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AN: Here we are; the last chapter of this story- this one was NOT easy, I assure you; getting Brennan's emotional state done to my satisfaction wasn't exactly straightforward-, and I hope that it's been enjoyable reading for all of you

The Sister in the Door

As Booth walked into Bones's office in the Jeffersonian, he was just grateful that he'd managed to get that far without running into anyone else; what he was about to say would be hard enough to say the first time around, but he wanted to be able to say it directly to Bones so that he could get the hardest one out of the way.

"Hey, Bones," he said, smiling slightly at her as he closed the door behind him; the walls being glass might limit the privacy they could get, but anything that gave them a chance to talk without interruption was good right now.

"Booth?" Brennan said, looking at him with an uncertain smile. "How's... everything?"

"Well, the FBI's being pretty good about it all, although that's probably because Cullen and Riley came up with a cover story while we were busy," Booth said, shrugging in what he hoped was a convincingly nonchalant manner. "Cullen's going with our cover story about Angelus being a criminal I put away- we're claiming that even we're not sure who he was; there's a few guys I've dealt with who've died in a manner that they could have simply faked their deaths, and at least a couple of them had the skills and contacts to do what Angelus was trying to pull here-, but there's still going to be a few awkward questions; I'm suspended for a week or so until the enquiry's sorted out to everyone's satisfaction."

"Enquiry?" Bones said, looking at him with a slight trace of fear. "Could you-?"

"With my track record and Cullen backing up my story?" Booth interrupted, smiling reassuringly at his partner. "Trust me, Bones; I am not losing my job over this."

"That's... that's good," Bones said, smiling at him before she suddenly looked more awkward. "Booth..."

"What?" Booth asked, smiling slightly at her. "Something wrong?"

"I was wondering..." Bones said, before she looked more directly at him. "Now that Kathy's here... would you have any objections to us burying her here?"

"What?" Booth said, looking at her in surprise; he was almost ashamed to admit that, amid the chaos of everything he'd had to deal with over the last couple of days, he'd virtually forgotten that he still had to deal with his sister's relocated remains.

"Well, I acknowledge that there's probably some importance in her being buried back in Ireland for you, but on the other hand, given that you're the only person left alive who would particularly care about where she rests-" Bones began.

"Bones," Booth said, holding up a hand to smile at her. "That'd be... well, so long as you can come up with a good explanation for it all, that'd be great."

There would probably be some issues about the dates he'd need to leave on the gravestone to sort out when the time came; should he put Kathy's real birth and death dates on the stone, leave it blank, or alter the dates to fit his current physical age?-, but he'd worry about those later; right now, he had more important matters to attend to.

"Anyway," he said, swallowing slightly as he looked at his partner, "now that Angelus is... dust... well, I'll be applying for a transfer-"

"What?" Bones said, standing up from her seat as she looked at him. "But-"

"Look, I get that you handled yourself all right this time around," Booth began- if he was going to break things off with them, he didn't want Bones to go away with incorrect assumptions-, "but this is for your own good-"

"How is this 'for my own good'?" Bones said, walking around the desk to glare at him. "Angelus is dead, there's no possibility of the First bringing him back, and you said yourself that it wouldn't want to draw too much attention to itself by alerting anyone else from your past; there is no danger from it-"

"This isn't just about your safety from that part of my life, Bones, it's about your ability to cope with what I brought into your life," Booth said, looking uncomfortably at her- why did the women he loved always make it so hard for him to do the right thing for them?- even as he forced himself to continue speaking. "I just thought... well, after everything that's happened... look, Bones, I pretty much represent everything you've spent your life believing didn't exist-"

"I don't put that much stock in psychology, Booth; remember?" Bones said, smiling at him in a slightly tremulous manner that Booth didn't need his long experience with Doctor Temperance Brennan to know that she was trying to say something to both of them rather than just him. "Besides, you're making a simple yet incorrect assumption."

"Which is?" Booth asked, looking uncertainly at her; he'd been able to convince himself that Buffy needed more than he had on offer, but Bones had come to mean so much more to him in so many different ways...

"You're assuming that I still define everything based on my belief in science," Bones said, shrugging slightly as she smiled at him, her tone of voice shockingly casual as she spoke the words that contradicted so many things Booth had thought he knew about his partner. "I rely on science as a starting point to help me find the answers I'm looking for... but when it fails me, I rely on you."

Booth had no idea what to say about that statement.

The idea that Bones had faith in him was something he'd known ever since the Gravedigger case- she and Hodgins hadn't talked about that incident that much, but that particular detail had been revealed to him while he and Hodgins was having a few drinks-, but the idea that she had that much faith in him...

"Really?" he said, looking at her with a smile. "Uh... thanks, Bones."

"'Thanks'?" Bones repeated, looking back at him with a slightly teasing smile, her previously pointed stare relaxing as she spoke.

"Well, it's a bit inadequate, I know, but it's all I can think of-" Booth began.

"Talking of you... thinking about things," Bones said, holding up her hand with an expression on her face that suggested that she had just come to a decision in her own little internal conflict; whatever she had decided to say, she wanted to say it as soon as possible. "What Angelus said... about how you wouldn't leave me unless you had to..."

"He meant it," Booth said, knowing where his partner was about to go with that line of questioning, even as he held up his hand to stop her later protest at the apparent contradiction. "But that's why I felt that I should leave; I don't want to-"

"You won't," Bones said, looking firmly at him for a moment. "You won't affect my life, Booth; this is a change, but it's a far less drastic one than the one you're proposing."

For a moment, the two maintained their gaze before Bones's stare faltered as she looked down, swallowing slightly as though fighting down an urge.

"Bones?" Booth said, all thoughts of his own departure forgotten as he looked at the lost, shaken expression on her face. "What... what is it?"

"In your past..." the anthropologist said, before she shook her head and looked firmly at him. "Did you love them?"

"Did I love... who?" Booth asked, looking uncertainly at her.

"Buffy and Cordelia," Bones finished, still staring intently at him. "Did you love them?"

There were so many possible responses that Booth could give to that question, starting with the point that his old relationships were none of her business and progressing from there, but right now, as he looked at the woman before him, with that same strange mixture of strength and weakness that had made him fall in love with her so long ago, he knew that there was only one response he could give.

"I did," he said, nodding in acknowledgement of Bones's comment, only to hold up a hand to halt her as she turned to leave; if she wanted to avoid this issue after raising it, she was going to fail in that goal spectacularly.

"But..." he said, taking a deep breath before he finally said the words he'd been waiting to say for longer than even he knew, "that doesn't mean I don't love you."

I love you...

As moments of confession went, this probably ranked as one of the most inconvenient and inappropriate moments of all time, but considering Booth's past romantic track record, he supposed that he was just continuing a theme of making confessions at awkward moments.

"The thing about love, Bones," he said as he looked at her, praying that she'd accept this explanation even if he knew that it wasn't one of his best, "is that, when it's deep enough- when it's true enough-, you never really get over it, even if circumstances force you to at least try and move on. No matter how hard I try, a part of me will always love Buffy, and a part of me will always miss Cordelia... but, in a life that's lasted almost three hundred years, I can honestly say that- with the obvious exceptions of my sons and my sister-, I have only truly loved three people... and you're the third."

"Not even Rebecca?" Bones asked, looking at him in surprise. "But... you asked her to marry you-"

"Loving someone doesn't mean you're in love with them, Bones; there's a whole different level of feeling there that this isn't the time or place to be getting into," Booth said, waving a hand dismissively even as he kept his focus on his partner. "Loving someone could progress to the point where you're in love with them... but, when you know you're in love with someone, no amount of time apart or disagreements can change that fundamental fact."

"But..." Bones said, shaking her head as she looked at him in confusion, a part of her obviously wanting to believe him even as she resorted to her knee-jerk reaction when faced with complicated emotions by trying to avoid them. "You said yourself that your feelings for them have changed-"

"Angelus didn't lie that I'd loved them, but he also didn't lie when he said I'd never leave you," Booth said (He couldn't believe he was using something Angelus had said to support his argument, but right now he'd try anything to get his point across). "I only left them because my curse made it too dangerous for me to be around Buffy and Cordelia died; the first issue doesn't apply any more, and as for the second... well, I think we can both agree that neither of us are going to die any time soon, so everything that drove me to leave them isn't going to apply here."

"But you changed while you were with them-" Brennan began, shaking her head slightly as though trying not to focus on the fact that he had just admitted that he loved her.

"I've changed while I'm with you and you've changed while you're with me; so what?" Booth asked, shrugging slightly as he looked at her. "People affect each other when they're in relationships, Bones; the scale of the changes can vary, but every good relationship depends on each partner bringing out the best in the other and helping them to grow as people. Buffy helped inspire me to start helping people rather than just skulking in the shadows like I had been since I left Darla while I helped inspire her to accept her destiny as the Slayer, Cordelia helped me get back in touch with people- before I started working with her in L.A. everyone I spent time with only knew me because they knew Buffy- while I gave her a greater purpose in life than being the richest girl in Sunnydale, and then, after I'd spent a few years alone in the army and the FBI... well, here you are."

"And... how did I help you grow?" Brennan asked, looking uncertainly at him, immediate emotional concerns momentarily unimportant in the face of her confusion about that particular issue.

"You helped me recognise that there's a beauty in the future and the past that we can bring together rather than requiring it to be one or the other," Booth said, smiling slightly at her as he spoke. "In a world where I spent so long relying on the skills I'd always used in the past- aim, intuition, knowledge of how killers think, beating the crap out of the other guy, that kind of thing-, you helped me understand more about the modern world in a way that I wouldn't have been able to before, giving me someone to protect who could also protect me... we each came into this mess as equals who could make each other stronger, rather than coming in with one of us obviously 'superior' to the other in some areas."

"You taught me how to understand people-" Brennan began.

"You understood people, you just didn't know how translate what you understood into something that you could understand; that's not the same thing," Booth said, correcting her with a tender smile. "The point is, Bones, that each of us came into this relationship with some understanding of what the other one could bring to this dynamic even if we couldn't handle it ourselves; all we've done since then is help each other grow and develop, but that just means we're better suited for a relationship now compared to how we were then."

"Actually, that's something else I was thinking about," Bones said, looking at him with a suddenly renewed sense of discomfort about her. "Everyone from your time as Angel... well... now that they know you're alive-"

"They don't, Bones," Booth interrupted. "Maybe Angelus would have attracted some attention, but we've staked him and nobody else would know what he looked like; I might need to be a bit more careful than I would be normally for the next few weeks or so in case I attract the wrong kind of attention, but there's no reason for anyone from that time to think I'm still alive, and Riley's not in regular enough contact with them to bother doing it himself."

"Oh," Bones said, smiling briefly at the thought of what he'd said before she focused on more immediate issues. "But... well, if you had the chance to go back to them-"

"I wouldn't take it," Booth said firmly.

"You wouldn't?" Brennan said, looking at him in surprise. "But if you still love Buffy-"

"Circumstances arose that meant that we could never hope to be together back then, and I moved on from that point in my life," Booth said, looking solemnly at her as he walked over to take her hand, looking her directly in the eyes as he spoke. "Even if those circumstances don't apply any more, Buffy and I have gone our separate ways since we were last together; if I'd found a way to stay with her at the time, I would have taken it, but as it is, who I am now has no place in her life, any more than she has a place in mine."

"You'd have stayed with her?" Bones asked.

"If I'd had the chance at the time, yes, but that doesn't matter; what matters is that I'm here now," Booth said, rolling his eyes in momentary exasperation before he looked resolutely at her. "If you'd been able to, wouldn't you have stayed with Sully?"

"That's not the same-" Brennan began.

"It's exactly the same," Booth said, looking firmly at her. "You were happy together until Sully made a choice, and it set off a chain of events that helped you realise that you couldn't be with him. There may be a more supernatural element involved here, but the same rule applies; someone, somewhere, made a choice, and that choice led me to a point where Buffy, Cordelia and I had to go our separate ways, just as someone made a choice that led to you and Sully going in different directions. What brought us here doesn't matter, Bones; what matters is that we're here now, and what you want to happen between us is up to you."

For a moment, the two of them simply looked silently at each other, their hands still joined, until Booth reached up with the hand that wasn't holding Brennan's to lightly stroke the side of her face.

"Look, I'm not saying this is going to be easy, Bones," he said, brushing a slightly loose tendril of hair out of her face as he stared at her. "I get that we have our differences, I get that we don't agree on a lot of things, and I get that I'm asking a lot of you to accept everything about me... but I also know that, if you want me to stay, I'll stay, and, if you didn't want a relationship, I'd back off... but I'd be here for when you did want me, no matter what happened in the intervening time."

For a moment, as they stared at each other, Booth could almost see the conflict inside his partner's eyes, the part of her that always run in the past warring with the part of her that wanted to stay, all coming together in that incredible combination of strength and fragility that he would do anything to protect while knowing that she would always be willing to protect him in the process...

"So..." he said, looking at her with a tender, uncertain smile. "What'll it be?"

After a moment of almost torturous silence, Bones leaned forward and met his lips with hers, the two relaxing into the kiss as though they had always been meant to be there and everything leading up to that moment had been nothing but practise, the moment when everything in their past ceased to matter as they finally came together...

They might come from different backgrounds and represent virtually opposing views of how the world around them worked, but they were here now; as far as the man who was now known as Seeley Booth was concerned, that was all that mattered.

AN 2: Well, there you have it; my conclusion to 'The Sister in the Door', which I hope met with your satisfaction.

But, if you want to see some more in this universe, fear not; not only am I still working on 'Angel of the Bones'- which remains essentially the 'prequel' to this-, but I have plans to do at least one more short story set after these events, looking at how Booth and Brennan's relationship has impacted other details of their lives...

Just keep your eyes peeled for 'The Epiphany in the Darkest Hour', coming soon to a site near you!