A/N: This is where I wanted to go with my other story. I do not know if I will continue it- there are just so many things going on right now. I apologize for my utter failure- twice. This is a one shot. It just came out this way.

A speculation on what is to come.

Booth sat across from Brennan at the diner, watching her reach over to pluck a few fries off his plate- the ones unsullied by his half-eaten hamburger, anyway. It had been too long since he witnessed a similar scene, and he regrettably admitted to himself that it would perhaps be longer before he saw it again. He fingered the velvet box in his pocket, nervously contemplating how he was going to broach the subject of its contents with the woman in front of him.

Brennan was well-aware of the purpose of their nearly extinct lunch meetings. She had overheard Booth discussing it with Dr. Sweets the day prior, and had very quickly found a reason to avoid his initial invitation to drinks. She had been unable to escape their lunch meeting, however, due to Angela's ignorant interference. She filled the awkward silence and her dreadful sight with his plate of fries and an outrageous appetite for fries in place of watching him fondle the box in his pocket. It would be inconsiderate of him and rude of her to being consuming such a vast quantity of food while he came forward with the information. That established, she knew the fries would eventually be exhausted and she would have a choice to make.

"Slow down, Bones- you should chew, you know." Booth interjected, as a permanent line developed between her brows and the haste with which she consumed his fries increased. He wondered if his anxiety was fueling hers.

"I am well-acquainted with the reasons for mastication, Booth." She replied with torrential speed, and flagged down a passing waitress, "Could you bring me another salad and another plate of fries, please?" She proceeded with her consumption, pausing only briefly with a second torrent, "You have masticated very little. "

"I have something important to tell you, and I am nervous about it," he confessed, placing his hand over his plate of fries to frustrate her efforts. "Can you stop for a second?"

Brennan withdrew her hand, fighting an avalanche of dread. She looked down to grab her napkin, taking her time patting the grease off her lips. As if time impossibly slowed, she listened acutely to the rustle of fabric as Booth pulled the box from his pocket. She listened to the gentle collision of Booth's elbow against the cloth of the table. She listened to distinctive creak of the hinge open. She listened to the snap as it locked in position. She listened to him call for her attention- "Bones," he said.

With practiced composure, she leveled her gaze to his, and then looked down at the box. Nestled between black folds, inside, was the ring. - a simple golden band with tiny diamonds buried in the center around its circumference. Etchings inside the band indicated an inscription, although she could only read one word- "fig." Nestled between black folds, inside, was a symbol of failure. Nestled between black folds, inside, was an ultimatum.

"It is beautiful," she responded without intonation.

Booth felt his pulse quicken and he cursed himself for his anxiety. Why was he more nervous about telling Brennan than the actual proposal? "Bones," he prompted again, demanding eye contact. She was eerily stoic and unreadable, even when her eyes diverted away from the object in his hand and to meet his own, "I am going to ask Hannah to marry me," he nearly blurted. To him, she remained outwardly unaffected.

"I inferred as much from the ring," she replied, feeling her own heart rate increase. She welcomed the distraction as the plate of fries and salad were set in front of her. "Thank you," she told the waitress, both for the service and for the diversion. She immediately directed her attention towards her food. She quickly found that salad would more effectively occupy her mouth than the fries due to the large size of the lettuce pieces.

He watched her accept the uncharacteristically abundant order of food. He watched her thank the waitress without eye contact. He watched her sample her fries. He watched her struggle to fit a large piece of lettuce into her mouth. He watched her fixate on the salad. He watched the line return between her brows. He watched her avoidance.

She listened to the creak of the hinge fall forward. She listened to the snap of the box fall closed. She listened to the drag of fabric as Booth pulled his sleeved elbow from the table. She listened to the rustle of fabric as he replaced the box in his pocket. She listened to the brush of skin as he folded his arms. She listened to the crack of vinyl as he leaned back in the booth. He listened to sigh of consternation.

"So, how's the new book coming along?" he asked, trying to rationalize her behavior. She was so happy for him before- almost too effusively. She was good friends with Hannah- almost too quickly. She was thinner- almost too thin. She was self-deprecating after the Shaw case- almost too self-deprecating.

"Does she make you happy?" Brennan blurted, internally scolding herself for the non-sequitir.

"Yes," Booth replied, internally acknowledging how much work that happiness was.

"Will she love you in 30, 40 or 50 years?" Brennan asked, pushing the iceberg lettuce around on her plate.

"I believe so," Booth replied, feeling goosebumps rise on his arms. Was it the chill in her voice?

"You are a gambler," Brennan stated, increasingly cold. "Did you know when you met her?" she continued. Her hand grew heavier with each word.

"Why are you doing this?" Booth felt the weight of their conversation as if it were lead in his veins. He grabbed her head to stop her fork, and used his pointer finger to raise her eyes to his own. He searched them- once cerulean like the deep ocean, and now nearly grey like a polluted iceberg.

Brennan continued her litany, unyielding, nearly robotic in her recitation:

"Does she have an open heart?"

"Do you break the laws of physics?"

"If she is your center, will it hold?"

Booth resisted the urge she cover her mouth, withdrawing his hand from hers and falling back against the booth again, frustrated and increasingly angry. With a second thought, he reached for his wallet and began sorting through it for bills, "Yes, yes, yes, yes," he grumbled, "I expected you to be happy for me, and for Hannah. I will leave it to Sweets to figure out what the story is."

She watched as he developed a familiar line between his brow. She watched as inventoried his wallet for the correct change. She watched as he tossed it apathetically on the table. She watched as he delivered her an expression of disdain. She watched as he rose from the Booth, gathering his suit jacket. She watched the box fell lower in his pocket as he moved.

"I want you to be happy, Booth," she stated with the first hint of conviction.

"Whatever, Bones," he replied, shaking his head briefly as he pulled the coat around his shoulders- he lingered only with the faintest hope that she would say something to redeem herself. Her weak attempt lacked the sincerity he desired. After straightening his collar, he turned to leave.

"I need to know-" she started, sliding out of the booth to follow him, turning around only to grab her bag. She caught up with him at the door, holding it open with her hand on the glass next to his, "What the difference is between the feelings you have for her, that love, and the feelings you professed for me," she finished, nearly out of breath with the quickness of her step and the burden of her words.

Booth shoved his hands into his pockets and continued walking, but Brennan didn't miss a step. He listened to the scuff of her shoe against the sidewalk. He listened to the rhythm of her quickening steps behind him. He listened to her shallow, quick breaths as she caught up. He listened to her plead, "Please, Booth."

"You don't get to do this now," Booth replied, trying to manage the growing fury.

"Just tell me that my hypothesis was correct. Tell me my conclusion now is wrong. Tell me there is no evidence for love. Tell me you never loved me. Tell me I was right to refuse you- that even if you loved me, it was ephemeral- just chemical messengers. Tell me more time would have been irrelevant. Tell me that I am Dr. Shaw, " Brennan poured out, ungracefully trying to keep up with his longer strides. She reached out to him this time, clutching his forearm, asking him to look at her.

Booth stopped abruptly, yielding to her hand while detaching from it. He searched her first honest expression- vulnerable, uncertain and heartbroken. He felt her pain echo in his own chest as he finally decoded and chronicled the comments of her slow realization. Her lack of inclination in Mapupu. Fantasizing them together. Her awkwardly effusive enthusiasm. Her quick friendship with Hannah. The telephone. The increasing reclusion. Her persistent unsettled state during the Shaw case. Her trashed office the next morning.

"Did it matter anymore?" they simultaneously wondered, Booth stitching together the pieces, and Brennan allowing him to. Booth searched for the words to say, opening his mouth several times only to discard them for different ones. Brennan waited impatiently, her panic increasing proportionally with the passage of time.

"There are so many things to say, " Booth finally uttered, "None of them will resolve anything now."

"I think we need to sever our partnership," she replied bitterly, looking down at the dingy sidewalk and then back towards Booth, "I love you, Booth. It terrifies me. I cannot move on, and we cannot move forward. Since time moves in a linear direction, I can only move away."

He wanted to protest. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her. He wanted to curse himself for not fighting for her now. He wanted to curse her for asking him to. Instead, he took her hands and pulled her towards him, squeezing into them every sentiment in his heart. She squeezed back, resting her head on his shoulder. He conceded to her intention and each released a hand to wrap around the other.

"You can only know once," he whispered, "And the difference is that I knew with you."

"