Epilogue: The Change in the Game

One year later…

"Did you ever think this day would come?" Hodgins leaned across the white linen tablecloth to address the rest of the group, all of them seated in a circle and dressed to the nines. Angela sat opposite him in a plunging amethyst V-neck that showed off her legs, a lace lavender shawl draped across her bare shoulders while she bounced a sixteen-month-old Michael on her lap, letting him gum gobs of white chocolate Italian buttercream off her fingertips. Her chestnut foundation was still streaked from crying.

"Honestly?" She breathed as though still in a slight state of shock, shaking her dusky head in amazement while she readjusted Michael's bottom on her knee. "Never. Not Brennan. She was never the type…."

Mikey jack-knifed at the waist, stretching forward for the half-eaten plate on the edge of the table. "Cake!"

Hodgins hiked one shoulder in a permissive half-shrug and shifted his weight back in his chair. "People change," he remarked lightly, and with a philosophical raise of his ginger eyebrows.

Next to him, a hiccough emanated from behind the brim of a champagne glass. "You're not kidding," a wry voice slurred.

Cam leaned forward from her seat beside Angela. "How're you doing, there, Jared?" She questioned coolly, a mildly entertained smirk playing around the edges of her lips as the Navy Lieutenant-Commander lowered the drained champagne glass back to the table and supported his slouched weight on his elbows.

Dark eyes swimming a bit in search of the double that was the authentic Cam, Jared offered up a dizzy one-sided grin. "Just peachy," he belched.

Hodgins looked at him. "Jealous at all?" He was curious to know, smiling commiseratively at the younger Booth boy while he fingered the idle stem of his own glass on the surface of the table.

Jared thought for too long a moment and then shook his head dramatically. "Nnnooo!" He intoned in a throatily exaggerated attempt at nonchalance, his features contorting in a way that was meant to indicate he couldn't have cared less, but which served more so to raise everyone's guard against projectile vomit. "My brozzer's a lutkey…a lucky man. The lookiest…" he twisted to capture another glass of champagne off a tray of a passing waiter, and swayed precariously in his chair.

"Looks like someone's toast before the toasts," Cam chuckled, turning to look at the rest of them. Then her gaze zeroed in on Hodgins. "Whatever you do don't let him make a speech."

The entomologist shook his copper head in accordance. "Wasn't gonna," he coincided flatly, raising his glass to his lips. He swallowed, then rounded his gaze to his other side. "What about you, Sweets?" He queried. "You doin' okay?"

The shrink was bawling into a linen serviette for approximately the sixth consecutive hour in a row, the vehemence of the sobs not seeming to have abated in the least. Not that too many people who had witnessed what he had today could have blamed him, but even Angela had managed to pull herself together eventually. The guy must have been running nearly dry by this point…. "It was just," he blubbered, words muffled and barely discernable around the saturated fabric of the napkin, "so beautiful." He managed to raise his face, flushed and puffy, out of the serviette for the briefest of moments, long enough to look at them all through moist, bleary eyes. "They're so lucky. After everything…." His rather lame attempt at composure crumbled and he dissolved into tears again, plunging his face back in the linen.

"Jesus Murphy, kid, are you still crying?" A good-humouredly berating voice caused them all to swivel in their seats. Brennan's father was approaching the table, a tea-sized paper plate loaded with petit fours sagging in one hand. "I know it was a tear-jerker but you've got to buck up and display a little virility at some point. Here, have a cream puff swan."

Managing to curb his sobs to short, hitched breaths, Sweets looked up out of his napkin again. "What do you want, Max?" He demanded brokenly, ignoring the offering. "I'm not made of stone!"

Max floated two gray-streaked eyebrows indulgently. "Well neither am I," he countered promptly, withdrawing his hand, "but fortunately I'm not prepubescent either."

Sweets stopped snivelling long enough to shoot him a withering look. Max turned his steel blue gaze to Angela.

"Angel!" He belted charismatically, employing the endearment he'd appointed to her years ago. "It's wonderful to see you again, my darling. How's the therapy going?"

Angela offered up her most winning smile. "Great!" She replied with perhaps a hair too much enthusiasm. Then she gestured to Sweets, sobering a bit. "Not from him," she clarified quickly, jerking a thumb at the blubbering psychologist. "I have virtually no fantasies about gun violence at all anymore," she pronounced proudly.

Max beamed and fired her a whole-hearted thumbs-up. "Good for you!" He exclaimed.

"Did you talk to Booth yet, Max?" Cam interjected, genuinely curious.

Max bobbed his head once in a dutiful nod. "I told him if anything ever happened to my little girl, physical or otherwise I'd punch him in the crotch again." With that he oystered the cream-filled pastry in his hand in one bite and waved a cheery goodbye to all of them. "I'll cath up wiff you layer," he slurred around a mouthful of swan, sweeping crumbs from his palms as he walked away.

The others watched him go, eyebrows inquisitively raised. "I'm not even gonna ask." Hodgins was the first to speak, proficiently translating the unanimous thought scrolling through everyone's head into words. Jared followed close in his wake.

"I kinda wanna hear that shtory!" He proclaimed, chasing the declaration with another swig of champagne. ***

"You ready for this?" Brennan breathed, sounding slightly winded as she drew to a halt in front of Booth in the hallway, expression deadly serious. Looking at her with her flushed cheeks clearly visible even under a professional make-up job, recognizing the stressed, unblinking, even slightly unhinged look in her azure eyes, Booth couldn't help but smile, half-amused, half-adoring.

"Hey," he crooned, voice disarmingly gentle as he raised one hand from the pocket of his tux to brush a stray corkscrew of hair back behind her ear, "the really hard part is over." He swivelled his gaze and nodded at the closed set of double doors in front of them. "Now all we have to do is walk out there in front of…everyone." He did mean everyone. Even as he said it he heard something in his voice fragment ever so slightly, betraying him. Brennan grinned, the tension visibly leaching out of her shoulders at the consolation of not being the only one experiencing an impending sense of doom. All at once the irony struck her like a ton of bricks; in her seven years working with Booth she'd been stunned with a cattle prod, buried alive, kidnapped for death, targeted by bombers, stalkers, poisoners, serial killers and the like, involved in high speed chases (both in car and on foot), not to mention shot at countless times, and yet somehow this had been the most trying day of their partnership for her.

She couldn't help but produce a mildly wry laugh. "What part was the really hard part again?" She wanted to know, cocking her head a bit in jest along with her radiant half-smile. Booth's features mirrored the beam and he sighed, falling silent for a moment under the pretence of consideration while at the same time using the pause to take her in. She looked classic; positively Victorian with her hair coiled into a voluminous up-do away from her face, the strands twisted into intricately woven ripples at the back of her head, her eyes shadowed and outlined in such a way that made her ivory skin appear to glow with a natural luminosity. A hefty pair of ornate diamond earrings dangled centimeters above her bared shoulders, preserving the integrity of her own unique persona despite the fact that she was decked out like he had never seen her. Even without all of this, sans make-up with lank hair and clad in her most shapeless sweats, she was still easily the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Today merely served to elevate her in his eyes to the status of something akin to goddess.

It took a follow-up question from her for it to occur to him how long it had been since he'd last spoken. "You realize how much harder our jobs are going to get after this?" She mused, sobering a bit as she pinned him under an edgy gaze.

Booth heaved another sigh, considering her words. "It's exactly what perps look for," he agreed, the timbre of his voice turning grim all of a sudden, his eyes hardening as he looked at her. "Emotional ties to exploit between their enemies. We'll be sitting ducks out in the field."

As if someone had flipped a switch, Brennan's features brightened. "I can be a duck," she proclaimed under the glow of a good-humoured smile, reiterating the same words she'd used seven years ago to beg Booth to take her into the field for the first time.

Catching the allusion, Booth returned the grin, but it didn't reach his eyes. "We'll be that much more vulnerable," he attested in a grave half-whisper, eyes vacant as they stared tightly back into her own.

Brennan cocked her head contemplatively, still retaining the shadow of a smile. "Or that much stronger," she fielded, lowering her voice to level with his. She looked up at him from under exquisitely-mascaraed lashes, latching onto his gaze purposefully. "It will be more than worth it from where I'm standing." Even saying the words a full year after making such mammoth strides in personal growth, she still found it difficult to believe they came from her own lips. How many times had she made the assertion in the past that emotional ties were ephemeral and undependable? That the concept of monogamy was an invention of modern society that went against human nature and could ultimately even pose a threat to the human population from an anthropological standpoint? And yet here she was. She hadn't necessarily changed her opinions on the majority of that, but Booth was the one exemption from her principles, and always would be. She'd merely decided that for him, anything was beyond worth it.

Moving a step closer to him, this time it was she who disarmed him with a mollifying half-smile. "We'll just have to work that much harder to always have each other's backs," she professed quietly.

Internalizing the words, Booth's eyes drilled into her. "No more secrets," he avowed seriously after a moment. "No more games. It's you and me from here on out. We're the best chance each other's got. We stick together always, no matter the consequences."

Brennan nodded, her now fully-restored heart pumping one hundred percent commitment through her veins. "Agreed."

Booth held out his hand. "Partners?" He asked, looking to seal the deal in a manner that was familiar to both of them.

Brennan answered with a content broadening of her smile. "For life," she concurred, and reached out to take his extended right hand in her left – the one that bore her old dolphin ring, newly sized and embedded with a multi-carat diamond where the dorsal fin used to be, on her third finger. As if on cue, the M.C.'s booming voice reverberated through the solid oak doors from inside the banquet hall, and both of them took a deep breath.

"…And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for; may I introduce to you the most elite crime-fighting team in D.C. – indeed perhaps in America – for the first time as husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Temperance and Seeley Booth!"

The doors yawned wide, and Booth and Brennan stepped into the room side-by-side, hand-in-hand, he in the most expensive tuxedo he would ever own, she in a dazzling, floor-length white dress she never imagined she'd find herself in, entering together to a thunderous eruption of cheers.


Inspirational Playlist for The End in the Show:

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper

Hot Blooded by Foreigner

Grenade by Bruno Mars

Far Away by Nickelback

Fix You by Coldplay

One Match by Sarah Harmer

Shot Through the Heart by Bon Jovi

If I Die Young by the Band Perry

Keep on Tryin' by Poco

Stay With Me Tonight by Houston Calls

Favourite Bones Fan Video:

YouTube title: Bones – Booth & Brennan – "You're the Father" by BONESgeek.