hello! this is a new bones collaboration with the inestimable cathmarchr.

warning: this is alternate universe. let us be clear: this is not your typical bones story. we hope you enjoy it! -cathmarchr & wtvoc

Hypothetical, Chapter 1

For the fourteenth time, Dr. Temperance Brennan deleted the entire paragraph.

She simply could not understand how a brilliant idea of hers could be so difficult in execution. She had written page upon page of dissertations, publications, lectures.

How could writing fiction prove to be more difficult than the truth?

With a sigh, she closed her MacBook, rubbing her temples and glancing around her empty apartment. It had been two whole weeks since he'd been there, and she looked forward to the distraction his impending arrival would bring.

Perhaps she would suggest vigorous sexual activity. He would certainly not decline that sort of invitation. He never had in the past.

For years they'd been at this, the back-and-forth, hot and cold flirtation. But she simply did not want to "take it to the next level" as he did, despite their shared history. Her numerous sexual partners over the years bothered him, she knew, but she had told him from the very beginning that she did not give credence to the idea that she could be monogamous. He should have known better.

In many ways, she regretted the fact that they had something that would forever tie them together, keep them bound as two people. But she would never regret what they actually did. Bringing something this important to the world would forever be her largest contribution to human history, and she would never really regret it. Ever.

How could she?

But there were times when she caught him looking at her in a certain way, with a certain intensity that she could quantify, if not name - and in those times she felt as close to guilty as she got.

She justified it by repeating to herself that she had warned him. And she was okay with her own justifications.

The phone rang. She looked at the caller identification - the lab - and studiously ignored it. It was Sunday. She would answer whatever demand was waiting for her in the morning. Probably some new remains from the mass grave in the Czech Republic or a grad student wanting references.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a jostling of her doorknob. And she felt all of the frustrations about her failing novel and irritations at work melt away in a flash of anticipatory joy.

They were here.

"Parker!" She was perpetually surprised at the irrational warmth she always felt at seeing his chubby, wonderful face; his eyes like his father's, his smile like his mother's. And there was his father, looking at her with the ever-present combination of caution and desire.

"Mama!" Parker came toddling over, his uneven gait completely normal as far as development went, and she noted with satisfaction that he had grown a fraction in her absence. She scooped him up and allowed a wet kiss to be smacked on her mouth.

"I missed you, Parker," she whispered into his neck, his clean smell instantly taking her back through three years of his development. He also smelled faintly of fast food French fries and she frowned at the tall man standing next to them. He knew she disapproved of mass-market franchise food, yet he insisted on filling her child with it. She looked up at him and opened her mouth to argue.

"Save it, Mama. He just wanted the toy. And hello to you, too." He ruffled Parker's hair and made his way to the couch, flipping the television on.

Still hugging her boy she walked over and shut the door. She couldn't find the will to be irritated. She was too glad to see her son again. Two weeks had been far too long – much longer than the every-other-weekend arrangement they'd settled on once Parker had reached eighteen months of age. Parker would spend every other weekend with his dad, who would have access to her apartment provided she chose the boy's learning schedule, educational path, and enrichment activities. The arrangement suited them both.

Plus, it meant she'd have a constant source of sexual gratification should she ever need it. And she often did.

She might need it tonight. She could play nice. She walked over to the couch and sat down, settling the squirming boy on her lap. He happily grabbed her arm and cuddled into her embrace.

"Was he good?" she asked.

"Always. Like his father." His grin was an attempt at enticement, but she wasn't interested just yet. She grabbed the remote control from his hand and flipped it from ESPN to the Baby Development Channel.

"You know we don't watch sports in this house, Peter."


Seeley Booth wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror with the palm of his hand and stared at himself. Big circles under his eyes. Bad way to start a week. But this Cleo Eller case was driving him to distraction.

As was the anthropologist. As soon as they'd found that sunken skeleton in the lake at Arlington National Cemetery, Cullen got all over him to go make nice with the bone lady and get her to ID the body. Yesterday, if possible. Booth had wheedled unsuccessfully to let the FBI forensic techs give it a try first. "Quit wasting time," Cullen had snapped at him. "She solved the Arrington case last year without breaking a sweat – What's your problem?"

"Oh, nothing, sir, just that I got wasted with her one night and we made out and then had a huge fight and she slapped me and we shouted at each other across the bullpen that we never wanted to see each other again," Booth thought but didn't say.

So he stalked off with his wounded pride to convince Brennan to solve another murder for him. Uhh – with him, that is.

He tried gallantry first, swooping in and flashing his badge to extract her from a terrifying Homeland Security interrogation. Yeah, that ended up biting him in the ass. He'd tried being bossy next, but she was stubborn as a mule and too smart to be intimidated. So, with gritted teeth, he'd made the deal – "full participation in the case, not just labwork."

Now he was saddled with her for the duration of the case. She was always saying the wrong thing to the wrong people, or scoffing at his intuition, or otherwise driving him berserk as they grappled to keep each other under control.

He told himself it was the power struggle that was forever getting him hard when he was in the same room with her. She wanted a pissing contest? He could piss further than she could.

And he was perfectly satisfied with the relationship he was in, thankyouverymuch. So it had nothing to do with that.

He yanked open the medicine cabinet and began hunting for his razor amongst all the female crap. Why did women need so much stuff? A man needed a toothbrush and a razor. And toothpaste and shaving cream, of course. Aftershave, maybe a little hair product. Cologne. Dammit, there went his point.

His eyes landed on the round plastic compact wedged next to the saline solution and he scowled. She'd said it a few months ago, in the same tone of voice she used when she asked him to take out the trash, "What do you think about having a baby?"

He'd reacted like a caged animal. Panicking, get-me-outta-here, ready to gnaw his own hand off to get away from her and her calm suggestion. He was appalled to learn that he was the kind of guy who actually said, "I'm not ready for that level of commitment."

He pulled the birth control packet down off the shelf, turning it over in his hands. He'd promised her he'd think about it. Mostly, though, he'd just been nurturing his revulsion at the whole idea.

He popped the little catch and studied the pills inside. There were three missing.

His blood ran cold as he stared at the three empty plastic shells. SUN MON TUE. Wednesday's pill sat there, waiting patiently to be swallowed.

Today was Monday. Why hadn't she taken Wednesday through Sunday? Then a worse question occurred to him.

He flew into the kitchen, the pills still in his hand. She was making coffee, her long blonde hair still tangled with sleep.

"What the hell is this?" he yelled.

She turned and stared. "My birth control," she said evenly. "Why are you just standing there in a towel, dripping all over the floor?"

He opened the packet and showed her the contents. "How long have you not been taking it?"

For a long moment, he watched her calculate whether to play dumb, or lie, or 'fess up.

"Three weeks," she finally admitted, truthfully.

He hurled the compact at the refrigerator. It hit with a clattery thwack and the lid popped off. One half bounced off under the kitchen table and the other skittered to a stop near the oven.

"This is your idea of 'let's keep talking about this'?" he demanded. "Tricking me into having a kid? Lying to me?"

He stormed back to their room, threw on his suit, and stuffed a few essentials into a duffel bag.

"Where are you going?" she asked quietly from the doorway.

"I don't know, Rebecca," he snapped as he stormed past her. "I need to think."

see? AU doesn't have to be quite so painful. we hope you stick with us!