did. I will do anything to make that up to you. I understand it will take time for you to trust me again."
Bones brought her eyes to Booth's level and earnestly said, "I never stopped trusting you, Booth."
Booth looked at her beautiful blue eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and Booth thought that was certainly true in Bones' case.
Booth shook his head, "I broke a promise to you. I told you I would always be there for you, and I wasn't."
Bones chewed on her lower lip, not knowing how to reply.
Finally finding the words, she said, "I never expected that you'd find someone you cared about so quickly."
Booth sighed and raked his fingers through his hair, "When we said goodbye at the airport, I thought – I don't what I thought – that something would happen, I guess. It didn't, and I didn't hear from you the entire time. I guess I assumed that it was me you were running away from rather than murder and sadness."
Bones opened her mouth to refute his claim then closed it. She had been running away from Booth, or at least the strong feelings she felt for him, and ironically, it had the opposite effect.
"I'm sorry," she said softly, "I was afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid that if it didn't work out, I'd have lost my best friend."
"Oh, Bones. You could never lose me," Booth said taking her hand and squeezing it tightly.
"I almost did," Bones said in a barely audible voice.
Booth didn't know how to reply. It was true. He had created space between himself and Bones in an effort to make his relationship with Hannah work.
"Remember how when we first met, I told you that I had a gambling problem?" Booth asked abruptly.
"Yes," Bones replied skeptically.
"You asked me why I felt I had to tell you that. Do you remember my answer?"
"You said that you thought "this" was going somewhere."
Booth nodded and leaned in closer to Bones, "I never told Hannah about my gambling history."
"I don't understand."
Booth resisted the urge to laugh, "I didn't tell Hannah about my previous gambling problem, because I never thought it was going anywhere."
Bones looked at him wide-eyed.
"In Afghanistan, I enjoyed her company. I cared about her, but I never expected to see her again. Then, I was home, and she showed up."
"But you asked her to move in with you. You said you loved her. You almost asked her to marry you," Bones challenged.
"Yes, I did all of those things. I saw an opportunity for happiness, even if it wasn't exactly how I wanted it to happen, and I took it. I never stopped loving you, Bones. You are the one."
Bones eyes glistened with tears.
"Last spring, I made a mistake. I didn't fight for us. I couldn't see past my hurt," Booth said, "But we're worth fighting for. I love you, Temperance, just as you are."
Booth so seldom used her real name that is sounded strange to Bones' ears.
"I love you too," Bones said softly.
Booth smiled, his eyes clouded with unshed tears. He wrapped his arms around Bones and held her tightly to his chest.
"I'll give you as much time as you need," he whispered.
Bones nodded into his shoulder.
"I want things to get back to normal – but better," Booth said.
Bones pulled away from him slightly, recalling another rocky time in their friendship.
"We're the center," she said.
Booth smiled, "Yes, we are. I want you to be the center of my life again, Bones."
Bones leaned against him, allowing Booth to once again envelope her in a loving embrace. They held one another for quite some time. Then they just talked about everything and anything, delighting in one another's company. When Bones yawned, Booth made a note of the time: 1:30 AM.
"You should get to bed, Bones. Breakfast at the diner in the morning?" he said with a grin.
"No, don't leave," Bones replied quickly.
Booth looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"I want you here when I wake up, so I know this wasn't a dream," she said wistfully.
"Bones, I don't think we should -."
"No, I don't mean I want us to have sex. Well, I do, but I just would like to wake up next to you in the morning."
Booth smiled, his whole face seeming to light up, "I would like that too, Bones."
He leaned in and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips that left them both longing for more. But Booth wasn't going to mess this up, not this time.
"I am going to wash up and change," Bones announced, "You can go into the bedroom if you want."
You can go into the bedroom if you want.
Booth had waited seven years to hear those words, or some permutation of them, even if this wasn't exactly the correct context. He crossed the threshold of her bedroom and sat down on her bed, bouncing his knee nervously. When Bones emerged from the bathroom, Booth rose to his feet. She wore a tee shirt, pajama pants, and no makeup; yet he thought she'd never looked more beautiful.
"You're beautiful," Booth said dreamily, prompting Bones' cheeks to turn a bright shade of crimson.
"Um, are you planning on sleeping in your jeans? I imagine that would be quite uncomfortable."
Booth laughed. He has considered taking them off, but thought that might be presumptuous. He wanted to let Bones set the tone for the evening.
"I have seen you in your boxers before, Booth," Bones remarked.
"Yeah, I know," Booth said, mentally recalling that particular incident, "This just seems different."
"Oh, do you mean you are afraid you'll become sexually aroused?"
Booth chuckled, "That's my girl. Never beats around the bush. I will take off my jeans if that is okay."
"Of course," Bones said, climbing into bed.
After removing his jeans, Booth quickly joined Bones under the covers. They laid on their sides, facing one another. Booth rested his palm on her cheek, savoring the soft skin beneath his fingers.
"You look exhausted."
"I haven't been sleeping well," Bones replied.
Booth felt a pang in his stomach, knowing that he had contributed to her insomnia.
"Close your eyes, baby," he said soothingly.
Bones rested her head on Booth shoulder and said sleepily, "Don't call me baby."
Booth smiled to himself, "Good night, Bones. I'll be here when you wake up – for as long as you'll let me, I'll be here. I love you."
The last words Bones heard before drifting off to sleep were "I love you," and she thought she could certainly grow accustomed to hearing them every night for the rest of her life.
Booth just watched his partner sleep, listening to her even breathes and watching the rise and fall of her chest. Without disturbing her, he reached for his cell phone. He searched his contacts for his favorite artist and typed a two word text message.