I realize I'm crazy late jumping on the post-daredevil in the mold bandwagon; I started kicking this idea around after the episode aired, and then Bikini in the Soup killed my "angsty Booth" muse. (Not that I'm complaining at all; it was fun) Anyway, hopefully some of you are still up for this; there are numerous references to the movie The Village thrown in toward the end (I know; random, right?) but I think I managed to spin it in a way that you will understand regardless of whether you've seen the movie or not. We'll see. Most of you who have seen it probably wish you haven't anyway; I'll admit, I'm one of like five people on the planet that really, REALLY like that movie. It's the two porch scenes; they get me every time :) .

Every Inch Between Us Becomes Light Years Now

Part of me has died
and won't return,
and part of me wants to hide
the part that's burned.

Once, once.
I knew how to talk to you
once. Once.
But not anymore.

Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

It's been a few hours since she took her seat beside him, and he's losing grip on his anger. He grits his teeth and takes another shot because he knows that if he can't stay angry – angry at Hannah and her and especially angry at himself – then he's not going to make it through the next hour, never mind the rest of his life. But he's never been good at staying angry at her… especially when he's not actually angry specifically with her in the first place. Not really. Mostly he's just tired of hurting and hating himself.

When it becomes clear that he's reached that phase of drunkenness that lies just beyond anger – the phase that consumes him with something more akin to utter hopelessness and despair – he sighs and laughs bitterly. "We should have sex."

"What?" Brennan chokes. She's had a lot to drink but not nearly as much as him, and while she's considered many of the conversation possibilities for the evening, this particular direction never crossed her mind.

"You heard me." Booth's words slur together and it should make him seem obnoxious, but all it really does is add to his defeated, lost little boy demeanour. "We should do it right now. Just- just call a cab and get it over with."

She doesn't understand his logic, but she really doesn't need to in order to give him the right answer. "No."

Booth releases another dark laugh and downs his shot. "What's the matter, Bones? Since when do you thumb your nose at casual sex?"

There isn't a right answer to that question; nothing she can say could possibly please him. So she asks a question of her own instead.

"Why, Booth? Why now?"

He turns to look at her – finally – and he glares as he tries to determine if she's simply being placating by continuing this exchange. He sees compassion in her eyes and sadness and fear (fear for him; always for him first and her second), but he looks past all of those to her genuine confusion and he focuses on that. He can't do complicated subtext right now.

"It's all I can come up with; it's the only thing I haven't tried. We're so drunk it would have to be sloppy and bad and… and…"

"Crappy?" she suggests.

"Yes. Crappy. We could have really crappy sex, I'm talking high school crappy, and then we can stop wondering and let. go. Just let go. I've gotta find a way, Bones, and if crappy sex doesn't do it I don't know what I'll do because thinking about her, looking at you, it's like being repeatedly kicked in the stomach."

The sun is shining brightly through Brennan's open curtains; it abruptly hits her that the day has finally begun, and she's been sitting in this spot nursing the same cup of tea since the hazy grey of pre-dawn. She blinks and looks at her watch, but it's more out of habit than out of any real need; she's already showered and dressed for the day and she knows that she still has plenty of time before she has to leave for work.

When she takes a sip of her tea she makes a face because it has long since gone cold, and while she doesn't relish moving, certain parts of her body have fallen asleep due to her prolonged inactivity in the same position. As she stands up and drags herself toward the kitchen, her head protests the movement and she thinks of Booth and feels a surge of sympathy, because if her head is pulsing lightly his headache must be close to unbearable.

She has promised herself that she is going to move forward in her life without regrets and she thinks she's mostly managed to do that as of late. And yet, she's sitting at her desk in her home office and she's trying to write, but she can't stop thinking about Booth. She wonders if maybe guilt and regret are essentially the same thing, because she's having a very difficult time distinguishing one from the other right now.

She hadn't said "I love you," but he hadn't either the first time around and with her own confession she has realized that he had implied it in the same way she had. He had been wounded and she had been wounded and that kind of thing couldn't happen if love had no bearing. Confessing her feelings, bringing them back to that moment outside the Hoover when everything began to crumble, had been addressing a regret, and she thinks that she's supposed to let go now because she's done all she can and no amount of wishing it so will ever bring her back to that night and allow her to rewrite the memory. But the thing is, she really, really wishes she could nonetheless.

She doesn't wish it for herself, she wishes it for Booth. Because it doesn't matter that she knows the rejection had always been about her and not about him, that she had feared destroying him and the arrival of the day when he would wake up beside her and resent everything he had begged her to give him. It doesn't matter because all Booth remembers is putting his heart on the line and hearing "no," and it kills her that she has done to him what Hannah had. What Rebecca had. The guilt consumes her. She regrets that day still and she wonders if she will always have it hanging above her head. She's taken steps to atone but the guilt remains and it twists her insides and she wishes she could have been more back then to Booth, because if she had taken further steps to communicate maybe he wouldn't be so lost now.

Her phone rings and she's so deep in her thoughts that the noise makes her flinch. She scowls as she puts down the loose leaf sieve and removes her phone from her pocket, but her fingers become clumsy and eager on the call button once she reads the name on the display.

"Hi Booth." She's trying to sound casual but her voice is breathless and a little too ready to be of assistance.

"Hey, Bones." She's about to ask how he's feeling (because years of being partners with Seeley Booth has taught her appropriate phone etiquette), but before she can do more than open her mouth, Booth is continuing. "We got a body. I'll be by your place in twenty."

His voice is coarse and low and she winces at the sound because he's obviously hurting on both an emotional and physical level. "Okay."

Her reply is simple because what more is she really going to say to him over the phone? So he hangs up and she hangs up as well, and she pours her fresh cup of tea down the drain.

It only takes her five minutes to gather the things she needs, so Brennan steps out into the sun and impulsively buys coffees and warm pretzels from the vendor down the street. There's a chance that when Booth arrives he'll come up to her apartment as usual but there's also a chance he'll simply wait in the car; the possibility of him abandoning his habit of pounding impatiently on her door makes her stomach twist a little so she chooses to wait on a bench outside her building instead of heading back upstairs. This is one situation in which she would legitimately rather not know.

When Booth pulls up she's halfway through her pretzel and she swallows the morsel in her mouth as she quickly gathers the extra breakfast treat and the two coffees. There's a small part of her that fears Booth will drive away without her if she takes too long.

He accepts the paper cup she extends to him and it frees a hand she then uses to buckle her seatbelt. After she settles her own coffee into one of the cup holders Brennan offers Booth the pretzel, and he visibly grimaces and shakes his head before putting the vehicle into drive.

"Perhaps you should have called in sick, Booth."

She wouldn't usually be one to encourage this, especially given that he's entirely responsible for his current physical discomfort, but watching Booth is painful and she feels that if calling in hungover was ever warranted, it would be now.

"I'm fine. This is better than I expected."

She nods along. He doesn't need to know that she practically carried him upstairs and helped him undress and forced a sandwich and two glasses of water into him before she left. Besides, seeing as he woke up to painkillers and water and an empty garbage can beside him he must know that she had been there. It's like they've swapped roles because it's now his immediate defence to just deny deny deny and enshroud himself in thin logic to keep the delusion afloat. She remembers that place. It's tiring.


"Let's just work, okay? Work."

At the crime scene Brennan diligently supervises as the body is loaded into the waiting truck, and once the task is completed to her satisfaction she heads to where Booth is deep in conversation with a fellow agent.

He's still wearing his sunglasses and his posture is hunched and he's obviously in a great deal of agony, but she knows better than to make any suggestions. Getting her head chewed off once on the way over had been enough, thank you very much.

She reaches the two men and begins outlining her requirements. "I'll need-

"The whole crate is going to have to go back to the Jeffersonian."

Booth talks over her and she frowns as the officer looks between the two of them uncomfortably. He's distancing himself from her when he does this; she sees that now. But it's frustrating as hell and it makes her feel like she's in grade school again being shunned by her peers. And it makes her angry.

She's improving but she's still a work in progress and she has to bite her tongue in order to refrain from giving him a piece of her mind. She reminds herself of all the times Booth has exhibited patience and grace when she hasn't deserved it; when she asked for his sperm and made him doubt his ability to enrich Parker and when she took Jared's side over his. Times she had hurt him and he went on loving her just the same. Booth is a good person who is lost and he deserves as much as she has in her to give. So she schools her features and she's pretty sure no one can tell he's beginning to get under her skin.

"Yes. And please be sure to take multiple soil samples from the surrounding area."

Brennan can count on one hand the number of times in her adult life she has walked out of her home for the day and left something she would need behind. Of course, today has to become such a day. Today, when she's treading delicately around Booth and he's hungover and heartbroken and in no mood to handle delays of any kind. She turns her head to openly stare at her partner since she's confident he won't make any more eye contact with her than absolutely necessary, and she tries to find a reasonable excuse not to ask Booth to drive past her apartment. She's still thinking when Booth's hands tighten grimly on the steering wheel, and she knows that her gaze is beginning to irritate him even if he's still determined not to look at her.


"What?" he snaps impatiently.

"Never mind," Brennan mutters.

Cam will just have to deal with it. It's as simple as that.

"Just spit it out, Bones. And stop staring at me."

She grinds her teeth and Booth feels malicious satisfaction, because he needs to see how far he can push her until she's as angry and hurt as he is. He needs to see them back on even ground. He hates this Temperance Brennan who is grounded and one with her feelings and his feelings and is friggen difficult as hell to manipulate into a good old screaming match.

"We need to stop at my apartment before going to the Jeffersonian." Brennan squares her shoulders and the words come out crisply. Business like. It's a tone he usually accepts and she hopes he'll just do as she says without turning it into a war, but one look at his disgruntled, disbelieving expression tells her that it's not going to happen.

"Are you kidding?"

"It will take us five minutes out of our way, Booth," Brennan says reasonably. "It's hardly worth getting upset over."

"I already got off the highway. You couldn't have said something three minutes ago before I took the exit?"

"The highway wouldn't have made a marked difference in our time. Statistically, if the distance is under-

"Alright, whatever. I'm going, okay?"

Brennan's face softens and suddenly she's digging around in her purse. When she finds what she's searching for, a small noise of victory comes from her mouth.

"Here." She twists the cap off the pill bottle and waits for him to take it. "I'm sure the relieving effects of the Aspirin you took this morning have long since faded. These should marginally improve your comfort."

Booth grips the wheel even tighter and his knuckles turn white. Right now he wants to smack that goddamn bottle straight out of her hands. It's petty but he's jealous. He's never coveted her brilliant mind or her money or her stature but she's at peace with herself and she's patient with him and it's fucked up and backwards and he would do anything to have what she has right now. He wants her to go back to the way she's supposed to be so that maybe he can have the way he's supposed to be back to himself and he won't feel so bad all the time. He's jealous of her progress. He's jealous of what is quite possibly the worst-timed self actualisation in the history of the entire world. And then she just stares back at him with eyes so full of empathy and compassion he really, really wishes she would just go.

Eventually he does take the capsules she's holding out to him. He kind of wants to hate her right now, but nevertheless his head is on fire.

"What is it you need so bad anyway?"

"It's an expenses report for Cam. She has a meeting with some department heads this afternoon so it would be best if I gave it to her before then."

"Why didn't you bring it with you this morning?" Booth's confusion is obvious, and the fact that he doesn't immediately conclude she's forgotten it is testament to how rarely these things escape her mind.

Brennan hates the little shortcomings that Booth has always maintained are "human" just as much now as ever, and so she really doesn't want to give Booth an answer. However, he's talking to her and he doesn't sound quite as angry, so it would be foolish to ignore him.

"I forgot," she mutters.


"I forgot."

They stop at a light two blocks from her building and as Booth turns to stare at her incredulously, Brennan feels her face heat up. It's not as if Booth can tell just by looking at her that the reason she left the report on her kitchen island is because she had been so eager to see him, she had flown out of her place without even briefly reviewing her mental checklist, but there's this tiny irrational part of her that fears this nonetheless.

Booth begins to laugh and Brennan is consumed by an indignation that causes her to forget she has resolved to be gentle with Booth today.

"Why are you laughing?"

"Because it's funny, Bones. The class brainiac forgot her homework."

"What? You forget things all the time and I don't laugh at you! Today at the crime scene you had to borrow a pen from me, which – by the way – you never gave back."

"Maybe you don't laugh at me, but you get that prissy look on your face that says you think I should be more organized, like you," Booth retorts. "I can't do prissy looks half as well as you can, so I'm gonna laugh."

"Stop it! I mean it, Booth. Stop laughing; it's not funny."

"I think it's funny."



For a minute she's irritated, and because of that it takes her longer than it would have otherwise to appreciate the ease of the moment. As soon as she realizes what is happening the irritation dissipates, and off Booth's smile she grins reflexively. He's smiling, and she feels delighted, because that's all she's wanted for him since Hannah called her the night before. So a smile settles onto her own lips, and that's when she makes her mistake.

"I would like a conversation do-over."

"On what grounds?" he scoffs.

"I was unprepared for you to laugh at me and thus found myself unable to formulate an adequately witty response to your initial insult. Can we start over?"

Can we just go back?

Can we still work together?

You weren't listening.

I can't change.

The laughter fades as quickly as it had begun and Booth never really even has time to acknowledge it before that heavy black burden of anger and hurt and plain unhappiness is taking over again, and there's no room for anything else. His skin is itching and his head pounds and he can't be around her. She takes and takes and takes and if he gives her any more of his heart his body is going to just quit. Warzones have nothing on Temperance Brennan.

He takes the last turn onto her block roughly and from the sound of it, Brennan gets the wind knocked out of her when she's unexpectedly thrown against the window. He'll feel bad about that later, because he's Booth and while he's open hearted and willing to accept imperfections in others, he is unwilling to accept any in himself. He pick pick picks at the minor human slip ups and he self flagellates until he no longer has the strength to raise his own whip or until someone else intervenes. But that's later, and he's not there yet. Right now, Booth pulls up to the curb in front of the entrance at thirty five miles an hour and slams on the brakes.

"Where's your car?"


"Where. Is. Your. Car." He forces the words out through gritted teeth and flexes his death grip on the wheel, all the while staring fixedly through the windshield.

"In my assigned parking space. Where it usually is when you pick me up in the morning."

"Tell you what; you go up there, you get your report, and then you drive yourself back to the lab."

"What? Why? What did I do?"

He can stare outside the vehicle all he wants but he can't not hear her. Brennan's voice is anxious and confused and it's clear that she has no idea what she's done to upset him, but that's the case so much of the time and it's part of the problem.

"Let's go, Bones. Chop chop."

He's pretty sure he's never meant those words abrasively before now. He's also pretty sure she knows this as well. But she still can't let it go.

"But what did I do?"

"The body's waiting."

"But this is important."

Translation; This is more important.

He hears the implication, but it isn't. Not to him. He looks her dead in the eye. "Get out."

Mechanically, she does.

A week later, Brennan finishes work and leaves the lab at precisely seven o'clock. She had fallen into her habit of practically living at the Jeffersonian since returning from Maluku, but with Booth and Hannah's breakup she has started setting the alarm on her cell phone to help her keep track of the time. She goes directly to the Founding Fathers - where she has sat with Booth the last two nights - and she searches the bar for her partner but it soon becomes apparent he's not there.

For a moment she's at a loss, because she doesn't know how she's supposed to support Booth if she can't even find him, but then it occurs to her that maybe he's avoiding the bar on purpose so that he can avoid her.

She's in uncharted territory. She's certainly stormed out of vehicles on her own accord, but she can't say she's ever been ordered out of one prior to last week. Angela had suggested giving Booth space (after giving him a swift kick) but she still knows Booth better than anyone and sometimes giving him space is the worst route; he wallows, and if she leaves him too long she fears eventually she alone will not be enough to bring him back. So Brennan has committed the useful advice of Angela's to memory and disregarded the rest (a compromise; she's getting better at those, too), and after giving Booth a few days to adjust, she has sat quietly next to him because he's unhappy and she can't let him wallow. Her motives aren't entirely unselfish; when Booth is unhappy she can't help but feel uneasy as well, and she's sick of this constant tightening in her stomach.

However, if he's so desperate to avoid her that he's changing bars, perhaps it's time she starts acknowledging the signals.

Brennan goes home and she thinks. And when she can't do that anymore without going in circles she finds a notepad and a pen and she sits on the floor using her coffee table like a desk. Booth doesn't want her around. Booth needs to be alone. Booth is hurting.

Stepping back and allowing him to set the pace for the two of them feels natural, but she thinks to all the times she hasn't wanted Booth around and has needed to be alone and has hurt, and Booth has always done an exceptionally poor job of stepping back and allowing her to decide when she has had enough space. Because Booth always seems to know when she needs his company even if she doesn't want it.

With his example in mind Brennan begins to write. Eventually, her list of reasons for and against finding Booth looks like this:

Cons: She crushed his heart. He's angry with her. He's angry with himself. He's brooding. He wants time to think. He doesn't want company. Being partners with her has become increasingly difficult for him and she might just push him too far. He could sever their partnership.

Pros: He needs her.

She crumples the list and ignores what should be an obvious inference given the unbalanced column entries, because she could stare at the sheet of paper from now until the end of time and she still wouldn't be able to bury the part of her that knows the logical response would be the wrong response. So she puts her brain in neutral and she pops her heart into overdrive and she's out of the apartment like it's on fire.

The ice is smooth beneath Booth's skates and he tries to draw comfort from the small familiarity. It's a habit that has always served him well in the past – visiting Parker after a tough case, walking out in the sunshine during a bad day, reading a comic book that takes him far from reality – but lately he's been having trouble capturing the delight he used to find in the little things. If he were talking to Sweets, the kid would probably suggest that it's a deliberate sabotage; a punishment he's felling on himself because he doesn't believe he's deserving of those small assuages to his misery. But Sweets is twelve and his opinion doesn't matter, so Booth puts the thought out of his head and closes his eyes and glides blindly across the rink.

He wants control of his life back because he's not this guy. He hates this guy who's always on the verge of exploding and can't sit still and scowls all the time. It's not him and yet he can't shake him. He can't find his centre and he doesn't want to admit it right now but he suspects this may be because his centre has become tied to her. And when they aren't okay, nothing is okay.

The air is sharp and cold against the exposed skin of his face and there's that crisp clean smell that arenas have that's similar but different to that of a chlorinated pool. He opens his eyes and increases his speed until he's racing toward the backboard and then he stops on a dime, sending an impressive shower of icy dust spraying onto the protective glass.

Finally, Booth smiles. And it's nice to have proof he's not entirely dead inside. He begins to relax. He skates back to the other end of the rink and effortlessly picks up the hockey puck as he follows the curve of the boards. He plays with it absently, spinning around in circles and looping arbitrarily while keeping it in his tight possession, and when that grows boring he deftly flips the puck into the air and begins to juggle it off the end of his stick as he tours the ice.

He's been amusing himself like this for a while when the sound of one of the heavy doors falling shut echoes through the empty rink like a gunshot. He spins toward the noise and the puck clatters to the ground at his side, and he sees Brennan standing frozen just inside the entrance with her skates gripped awkwardly in one hand. She looks chagrined by the less-than-subtle arrival she's made, but she waves her free hand and then settles on a front row bleacher to lace her skates.

Booth sighs. He has no idea how she's found him but she's here and there's nothing he can do about it now. What he does know is that she's terrible at skating, so he probably has at least ten minutes to get his head straight before she manages to tie her boots and stumble onto the ice.

Eleven minutes later she's tottering toward the gate and her hat is sitting lopsided on her head, and she's so concentrated on what he considers to be such a menial task that he can't help but smile for the second time within the hour. The smile quickly begins to fade as he realizes his alone time is up and he's not in the mood to talk to anyone including her. He's trying to think of a relatively polite way to cut this short – since he knows she's put up with a lot from him recently, even though, really, he's told her he can't do anything more than the bare minimum where she's concerned right now – when she puts one shaky foot on the ice and promptly falls ass over teakettle. Booth sighs again, because snapping her head off now would be like kicking a baby chick. Put the woman in four inch heels and she can – mostly – hold her own, but strap a pair of skates to her and it's like watching Bambi take his first steps.

He skates over to her and rests his stick against the boards as she struggles to stand only to lose her balance and fall over once more.

"You alright there, Bones?"

"Yes," she affirms breathlessly.

"Come on; let's get you on your feet."

He's not big on touching her right now but who knows how long it will take her to right herself, so he grabs her firmly by the upper arm and pulls. Only, her askew hat falls right off her head and when she reflexively reaches to pick it up she slips again and pulls him down with her.

Yet another sigh escapes as the cold starts to seep through his jeans. At least he hadn't landed on top of her. He absolutely could not deal with that right now.

"Are you okay?" Brennan ventures hesitantly.

"Yeah. I'm good."

She's weighing her words and he can't really hold it against her considering some of the harsh words he threw her way the last time she tried this. Booth considers assuring her that he's far too drained to muster the effort to yell at her, but he doesn't. Because he never has been able to predict how she'll make him feel from one minute to the next and he's already so many negative things it feels like the worst time to risk becoming a liar as well.

Though he can tell she's still working her way up to saying something she probably rehearsed half a dozen times on her way over here, patience really isn't his strong suit anymore and he can't handle the silence between them. So he speaks.

"How did you know I'd be here?"

"I didn't." Brennan turns her left foot inward and stabs at the surface of the ice with her toe pick. "I went to the Founding Fathers first, and then I went to the Hoover and checked your office and the firing range. I tried the diner – even though I was fairly certain you wouldn't be there, as pie hasn't held its usual appeal to you lately – and your apartment, and then I simply drove to places I know you like as they occurred to me."

She's tenacious; he has to give her that. "And you just happened to have your skates in the back of your car, I suppose?" Booth asks with a dubious raise of his eyebrow.

"Of course not. When I saw your vehicle in the parking lot, I went back to my apartment, found my skates, and then returned."

"And you were sure I'd still be here when you got back?"

He smirks as Brennan's face contorts into an uncomfortable grimace. She hates admitting to actions inspired by intuition and feelings, and he discovers that he still finds pleasure in forcing her to do so.

"In the past I have found that you are as prone to compartmentalization as I am, albeit in a different manner. When I am upset I need to immerse myself in my work, and when you are upset you usually need to immerse yourself in anything but your work. I was confident that you would remain here for quite a few hours before you felt calm enough to leave."

His jeans are quickly soaking and he thinks that sitting against the backboards on the ice is among the dumber things they've done together. Although not anywhere close to the dumbest. He stands up without a word and offers her his hand, and her brow furrows as she measures her desire for independence against her desire to make it to an upright position sometime before morning. Just as Booth is about to take his hand back and leave her to fend for herself, she grasps his forearm with a gloved hand and lets him pull her to her feet in one smooth motion.

It's different when they mechanically follow the oval circuit around the rink this time; she doesn't have a death grip on his arm nor does he push her from behind much quicker than she can handle just to hear her breathless peals of slightly terrified laughter. They're inching along, because while Booth isn't so put off by her presence he's going to skate off and leave her in the dust, he's not going to assist her either. He's already touched her two times too many.

"I admit, I was surprised not to find you at the Founding Fathers," she says conversationally.

Booth knows that statement is nowhere close to the one she's been mentally reciting since she stepped out onto the ice, but he's not going to challenge it. If she's going to force him to talk he would prefer it be about something mundane. Something he can handle.

"I wanted to keep my head clear," he admits without staring directly at her. "I figure there's a cap on how many days you can drink to make yourself feel better without there being a problem."

He's not a drunk. He knows this and she knows this, but sometimes he feels like he has to put it out there in the air to make sure they both remember.

She tries to stare at him but the moment she takes her eyes off her feet, she stumbles. Booth realizes that perhaps the rink is the best place to have a conversation with her, since she can't seem to maintain eye contact as well as remain standing. He relaxes slightly; knowing she won't be staring into his soul with those newfound deductive powers of hers makes him a little less wary.

They finish another half lap and Brennan hasn't spoken again, so Booth clears his throat and decides to hurry her along. "You've got that look, Bones. How many more laps are we going to have to do before you tell me what you came here to say?"

"I have concluded that my original speech is no longer adequate. At the time I thought it heartfelt, but it now feels rehearsed beyond meaning," she confesses. "I am unprepared."

This makes him smile, but she doesn't know why.

"But you came anyway."

"Yes," she nods. "I came anyway."

"That counts for a lot."

It's ridiculous how the small encouragement causes her face to light up. Brennan likes to see them as equals and maybe that's why it never fails to make her smile when she successfully makes him smile. It's nice to have tangible proof that she is capable of making him feel as good as he often makes her feel. Especially now.

Booth studies her out of the corner of his eye and sighs. "I'm sorry about last week; that was a shitty thing to do."

Her expression turns absolutely gleeful and he's confused (and also a little irritated… he's trying to apologize), but then she speaks and it all makes sense.

"You are referring to when you 'left my ass on the curb' and 'made tracks' like a 'bat out of hell.'"

He rolls his eyes in response to her proud grin and has no doubt that she's been itching to use these phrases since whenever it had been she heard them. The level of excitement suggests they are a fairly new addition to her vocabulary.

"Three for three, Bones. Good job."

"They are a few of the many colourful colloquialisms Angela verbalized when I relayed the events of that afternoon. I wanted her advice; I wasn't gossiping," Brennan clarifies quickly. "In any event, I find myself looking forward to having cause to use all of them. She is very creative."

Booth winces. The last thing he wants to think about is the hormonal artist's opinion on his actions so he chooses to leave Brennan's comment unaddressed. "Right. I'm still sorry. I was pretty mad, I guess. I'm working on it."

Brennan shrugs. "I don't require an apology, Booth. I admit, I was upset at the time, but I believe it would be hypocritical of me to hold your outburst against you. I know in the past I have not always exercised prudent control over the subjectively unkind things that have come out of my mouth."

The rueful smile comes back. "That doesn't make it okay, alright? So please, acknowledge the damn apology."

"Okay." She shrugs again and then risks raising her eyes briefly from her feet to initiate eye contact. "Do you remember when you forced me to watch The Village with you?"

"Yes," Booth grimaces. "Definitely not Shyamalan's best."

"I liked it," she defends softly.

He looks at her incredulously because that's not at all the way he remembers it. What he remembers is being subjected to a ten minute tirade that outlined the improbability of such a thing succeeding.

How could they have avoided satellite detection? National parks are very carefully monitored. Where did the materials for their inorganic clothing come from? How did they handle ordering supplies? Even frontier settlers required occasional stagecoach deliveries or treks to trading stations. Given the extent of Lucius' injuries I highly doubt a few vials of penicillin could have possibly saved him from death following Ivy's return.

Brennan takes note of his disbelief and is grateful for the cold air that has coloured her cheeks and masks the blush she is sure would have appeared otherwise.

She clears her throat. "Sometimes we don't do things we want to do, so that others won't know we want to do them."

Booth comes to an abrupt halt. The fact that Brennan has repeated the line with total accuracy carries enough of a shock factor, but he also suddenly feels naked before her. While he's accustomed to looking straight to the heart of people, he finds it unnerving the rare time another person manages to turn the tables. He tries to adjust to being exposed so unexpectedly, and Brennan's momentum carries her several inches ahead of him before she slows to a shaky stop and awkwardly moves to face him in a series of overcautious steps.

"What?" Booth finally responds.

He falls back into that bad habit he's developed in the last year or so of simply pretending not to understand her. It's cowardly but what the hell; it's always worked for her.

He can tell Brennan isn't a hundred percent sure he's being honest, but she's not a hundred percent sure he's hedging either, so she studies him with such intensity he fears she'll burst.

"Ivy possessed an intuitive gift that I admired… it very much reminded me of yours." Brennan's voice is tentative but steady, and she watches Booth's face carefully for any indication that she has once again managed to cross a line. "Lucius offered her his arm frequently when they were children, and then one day – seemingly out of nowhere – he stopped. Without a word of warning, someone Ivy considered to be a friend severed all but the most basic ties with her. And she accepted the change with grace. Ivy recognized that, more than aiming to hurt her, Lucius was trying to protect himself. This reserved, strong male who appeared to be unflappable, he looked at her and he knew what it was to be afraid."

"Where are you going with this?"

He's pretty sure he knows. How could he not? But they aren't as in sync as they used to be and miscommunication has become their new norm.

"I am not as intuitive. It took me much longer to realize that you had as much to lose as I did last year. That your fear matched mine; perhaps it surpassed it since you were entirely cognizant of the risks and the impossibility of us returning to the way we had been. And yet, you tried to give that to me anyway. Even though you knew better. You were selfless."

"So, I'm Ivy?" Booth sounds slightly puzzled and he's not feigning it this time, because this isn't the direction he thought she was going.

Brennan shakes her head. "No. At least, not always. Not lately. And therein lies the problem; I have also always viewed you as Ivy, because that is who you've been to me. And I have considered your role to be static. I failed to remember that the roles in any relationship are as ever changing as the persons involved in it."

He feels that irritation beginning to build again. "What are you trying to say, Bones? You've lost me."

She takes a deep breath, because this is where a lot of the analysis has "Angela" printed all over it and while she understands her best friend's point of view, she doubts her own ability to convey it to Booth without appearing presumptuous.

"You went to the desert and you turned your back to the woods and you were brave and heroic, and you came back and you looked at me and you felt fear again. And you couldn't bring yourself to hold my arm."

He feels uncomfortably exposed again, and it's tempting to dig deep and stoke up some anger, but he's really too tired to bother. And whether or not he admits it aloud, she's right. "So you're Ivy."

Again, she shakes her head. "I should have been, but I wasn't. I get it now though, Booth. Our roles aren't static, and sometimes I will have to be the heart when it becomes too great a burden for you to bear. I can be Ivy, Booth. I can be Ivy for as long as you need."

"In the movie, Lucius spends years compartmentalizing her." Booth points out.

Brennan swallows and resolutely raises her chin despite the nauseating flutter in her stomach. Because she gets the message, but he needs a friend right now and she is determined to be a friend. After all, he had spent six years being her friend regardless of what it cost him. "She was never deterred."

Unspoken is; I won't be either.

"They didn't have to work together; we do. You're the Ivy now; how do you suggest we deal with that? What happens next?"

There's silence, and then Brennan accepts his challenge.

"We could go for coffee."

The steely gaze lets Booth know Brennan hasn't missed the subtext (because "coffee" has always been about more than coffee and 'what happens next?' has become the new 'everything happens eventually'), and she hasn't been at all put off by his slightly mocking tone. He feels the weight of the world crushing him.

"I don't think I'm ready for coffee, Bones."

His answer is honest and he pushes his hands deep in his pockets and expects that to be the end of it.

"How about hot chocolate? We can start with hot chocolate."

For all his intuition, he could have never predicted that response.

"I have never in my life seen you drink hot chocolate."

"That's because we always drink coffee. Sometimes I like hot chocolate."

And for the first time there isn't that wistful nostalgia that comes in the face of the fact that they are no longer completely, effortlessly in sync; because the truth is they have never managed to properly read the other when it has come to matters of the heart and it's possible that admitting an inability to predict exact actions indicates growth and evolution on his part as well as hers.

They know one another but they don't. They're similar more than they're different. They're beyond repairing what they damaged but they can set a new foundation and rebuild. And he's still not ready for coffee but maybe, just maybe, Booth can start with hot chocolate.

Booth delivers a tired smile.

Brennan allows hope to trickle into her metaphoric heart.

"Yeah, sure. We can start with hot chocolate."


I know it's crazy unrealistic to have a whole rink empty and available like this, but whatever; I'm executing the same creative license they took in Fire in the Ice. So there.