Author's Note: Even though I ship Booth and Brennan hard as hell, I think gorgeous Brennan deserves a little bit of happiness until Booth comes to his senses. And who's better for that task than one very important person from her past? But why is he back after so many years? How will his return affect B/B? Oh my, so many questions. Let's get to them!

Disclaimer: I don't own Bones. If I did, well... I'd do what every other fan would: put Booth and Brennan together already!

The sharp, irritating sound of her cell phone buzzing against the wooden nightstand wakes her up almost immediately. Still sleepy, she groans against the warm pillow and reaches for the phone with her hand.

"Brennan," she answers.

"Dr. Brennan! Thank God you answered."

If she wasn't fully awake before, now she certainly is. Cam's cheery voice can only mean one thing: work.

"I know it's still early," the pathologist goes on, "and I'm really sorry, but there's a—"

"Body?" Brennan cuts her off, unburying her face from the pillow and propping herself on the mattress with her elbows. "It would be the only logical explanation for you to be calling before working hours."

On the other side of the line, Cam suppresses a smile. "Exactly, the remains being sent to the Jeffersonian as we speak. I was hop—"

"Why are the remains already on its way there? I haven't been to the crime scene yet. If this is a federal crime — which it probably is or they wouldn't have called you — and the FBI was in charge of handling the body, then I can assure you based on past experiences that they've compromised evidence." They always compromise evidence.

"Um," Cam starts off carefully, "actually, Mr. Edison has already been to the crime scene, accompanied by Mr. Bray. You were not answering and apparently they needed someone fast. Both of them were available so I sent them there."

She frowns, the line between her brows growing larger. "What? When did you call?"

"A while ago. We even tried your home number but—"

"I'm not—" she rubs her temples, "I'm not home right now."

"Oh," Cam comments, perplexed at the unexpected share of information. She is, however, quick in pulling herself together. "No need for further elaborations, Dr. Brennan," she continues. "As I was about to explain, the reason I'm calling is because Mr. Bray mentioned something abnormal about the skull they found at the crime scene, and I believe he could use your help on this one as soon as possible. Clark was aiding him but was called away to a meeting a while ago."

Brennan rakes a hand through her tangled hair as she rolls to the edge of the bed. "What is it? Some kind of anomaly he's not able to recognize?"

"It would appear so, yes. Seems like it'll be easier to recognize once the skull is put together. All we have right now is a hell lot of small pieces."

"Statistically, the remains that are brought in in cooperation with the FBI are very unique. I wouldn't be so surprised if I were Mr. Bray."

Once again, Cam suppresses a soft laugh. "No, Dr. Brennan, it's just—the skull, it's broken in a thousand pieces, and I think it'll be better if you handle the reconstruction."

"That's highly unlikely," Brennan says, brows knitting together. "Have you counted them yet?"

"As a matter of fact, we have. There are precisely thousand pieces, all skull bones from the same skull according to Mr. Bray, some of them extremely small due to the trauma caused it. They were found on a plastic bag lying on the seat next to the rest of the body, which was found in a car." She makes brief a pause, still unable to believe what she's going to say next. "As for the car, it was found hanging from a bridge on the outskirts of the city."

"I'm on my way. Please inform Mr. Bray that I expect a detailed report of his work so far when I arrive," she says before hanging up.

She yawns, still exhausted from the night before, and pushes herself up from the bed. There's a white shirt lying next to her feet on the floor, and she slides it on before swinging the bedroom door open. The smell of fresh coffee coming from the kitchen absorbs her completely, her lips curling into the hint of a smile as she makes her way through the apartment.

From the counter, he greets her cheerfully, back still to her. "Hey you." Smiling, he turns around and hands her a cup of steaming coffee. "Good morning, stranger. I was wondering when you'd be gracing us with your presence." He nods towards the aquarium in the living room, and adds, "The boys were getting worried that you had resorted to the fire escape, you know."

She smiles, too, and palms the cup as she brings it to her lips. "Thank you. How did you know I was up?"

"I heard you talking on the phone," he says, and gives her a peck on the lips.

He's in nothing but boxers (not that she complains), and they both stare at each other with a grin on their faces before she starts heading to the table. The warmth of her drink is nothing compared to the what she feels when he wraps his arms around her waist, forcing her to stop mid-track-

"Look at that," he says as he buries his face on the curve of her neck and the depths of her hair. "You found the rest of my clothing."

Brennan sips at her coffee and turns around in his arms. Her smile is considerably wider by now.

"It was lying on the floor," she explains with a seemingly nonchalant shrug.

"Well, I for one, have got a feeling that that's exactly where it belongs, don't ya think?"

Wordlessly, she returns to cup to the sink before placing a soft kiss on his lips. They still taste like the sea, slightly salty and refreshing, even though it's been several weeks since he came back.

"I'm sorry," Brennan replies, "I really have to go."

"No, not really. You're Temperance Brennan. You don't have to do anything. Stay."

As if to make his point, he closes the tiny gap between them and urges her lips open with his. The edge of the sink hurts her lower back when he pins her against it, one hand placed on her waist and the other one slipping under the fabric of her shirt. Her response turns primal when their tongues meet, and even more so when his fingers reach her breasts, playing her, testing her limits. He uses his knee to wedge himself between her legs, entrapping her completely as his hand travels down her skin, tentatively searching for more.

Against her own surging urges, she pulls away with a gasp. "I have a case," she manages between short breaths.

"Oh, yeah?"

He's teasing her, she's sure.

Not without effort, she loosens herself from his grip, tying her hair into a messy bun as she heads for the counter. "Yes, and I need to go home and change before I get to the lab."

The rest of her coffee is gone within a few seconds, and she's soon on her way back to the bedroom.

"Alright, alright, you win." After all, he knows her well enough to know that work always comes first. "Hey," he calls through the apartment, "you want something to eat to take with you?"

Inside the bedroom, she shakes her head in response. "That won't be necessary."

Brennan changes from his shirt to her outfit from the previous day, reclaims her earrings from the nightstand, then slides into her heels, and heads for the front door. He leans against the wall behind her, watching her get ready to leave.

"So, um... is Booth picking you up?"

"No." The wheels of her brain are whirling away as she plans the next thirty minutes of her morning, thus completely missing his tone and implication. "Why would he?"

With a wave of his hand and a charming smile, he dismisses the question. "Just wondering. Will I see you tonight? I have a friendly match with the guys, but you know, after?"

"Actually, I have plans with Angela. But I'll call you." She pauses to give him a smile. "Is that alright?"

He grins, pleased with her answer. "Yeah, of course."


(It had all started a few weeks ago, around five days after the Eame's case and her confession to Booth…)


She felt sad.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling, but she felt it, felt the ripping, wrenching sting of sadness, and yet at the same time … felt alive. And so she made a conscious effort to adjust accordingly, all the while she tried to go back to normal without losing the one thing she'd gained that night: a lesson about taking chances.

Only problem was, she was terrified of losing Booth. So damn appalled that she couldn't even think about the scenario without feeling an invisible — and metaphorical, of course — hand closing around the left side of her chest.

What would become of them now?

The months following their return had been different, yes, but they had managed to re-build their partnership around it and ease into a new dynamic that, although it contrasted heavily with the old one, had worked for them. Now everything that she had been holding back during that time was out in the open, raw and palpable, and she was uncertain of what exactly was it that had been set in motion by their exchange that night. She knew, however, that something between them had shifted.

Damn it, there it was: the irrational tugging at her heart she felt whenever she thought about it. She was about to lose him completely.

"But that's not gonna happen, sweetie," Angela assured her almost a week after that evening. "Okay, so we all know he's in love—" (the disdainful way in which she uttered those two last words turned Brennan's stomach upside-down) "but you're you. I mean, it's been six years — seven, even, if you think about the first case the two of you had together, and wellit's too much to forget. You can't possible move on from something like that."

They were sitting on the couch in Brennan's office, both of them clutching one cup of coffee each — Angela's shameless bribe before starting the interrogation. The artist had been trying to find out what had happened that rainy night for several days, so when Brennan finally gave up with a sigh and a smile, she'd known not to interrupt.

Each of Angela's senses was focused on the sequence of events she was being told, and when Brennan fell silent, she couldn't help but hug her as tightly as humanly possible. And then, for the first time in a long time, Brennan admitted she was scared. Scared of losing Booth, of destroying what was left of their relationship, whatever that was. Angela listened attentively as Brennan spoke, feeling torn, proud and helpless, all at the same time, and just as she'd been done reassuring Brennan of what she believed was the strength of their partnership, Booth had waltzed into the office as if he'd known he was the main topic of their conversation.

"Bones. Hey, Bones, you in here?" he called, eyes scanning the room until they landed on her. "We have a case."

He swallowed against the lump in his throat as his gaze met Brennan's, but then caught sight of the repressed fury in Angela's, and all walls were up again. He'd be a fool to think Angela wasn't up to date with the recent events, and even though the thought of his partner recounting what had happened that rainy night made his stomach drop, he did feel better about the fact that Brennan had someone to talk to. Someone who cared and was there unconditionally.

"What?" he hissed, walking towards the couch and taking the cup from Brennan's hands. "They're waiting for us, alright? Get your coat and let's vamos. C'mon, chop chop. Let's go."

Angela stood up from the couch and looked down at her friend. "You, me and drinks tonight. Well, you and drinks, and me sitting right next to you drinking water. But you get the idea, right?"

Brennan smiled. "I do."

The artist left the office (not without shooting a glare in Booth's direction), and so the partners were left alone.

"So?" Booth rubbed the back of his neck, seemingly nervous. His voice had gone significantly softer and his words of choice, a lot more cautious. "You coming? You know those bodies get all smelly and nasty after a while, so we better, y'know," he motioned leaving the office, "get going."

And there it was: the charm smile. The one he always, always used when he wanted to achieve something. Brennan simply shook her head, grabbed her coat, and followed him out of the lab.

Painfully silent, that's what the car ride was.

Their conversation had gone cold soon after they had left the Jeffersonian, and neither of them had put any real effort on keeping it alive; Brennan because she felt that perhaps it was better for him that way, and Booth because he was feeling too damn troubled to even try.

But he had to. He had to try.

For the seventh time since silence had taken over, he glanced at her from the corner of his eye and sucked in a breath. "So, um, Bones, we haven't really—haven't really spoken the last few days. You alright?"

Brennan did her best not to think of the fact that they had only talked once after he took her home that night, and that said exchange had only occurred because of some reports the Hoover needed her to send. She did her best not to think about it, but failed miserably.

Left side of her chest still a tad clenched, she fixed her eyes on the flickering landscape. "Yes, of course. Lack of communication isn't unusual in between cases, Booth. We have both been quite busy."

His gaze flickered between her and the road, hands closing around the steering wheel. Her damn rationality riled him up almost as much as the accuracy supporting it — because she was, of course, right in her train of thought. Communication between them outside of cases had been anything but sporadic over the last few months. It killed him a little bit, just thinking about the role he had played in that. It killed him almost as much as thinking of the fact that she could've God, she could have

But she didn't. She was well, and alive, and sitting right next to him. That fact alone was enough for him to try.

"Listen, Bones, about that night... you know, the doctor's case..."

Brennan's eyes traveled from the landscape to him. "What about it?"

In all honesty, she didn't feel they had anything more to discuss about when it came to that night. It was all hers to deal with, after all, and she would adapt accordingly.

"Are we—I mean, you and I" Fuck, was his shaky voice as obvious to her as it was to him? "Listen, Bonesare we good?"

Hardly a heartbeat, and—

"Of course, Booth. There is no reason for us not to be, I would hope."

Booth let out a breath. "Right. Okay, great, because... y'know, it was a tough case and we both said things that" That they didn't really mean? He knew it was a lie. At least when it came to her, she obviously meant all of it. God, he'd never seen her like that before. "And then I" He fixed his eyes on the road again, unable to even spare her a glance. And then he'd just dropped her off like they had shared a ride home from the diner. "I didn't think it through, y'know? And I'mI'm so sorry for leaving like that."

And he was.

The guilt had been eating him up for days now, ever since he'd gotten home that night. He had barely been able to stop replaying their conversation in his head. Every single one of her words, the tears. His answer, that coldness so alien to him, to them. Everything was so clear and sharp in his mind, like a goddamn high quality movie that burned hot under his eyelids. He had paced his living room for what felt like hours after dropping her off, refusing to go to bed, his mind set on not letting himself fall back to the pattern that had brought them to that point in the first place. When they had called him and told him they had found a body, he had jumped to his feet and gotten to the Jeffersonian in record time, happy to have an excuse to see her, to make sure she was okay.

"Booth" Brennan shook her head, offering him an out. "Don't worry about it. I'm adjusting."

He had to swallow all following questions. He had no right to be hurt. He'd made his choice, and she … well, she had all the right to adjust and move on just like he had done.

Once again, his hands clenched around the wheel. "Yeah?"

A vague "yes" from her lips put an end to the conversation.

They drove in near silence for the rest of the way.


It was a busy night.

People came and went, glasses were raised in pointless speeches and the chattering seemed endless. Brennan reclaimed her seat next to Angela at the bar, lifted her finger at the bartender, and turned to look at her friend after getting her order across.

"The new case is awful," Angela commented. "I mean, did you see the state of that body?" She shivered, and Brennan opened her mouth to reply, but Angela stopped herself before taking a sip from her mineral water. "It's a rhetorical question, sweetie. I know you did."

"Oh," Brennan said with a nod. "What I find extremely disturbing is the amount of time that is taking us to find the murder weapon."

At that, Angela chuckled humourlessly. "Bren, it's literally been less than a day since the remains were brought in."

She shot her friend a look. "Yes, but we've run several tests already, none of which have supplied satisfactory results, and if you hadn't practically abducted me from the Jeffersonian I would probably have made progress by now. We need the murder weapon to get a conviction."

"Trust me, you need this more," Angela retorted, nodding significantly towards Brennan's glass of wine, the third since they'd gotten to the Founding Fathers. "Plus, Wendell seemed to need a night off too, even if his plans were to go home and sleep until the end of the world."

Home. Brennan pondered about it, about how everyone around her seemed to have a reason to go back to their places. She cast a look at her friend's growing belly, and a smile touched her lips. "It's getting late. Hodgins must be wondering where you are."

"He knows I'm with you, Bren." Angela finished her water in one large sip. "But you're probably right," she said as her eyes caught sight of the time on her watch. "Want to share a cab?"

Brennan shook her head. "I think I'll stay a little bit longer."

"You sure? Honey, I don't mind staying."

"No, no. Go home." She held up her glass, giving it a light wave in the air. "I'll finish this and leave." But Angela didn't move. "Go, Ange. I'll be fine."

Knowing when to rest her case, Angela let out a sigh and leaned in to give Brennan a hug. "Okay, okay. No need to get cranky. I'll see you tomorrow, honey."

A few seconds later, she was out of the door.

But Brennan didn't leave after finishing her third glass, or the fourth, or the fifth. She simply sat by the counter, staring at the dark red liquid, enjoying its savour every now and then, seemingly forgetting about time altogether. It was strangely soothing, being witness of other people rushing in and out of the place, watching and observing from the corner of her eye without having to get involved in their lives.

She was in that state, completely immerse in her thoughts, when his voice rang from behind.

"So, tell me, how much do you regret it?"

It wasn't possible. It couldn't be. She turned around, eyes widening.

Smiling tiredly, he sat next to her. "On a scale from one to ten, I mean."

"What are you—what are you doing here?" Brennan managed out. He was definitely not someone she was expecting to meet that night, or any time for that matter.

"Good to see ya' too, kid," he said as he waved to the bartender. "I'm ordering a drink. What about you, care to join me?"

At her nod, the bartender poured some scotch into two small glasses and slid them towards them. His disappeared after one sip, but Brennan's remained untouched. It seemed unreal, sitting next to him, and she stole a moment for herself. Just a moment to study him in silence. His hair was shorter than the last time she had seen him at that harbour, but equally as untidy, and slightly lighter, too (a consequence of the tropical climate, she assumed). Other than that, he was pretty much the same, clad in a black coat (a grey hood hung out from his nape) and wearing dark, deep circles under each eye.

"When did you get back?" she inquired.

"Today, actually. Landed on good old D.C. a few hours ago and I'm already craving a drink."

She smiled, a hint of sarcasm running through her voice as she said, "I remember your plan being to come home after one year. It's been four."

Seemingly unfazed by her tone of voice, he gave a light shrug. "Well, things change. Life happens. You know, the usual. What about you?"

"What about me?" she echoed.

"I mean…" He leaned in, nearly closing the gap between them, and gestured to the surrounding crowd, drawing an invisible circle around the place with his finger. "What's your excuse for being here, surrounded by these idiots? Doesn't seem like your crowd to me."

Idiots. People who didn't mind lingering outside until late into the night. People who didn't have a reason to go home.

She scoffed, a tiny shred of intoxication breaking through her steel façade. "Perhaps I'm just like them."

Upon registering her words, he clicked his tongue and gave her a condescending look. "Temperance Brennan."

"Tim Sullivan," she shot back.

"Ouch," he feigned hurt, a dramatic hand coming to rest on his chest. "That really doesn't sound right coming from you."

Seeing as bickering was not among the activities she wanted to cross from her list right then and there, she gave in.

"Sully, then."

A smile spread across his face as he watched her knock back her shot, and his eyes were still fixed on her when she turned to look at him. She'd missed that after he left. Sure, she'd missed him too, but the ache had faded away after some time, making her realize that she had, in fact, made the right decision by staying. But that smile combined with the way he used to look at her it made her feel like she was important. Like somebody cared.

Abruptly, he chuckled, looked away, then turned to face her again, still smiling. "Wanna get out of here?"

Brennan considered him for a moment, the enough amount of time for her to notice that, as irrational as it might be, his eyes were full of things she did not recognize, things that weren't there four years ago. Then again, he probably saw those two things in hers, too.

She pushed away the empty glass. "Sure."

They left some bills on the counter and walked out of the busy bar, the icy breeze of 2 AM hitting them harder than expected. He kept his hands in his pockets and she her eyes on the ground as they walked through some blocks in silence, until—

"You haven't changed, you know?" he said. "Not really."

At this, Brennan looked up to him. "Everything changes," she stated.

He gave a small laugh. "Not everything. See? Here we are, four years later, and you still manage to take my breath away."

"Sully," she froze on the spot for the tiniest of seconds, "I"

"What?" he asked with a grin. "It's the truth. Come on, you need some sleep. Let's not linger in the cold."

It was, indeed, cold, almost unbearable so, yet neither of them felt it because of the effects of the scotch now burning inside them. It felt good, walking with him late at night; it was certainly better than just taking a cab alone. She understood that Sully knew her in a way that nobody else did, not even Booth or Angela. Even if they hadn't seen each other in years, Sully had still managed to get her to leave the bar with him, just so she would get some sleep and be safe. Just reaching that conclusion made her feel secure already.

No further words were exchanged until they got to her apartment. Once on her floor, the key turned in the lock and unlocked the door with a sharp click that cut through the entire building. Before she opened it to disappear inside, Brennan turned around and found him standing right behind her, barely a few inches of space separating them.

Eyes wide, she drew in a breath and her lips parted to ask a question to which she, for some reason, already knew the answer.

"Would you like to come in?"

He took her face in his palms and leaned in, brushing his lips against hers and finally placing a kiss on them, a kiss that started to grow deeper and stronger the instant she began reciprocating it. Without parting apart, they entered the apartment, somehow managing to close the door behind them and stumbling their way to the bedroom.

Just like that, she was lost.