Author's Note: This is my first foray into the land of Bones fanfic. From what I can tell, the events of The Hole in the Heart and The Change in the Game are fairly popular fodder for the fic writers. So, just count me as another unsuspecting writer whose imagination was sparked by those two episodes. (Actually, it was more like being attacked by a rampaging, rabid plot bunny with teeth that would do Bunnicula proud, but I won't get into that...)

This started out as a one-shot, but I do have a second chapter in the works with some potential ideas for a third. I'm not sure how long it will end up being, but at this point, it will be at least two chapters.

I have this fic posted over at Bonesology, so if you've seen it and read it over there, thank you for reading. If this is your first time reading it, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to do so.

And so, without further ado, I give you The Couple in the Aftermath. I hope you like it!

He had killed. He had watched the life slip from more people than he cared to count, and yet he could recall every one with startling clarity. Some haunted him. Others did not.

She had stood over the remains of countless wasted lives. She returned to the unknown the identity stolen from them in death. She gave them a voice and allowed their families the closure that, for far too long, she herself had been denied.

He had killed for her; to protect her. And she had stood beside him while he had killed to protect others. Then she had stayed quietly beside him in the aftermath to comfort and reassure.

She, too, had killed for him; the act a desperate defense. An instantaneous reaction when he had been unable to defend himself.

But she had never experienced death so intimately.

She had never held someone as the last shallow breath sighed from their lungs. She had never watched as the light slid from the eyes of a friend. Never had death been this personal for her.

Never before had she been there for the dying.

But he had.

And he knew, all too well, the tempest that followed such an experience.

And so, as he had gone about the business of investigating yet another wasted life, he had watched her for signs of the storm he knew was on the horizon.

And when it finally arrived, he was there; anchoring her as she cried for her student.

Her colleague.

Her friend.

He knew the pain, the hurt, that came from bearing witness to the end of a life cut short by a single act of violence.

And so, he held her as her grief raged, sobs wracking her frame. He held her, rubbing her back to let her know without a word that he was there as long as she needed him to be.

And as she shook against him, her sobs muffled against his chest, her tears soaking his shirt, he silently cursed Jacob Broadsky for bringing her such heart wrenching pain.

He cursed the Army for having taught the man to shoot.

And he cursed at God for the cruelty of it all.

As the light had gone out of Vincent's eyes, he had said a silent prayer to escort the dead man's soul to heaven, and a kernel of fear had taken hold in his heart.

She had finally opened herself up. Had finally let someone inside the walls she used to defend her heart.

And once again, God, Fate, the Universe, something, had ripped away someone she had allowed herself to love.

And now he feared she would close herself off again.

Because that was the truth of her.

She loved and felt so deeply for everyone in her life that the emotions were almost too much for her to bear. And so, for years, she had fought them. But lately she had been working on being more open. She had finally been allowing herself to feel. And that, perhaps, made the experience of death and loss all the more painful.

But she wasn't fighting the pain like she had so many times in the past. She wasn't burying it deep down and hiding behind walls so thick he'd once believed they could never be breached.

She had changed.

She called it improving.

He called it growth.

To him it was a metamorphosis. She had been hiding in her cocoon for so long and was only just now beginning to emerge to show the rest of the world the beauty and wonder that he had been able to see the moment he first set eyes on her.

Now he was terrified that she would withdraw into that cocoon once again.

And take his heart with her when she did.

That was, in large part, why he had told her she was staying at his apartment and not given her any room to argue. He had wanted to know she was safe, but he had needed to be there when the grief hit. He didn't want her to be able to retreat.

Not again.

He pressed a kiss to her hair and continued to stroke her back, listening as her sobs began to subside. Every so often, she released a stuttering sigh.

He rested his cheek against her hair and breathed deep, drowning his senses in the mingled scents of her shampoo, her perfume and something he couldn't name that was uniquely her. He kept stroking her back, each pass of his hand long and slow, hoping to lull her to sleep.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, her voice sounding congested and tired.

"Shhh." He brushed another kiss against her hair. "You don't have anything to apologize for."

She shifted then, and pulled away from him, sitting up. "Do you have any tissues?"

He sat up and grabbed the box on his nightstand, holding it out to her.

"Thank you." She dried her eyes and blew her nose. Then her gaze fell to his chest. "I soaked your shirt."

He barely glanced at it. "It'll dry."

She took several fresh tissues and pressed them to his chest. Over his heart. Trying to blot the damp and darkened material.

She froze then, staring at her hand.

He saw the tears welling in her eyes again. He covered her hand with his left and took her chin in his right, lifting her head, but her eyes stayed locked his chest.

"Hey. Look at me."

She didn't move.

He tightened his fingers around her hand and pulled it from his chest, "Bones. Please. Look at me."

She looked into his eyes and he felt his heart clench at the tortured pain staring back at him.

"I'm alright, Bones." He stroked her cheek, catching a single tear with his thumb. "I'm right here."

She swallowed hard and her jaw shifted in the way it did when she was feeling hesitant and unsure. He loved that little tell.

"It could have been you, Booth." Several fresh tears fell from her eyes, splashing hot on his fingers. She took a shaky breath. "It could have been you lying on that floor."

"But it wasn't."

She started to look away, but he caught her jaw again.

"Don't do that, Bones." He held her gaze the way he had so many countless times before. "Please." He stroked his thumb along her jaw. "Don't shut me out."

She stared at him and nodded slowly.

"It wasn't me. Okay? It wasn't me. It was Vincent. And I swear to you that I am going to hunt down that son of a bitch, Broadsky, and put him away for the rest of his life."

She nodded again. "I know you are, Booth." Her voice was shaky, but held confidence that he would do as he said.

He caught another tear with his thumb, and traced the track of it, drying it with a gentle stroke as he waited for her to continue. After so many years, he knew when she had more to say. So he waited; allowing her the time she needed to gather her thoughts.

"I..." she trailed off and took a deep breath before starting again. "I was so scared, Booth."

He continued stroking her cheek. "I know you were. I was too."

"You didn't seem it."

"I've had a lot of experience with that sort of thing, Bones." He dropped his hand from her cheek and let it dust down her arm to capture her free hand.

She nodded. "Yes, I suppose you have." She swallowed hard again and bit her lip, her jaw jutting out to the side a bit. He could see the questions and uncertainty swirling in the depths of her beautiful eyes.

"What is it?"

She sighed heavily and looked at the wall over his shoulder.

He gave her a moment to gather her thoughts, then squeezed her hands. "C'mon, Bones. Talk to me."

She looked down at their clasped hands, then slid her eyes up to meet his. "I feel guilty."

"What?" He shook his head, holding her gaze. "Bones, you don't have anything to feel guilty about. All we could do was apply pressure to that wound; but that only slowed the inevitable. Not even a field surgeon would have been able to save Vincent."

She shook her head. "That's not what I feel guilty about."

"I don't understand, then," he said, shaking his head. "What do you have to feel guilty about?"

She swallowed hard and tears welled in her eyes once more. "I feel guilty that I was happy - thankful, even - that it wasn't you."

"Oh, Bones."

"When it finally registered why you had stopped, my first thought was not for Vincent," she sniffed and blinked hard. "My first thought was relief that you were sitting three feet away and breathing." She looked down at their joined hands for a moment, then met his eyes once more, tears shimmering in her eyes. "What kind of a person does that make me?"

The whispered question crushed his heart.

He released her hands and brought both of his up to cradle her face. He studied her eyes, wishing he could take her pain away, and then he answered her. "It just makes you human, Bones." He stroked his thumbs gently against her cheekbones. "That's all it is. It's normal to feel that way. Okay? It's normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you."

She stared at him for what seemed an eternity, then finally nodded. "I was just..." she stopped and pulled her lower lip between her teeth.

"You were just what?"

"I was just relieved that you and I would still have a chance to have our moment." She shook her head. "I don't want to have any regrets, Booth." She paused and swallowed hard, blinking back tears. "I don't want to be like Vincent, saying I'm not ready."

He remembered a similar conversation in a dark car on a rainy winter night. It was the last time he'd seen her cry.

The night that had almost broken him.

"Oh, Bones."

"Did I say something wrong?"

He shook his head and slid his thumb along her lower lip. "No. You said something exactly right."

She shook her head. "I don't know what that means."

"It means... what did you write on your paper, Bones?"

Her brow furrowed and she shook her head again. "What paper?"

"The night of the blizzard."

"Oh." She bit her lip and looked at him. "If I tell you, will it still come true?"

He smiled a little and brushed his fingers against her bangs. "I thought you didn't believe in superstition. That it was just smoke. Meaningless particles."

"It was just smoke, Booth. But you believe in it." She took a deep breath and blinked rapidly as her eyes filled with tears. "Sometimes I think you believe enough for both of us." She drew her hand into the sleeve of his sweatshirt and used the cuff to wipe at her eyes. "Sometimes I want to be able to believe like that; believe in magic and fate and destiny." She shook her head. "But I can't. I need evidence to believe in something."

He stroked her cheek and smiled. "'Two plus two equals four.'"

She nodded. "Yes. That kind of evidence is beautiful to me." She paused and swallowed hard. "The same way you are beautiful to me."

He blinked back the sudden surge of tears at her whispered admission. "Bones..."

"When Hodgins and I were trapped in that car, I knew you'd get us out, Booth. I told Hodgins you would. He said that I have a lot of faith in you." She shook her head and tucked her hair behind her ear. "I told him it wasn't faith. That I'd seen what you could do and I knew you'd find us." Her eyes filled with tears again and she smiled a little. "He said, 'what you have is faith, baby.'" She paused. "Then he apologized for calling me baby."

She had never spoken about the time underground. Her admission of the depth of her belief in him left him reeling and thankful, not for the first time, that he had been there to see that tiny puff of dust and smoke when the airbag exploded. "Wow."

She pulled her lip between her teeth and looked at him. "Do you still want to know what I wrote?"

He shook his head. "Not right now."

Her brow furrowed. "Why not?"

He dropped his gaze to her mouth, watching as he slid his thumb across her lower lip. "Because," he locked his eyes on hers. "Right now, I really want to kiss you."

He watched the emotion play across her eyes, and felt her lips twitch below his thumb. "I really want to kiss you, too."

"Maybe we should do something about that."

He felt drawn towards her as he had so many times before. And then he felt her breath against his mouth as she whispered, "maybe we should."

He wondered when they had gotten closer. Then her mouth was on his, tentatively kissing him before she grew bolder and captured his mouth with hers.

Her hands were on his face. Pushing into his hair. He was lost in sensation. The taste of her. The smell of her. The feel of her body pressed against his own.

His world tilted, and they fell back down onto the bed. He held her close and rolled, pinning her beneath his body as he deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth the way he'd wanted to for so long. She tasted the way he remembered, only better.

He could feel her hands sliding down his back and gasped into her mouth when her cool fingers slipped under the hem of his shirt, her short nails raking against his low back.

As their tongues tangled, he drove his hands into her hair, cradling her head, and he could feel her hands sliding up his back, dragging his shirt up with them; stopping when she reached his shoulder blades.

Then she ran her hands under his arms to graze his chest. The touch made him jump and he broke the kiss, pulling back to stare into her eyes.

He had never seen anything so beautiful as the vision before him in that moment. Her eyes were a shade of blue he was sure he'd never seen before. Her cheeks flushed. Her lips damp and swollen from his kisses. Her hair tangled across his pillow. It was a sight he knew he'd remember with perfect clarity for the rest of his life.

But he had to be sure. He had to know that she wanted this as much as he did and that it was more than just a reaction to the events of the day.

"Bones," he swallowed hard, trying to catch his breath. "I need you to be sure that this is what you want, because I'm all in and it's time to lay my cards on the table." He paused and studied her, his eyes searching hers. "I have never loved any woman more than I love you." He slid his hand against her cheek. "And I have never wanted to make love with any woman more than I want to make love with you right now."

He saw the tears well in her eyes. Watched them slide down her temples and into her hair when she blinked.

"So be sure that this is what you want, Bones. That we are what you want. Because there's no going back once we cross this line."

He took a deep breath and stroked her cheek. "If you need time. If you need space. I can give it to you. I will give it to you. I'll wait until you're ready. But you need to tell me right now, baby, because if we go any further, I won't be able to stop. So please. Be sure."

He swallowed hard and held his breath as he watched more tears well in her eyes.

She gave him a watery smile and his heart skipped a beat. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life, Booth."

He started breathing again, sending up a silent prayer of thanks on rush of breath as he searched her eyes.

"I love you, Booth."

He felt tears rush to his eyes and slide down his cheeks. He didn't care.

She lifted her hands to his face and stroked his cheeks with her thumbs. "Make love to me, Booth."

"Not to you, Bones," he said, shaking his head as a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "With you."

She returned his smile. "With me."

He leaned in to capture her lips again, then stopped, pulling back to look in her eyes again. "You know that this is all about you and me right?"

Her head tilted to the side on the pillow. "What?"

"What we're about to do. It's about you and me. It's not about what happened today. It's not about anything outside of this room or this moment. This is about us. You and me. Right now. In our moment. I need to know that you know that."

Her lips curved in a lopsided smile. "I know, Booth." She slid her hands up into his hair to the back of his head. "Now," she said, pulling him towards her. "I believe the phrase is 'shut up and kiss me'."

A grin spread across his face and he closed the distance between them. "Yes ma'am," he whispered, as he captured her lips once more.

One kiss melted into the next.

Time ceased to have any meaning.

There was only the rasp of clothing being tugged and tossed away. The rustle of sheets. The creak of the mattress as they moved together.

There were soft sighs and ragged moans. Whispered questions and pleas for more. Gasps for breath and breathless cries of pleasure.

And then there was a momentary pause as he poised above her.

Their eyes met and held.

And then, two people became one.

In the afterglow, she lay curled up against his side, her head on his chest over his heart and he held her tight, his thumb stroking against her back as their breathing slowly returned to normal.

"So. That is what it's like." He shivered as her breath whispered across his skin.

He shifted so he could look at her. "That's what what is like?"

She lifted her head enough to look at him. "Breaking the laws of physics."

His brow furrowed and he stifled a yawn as he shook his head. "What are you talking about?"

"You told me once, about the difference between making love and having crappy sex. That making love is like two people becoming one."

A smile spread across his face as he remembered the long ago conversation in the diner.

"I told you," she continued, "that it was physically impossible -"

"For two objects to occupy the same space at the same time." He smiled. "I remember."

"And you said that what's important is that we try. And that when we do, we get close."

He nodded. "To breaking the laws of physics."

"You called it a miracle."

"Yes I did. And you told me I was right."

"You were." She smiled and pressed a kiss to his chest. "You are." She yawned and snuggled into his side. "I can't believe you remember that conversation."

"Why not? You remember it. Besides," he paused and pressed a kiss to her hair. "It's not every day that I win an argument with you."

She looked up at him and smiled. "That is true."

He brushed his hand against her hair and tucked it behind her ear. "I love you."

Her smile turned shy and sweet. "I love you, too."

He reached down pulled up the duvet tangled at their feet. "Let's get some sleep, Bones. Tomorrow's going to be a long day."

She turned her head and looked at the clock. "It's 5:43. It's already tomorrow, Booth."

He glanced at the clock and smiled. "So it is. All the more reason for us to get some sleep. That alarm is going off at eight."

"Then we should sleep." She snuggled against him again, and slid her arm across his chest.

He smiled at the possessive gesture and brushed a kiss against her hair as he wrapped his arms around her. "Good night, Bones."

"G'night, Booth."

"Sweet dreams."

The only reply was her slow, rhythmic breathing. Sated and exhausted, the day had finally caught up with her and she was sound asleep.

He pressed another kiss to her hair and his final thought as he drifted off was that no matter how good they were, his dreams could never compare to the reality he held safe in his arms.