A/N: This is the promised M-rated sequel to my A Season of Hope. It, too, was first posted at the Bonesology forum - while I'll always eventually post things here, I find nearly everything about this site annoying, so it takes me a while to get around to messing with it. :) (Apologies for that!)

A/N: This is complete - if I continue with the story, I'll do so with a separate sequel, rather than add another chapter to this.

A Season of Love

Even given the conversation they'd been having, and their shared acknowledgement of what was between them, her kiss took him by surprise.

They'd kissed before – in heat, for fun, in desperation – but never before as a way of sealing something precious between them, and for a moment, he simply relished that before responding to her kiss. He pulled her closer to him, allowed his tongue to tangle with hers as they took their time with this particular beginning.

A chill wind and snow starting to melt on the back of his neck finally caused him to begin to separate from her.

"There was tongue contact," she murmured against his mouth.

He grinned and rubbed his cheek against hers, then looked down at her. "Shall we call Sweets and tell him?"

Her expression was smug. "No, it would be unfair to do so over the phone. He'll want to broil us."

The glint in her eye told him she'd used the wrong term deliberately, and he laughed, loving her for it.

"So where were you headed when I caught up with you?"

"Into the village, to get something for my evening meal, though I was also considering just taking a walk and ordering something from takeout later."

"Shall we walk, then?"

"I'd like that." But instead of moving, she pressed her lips to his again.

Booth made a noise of approval and tightened his hold on her, now unfazed by the snow. Kissing her was everything he'd wanted it to be, dreamed it could be, known it would be, and somehow the weather suited his mood. That they could find pleasure in something as simple as a kiss while a snowstorm intensified around them…well, wasn't that true of their lives, generally? That they'd found one another, finally found their way to one another, despite chaos within and without?

The philosophical nature of his thoughts amused him and he was smiling when they broke apart for breath. Then he heard, distantly, a choir. It took a moment to identify the piece they were singing, and he laughed aloud.

He'd thought he might have to explain why he found the music amusing, but instead he saw she was laughing herself.

"There is something vastly amusing about the timing of that," she said.

He grinned at her, and then they turned toward the sound while listening to the choir sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah.

"I remember Mrs. Benson saying several choirs do a joint concert in the town square a few nights before Christmas each year," she said.

"Mrs. Bensen?"

"The owner of the bed and breakfast."

"Ah. Would you like to walk over and listen?"

She shook her head. "I'd prefer just to be with you. But if we follow the path along the stream through the park to the water, we would be able to hear much of it."

Touched, he leaned down and rested his forehead against hers. "I like the idea of being just with you, too."

She tucked her arm in his and rested her head on his shoulder as they crossed the bridge and turned onto the footpath. The path was well lit, not only by street lights fashioned to look like old style lamps, but some of the trees were decorated with Christmas lights as well. Although he wouldn't have tried to explain it to her, there was something magical about walking alone with her through the snow and lights, while somewhere in distance a choir sang about the most wonderful time of year.

They simply wandered for a while through the little park. Although she'd mentioned the path leading to the wharf, they kept turning back, neither of them wishing to encounter people. Eventually, he knew, they'd have to get warm and dry, but for the moment he was content not to think about what came next.

He wasn't sure what gave away when her mood changed – some tension in her body posture, perhaps.

"Bones? What is it?"

She paused, turned and looked at him, and he was grateful they were near enough a lamp for him to see her clearly. Her expression was guarded, but in her eyes he saw anxiety.

"I don't know how to do this, you know."

"Do what?"

"Be in a relationship." She motioned between them. "I'll disappoint you."

"Have you considered I'll disappoint you at times, too?"

She shook her head. "Not like that. I'm not good at relationships. I don't know what to do, how to be."

"Well, you've never been in a relationship with me, before." At her look, he grinned, and rubbed his thumb over her cheek. "Have you even attempted a relationship with someone who really loved you?" he asked gently.

She pulled away from slightly and looked away. "No, but there was no reason for them to love me. I didn't know how to be what they needed or wanted." She looked back at him. "I wasn't sure I wanted to be what they needed or wanted," she said baldly.

"Is that how it works? You are what they need, so they love you?"

She frowned. "No, but if I'm not what they need, why should they love me?"

"I don't know about them, but you are what I need, just as you are. And I love you."

"But we've not tried this before. Being a couple."

"What is it you think I'll need or want from you that you won't be able to give me, or won't want to give me, because we're a couple?"

Her expression was the same one she wore when puzzled by bones, and he wanted to hug her.
"I'm not good at being there for people, Booth. You'll need me in some way and I'll let you down."

He hesitated, wondered if he should say the first thing that popped into his brain. But honesty between them was essential. "I can only think of one time you let me down, Bones."

"When I said no that night in front of the Hoover building?"

He shook his head. "It disappointed me, but that was your right, to tell me no." Though 'devastated and nearly destroyed' was closer to the mark.

"What, then?"

"When you left." Before she could speak, he said, "you asked me if we could continue to work together that night, and I said yes even without knowing how I could make it work. I tried my damnest and then…you just left."

She took a sharp breath. "Being asked to lead the expedition in Maluku was an honor, Booth. It could have been the most important archaeological discovery of our lifetime." Her tone had an edge to it. "If I can only be what you need from me if I no longer go on digs-"

"Stop." He grabbed her shoulders, gave her a none-too-gentle shake. "Of course you'll go on digs. You're the world's best forensic anthropologist. And no one was prouder of you than I was when they asked you to lead it." Realizing he was clutching her tightly enough to leave bruises if not for her heavy coat, he dropped his hands, shoved them in his pockets and stepped back a bit. He glanced at her, then away. "Did you miss me?"

"What?"

Hating the vulnerability he heard in his voice, he grimly repeated the question. "Did you miss me at all while you were in Maluku? Did you ever think about me?" She didn't respond right away and memories of the despair he'd felt when weeks had turned to months with no word from her had him taking another involuntary step back.

"I taught myself not to miss people who were absent from my life when I was fifteen. The pain was pointless and interfered with my ability to do what needed to be done." Her tone was flat, clinical in nature.

Damn Max and Ruth Keenan, and Russ, too. He scrubbed his hands over his face, brushed the snow off in frustration. What possible response to that could he make? That yes, he'd wanted her to miss him, to hurt the way he had?

"But I talked about you so often Ms. Wick commented on it," her voice had gone quiet, and so uncertain he nearly didn't hear her.

He turned, looked at her. She was pale, and the light reflected a sheen in her eyes. He saw her swallow, then she doggedly continued. "Yes, I was aware of your absence, as I have been every time I've gone on a dig since we became partners. Always before, I had been able to put it away, focus on the work. But in Maluku, I somehow got more work done on the days I let myself think of you. The days I talked of you with Ms. Wick."

For a moment, relief made him light-headed. She'd missed him, after all. When he looked back at her, she was still standing there, an uncertain, defeated look on her face. He stepped back to her, cupped her face in his hands, and touched his lips to hers. "Do you know what you just did, Bones?"

"What do you mean?"

"You just took care of me. You gave me something I needed." A tear was making its way down her cheek and he brushed it away. "Even when remembering it hurt you."

"I don't understand."

He lowered his forehead to hers and his voice was rough when he responded. "I understand why you reacted the way you did when you were a kid, but it's normal to miss people you love when you're away from them. When you didn't contact me, I assumed it meant you didn't miss me, didn't care for me, even as a friend."

Her mouth opened and closed and she shook her head, another tear dropping. "It never occurred to me you were missing me that much," she admitted.

"I was," he said simply. "I always will."

"But you still want me to go."

"On digs? Of course. You need that. I just need to know you'll miss me." He wondered if any of it was making sense to her.

"And writing or calling would help?"

Her tone was at once confused and determined, and love rose up in a wave. "Yes."

"I believe I would like that, as well. Perhaps if I had been able to talk to you, I would not have annoyed Ms. Wick so much."

He snorted. "Given what she does to other people, annoying her was a good thing."

"Booth." She pulled her head back a bit to look at him. "She has the potential to be a very good forensic anthropologist."

"Hmm. I'm happy for her." And he had no desire at all to discuss Daisy Wick. He brushed her lips again with his, uncertain, though, what to say next.

She pulled back again. "I'm sorry I hurt you that way. It was not my intent."

"I know that, Bones," he said gently. "Do you see, though, that by caring about it, by thinking about what would make it easier for me when you're gone, you're doing what you were afraid you couldn't do? You're telling me that what I need and want is important to you?"

Her expression thoughtful, she nodded, then rested her face in his shoulder. "We'll figure it out," he murmured. "One day at a time, we'll figure out what we both need."

They stood that way until he realized she was shivering. They'd been standing in one place too long in the snow.

"It's snowing harder," he said. "We probably need to curtail our walk."

She turned her face up to him. "Yes. Becoming hypothermic would be unwise. But what happens now?"

"That's up to you." He knew what he wanted, but they both had to be on the same page. "I can walk you back to the bed and breakfast and then get a room in a hotel, or I can stay," he said simply. "If I stay, we can take it from there."

"Do you wish to engage in intercourse with me, Booth?"

He grinned at her candor, then shook his head. "I want to make love to you," he clarified. "More than I can say. But only if we're both ready."

"You mean ready emotionally." She frowned. "I do not know how to determine that. But I would like to experience making love with you."

He hugged her. "Me, too, Bones. Me, too."

They started walking again, more quickly now but her arm was once more through his, her head on his shoulder.

Brennan thought about what he'd said, tried to understand it. She'd hurt him by leaving, only it hadn't so much been when she left, but when she'd not contacted him. She really didn't know how to tell him that it hadn't occurred to her he'd miss her. She'd imagined him so many times while they were apart, but every time she had, he'd been just being Booth – competent, teaching the recruits, talking to Parker over the internet. She'd never imagined him thinking of her, let alone missing her the way she now understood he had.

It scared her. How could she make him understand that if she had hurt him like that once unintentionally, she'd no doubt do so again? And yet, his focus hadn't been on what she'd done, but rather on her willingness to set things straight, to tell him the truth. Did you miss me?

But wouldn't the day come when a willingness to try and fix the things she did wrong wouldn't be sufficient? How could he love her enough to endure the mistakes she'd make, over and over?

Was she making one now? She didn't know what to expect of what was going to happen between them, beyond knowing that she would do her best to give him more physical pleasure than he'd ever before experienced. She could do that for him, or try. But he was simply assuming they'd both have emotional responses as well. What would it do to him if she didn't? If she couldn't? Was she setting him up for more hurt?

That wasn't accurate, she realized. She probably would have an emotional response to sex with him. But would it be the one he was looking for?

"You're thinking too hard," he said.

Startled, she looked up, realized they were at the B&B, or rather were at the SUV, parked next to hers in the little parking area next to the house. She didn't know what to say, so pulled away so he could open the back and pull out a duffle bag.

"I wasn't going to drive back to D.C. tonight, regardless," he said. "If you'd not wanted me to stay, I would still have gone to a hotel."

"That seems wise." Did the words sound as lame and pointless to him as they did to her?

"Bones." His voice was quiet as he leaned over, kissed her lightly. "We'll figure it out, what works for us. It doesn't have to be what would work for anyone else. Got it?"

"I don't know what that means."

"You will." He grinned at her, then motioned to the front of the house. "Let's start by getting thawed out."

The B&B was a sprawling Victorian, and as she led him up the steps she pulled out a key. "The room keys all open the front door," she noted. "I have a suite of two rooms on the second floor. The main floor is the dining room and a communal sitting room, and, in the back, the owner's apartment."

He smiled slightly and nodded, and she knew he was wondering why she was explaining the layout of the house to him. She didn't know. She did know he knew she was nervous, and that annoyed her.

As she started to lead him up the stairs, a door closed and she saw Mrs. Bensen coming toward them, a smile on her face but her eyes alight with curiosity. "You're back. I thought you might have stayed in the village to listen to the music."

Brennan didn't know what to say. Booth's identity and their relationship wasn't any of the other woman's business, but she'd been an excellent host.

"I'm Seeley Booth, Mrs. Bensen," Booth said, dropping his bag and reaching out to take her hand. "I'm Bones' partner."

He said the word 'partner' with a slight emphasis that allowed it to mean anything, and the irony that the other woman would probably assume it meant romantic or sexual – areas they were yet to explore – instead of what it had meant all the other times he'd said it, amused her.

"Of course," Mrs. Bensen beamed. "I thought it odd such a beautiful woman would be alone right before Christmas."

Brennan smiled at her, but was suddenly struck by a wave of awareness of how many Christmases she had been alone.

"I couldn't get down here until now," Booth replied and Brennan was torn between annoyance that he was creating a fictitious history for the woman and gratitude that he was handling it.

Mrs. Bensen suddenly resumed the courteous demeanor she'd worn every other time they'd spoken. "Well, it's very good that you're here now," she said, smiling. "Go on up and get dry. Dr. Brennan will tell you about breakfast hours and options, as well as what I call the 'peckish closet' – light snacks I keep down here most of the time."

Finding her voice again, Brennan said, "I will do that. We may order takeout later."

The other woman nodded and motioned them up the stairs. "You know by how who delivers and what," she said on another smile. "Go get warm."

Booth bent and grabbed his duffel. "We'll do that," he said. "You have a good night."

Allowing his response to satisfy social requirements for both of them, Brennan led him up the stairs.

Booth followed, their host already forgotten. They were both wet and cold, and she was nervous. He couldn't blame her, he guessed, all things considered. He'd had time to get used to the idea, to know it really was time for them to go all or nothing. But he'd caught her by surprise, and why wouldn't she have doubts?

She opened the door and turned on the lights and he stepped in behind her, his eyes flicking around the room. It was a small sitting room, complete with what must be a gas fireplace, a small sofa that looked quite comfortable, a desk in one corner and a table and chairs in the other.

"Nice place."

"The suite was available for my entire stay, so she gave it to me at a very reasonable price." As she spoke, she removed her coat, shook it out and hung it on a decorative coat rack near the door before bending over to remove her boots. "You should get out of your coat, Booth. You're nearly as wet as I am."

She did look somewhat bedraggled, and as he did as she suggested, he realized he probably did as well. Possibly more so – her coat had a hood.

He stomped snow off his feet and leaned down to take off his shoes, as well. "The fireplace is a nice touch," he said, and padded over to light it.

"The bathroom is through there," she motioned to a door on one wall, "with the bedroom on the other side of it. There's another fireplace in there."

He turned and watched her. She was rubbing her arms and without true thought, we walked back over to her and began the motion himself, rubbing her arms. "You okay, Bones?"

She pulled away from him, and alarm bells went off in his head. "I'm fine, Booth. Just cold and wet. You should make yourself comfortable while I go take a shower. There's a variety of alcohol in the wall cabinet over by the table, and beer in the mini-fridge."

"Bones…"

She went on as if he'd not spoken. "Then we can discuss what direction, if any, our relationship should take. There's no need to rush into anything. But for now, I'm going to go get warm."

Both her face and her tone were calm, but her eyes were anxious, and exasperation collided with love. 'Oh, hell no," he muttered, and used his body to crowd her back against the door. Not after what they'd gone through and done to one another. "There's more than one way to get warm." On the bridge, their kisses had been tender, but this was nearly war, as he fought for the two of them. He nipped her lower lip, caught her breath when she let out a gasp, and then his tongue swooped into claim hers.

There was a moment when her hands came up that he feared she would push him away. Instead she buried them in his hair and pulled him closer, her teeth and tongue waging war back.

He slipped his hands under her blouse, and moved up. Distantly, he registered that her skin was cool to the touch and he was glad he'd warmed his hands at the fire. Frustrated when the tight design of the blouse prevented him from reaching his goal, he simply ripped it up the center, sending buttons popping, and palmed her breasts. Her nipples were hard points through her bra and he rubbed them with his palms, felt her jerk as the lace rubbed against her.

She moaned into his mouth and tugged on his hair, trying to get closer to him. But he pulled away, just a bit, and kissed his way down her neck, pausing to lick her collarbone before gently biting a nipple through the lace.

Unlike the blouse that had confounded him, the bra had a front clasp and in they both groaned when bare skin finally met bare skin. "Mine," he said, tugging her nipple into his mouth and sucking on it.

Lost in the taste and scent of her – and weren't her breasts just as soft and beautiful as he'd known they'd be? – he barely realized what he said. But a small part of his brain registered that she'd been busy unzipping his pants, and he gave an undignified yelp when her cold hands found him. "Mine," she said triumphantly, and he did the only thing he was capable of at that point: buried his face between her breasts, and laughed. Then he looked at her. "Yours," he said, then completely lost his train of thought when she rubbed the tip of his cock with her thumb.

One thought made its way through the haze in his brain. With his hands still massaging her breasts, he leaned forward again and kissed her. "Our first time's not going to be against the door," he said.

She shifted, wrapped a leg around him and rubbed her center against his thigh, then danced her thumb over his tip again. "I like doors."

Her hand moved and he realized she was unzipping her slacks and wiggling out of them.

Oh, man. He liked doors, too. But not now, not this time. He shoved his pants and boxers down and off, and then, before she could make another move on his aching cock, took her hand and tugged her across the room, grabbing one of the throws on the back of the sofa as he went.

"What are you doing?"

In answer, he threw the throw on top of the soft rug in front of the fireplace and then pulled her down on it. "Doors are great, but I want this to take a while."

She shifted, stretched out on her side, her expression a mix of desire, curiosity and amusement. "I have no objection to that." Then she tugged on his sweater. "But I'd like this off of you."

Pleased that she'd abandoned any thought of delaying their relationship, he pulled off the sweater and t-shirt beneath it, and realized how cool the room was, despite the fire. "Are you warm enough?"

Resting on one elbow, she slid her other hand over his firm chest, then down, across his stomach to wrap it around his take his cock. "My understanding was that you were going to warm me up."

He reached over, pulled the second throw off the sofa and covered them with it. "I'll do my best," he grinned, and kissed her.

Brennan wasn't sure how it happened, but when the kiss ended and they parted for breath, she was on her back, her hands fisted in his hair. He was next to her, propped on an elbow, gazing down at her. "You are so beautiful," he said in a rough voice. His free hand cupped her breast, thumbed her nipple, pinched it gently, then soothed it with his tongue before he began to suck strongly on it.

So focused was she on the pleasure he was bringing her, she was almost unaware of his hand sliding down toward her center. Nearly.

And then he was there, touching her folds, rubbing around the edge of her entrance, spreading moisture up and around. He avoided her clit until she finally reached down, took his hand and placed it exactly where she wanted it, and felt him smile against her breast in response as he began to rub circles around that sensitive knot.

"Mmm," he said against her breast, then slipped down to nuzzle at the underside of her breast before kissing a trail down her stomach.

She spread her legs wide to accommodate his shoulders and felt her arousal building to an orgasm when he replaced his hand with mouth, scraping gently with his teeth against her clit and suckling lightly. He slid a finger into her, then another, and massaged her from inside, and just that quickly, pleasure rolled over her, taking her breath.

He stayed where he was, bringing her down slowly with gentle touches and soft licks, and frustration grew that she couldn't see his face. He'd been right – the combination of the fire, the cover, their body heat and exertion had warmed her, enough that she tossed back the cover just as he shifted to rest his chin on her lower stomach.

His smile was smug. "Warm enough, now?"

Brennan was about to come back with a sharp retort when he completely disarmed her by pressing a soft kiss on her stomach. Unexpectedly, her throat wanted to close, so she turned her focus to something else and tugged on his hair. "No. I'm not nearly warm enough…yet."

He smirked at her. "Greedy, aren't you?"

Oh, if he only knew.

His eyes were dark to the point of black when he rose up over her, and braced himself on one elbow so he could reach down and guide himself into her. She waited until he was at his most vulnerable in terms of his balance and shoved him over onto his back.

"What the hell? Bones?"

She answered his questions by kneeling over him, allowing her center to brush over his erection, then slid slowly back. "Not nearly warm enough yet." When she rested on his thighs, she looked down, studied him before glancing back at his face. He was watching her from hooded eyes, his body tense.

She cupped his testicles, rubbed gently with one hand while the other one wrapped around his penis, tightly for a moment and then with a lighter touch she rubbed his tip, spread the pre-cum around a bit. His hands gripped the cover beneath them, and his hips rose, apparently of their own accord, and pleased, she leaned down and licked him. His penis twitched and she thought the cover he was clutching might never be the same again.

When she sucked lightly, he swore, arching up again, then sank his hands into her hair. "Bones!"

She ignored him, ignored the way his hands alternated between tugging and massaging, and concentrated on the pleasure to be had in the sounds he was making.

And then he moved his hands, those strong, calloused hands, down to her shoulders then to her elbows. "Bones, no. Please."

It was the 'please' that had her looking at him. She licked her lips, noted the way his entire body shuddered in response. "What?"

He hauled her up to him. "I want to be inside you." One hand still firmly gripping an elbow – as if he didn't trust her not to try and overrule him – he used his other hand to open her legs a bit more and to line them up before he looked at her again.

Giving control back to her, she realized.

Then he reached between them to rub her clit and with her nipples brushing his chest, she wondered if either of them were in control. She sat back, sank down on him, began to rock.

Booth had thought he knew what to expect, but the pleasure of her tight warmth closing around him was so much more than any fantasy he'd had. This …war between them was so them, and she was so gorgeous, her eyes bright with arousal, her hair mussed, her soft breasts swaying, he nearly came right then, and fought it back again, desperate to make this last.

With one hand on her hips, he lifted up enough to suck at a nipple, felt her respond, though he wasn't sure if it was due to his attention to her breast or what his shifting had done between her legs.

"Booth," she panted, tightened around him in a manner that he was certain caused his eyes to cross.

In retaliation, he used his thumb on her clit again while sucking more strongly on her nipple, and then again beat back his own orgasm as the spasms from hers rocked him.

As she relaxed, he shifted, rolled her beneath him, brought her legs over his arms and began a hard, thrusting drive to his own finish.

Her eyes were locked on his, and he thought that, as much as her body tightening around him, was what finally pulled his own orgasm from him.

When thought came back, it came with overwhelming tenderness. She was stroking his back, and he nuzzled her throat, kissed her collarbone. "I love you, so damn much."

If he hadn't been so in tune with her body, he might have missed the slight stiffening that was her response, the slowing of her caressing hands. He repressed a sigh and shifted so he could look at her. Deliberately, he stayed on top of her, propped on his elbows so as to not hinder her breathing.

"Bones?"

Her expression was troubled. "Did you seriously doubt we'd be sexually compatible, Booth?"

What the hell? "No, but that's not…are you regretting what you said on the bridge?" Suddenly he did want to move off her, wanted to move to the other side of room. Hell, the other side of town, before he had to hear her answer.

He didn't move.

She shook her head, looked away from him. "No. I just don't know why you love me."

Was this about Hannah, he wondered? Somehow, he didn't think so. "You don't see yourself the way I do."

That earned him a frown. "I am what I am."

He finally did shift off her, to her side. He propped himself up with one arm and looked down at her. "No, you're not. You see your physical beauty," he said and cupped her cheek, rubbed his thumb over her lips, "and what's in here," he tapped lightly on the side of her head. "But I see what's in here, too." And he leaned over, planted a kiss over her heart.

"Although you're a little too far to the right, I assume you mean my heart, Booth. And I'm fully aware I have one, as I'm still alive."

"You know perfectly well I mean your metaphorical heart, Bones." He met her eyes. "You told me last year that your heart wasn't as open as mine, but you're wrong. That's what I mean when I say I see you differently than you do."

"I don't know what you mean."

"When I think about you, I think about a woman who still keeps in touch with a couple of foster kids she met nearly six years ago."

"You mean Shawn and David Cook? That only proves I understand that the more adults they have who take an interest in them, the better off they'll be."

"Of course. And then there's the woman who led all the rest of us in giving up our Christmas morning to attend the funeral of a stranger. And the woman who opened up to Sweets about something painful in her past so he'd understand he wasn't alone. And what about the woman who was willing to sacrifice her own reputation and possibly her freedom to save the father who had abandoned her?"

"Booth…" her eyes shining with tears, Brennan made a half-hearted effort to escape.

He anchored her to him, determined to finish what he had to say."Those are all you, Bones, and we both know I could go on. You're the most open-hearted woman I know, and that's as much why I love you as your genius brain and gorgeous body – not that those don't matter," he said, and stroked his hand down her torso.

She closed her eyes, swallowed then looked back at him. "I do love you. You must not doubt that. But if you ever stop.." She gave up, turned her face from him again.

His hand gentle, he forced her back, leaned down and kissed away the tear that fell. "I won't. How could I? I've loved you for so long, and even when I tried to stop loving you, I couldn't. You're it, Bones. You're stuck with me, warts and all."

She swallowed and it was a moment before she responded. "While I've not examined your entire body to my satisfaction, I have not noticed any warts, Booth."

He grinned at her. "Metaphorical warts. And you know more of them than anyone else."

She sighed, turned her face again, but this time, toward him, to nuzzle him. "I need a shower and…" she hesitated.

"And what?"

"To be alone for a little while."

Her expression was anxious, and he leaned over, brushed her lips lightly. "Go for it. I'm not going anywhere."

If not for the memory of her telling him she loved him, he might have been offended by just how fast she slid away from him and headed toward the bathroom. "Help yourself to anything you want," she said, and closed the door.

He sighed, leaned back, thought about the life they'd forge together. It wasn't going to be easy – he'd never thought it would be. But it would be worth it, for both of them. He'd see to that.

With both a large jetted tub and a separate multi-head shower big enough for two, the bathroom was luxurious by any standards and Brennan had indulged herself frequently during her stay. But taking a long soak in the tub now somehow felt unfair to the man in the other room, so she settled for the shower. When the water sprayed hot, she stepped into the cross-streams, let the pulsing sooth her.

What was she supposed to feel for him? While making love with him? She loved him, she knew that now. But so often the emotions associated with that term confounded her.

The lovemaking had been different than she'd expected. She'd been afraid she was supposed to feel something …other. Something she'd never felt before while with a man, and she had, because she'd never been with him before. But she'd not expected that feeling to be simply such …rightness, was the only word she could come up with. It had been him, and her, and it was right, and that was it.

She leaned her head back against the wall, let the jets of water beat against her as she remembered his touch, his expressions, and his tone when he'd explained why he loved her.

It wasn't the water beginning to cool that made her shiver. Would those things he'd said be enough? Would he some day walk away from her?

No. No, he wouldn't. This was Booth. He would never walk away, even if he should. So she'd have to make sure he never should. And besides, he was right – if the last year hadn't changed his love for her, what would?

She turned off the shower, stepped out and grabbed one of the huge towels and dried off, aware of an eagerness to return to him.

Dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, she opened the door to the sitting room a few minutes later. Booth was sitting on the sofa, reading something, a beer in his hand. He looked up and smiled and as she crossed to him, she saw he was now in sweatpants as well, though his chest was bare, a clothing choice she approved of.

While she knew it was physically impossible, his eyes appeared to soften when he saw her, and in turn, something inside her seemed to liquefy – thought that was equally impossible, of course.

"How was the shower?"

"What?" Flustered that she'd lost track of what was going on, the tenderness she felt vanished into mild irritation when she saw the amused look he was now giving her.

He held out his hand, and she took it, allowed him to pull her down next to him. "What are you reading?" Taking a closer look at the manuscript pages, she frowned. "That's my book."

"Cam told me about it, and when I saw you'd printed some of it out, I couldn't resist." He tucked her hair back behind her ear. "Do you mind?"

"No. In fact, I'd hoped to have you read it at some point, though much of it is rather technical."

He turned another page, then looked back up. "I've picked up some squint-speak while hanging around you, I'll have you know." He leaned over and kissed her. "I like the cases you've chosen to highlight."

"They were the best cases to illustrate some of our techniques." Not for worlds would she tell him how much his approval meant.

But perhaps he'd seen it anyway, because his eyes had darkened, gone soft again, though instead of reaching for her, he said, "were there specific things you wanted me to look for?"

She shook her head. "Unless you'd like to suggest other cases to include."

"Let me think about that some, and see what else you've included. But you'd know better than I would which squint-tricks would most impress other squints."

Brennan tried to look affronted, and wound up only smiling. "Squint-tricks? What we do is not tricks, Booth."

He smirked at her, then turned back to the manuscript and after a minute, she realized he was actually reading it. It wasn't that she'd doubted him, but…she reached over, took the pages he'd already looked at and started skimming them, curious as to exactly what he section he was reading.

"I like the way you chose cases that highlight everyone's skill." He reached over, took her hand in his and threaded their fingers together.

She shrugged. "We're a team."

"We are, indeed. Are you including the build-a-body-out-of-nothing thing Angela did for the Robert Pearsons case?"

"I'm planning to." She cocked her head at him. "Will we always do this?"

"Do what?"

"Discuss murder investigations…like this." She motioned to their dress, the romantic setting.

He leaned over, brushed her lips with a kiss. "You mean in between making love?"

"Yes."

"Why not? It's us, Bones. We're still going to be us, and it's what we do, what we're good at." He took the pages she'd been looking and carefully restacked them with his before putting them aside, his beer next to them. Then he pulled her onto his lap, nuzzled her neck. "But now we'll add being good at a few other things as well."

She sighed, rested her head on his shoulder, let herself enjoy the sensations of being held by him. Of being loved by him.

And thought thirty, or forty, or fifty years might not be impossible after all.