He tells her she has to stay at his place because Sweets might be right. Now that Broadsky thinks he's eliminated his primary target, he'll zero in on the secondaries, if only to make a clean sweep. That means the Jeffersonian team. That means Bones. He won't risk losing her. Not to Broadsky. Not to anyone. So when he tells her she's staying at his place, his tone doesn't brook any argument.

XoXoXo

She agrees without argument. Not because she's afraid of Broadsky. She isn't. And not because she thinks she needs protecting. She doesn't. She agrees because when she looks into his eyes she sees the fear he thinks he's hiding from the world.

And because she doesn't want to be alone.

XoXoXo

Broadsky's made him so uptight that he feels like he might jump out of his own skin. He covers by staying busy. He shows her around the apartment even though she's been there before. He pulls out a clean towel and washcloth from the bathroom cabinet along with a bar of soap, a new toothbrush, and a tiny tube of toothpaste. In the hallway he gives her clean sheets from the linen closet. A pillow. Blankets. He leaves her alone in the living room just long enough to get a sweatshirt from his dresser. He picks the smallest one he owns, knowing it'll be too big on her. But it's soft and warm, and he likes to think about her wearing his clothes.

"Keep the shades closed," he says, shutting the last of them as he moves through the house. "And I want you to stay away from the windows, just to be safe." It isn't enough. He knows that. If Broadsky comes after her, she's as good as dead. The thought makes his blood run cold.

He offers the bed, but she turns it down. "I'm smaller," she tells him. "Plus, you have to kill Broadsky. You need your sleep." He tells her that's very logical. She takes that as a compliment, which makes him smile a little. He shows her the sweatshirt and she insists that she'll be fine, but she takes it anyway. He wants to do more. At a loss, he offers to help her with the pillow, but she pulls it close and shakes her head. When she thanks him there's worry in her eyes, and he knows it's for him. But there's nothing he can do about that so he says goodnight, backs into his room, and closes his door.

The last thing he sees is Bones, pillow held tight against her chest, an unreadable expression on her face.

He wonders what she's thinking.

XoXoXo

After she finishes laying out the sheets, Brennan gathers up the sweatshirt and takes it to the bathroom to change. She inhales deeply as she pulls the soft fleece over her head. It smells of laundry soap and that ineffable something that always makes her think of him. She wraps her arms tight around her middle and dips her chin to take another deep breath. A sweatshirt should not be comforting, but this one is. She allows herself one more deep breath before reaching for the toothbrush. Five minutes later she hangs her towel next to his on the rack. His is slightly damp. She brushes her fingers over the thick terrycloth, sighs, and turns away.

As couches go, his isn't too bad. Still, sleep eludes her, and she changes position so often that she has to keep tugging the sheets back up and rescuing the pillow from the floor. She can't get Vincent's last words out of her mind. Had he truly believed she was the one making him leave? Was she so cold, so unfeeling, that he'd felt unwelcome in her company? People tell her all the time that she's unemotional, that she doesn't care about anything but her work. It isn't true, but sometimes she lets them believe it anyway.

It's safer that way.

XoXoXo

He shouldn't be able to sleep, but it's been an exhausting day. After more than an hour of tossing and turning he drifts into a nightmare. In his dream Broadsky is stalking Bones. Booth sees her through the crosshairs of a rifle scope. She's in the lab, her head bent over a set of remains, hair falling across her face. He watches her brush it back behind her ear, and his heart warms at the familiar image. Then he sees Broadsky's crosshairs center on a spot just in front of her moving fingers. He wants to shout at her. Move! Get down! But when he opens his mouth, nothing comes out. Broadsky breathes in, steadies, and Booth watches, transfixed and helpless, as Broadsky pulls the trigger.

The sound of the shot is still ringing in his ears when he bolts upright. His gun is in his hand, safety off, before he realizes it was just a dream.

Heart pounding in his chest, he looks at the clock.

Two thirty.

XoXoXo

She finally gives up on trying to sleep and gets up to pace the floor instead. There's a creaky spot near the bathroom, another in the hallway, a third at the foot of the couch. She memorizes their locations and steps carefully around each one as she circles the apartment. Part of her mind counts the turns. One. Two. Three. Four … She's at twenty-seven when a noise from the bedroom makes her freeze. She stares at the door. Had he said something? Called out? But when several minutes pass with no further sound, she resumes her pacing.

While she walks Vincent's words play through her memory on a repeated loop. Over. And over. And over again.

Please don't make me go.

XoXoXo

He dozes fitfully, unwilling to risk another nightmare. His nerves are strung so tight that the sound of the door opening triggers another surge of adrenalin. The gun is back in his hand, aimed, finger on the trigger, before he realizes who it is. Only years of training and experience prevent him from firing. He could have shot her. She could be dead right now, and it would be his fault. With deliberate care, he sets the safety, puts the gun down, and turns back to her.

"Okay," he says. "What's wrong?" Residual fear shortens his tone, but she doesn't seem to notice.

"He kept saying—"

She steps closer and he sees the pain in her eyes, the sheen of unshed tears.

"—Don't make me leave."

XoXoXo

She'd paced until her feet hurt, but she couldn't get his voice out of her head. She needs help for that, someone who understands her, someone who will tell her what horrible thing she did to make Vincent feel that way about her. She'd waited as long as she could, but by four forty-five, she couldn't take it anymore, and she finally reached for the doorknob.

The sight of Booth, wild-eyed and with his gun pointed in her direction, doesn't frighten her. Booth would never hurt her. Of that she's certain. Still, she puts her hands in the air and offers a quiet apology. She hadn't meant to alarm him. She just needs to talk.

She tries to hold it together, but her throat keeps closing. Vincent's face during those last moments is seared into her mind's eye. She's seen plenty of dead people in her life, but she's never watched anyone die. It was a horrific, heart-breaking experience, and she knows she'll never forget it. He'd gone pale. So pale. And then he'd just ... gone.

Booth reaches for her hand, pulls her down beside him. His fingers are warm and comforting where they touch hers. Neither of them moves to break the contact after she sits down. Instead he listens to her, his eyes on hers. Then he says the one thing that can make her feel better, the thing that finally lets her grieve.

"He wasn't talking to you."

XoXoXo

He wants to kick himself. He should have known she would take Vincent's words literally. Bones takes everything literally. She'd probably been worrying over this ever since the shooting. He could have set her straight hours ago if he hadn't been too caught up in his own feelings to pay attention to hers.

She tells him Vincent was an atheist, like her, that he didn't believe in God. But Booth has seen a lot of people die in his lifetime, and he knows that in their final moments sometimes even atheists believe. That isn't what she needs to hear, though, so instead he tells her that Vincent was talking to the universe, which might be true, and that Vincent wasn't ready to die, which is certainly true.

When she looks at him, her eyes still shining with tears, his heart breaks a little bit for her. The people at the lab are her family, and Vincent's death has left a hole in her heart that's going to take a long time to heal.

"If there was a God, then he would've let Vincent stay here with us."

It's a childlike comment, something Parker might've said. But he only shakes his head.

"That's not how it works."

She doesn't question that, but when she speaks again her voice breaks on the request.

"Please," she whispers, "can you just …?"

He wraps his arms around her as she goes down, holds her while she cries, and makes a silent promise.

He will. Get. Broadsky.

XoXoXo

Knowing that he'll hold her as long as she needs him to gives her the courage to feel the grief she's kept locked up all day. She sobs it out against his shoulder, only vaguely aware of the low rumble of his voice and the steadying movements of his hands. She cries until her nose is stuffy and her cheeks feel swollen and her chest aches. And afterward, when the last sniffles fade away, she stays there, nestled against his side, lacking both the will and the energy to move.

"It's okay," he says. "I've got you. I'm here." His hand shifts against her shoulder, slides over age-softened fabric, combs through her hair. The motion soothes, calms, and she feels exhaustion start to take over as the worst of her grief begins to fade.

"I'm here," he murmurs. "I'll always be here for you, Bones."

With every heave of her shoulders Booth's anger at Broadsky grows. He's going to get that son-of-a-bitch if it's the last thing he ever does. For now, though, he listens to her cry, strokes her back, and wishes he could take away her pain. He can't do that, but as long as she's here in his arms, he knows that she's safe. He'll take that. For now.

His heart aches, not so much for Vincent-though he'll certainly miss the quirky young intern-but for her. People say she's cold, that she feels nothing, cares for no one. They're wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. Bones feels everything so intensely that sometimes he worries it'll tear her apart.

And sometimes, like now, he's right.

When she finally quiets he doesn't let her go, and she makes no move to leave. Her breathing slowly evens out. Her fingers trace random patterns on his chest.

"I should go," she says at last. Her voice is muffled. Hoarse.

Without conscious thought, he tightens his hold on her. "No," he says quietly. "Stay."

She only hesitates for a moment. Then he feels her nod. He sits up, pulling her up with him, and she crawls across the bed to the other side, tucking her feet under the covers without comment. Her eyes are big in the moonlight, her face pale and splotchy from her tears. He lies down beside her, and she comes into his arms as naturally as if they slept this way every night. She feels right there, her body curled into his, her fingers splayed across his chest, her head on his shoulder.

"Thank you," she whispers, her voice barely audible in the darkness.

Without thinking about it, he presses a light kiss to the top of her head.

"You're welcome."

XoXoXo

When the alarm clock goes off, she starts, her eyes flying open as her body stiffens in fear.

"Easy, Bones." His voice is soothing as he pulls his arm from around her shoulders. "It's just the clock."

He props himself on one elbow and reaches across her to turn off the alarm. She looks up at him looming over her in the first tentative rays of morning light, and the sudden welling of emotion in her chest takes her by surprise.

She loves this man. She's known it for a long time, of course, but she's never actually put it into words, not even in her own head.

"You okay?"

He's looking down at her, concern in his eyes, and she nods.

"I'm fine. Just a little disoriented is all."

She sees his gaze narrow speculatively, but he doesn't argue. "Want first dibs on the shower?"

"No. You go ahead. I'll shower at my place."

"Give me ten minutes. I'll take you over."

"Booth. You don't have to do that. I'm perfectly capable of—"

But he's already shaking his head. "We left your car at the lab, remember? What are you planning to do, walk?"

She'd forgotten about that. "Oh."

His mouth quirks into a grin. He starts to get up, but she stops him. She wants ... Well, she doesn't know what she wants, exactly. Everything's such a jumble, right now.

"What?" He's watching her, obviously waiting for her response.

"Do you think ..." She trails off, searching for words.

"What?" he prompts again, and she can tell that he's getting impatient, so she spits it out.

"Are we going to be okay?"

There's a long moment of silence while he studies her. Then, still supporting himself on his elbow, he reaches over and brushes a strand of hair of her cheek. His expression is tender in a way she hasn't seen in a long time.

"Yeah, Bones." He smiles suddenly, and there's so much warmth and affection in it that she can't help but smile back. "We're going to be just fine."

XoXoXo

When he emerges from the bathroom fifteen minutes later she's already made his bed and is almost finished folding the sheets she'd used on the couch. He stops in the bedroom doorway and watches her work.

There'd been a time when he'd wanted nothing more than to make a life with her, a time when he'd envisioned a future and a family. But he'd pushed the issue too hard and too fast, though he hadn't realized it then, and they'd lost sight of each other in the heartbreak that had come after. She'd sought solace and clarity in Maluku. He'd sought it in Iraq and in Hannah. That hadn't worked out too great, either. And now? Now he thinks maybe they're back and maybe, this time, they understand each other better. He still doesn't know for sure if they can make a relationship work, but as he watches her smooth away a final wrinkle and stack the sheets neatly on the couch, he knows that he wants to try.

He wants it because he's still so in love with her that the mere thought of somebody hurting her makes his blood boil and his fists clench at his sides.

He'd told himself for a long time that he could stop loving her, that he could let her go. But he never really had, and as he watches her sweep her hair away from her face and turn to look at him, he knows he never will.

She gives him a quick, soft smile. "Where do you want these?" she asks, indicating the folded sheets.

"Just leave them. I'll take care of them later." He crosses to meet her, takes her hands in his. "We really are going to be okay," he says softly. "And I'm not just talking about Vincent."

"I know."

She rests her forehead on his chest, and he lets go of her hands so that he can wrap one arm around her. With his free hand, he tilts her face up so that he can look into her eyes.

"It's us now, okay? You and me against the world."

That makes her smile a little. "How about we start with Broadsky?"

He laughs and bends his head to kiss her, and as their lips meet in silent promise he thinks that maybe, just maybe ...

They're finally going to get their miracle.