A/N Greetings people! And especially an 82 year old lady named "Mary" with whom I have fallen in love because of her wonderful words. I wish I could reply to your reviews, but ff will only allow PMs to those with accounts! *ugly crying, I know* Please know that I cherish your readership and your reviews more than you will ever know! That goes for ALL Y'ALL out there who've stuck with this for 208 chapters!

🌟 The promised excerpt: Remember I promised a sexy preview to all the reviewers of chapter 208? Well, thank you to all who read it and enjoyed it! I wanted to get it to those 'guest' reviewers after the last chapter, (especially you, dear Angie ~ unfortunately, I have no way of getting your email address unless you put it in your review! (*More ugly crying*). See if you can put all this together and mail me here: "cat ('at' symbol) cabaneladotcom" See if that works!

🌟 A Big Change: In an attempt to improve my writing and advance the plot more expeditiously, I have made a major change to my posting process. Extraneous parts that don't make it into The When and the How: A Bone to Pick because they simply don't move the plot forward or provide significant character development ... those pieces will be in their own repository which I have named "The Sexy Anthropophagist." You can find it by clicking on my hyperlinked name and scrolling down to my story list!

🌟 My Blessings Are Many: This has never been more apparent than when the following people provided their support these past two weeks. I thank you from the bottom of my heart: Diko, BostonLegalGirl, Grandma Bones, DWBBFan, Dyna63, Kimber3333, eire76, hill happy, chosenname 💜 I cannot thank you enough *hand to heart, finger pointed at you*

Keep Lovin' Bones!

~MoxieGirl
~MoxieGirl44 on Twitter
🌟
P.S. I am FREAKING LOVING
Season 8 so far! WOW!


Booth's Boots

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird,
and when we find someone whose weirdness is
compatible with ours, we join up with them
and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

Dr. Seuss

The Sequoia sat cattywampus to the road, half sunk into a grass easement less than a block from Parker's school. The peculiar position they found themselves in was a direct result of Brennan's spontaneous explosion of affection upon the right side of Booth's face when he told her he'd sacrificed his bet in the name of Operation Pringles. Jarred by the commotion of the car jumping the curb, they sat dazed for a moment, then stared at each other, finally breaking into nervous chuckles. Booth was the first to recover as it struck him that they were lucky there wasn't a sign post or, worse, a child standing on the sidewalk when they came flying at it.

"Okay, new rule. No titillating me while I'm driving!" He pressed his lips together and peeked over at her briefly.

"I apologize, Booth. That was irresponsible of me," she said hurriedly, still grinning. "I'm sorry. It's not funny." She cleared her throat and furrowed her brow, trying to sound mature.

Booth stared at her and grimaced. "You," he said, cocking his head and squinting admonishingly in her direction, "are dangerous. Even without your gun."

"I am a human weapon," she agreed, biting her lips between her teeth.

"A force to be reckoned with," he said, shaking his head in feigned disdain.

"Okay, no titillating while driving," she agreed with a contrite grimace. "However, you're not driving now—" She said quietly. "Can I kiss you now?" She fluttered her eyelashes at him coquettishly, her lips twisting into a playfully mocking squiggle.

"I suppose—" he said, shrugging then emitting a long drawn-out sigh as if it were a huge imposition. "If you must—," His lips wiggled between grinning and frowning as he tried to feign nonchalance. He stared out the front windshield as if awaiting— something.

She was amused by his dramatics, though she didn't move. Two can play at that game, she decided, shrugging to herself.

"It is an acceptable sign of appreciation in many cultures," she offered, then waited until he looked over at her again. "Kissing, I mean."

"Okay," he said quizzically. "Then what are you waiting for?"

"Permission—"

"You don't need permission; you live here," he said intently as he reached over and put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, her arms reaching around his neck and resting on his shoulders as she snuck her fingers into his hair. She looked from one of his deep brown eyes to the other and smiled contentedly.

"You know when I was just telling you I was having prurient thoughts?" The left side of her mouth bowed up in a somewhat bashful lopsided smile.

"Yeah," he said, barely making any noise as his heart skipped a beat. He closed his eyes, sunk his nose in her hair, and inhaled that scent of everything about her that he loved.

"You are this man that I have known for over six years," she started slowly, a crease in the shape of an upside down capital V forming atop the bridge of her nose. "When I saw you— on that screen— doing that ridiculous rockstar dance—"

He nodded, his smile deepening causing dimples to appear in his cheeks. He watched her expression softening when she closed her eyes and conjured the black and white image that had not so much surprised as delighted her barely an hour ago.

"I wanted to take you back to my office and—" she said in a whisper, opening her eyes.

"Uh huh?" It was only two syllables, but his voice cracked in the middle of them.

"—and pretend like it was Tuesday and I could show you how much I really do appreciate how you feel about us being together."

"Mhm—?"

With the middle finger of her right hand she traced an invisible path along his hairline, following her fingers with her eyes in the same way an artist watches the tip of the brush as it meets the canvas in the first strokes of what he knows will be a masterpiece. She continued the path slowly down his jaw then to his chin. When their eyes met, she found him staring, eyes wide and innocent, back at her. She didn't smile and neither did he; they simply existed for a moment in each other's space.

With the pad of her middle finger she traced the contours of his lips. When he parted his lips to nip at her fingers she thought she was going to fall apart. It had been a stressful morning. She had barely been able to touch him since seeing him, larger than life on the screen, dancing and singing with wild abandon in celebration of their evolving relationship.

She dropped her forehead on his and pressed her lips against his as he sank his nose into her cheek and lost himself in their kiss.

"Whoa!" He said, his head spinning. He squeezed her shoulders and reluctantly pushed her back into her seat. "Alright, alright. Show some restraint," he said in a low voice he didn't recognize. The comment was meant for himself as much as for her. "We're on a tight," his voice cracked on the last word. He cleared his throat and tried again. "We're on a tight, uh, schedule, and—" He stopped there because she'd grabbed hold of his tie and was wrapping it around her fist as she pulled him toward herself and began nuzzling the skin just below his right ear. "Ohhhh," he hummed, "that is not—fair!" His last word fell off of his lips in a whisper of resignation. "You really aren't—Whoa!"

She nibbled on his stubbly skin as her sucking kisses traveled from the back of his jaw to the edge of his lips. A low, tantalizing chuckle from deep in the back of her throat accompanied each kiss.

"Come on, Bones!" He chuckled and groaned, letting her take possession of his mouth in a deep exploratory kiss that curled his toes and hijacked his will power. "I'm toast," he cried in falsetto, then grabbed her by her hair and pulled her face away from his to look in her eyes. Flashing her a rakish grin, he smashed his lips into hers and then dragged his lips and teeth along her jaw all the way back to her ear knowing full well it would turn her into a heavy puddle of beautiful anthropologist goo. When he finally pulled away, he didn't release her shoulders until he knew she had accepted that they had to move on with their day.

After an electrically charged moment during which they stared at each other thinking prurient thoughts about lunging at the other again despite being half a block from the school and in broad daylight, they both chuckled nervously, exhaled slowly and sunk back into their respective seats. Brennan blew her bangs out of her face. Booth wiped his mouth and cleared his throat, then whipped the gear into reverse, peeked into the rear view mirror, and eased up on the brake until they bounced backward off the curb. Finally on level ground, Booth threw the gear shift into drive and headed toward the school.

"So," Booth blurted, gazing out the front windshield, "I take it I surprised you?" He hit the power window lever hoping for a cool breeze. "My betting strategy surprised you?"

"I admit I had been nonplussed, but now I am delighted, as if that weren't apparent by my rather effusive reaction," she cleared her throat and nodded as she dropped her head sideways on the headrest and gazed at his profile. "I thought it was ingenious, actually—your betting strategy."

"You sound surprised." He stole a sideways glance in her direction and met her beautiful blues for a moment, her confidence in him and her beguiling smile making his heart beat a little faster.

"No, not surprised. You're brilliance regarding the significance and nuance of social interactions is no surprise at all," she said. "What surprises me is," she grimaced, "— a hundred dollars, Booth?" She shook her head, her eyebrows pinched in disbelief.

"I would have paid a thousand if it would make you happy," he said, with a slow, earnest smile.

Brennan gasped. Gazing at his silhouette, awestruck, she had the sudden impulse to do something she would otherwise consider nonsensical; even foolish; she found herself fighting an urge to spout poetry. How do I love thee, let me count the ways … The words in her head floated by in a voice as soft as a feather. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace …' What does that really mean? She found herself unable to remember when she might have memorized Elizabeth Barrett Browning's literary work except for the express purpose of gaining anthropological insight. She came up empty-handed. So, how did that get in there? She wondered. And when? Nonsensical poetry!

As the unusual murmurs in her brain trailed off, she reached out and ran the back of her fingers from Booth's cheek down to his chin and felt a flash of muffled adrenaline pierce her breast. She took a deep breath and slowly released it through parted lips.

Booth reached up and squeezed her hand, put it to his lips, and kissed it before depositing it on his thigh, covering it with his own. He flashed a smile in her direction and chuckled. How strange it is to be doing this with her, he thought. Will I ever get used to it? He glanced sideways at her, catching a glimpse of her pensive expression.

"Do you ever feel an uncontrollable urge to quote poetry?" She asked, her voice childlike and uncertain.

"You mean like … 'I do not like green eggs and ham, I will not eat them Sam-I-Am? I would not, could not, in a boat—', or, like, 'There once was a man from Nantucket'?"

"No—" She smirked and snorted.

"Oh, you mean like, Shakespeare? The quote I remember the clearest from ye old bard, is when Lady Macbeth says,

'Out, damned spot! Out, I say! … Hell is murky! Fie, my
lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?
Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him!"

~ Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1

"You know what she's really saying there, Bones?" He glanced sideways at her. She smiled, willing to let him have his say, so he continued. "She's saying it doesn't matter who knows we killed the king because no one will hold us accountable! Even back in the day the rich thought they were above the law! I tell you, Bones, people never change."

They sat in silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts.

"Then there's Romeo and Juliet. Now, that would have been an interesting case to work back when they didn't have mass speedometers and computers! Heh!" He chuckled to himself.

"They had their own methods back then, Booth. But that's not what I was asking about. Do you ever feel the urge to spout the more ethereal, non-rhyming, sonnet-like material—"

"The love stuff, you mean?"

"Yes."

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate— that kind of poetry?"

"Seeley Booth!" She stared at him as if he'd sprouted a second head.

"What? I went to college! I had to take electives! There were a lot of hot chicks in the Brit Lit poetry classes, Bones!"

She shook her head and smirked; stared out her side window.

"Why do you ask?" He glanced between her and the road in front of him.

"Hormones— Hormonally induced excitement, obsessive thoughts. A recurring mild though sometimes significant euphoria," she said, not making much sense to Booth.

He squinted over at her.

"The euphoria contextualizes average objects and events such that my perception of them varies significantly from my norm. I see them as more pleasing, interesting in an appreciative manner rather than a scientific one. I wonder if Angela's brain triggers the release of excessive levels of dopamine in her bloodstream," she said, more to herself than to her partner.

"Bones, are you telling me you are feeling ... sentimental, dreamy? You feel like creating something that expresses feelings?" Booth chuckled. "You know, like art?"

"No …. But I just quoted poetry, Booth. Love poetry— a stanza of Elizabeth Barrett Browning."

"I didn't hear you quote any poetry—" He smirked, keeping his eyes on the road.

"I guess I didn't say it out loud. But—have you ever known me to quote poetry?"

"You quote literature every once in awhile," he shrugged. "Poe, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton Bradley—Pascal."

"It's John Milton. He wrote Paradise Lost. Pascal was a mathematician … and a philosopher. When I've quoted the higher minds it's always been in relation to a case … a suspect's vice … an elusive cause of death … the solution to a seemingly insurmountable puzzle. This poetry in my head was for no apparent reason. It's irrational— and unusual. For me anyway."

"Hm," Booth grunted, frowning in thought. "Why, uh, what poetry were you thinking about?"

"It's silly, Booth," she demurred, shrugging, and looking away out her window.

"I'll be the judge of that. Spill, lady," he puffed, then chuckled.

"Agh!" She looked at her mate and shook her head, then took a deep breath. "How do I love thee, let me count the ways …" She rolled her eyes and grimaced over at him.

"Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh!"

Brennan stared at Booth.

"Hoh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, hoh!"

"Shut up!"

This made it worse. He cackled. He bit his lips and snorted through his nose.

Brennan rolled her eyes and shook her head, grinning guiltily. She finally chuckled, her cheeks burning cerise with embarrassment.

"You're not helping," she whined.

"Bones, Bones, Bones," he sighed, shaking his head, still grinning ear to ear.

"WHAT?!"

"Heh, heh, heh, hee, hee. You," he said, reaching over to pinch her cheek, "you are just high on love hormones … that's all." He grinned a cocky grin, still chuckling.

She slapped his hand away playfully.

"Laugh it up, Alpha Primate, I'm not the one who was prancing around the lab like a Moraebiïngian warrior entreating the Etruscan fertility gods to bestow favor upon his bride's womb!"

"The bungee fertility—who?" Booth's brow creased in confusion.

"The Moraebiïnga are a tribe—"

"Alright, alright, you crazy lovesick anthropologist," Booth sighed, squeezing her hand and taking a sideways glance at her. "I'm supposed to be the sentimental one. Bones quoting poetry … what next?" He snorted, his shoulders bouncing in silent laughter. They drove on in silence until Booth pulled the Sequoia into a parking space in the school visitors' lot. "This is really happening, isn't it?" He said contemplatively, removing the key from the column, dropping his hands in his lap. He turned to gaze at his partner's beautiful smile.

"Yes, it is," she said calmly, nodding slowly. He was referring to their evolving relationship, and she knew it.

Booth leaned closer so slowly it was as if he were tipping over or being drawn to her like a magnet to steel. He cupped the side of her face with his left hand and pressed his lips against her mouth for one final warm kiss.

Dragging his jaw across her left cheek, he whispered in her ear. "It's starting to feel real," he said, kissing her on the cheek before leaning away.

"Of course, it's real," she sighed confidently. "But I think I understand what you mean. Up until this morning, it has seemed ethereal, fantastical—"

"Heh, exactly," he said aghast, though he was getting used to her voicing exactly what he was thinking. "That is exactly it, Bones! But, being at the Jeffersonian— with everyone there— and still being, you know, us— like this—" he said, reaching over and squeezing her thigh. He shrugged and grimaced. "I don't know. It still feels good, you know?"

"And right. It feels right," she agreed, grimacing, her lips curling inward.

"Yeah. This is why it was good to keep it to ourselves," he contended. "So you feel confident; see that it can work."

"And so that you can feel confident. You know, your behavior exudes a certain distinctive assuredness. Just as your Cocky belt buckle suggests. That is something I enjoy about you—when I'm not frustrated by it—but you're not always as confident on the inside as you portray on the outside. And that's okay, Booth."

He stared at her, a look of defensiveness flashed over his features then disappeared. He thought about that wretched nightmare last night and wondered if there was something he was hiding from himself. What was clear to him once again was that he couldn't hide it from her.

"This is just as important for you as it is for me, Booth," she said gently. "This—" she paused and looked around the inside of the SUV, then back up to his eyes, "this waiting, and learning, and taking care of ourselves and each other. It's important for both of us, right?"

Booth sighed and looked down at the keys in his left hand, flipping them in circles around his index finger. "You know that box— the one you told me about? That black box?"

"Yes?"

"And the not-yet fully surrendered heart?"

She nodded, silently, patiently.

He closed his eyes for a moment as he puckered and forced out a lungful of air. "I have this, uh, this voice in my head sometimes—

"So you've told me. God? The Holy Spirit?"

"No— well, yeah, there's God, but I'm talking about this other voice. He's the opposite of God. I call him the Filthy Stinking Bastard, FSB for short."

"The voice in your head has a nickname?"

Booth smirked in response, but continued. "He says we might not really be happening; maybe the tumor is back and I've dreamed all of this," he said, tossing his hands in the air and letting them fall loosely back on his lap. "Any moment I might wake up and I— we'll be back there, you know, where we were before. Or, worse yet, this will blow up in our faces somehow." He finally looked up at her. His eyes were glossy, his look serious.

"Filthy Bastard," she chuffed in an exaggerated fashion, then grimaced. "I'm sorry that he torments you, Booth. But, this is happening. You know I always tell you the truth." She reached across and firmly pinched an inch of his thigh tissue, digging her nails into his skin.

"Ouch! What—what the hell, Bones?!" He rubbed his thigh. "That's gonna bruise," he mumbled.

"Booth, in the past you have asked me to pinch you so you know you aren't dreaming," she shrugged innocently. "I've never understood the rationality behind inflicting pain to test a person's state of consciousness, but I'm willing to do it if it will assure you that you are fully conscious and that what is happening between us is not a manifestation of errant electrical impulses being volleyed across synapses by hyperstimulated neurons."

Booth snorted and shook his head, then stared at her for a long moment before kissing her on the nose and leaning his forehead against hers. "Let's go. Parker's waiting," he said quietly before leaning away to reach for his door handle.

Brennan tugged on his tie to stop him. "Operation Pringles is a success," she said reassuringly. "We've overcome the first hurdle. Well, the second, if you count that session with Dr. Sweets last night." They both snorted quietly. "And what that Filthy Bastard—"

"Filthy Stinking Bastard. FSB."

"Yes. What he insists will happen will never happen."

Booth pulled on his bottom lip, his brow wrinkled with uncertainty. He shook his head slightly. How can you be so sure, he seemed to be saying.

"You would never let that happen, Booth. I would never let that happen," she consoled, gently squeezing his forearm. "In fact, I find myself looking at these couple of days, not as a test, but more like a practice run." She smiled her lopsided smile. "That's gotta be a good thing, right?

"Uh, yeah, well, really?" He frowned and nodded thoughtfully.

She nodded, then opened her door and got out of the car. Booth got out of the car and pushed the door shut with a satisfying 'thunk'.

"Hey," called Booth as he joined her on the sidewalk. "That 'Operation Pringles' bit? I like it! And we certainly did pull it off!" He pinched his lips together and nodded proudly as he reached out and grabbed the hand she held out to him.

Brennan relaxed her arm inside his, their fingers intertwined, then held up her opposite palm for a high-five and grinned at him.

"What's that for?" He asked, smacking her high-five.

"Well done, Operation Pringles partner," she laughed and squeezed his fingers. "Congratulations on a successful operation this morning."

"Although—" he said dubiously, "I believe you almost blew it," he said, poking her in the arm with his other index finger. "It's a miracle they didn't see right through us!"

"Me? I strenuously object!" She snorted.

"Oh, you strenuously object, little Miss Sexting-Inappropriate-Messages-During-A-Meeting?" He snorted right back at her.

"Well— I wasn't the one who got caught prancing around the lab pretending to be a rock star!" She cocked her head and shot him an incredulous glare.

"How was I to know it would be recorded? That was not my fault!" He grimaced and shook his head. "Now, you … undressing me with your eyes. Talk about unprofessional!" He snorted and laughed, flashing her a twinkling toothy grin.

"Me? You were the one who couldn't keep your hands to yourself! How many times did you kiss me? I thought I was going to have to file a restraining order!"

"Hey, no one saw any of that," he insisted. "I—" he began with an air of superiority, "was stealthy. You're perfectly sure you did the math right on those bones?"

"Nice change of topic, mister!" She squinted and chuckled at him before continuing. "There's always room for error," she relented, "and there are always anomalies, Booth. I'll know more when we get to Washington. What did Dr. Saroyan say?"

"Hm. About what?"

"You said she handed you your ass," she said.

"Well," he said, slowly releasing his grasp on her hand. "How about I tell you once we're on the plane. Then you can tell me what's up with Angela and why she's so pissed at me."

"Deal." She winked.

"Oh—and by the way, some of the same Operation Pringles rules apply here—no 'hinky pinky' in the school cafeteria. I don't want to get called into the principal's office. Had enough of that when I was in grade school!" Booth smirked as he opened the door to let Brennan go before him.

"I take it the principle wasn't a female with a rather generous bust line," Brennan snarked.

"Oh, I would have been in there a lot more if that were the case," he snorted right back.

ДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдД ДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдД

Brennan and Booth were met outside the cafeteria by an agitated Parker who stopped mid-pace when they rounded the corner.

"I thought you'd forgotten, Dad!" Parker stopped right in front of the pair.

"Never! Are we late?" Booth looked toward a set of open double doors leading into a cavernous cafeteria. Wafting from somewhere beyond the doors was the aroma of industrial-sized vats of steamed meat and boiled vegetables.

"Not really. It's just I told everyone Bones might come. They're pretty psyched. Everybody thinks she's the awesomest adult ever," said Parker as he catapulted himself into Brennan's arms.

"What about me? I'm awesome!" Booth whined insistently. "I carry a gun!"

"Wha—I carry a gun," objected Brennan.

"Uh, I have a badge!" Booth pulled it out and flashed it in Parker's face. "FBI!"

"But—I have an immense knowledge of the human body and have seen rotting corpses," she countered.

"But—I have a badge!" He grimaced, waving it about weakly before tucking it back in his pants. He reached toward Parker for a hug just as his son turned on his heel, grabbed Brennan's hand, and began pulling her toward the double doors. "What, no hug for me? I'm the parent here,' Booth mumbled, then scrambled to catch up with them.

After two interesting conversations around a long cafeteria table peopled with mop-haired fresh-faced second-, fourth-, and sixth-grade kids with plastic lunch trays and vinyl Justice League lunch bags, Brennan and Booth were more than ready to leave for the airport. (Reader: I've posted those two cafeteria conversations elsewhere. See note below!)

Parker walked them to the front doors of the school. "Love you, dad," he said before hugging Booth a final time. "Call me from your trip?"

"Don't I always?" Booth pretended to look hurt. Parker rolled his eyes at his dad and grinned. "I love you too, Bub. Stay out of trouble. Call you tomorrow, kay?"

"You've got my number," chuckled Parker, walking backward down the hall away from Booth.

"And you've got my number," Booth grinned back, reaching toward Parker for a fist bump in the air as he walked backward toward the vestibule where Brennan awaited him with a big grin on her face.

ДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдД ДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдДдД

Less than an hour later, Brennan and Booth were settled into their first class seats of US Airways flight 3490 out of Ronald Reagan National Airport and into Philadelphia International. From there they would board an Airbus A321 and take Flight 1547 into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, arriving over six hours later in Washington State.

During their seventy minute layover at Philadelphia International, they each fielded several phone calls.

Booth's first call was from Bob Grimes, their first victim's father.

"Took you long enough to answer, cowboy. I think I counted 500 rings," said the gravely voice coming across the line of Booth's cell. "No matter. I got something to say. May be significant, or not. I'll let you sleuthy types make that decision."

"What can I do you for, Mr. Grimes?" Booth's smile was bounced from cell tower to cell tower and crisply deposited into Bob's ear giving the old man the sensation of being youthful and full of promise despite the subject of this call.

"Well, now, hold your horses, young man. One thing at a time. First, I gotta know what size feet ya' got."

"What?"

"Do you know what bidniz I'm in, young man? D'I tell you I own a Tony Lama outlet here in Philly?"

"Boots? Tony Lama cowboy boots?" Booth asked in a worshipful tone.

"Yessir! All kinds. Work boots, Western boots, El Pasos, Stockman, San Saba, Americana, Vaqueros. Boots for all shapes and sizes and for every wholesome activity under the sun. You can—"

"Are those— are you talking 100% Vaqueros?" Booth interrupted him.

"Yessiree, Bob. See how I did that? Yes sir, then my name. Purty slick, huh?"

"Black, with white welt stitching? Wait! Or, do you have—alligator hide?" Booth was picturing himself leaning back in his lumbar support office chair with his legs crossed, his feet up on the desk for all to see his gorgeous footwear. A large grin spread across his face. "I'm sorry, Bob. What did you just say?"

"I said, you can tell a lot about a man by the kinda boot he chooses."

"Huh. Interesting. I did not know that," chuckled Booth.

"Yep. And you, I gotcha pegged for a Western. Not too fancy, but not plain either. A work boot, but with a little more … personality. See? A man's boot. Gentleman's boot. I'm giving you a pair of 'em soon's you put my Leesha's killer behind bars. So, there's you're incentive, son."

"While I appreciate the sentiment," demurred Booth, "but it's my mission to solve this case with or without the promise of a pair of the most well-made pair of Westerns a man can buy, and more importantly—"

"I knew you would, cowboy. I just wanna show my 'preciation!"

"Sir, you do know that it's a felony to bribe a federal officer—"

"I knew you'd say that and I wasn't gonna say anything about it, except I'd like to get ya' something special and that's when it occurred to me that Aleesha had a boyfriend at one time who she wanted to get some boots for."

"You don't say."

"I do say."

"Who was the guy? I'll need a name and a description, if you can remember."

"Nah. Never met him. Never learned his name. He was older than she was, per her usual. He wore a size twelve, twelve 'na half."

"If you never met him, how do you—"

"Aleesha grew up playing on the floor of my shop. She knows—knew— boots. She knew to find the shoe size 'for she came to me with the request. You're, what, about a 'leven 'n' a half, cowboy?"

"Yes sir. Size eleven and a half—but, Bob, uh, Mr. Grimes, I really can't let you—"

"I knew it, 'leven 'n' a half. Okay. That means a twelve boot. So. Aleesha tells me she wants some fancy skins. Something with what we call a 'J Toe'. That's the sharpest toe point we make. She wanted lots of welting, but with one caveat: it's gotta be a steel toed shoe."

"Hm."

"Yeah. That's what I said. Problem is, you can't get a J Toe with a steel nose. Least, not from Tony Lama and I don't sell nothin' else. So, I tried to talk her into some stiff leather pointers. She said no, the guy has to have steel-toed shoes. Why, I says. She said he had balance problems or something like 'at."

"Interesting. What did she end up doing? You ever find the right boots for her boyfriend?"

"Nah. She'd moved on to some other fella and told me to drop it before long. I just thought it was strange. Thought you'd wanna know."

"Well, Bob, sometimes it can be the smallest thing that makes all the difference. This might be nothing, or it just might be one of those special things."

"You don't need to make blow sunshine up my britches, cowboy. I just wanted to get you something and I remembered. That's all. What size is the filly?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your lady doctor. Relax, I don't mean anything untoward. What size shoe she wear? I'm guessin' about a nine wide."

"Oh! Uh—listen, Bob. I appreciate your offer, we both do. We just—we can't accept gifts like that. But—I'll tell you what—next time I'm out there you can help me get my own pair. I'd really enjoy that, sir."

"Just take your eyes off the rest of that filly's fine features for a minute, you dog, and get me her shoe size. We'll talk about the rest later. Call me when you got her size, son."

"Well, just hold on. She's not shy about these things," snorted Booth. "Bones! I need your shoe size!"

"Nine and a half. Wide," she said, cupping her hand over her own cell.

"I heard that," rasped Bob into Booth's ear. "Now, go give me a reason to order these boots for y'all."

"Now Bob—I'm giving you her size so you can round up a good sample to show her. I will buy the boots though, sir, I have to insist. Really. We don't want to go to all the trouble of finding this guy just to have a jury kick us out of court for accepting bribes!"

"I see, I see. Okay, well—don't you worry your pretty little head about this. Now—quit wastin' your time on the phone with an old fart like me when you got a eye-poppin' filly sitting next to you and my daughter's case to solve. Now, git!"

"I couldn't agree more," smiled Booth as they hung up.

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"Bones, you are going to be an awesome mom one day," said Booth when they were both call-free as they boarded the Airbus A321 to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport .

"Of course I will be," she replied dryly.

"You were great with those kids at Parker's school—though for a moment I was worried we were gonna get banned from ever returning. Did you have to bring up cannibalism and the breeding habits of insects? And that stuff about, you know, the physiological changes a boy goes through to turn into a man?"

"Booth, you are such a prude when it comes to things of a sexual nature."

"I am not a prude. I just think there's a time and a place—and the right person—who should be responsible for that kind of conversation with a kid!"

Brennan smirked and rolled her eyes. "According to his increased respiratory rate, the sweat on his palms, the flushed appearance of his neck, and the pallor of his face, he was genuinely experiencing a very high level of anxiety over his suspicion that one of his bones may have vanished into thin air. What would you have had me do, go into a detailed explanation of how the corpora cavernosa and the corpus spongiosum engorge when stimulated by either intentional or unintentional thought, sight, or physical stimulation?" (Reader: the full cafeteria conversation they are referring to has been posted elsewhere. See note at bottom)

Booth sighed heavily. She had handled the boy's concern as appropriately as possible, given the sensitive nature of the topic. "Truth be told, Bones, I was proud of how you handled it. I never would have thought of explaining—that—as eloquently or delicately as you did."

"Thank you, Booth, but by now you should be used to being impressed by me," she said. "Poor kid. I hope he talks to his dad about his concerns."

"Oh, I called the school nurse while you were on the phone. I let her know what happened. She'll be giving the dad a head's up."

"Good call, partner," Brennan grimaced thoughtfully.

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As they awaited take-off, Brennan talked on her cell with Wendell and Booth made a quick call to Washington King County Sheriff Sharon Restovich. The remains of Banty Solicious had been exhumed and delivered to the Medical Examiner's office.

"Thank you, Sheriff," said Booth. "Please do not open the casket or, heaven forbid, let anyone near it. Dr. Brennan likes to see stuff exactly as they are without anyone messing with them. Now, we're probably gonna need to visit where she was found. That was in a park, right?"

"Correct, sir. Island Center Forest," she replied in a clipped respectful tone. "Would you like me to secure the perimeter?"

"You've been reading too many Kathy Reichs novels, Restovich," Booth teased. "We may need to do that eventually, but let's not go calling any attention to this case until we know what we're looking for, got it?"

"Well, sir, things get around here pretty fast. I tried to keep a lid on it, but we got loose lips here in the office, so—," she said, staring hard at the deputy she caught telling a friend the best-selling author, Dr. Temperance Brennan, was on her way to town with an FBI agent in tow.

"I thought I told you to keep this on the down low, Restovich!" Booth said tersely.

"You did, and I have no excuse, sir. It seems my, uh, deputy here overheard me and got all excited—"

"Then lock her up and take away her phone! We do NOT need to alert the killer so he runs out and messes with the crime scene!"

Dead silence on the other end of the line.

"Restovich?"

"Uh, yes, sir?" She sounded tentative, anxious.

"Why do I get the feeling you're about to tell me something I'm not gonna like?"

"Well, sir, the crime scene has already been messed with about as much as it could be—"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Well, uh, about three years ago that area was dozed and graded so they could put in a bike path," she said, bracing herself against his anticipated response.

"Terrific! That's just dandy," grunted Booth, glancing over at his partner who was in the midst of a conversation with Wendell.

"What would you like me to do, sir?"

Booth's lips pinched together in frustration. "Get me a list of contact information. I want the phone numbers of whoever found Banty's remains. I want Banty's family members and friends along with all their last known whereabouts. I want the ME who examined the remains, the people hired to put in that bike path, the names of the committee members involved in the decision to put in that bike path, and the names of all the people who raised or donated the money to make sure that bike path got made."

"On it, sir."

"And Restovich?"

"Yes, sir?"

"I also want you to covertly arrange to have your cadaver dogs available all day tomorrow. Schedule a practice drill or something. I don't care. Just keep—it—locked up—tight! No leaking this information—to anyone! Especially not your girlfriend!"

"She's my deputy, sir. And you have my word, sir. I will handle all of this myself," she gulped dryly. "We do have the best noses in the country here in King County since we've had our own share of—"

"Save the story, Restovich. Just get on it," Booth interrupted. "Yesterday!"

Brennan was not going to be happy. It was several years ago when Banty's remains were found. Would that matter? Sometimes he couldn't predict what her brain would come up with.

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"Wendell noticed the discrepancy between the femora and tibias with Banty's remains and what we would expect to see if those bones belonged to Aleesha Grimes," chagrined Brennan to Booth when they both had a break between calls.

"Well, you said he was smart," he said, when suddenly his phone rang again. "Booth!" He answered the call when he saw Officer Benton from the Haverford Police Department's name on the caller ID. "You got that corps of cadaver dogs reserved for tomorrow?"

"Yes, sir, I do, Agent Booth. The whole mess of them. We're ready at your mark."

"Good. How's Scarpetti—Scarlotti—whatever his name is over there with the journals?"

"He says he's on his second six pack of Mountain Dew. Says this Dr. Flynn Hubbard guy is as anal as a—well, I'll spare you the details, Agent Booth. Let's just say if you put a piece a coal up that guy's ass you'd have a diamond by lunch time."

"Believe it or not, that is a very good thing. He probably documented everything. Excellent. Send Scarlotti—"

"Scarpetti, sir," Benton corrected him this time.

"Whatever. Keep that man well lubricated with caffeine until we get everything we can get our hands on. Those journals may prove very telling."

"You got it, sir. Have a nice flight!"

"Will do, Benton," assured Booth before hanging up.

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Once they finally took flight, Booth and Brennan asked for a blanket to fend off the chilly sterile air of the Airbus cabin. They snuggled with their arms intertwined and their heads leaning sideways against each other. Brennan nuzzled Booth's cheek with her nose and lay her head on his shoulder.

"So, what was the deal with Angela before we left the Jeffersonian? She seemed pissed at me," said Booth.

"What?"

"What do you mean, what? She called me an ass hat," he chuffed. "She was definitely pissed!"

"Oh yeah," Brennan said, glancing over at the white gift bag she'd set down in the empty seat to her side. "There was nothing I could do about it, Booth," she shrugged. "Not without blowing our Operation Pringles cover." She turned his face toward her by his chin and quickly kissed him on the lips.

"So, what gives? Why am I an ass hat?" He stared at her quizzically.

"Remember when we were in the back of Angela's office, you and I—it was before we saw your fertility dance on the surveillance tape?"

"Yep, what about it?"

"It appears she heard us shouting obscenities at each other."

"What? Seriously? We weren't really shouting at each other, were we?"

"If you recall, the volume of our voices was elevated," she admitted, shrugging, "and ass hat, douche bag, jack hole, bonehead, loser, poser, dick head, and fornicating skunk-humping dickhead fall under the category of obscenities."

Booth grimaced guiltily. "I suppose out of context that must have looked pretty bad. No wonder she was fit to be tied!"

"Fit to be tied with what?"

"Nevermind, that's Hodgins' territory," Booth snickered. "So, what'd you tell her?"

"Booth, I felt," she shrugged, "anxious and transparent. You have said she can read me like a book, right? I could barely look at her for fear she would see." She glanced at him dolefully, then looked away as she absently played with a corner of the blanket.

"See what?"

"The truth, of course! That I kissed you. That I am looking forward to having sexual intercourse with you tomorrow, maybe several times even, depending upon time constraints and your physiology's ability to replenish—"

"Whoa! I get the picture, Bones," he interrupted, glancing around the cabin, then sinking down a little further in his seat. "But, could you, uh, keep it down a little? This bird might be airtight, but it isn't sound proof—"

Brennan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Fine," she lowered her voice. "I didn't want her to know the truth that we are ... giving this a shot. Well, considerably more than giving this a shot, right?"

Booth snorted and raised an eyebrow at her. Like you have to ask? It said.

"You know Angela has been urging me to 'buy a ticket on that ride' ever since our very first case together. Her analogy means that—well, in this analogy she is referring to you as a ride—a sexual ride—and the ticket—" she paused.

Booth turned several more shades of fuchsia, shrunk further into his seat, and dropped his forehead into his hand.

"What's wrong, Booth? Are you okay? Do you have a headache?"

Booth sighed and shook his head. "I'm just a piece of meat, aren't I?"

"Well, if you are, it is a very high quality cut, Booth. However, comparing you to meat would be an unfortunate choice, in view of the fact that I'm a vegetarian," she said pensively, then chuckled to herself.

"Oh, my God!" Booth blurted, trying to keep his voice down. "The images—in my head right now! Can we just—please—move on! Jesus!"

"Booth," she admonished, "men have objectified women by referring to them as all manner of inanimate objects or various species throughout history. I can provide you with a list, if you don't believe me. It's very well-documented—"

"I'll pass," he snarked and rolled his eyes.

They stared at each other stupefied for a minute. Finally, Brennan continued.

"Anyway, Angela was quite distressed about what she thought she heard us shouting at each other. She seemed to have lost her ability to focus on anything else."

"Okay—?"

"I assured her that things are not what they seem, but then she cornered me about our physical confrontation in my office! She said she peeked at the security screen when we both left right in the middle of our meeting in her office this morning. She said they all heard a commotion—that must have been my pencil holder hitting the glass window in my office—so she stepped out her office door to check on us, but stopped when she saw your arms flailing about," she said.

"Well, I wouldn't worry-" Booth began.

"—There's more! She said Dr. Saroyan saw us fighting in my office early this morning!"

"Hm," Booth grunted, looking away. Cam had mentioned this to him as well.

"She also said she felt there was considerable tension between you and I during the meeting. She said everyone noticed it." Brennan stared at Booth for a moment as they both played back their memories of that meeting on the screens of their own minds. "She said that if we could channel that tension into the bedroom—"

"Hooo, leave it to Angela—" interjected Booth, widely rolling his eyes.

"—she suggested we would have some 'mind-blowing hot monkey sex', I believe she called it."

"Well, she got that right," Booth snorted, leaning toward her to rub noses then kiss her quickly on the lips. "So—how'd you get around that one?"

"—Uh, I simply replied that there will be no monkey sex—today. That is a truthful statement, but still, I could barely look at her!" Brennan shook her head and leaned back against the headrest with her eyes closed. "Then I said something to the effect that you and I have strayed irreversibly from where we once were and, as a result, the possibility of us having sexual intercourse has taken a major shift in a direction that none of us could have foreseen."

"What? You lost me," he said, confused.

"That was the whole point. When in doubt, confuse with verbose ambiguity! So, I think it went right over her head, too. Anyway, she said she was disappointed in both of us," she finished wearily.
Booth draped his arm around her and squeezed her shoulder, pulling her up against his chest.

"I do not enjoy being disingenuous, even for a good reason," she said. "I'll do it, but I will not enjoy it, Booth," she admitted, looking in his eyes. Booth grimaced back and shook his head sympathetically.

Brennan skipped over the last part of her conversation with Angela because it had to do with the white gift bag. She hadn't yet looked inside the bag, but she had a pretty good idea what was in there. Though she had no intention of telling Booth what Angela said when she presented the bag, Brennan couldn't help hearing her best friend's words in her head.

"The way things are going between you and Booth," Angela had said with a sardonic smirk, "you will never get to use this, but I have no need for it now that I'm married." She held out the small white gift bag. "Please don't look at it until I'm gone. I don't need anything thrown at me right now. If you don't want it, put it in the circular file, but just don't tell me. You have no idea how difficult this was to get ahold of." Angela had shrugged dejectedly and walked toward the door. That was when she ran right into Booth and called him an ass hat.

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"So—what's in the gift bag," Booth asked, trying to steal a peek past her. "From Angela, I assume?" He reached for the bag, only to have his hand smacked away by Brennan.

"It's personal," she blurted and grabbed the gift bag to her chest. She folded it awkwardly, and jammed it into the bag at her feet.

"Ow," he cried, rubbing his hand.

They sat in silence for several moments. "Whatever," he said, shrugging. He glanced away, then back at her. "I'll find out eventually, you know I will." He tossed a cocky grin at her. "Or, maybe I'll guess."

"Don't be so sure. There are a plethora of objects of that approximate size and weight so the possibilities are innumerable. Besides, there may be no reason for you to know what this bag actually contains."

"Whatever," he said in falsetto, still grinning at her with an amused expression. "But it sure ain't a paperweight—or back issues of Anthropology Today Magazine," he smirked and chuckled.

Brennan crossed her arms, lay her head back again, and closed her eyes, signifying this was the end of that particular topic as far as she was concerned.

Booth waited a moment, then decided to change the subject anyway. He tapped on Brennan's arm. "Would you really have tried to stop me if I was going to marry Hannah?" She rubbed her cheekbone against his shoulder and smiled.

"Most assuredly, Booth," she answered drowsily without opening her eyes. "In as brief a period as it would take a milliliter of oxygenated blood to be pumped through your aorta by your left ventricle," she sighed.

"In a heartbeat," he smiled, sheepishly.

"In a heartbeat," she repeated.

"Even if it meant I might hate you?"

"You would have harbored intensely negative feelings about me eventually anyway," she said placidly as she inhaled deeply, held her breath, then exhaled slowly.

"What?"

"It would have been inevitable, Booth," she yawned. "I would have continued to fight for your happiness and you would have thought me condescending, perhaps even selfish."

When Booth didn't respond, Brennan opened her eyes, lifted her head. When his eyes found hers, she said, "If that book Sweets gave me is to be believed, that is. Regardless, after confronting you, I would have then flown off to the Indian subcontinent and irresponsibly polluted myself with liqueur distilled from the leaves and flowers of the female cannabis plant." She chuckled.

"Well, it's a moot point," he said, raising his arm and wrapping it around her, pulling her closer. "What Sweets said about there being the possibility for a good future with love and happiness if I'd married Hannah—that was utter bovine feces."

Brennan laid her head in the crook of his neck and closed her eyes. She smiled against the patch of fabric covering his clavicle and sighed. "I know," she said.

"It's always been you for me. Always," he nodded, and drug his chin over the top of her head, kissing her hair, then resting his cheek on her forehead. "I always knew we'd end up together," he added, teasingly, chuckling quietly.

"And how is that," she said in a sleepy voice.

"Because this is America. In America, the devilishly handsome FBI Agent always gets the strikingly beautiful forensic anthropologist."

"You are such a dreamer," she said slowly as she drifted off to sleep.

While Brennan dozed, Booth thought about the conversation he and Camille had after the meeting this morning.

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"What's on your mind, Cam?" He asked, following her into her office.

"Close the door, Seeley," she said pointedly, leading him over to the couch and sitting down, though she didn't sit back and relax. "Have a seat."

"Cam, we're really on a tight, uh—"

"Have a seat, Seeley," she commanded, following it up with a pleasant smile that didn't quite make it up to her eyes.

"Don't call me Seeley, and I'd really rather stand."

Cam stared at her old friend, noted his posture. Shoulders dropped, but elbows held in. Hands deep in pockets, but no busy activity from his usually active fingers. He clearly didn't want to be having this or any conversation with her right now.

Booth half sat on the arm of the couch and took out his Zippo. He flipped it open and closed quickly tossing a 'whoosh-clack, whoosh-clack' sound into the silence between them. Cam reached out and tried to pluck the lighter out of his hand but all she caught was a thumb and four slender caramel fingers full of loose air when he yanked it out of reach. She usually wouldn't have reached for it, she knew better, but she usually didn't have to have this kind of conversation with him either; not with this much hanging in the balance, and not with this level of uncertainty about the outcome. She grimaced and imagined shaking her head in frustration, though she didn't let Booth see it. Then, she raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow and smirked at Booth.

"I called Sheriff Restovich in King County about keeping the Medical Examiner's office open after hours. It will be late before you get there, but if I know Dr. Brennan—"

"—That's what I figured," added Booth, dropping his lighter into his pocket and pulling out the two translucent orange dice with the white dots on all sides. "She'll wanna go straight to the ME's office to get a look at those bones—"

"That's why she's the best, Booth," she said flatly. "She's determined. Tireless. Unflappable. Usually, at least." She studied his response.

"I know," he answered, his brow furrowed defensively, his voice one octave higher than usual. "I know, Cam," he stage whispered and glared back at her, though not unkindly. It was a warning.

"Do you?" Ignoring his warning, she lobbed the accusation like a fast pitch on the tail end of his response. She stared at him, her eyes steely with determination, her expression blank, serious.

Booth rolled his eyes, stood, and walked in a tight circle.

"Are you going to mark your territory? Sit down, Seeley," she said in a low steady voice with a cautious edge. "I will not be put off, and I will not have my team—" She stopped there. She knew it wasn't necessary to tell him he better not screw things up for the Jeffersonian. That was her first priority as the head of the forensics lab.

"Camille—" Booth said, defensively. "Stop! I'm not trying to—put you off. We're on a tight schedule," he insisted, swiping his shirt cuff back and glancing at his watch.

Camille continued to stare at Booth's face, waiting for him to say more. She knew he needed to be given firm boundaries. Whether he remained within them or not was his choice—but he was always more successful when he knew where the lines were drawn. She knew it had been the shifting lines between him and Brennan that had caused their problems these past two years. He'd constantly felt like his house was built on loose sand. When he thought he had the lines figured out, or tried to establish some of his own, they moved—or Brennan moved them.

Booth met Cam's stare with a long unblinking stare of his own, then he bent, and sat back down on the arm of the couch, one fist lay on his thigh curled around the dice, the other fisted hand was nestled in the opposite armpit.

"I'm not interested in a pissing contest, Booth. I'm just concerned about you," she said. Booth looked away from her, shook his head, clenched his jaw, and smirked.

"How was Parker this weekend?" Began Camille, still sitting forward, her back perfectly straight, her intertwined fingers cupping her crossed knees.

"Great! We got to, uh—you know," he said, the 'we' meaning all three of them, but he wasn't going to say that. "We did a lotta stuff."

"Good. Seeley," she said, cocking her head to the side as she finally leaned back against the back of the couch. "Things okay between—the two of you?"

Booth locked eyes with her for a moment before answering.

"Well, he misses me," was his cagey response. He rolled the dice around each other in his palm. "I was supposed to take him fishing on Saturday, but the case—" he said, his eyes trained on the dice.

"I meant between you and—"

"—I knew what you meant, Camille," he said quickly, then looked up at her without saying anything more.

"Anything you wanna talk about?"

"Um, nope," he said, quickly.

Camille sighed quietly, turned sideways toward Booth and hung an elbow over the back of the couch, intertwining her fingers so her other arm fell across her chest.

"You know, Hannah Burley made a bunch of visits here while you were gone," she said, picking a piece of invisible string off her perfectly pressed crepe skirt.

"She did?" Booth didn't look up, didn't react. I should sound pissed, he thought. I'm just not. And I'm not going to pretend to be.

"She did." Camille nodded, then met his eyes and grimaced and raised her eyebrows as if in apology—maybe for Hannah's visits— maybe for just saying her name.

"What for?" He asked, looking away, then at his watch, then back to her face, then crossing his arms and legs.

"Looking for Dr. Brennan."

"Any idea why?" Booth's lips curled down in mild interest. He knew she'd been there; he'd seen the note she left on Brennan's desk.

"You'd have to ask Angela; she's the one who finally talked to her."

Cam suddenly noticed this was the first time Booth hadn't jumped down her throat at the mention of his ex-girlfriend's name.

"You know she's leaving . . . probably already gone."

"Yep. Had lunch with her Monday," he said emotionlessly.

"Really."

"Yeah." Booth stood, pulled on the knees of his pants, planted his feet shoulder width apart, and took three practice swings at an invisible golf ball with an imaginary nine iron before winding up for the follow through. Tapping the side of one shoe against the other, he lined up to take another swing. Cam recognized this behavior. He was finished talking about Hannah.

"Sweets made you do it, didn't he?" she asked anyway, a slow grin sneaking across her face.

Both glanced at her and chuckled. "Anyway—" he said, shrugged, and shifted his weight left to right and back as he stepped back up to the invisible golf ball, and assumed the position.

"Closing of a chapter," Cam offered blandly.

Booth nodded and smiled with pinched lips, took his shot, stepped back and crossed his arms, then stared back at her.

"You okay, big guy?" she asked in a serious tone. "You've been getting a bum wrap around here, but I know this has been a—really tough year for you."

"Camille—" he paused, looking for what he really wanted to say to his oldest friend, the first one he was able to admit his love for Brennan to.

"An end of an era, Cam," he finally relented, exhaling slowly. "It feels more like the end of a tunnel. A really—really really long tunnel." He looked up and chuckled awkwardly. For a crazy moment, he felt like busting out with the truth, sharing his excitement with Camille. But then he thought about Operation Pringles—and the sound of Brennan's laughter this morning while he covered her chest with raspberries and three strategically-placed love bites. He had to press his lips together between his teeth to keep from smiling or calling attention to the light in his eyes.

"What'd she say, Hannah?" Camille asked, taking his comment and an unidentifiable shift in his demeanor as an opening, an invitation.

"The usual—goodbye stuff."

"She must have said more. You seem—" she shrugged, "like a man who got an eleventh hour stay of execution. Relaxed. Relieved."

Booth shrugged, cocked his head to the side, pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows, then shrugged again.

"I am, Camille. I'm relieved. I think I'm maybe even ready to, you know, move through it." He tugged on his bottom lip and thought about Brennan's words from the middle of the night last night—about how you don't get over the difficulties; you move through them. He smiled to himself. Wow, he thought, momentarily unable to believe the situation he's suddenly found himself in. He'd actually spent the night at Brennans' house! Sleeping right next to her! It didn't really matter that he hadn't known it at the time. What mattered is that he was there and so was she. How different this Monday is from last Monday, he thought to himself. Unbelievable.

She watched Booth's face carefully. Nodded without taking her eyes off him.

"You know. She wasn't a bad person. Hannah," she said carefully, without moving or blinking. "She was a good person, Seeley." They shared a meaningful glance. "She just wasn't—the right person. You know?"

"Yeah, well," Booth said as he blushed. They'd been down this path twice before themselves.

"You two gonna be okay—as partners?"

"Heh," he chuffed snarkily. "I don't know," he shrugged quickly. "It's not like we really have a choice," he said nonchalantly. This wasn't hard for him to sell—it was a true statement—but for a different reason than he hoped Cam could see.

"I, uh, saw you leaning toward her across her desk this morning," Camille said, again carefully watching for his response.

Booth looked up as a cold chill spread down the back of his neck. What else did she see? Bones—oh no! He knew that if Camille asked him directly, he'd have to look her straight in the eye and deny that he and Brennan were moving forward romantically, but he wasn't sure how convincing he could be, not with Camille Saroyan.

"I was hoping it wasn't an argument," she said, willing to let her words float in the air until he filled it with something else.

"No—well, yeah, actually," he chuckled through is nose. "But—not a bad one. No shots were fired—heh, if that's what you were afraid of." Half of his face twisted into a smirk. "No, Cam, it was an exhausting trip which started with me being yanked off a plane, if you recall. Then, back home there's Parker—then the session from hell with Doogie Houser, M.D. that went on for God knows how long." He whistled as he pretended to shoot a basketball through a hoop. "We're both just tired." He shrugged. "I think—I think once we get some sleep—we each get some sleep—nap on the plane or something. Like you said: it's gonna be a late night tonight." He set up for another seated basket.

She nodded, pinching her lips together.

"Can I go now?" He asked standing abruptly, planting his hands low on his hips expectantly. He took a step backwards toward the door.

"How'd that meeting go with Sweets?" She leaned back and relaxed, crossing her arms tightly next to her chest. This conversation wasn't over.

Booth stepped forward again. He leaned his head to the side, shrugged with his eyebrows, chewed on his bottom lip.

"How's Dr. Brennan—about Mr Nigel-Murray?" She asked.

"She's, uh, she's broke-up about it. But—I think she's going to be okay. She had some time here over the weekend. Did some," he paused momentarily and looked around the office. "Seems she did some thinking—processing—remembering, I think."

"Hm." Camille nodded without taking her eyes off him. "And you?" She said slowly, looking away finally and pretending to examine one of her perfect fingernails.

He exhaled loudly. "You know me, Camille." He shrugged.

"Yeah, but this was one of Dr. Brennan's squints. He took your bullet, Seeley. That's gotta—" she shook her head.

He inhaled deeply, exhaled out of puckered lips and stared at the floor. After a moment he looked up and met her eyes. He pursed his lips, then nodded slowly, frowned. Then blinked a blink that said, I'm working on it, old friend. I'll be okay. And thanks for asking.

"Sweets approved you both for duty, in case there was any question," she said after a tense pregnant silence.

He nodded silently, puckering his lips again. "Thanks, Camille." He started to walk toward the door.

"You know, it's going to be about a five hour flight—" she called after him.

"Six hours, actually."

"Six—Booth. Well, it's a long flight. Enough time for two people who have to work together to talk some things out—" She shrugged and let her suggestion hang in the air.

Booth rolled his eyes. "What is with you people? You and Sweets? Angela? Hodgins? That's all I hear, 'You two should talk!'" he snarked. "'When are you going to talk?' Don't you people have anything better to do with your time? Maybe we don't want to talk, huh? Ever think of that? Maybe we're the only ones who understand that there really is nothing to talk about? The past is the past. End of story."

Cam winced, then smirked. "I know you better than that Seeley Joseph Booth. You NEED to talk," she said, staring hard at him, one eyebrow raised disapprovingly.

"Maybe not this time, okay? Maybe that's where I've screwed up before—ever think of that? Let sleeping dogs lie—" he said, waving his hand in the air as if he were petting an enormous floating puppy.

"Seeley—!"

"Camille, I'm telling you—" Butt out, is what he means, but he doesn't have to say it. "I'm sick of talking. I just want to solve this case, get back home, kick back on the couch with a tall cold one," or a tall warm soft someone, his mammalian brain silently interjected, "and watch something mindless on my new 103 inch HD tv, or maybe fall asleep in front of it. Whatever! Why can't everyone just—"

"Don't get snarky with me just because you haven't had enough sleep—"

"Cam, we're fine. Okay? Everything's fine—we, we weren't fighting—angry fighting—okay?" He smiled at the memory, his features softening to the smallest degree. Anyone else would have missed the little sparkle in his eye, but not Cam. She knew his expressions and could usually guess what they meant. Maybe they have turned a corner, she thought. Regardless, I think I just witnessed good sign.

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When Booth was convinced Brennan had fallen into a deep sleep, Booth stealthily reached down into her bag and pulled out the white gift bag. He slowly unfolded it and peaked inside.

Crap, it's wrapped in that senseless crinkly loud paper, he said to himself, tucking it under his free arm pit. Gingerly pushing Brennan off his shoulder, he unbuckled his seatbelt.

"I gotta hit the can," he whispered loudly to her when her eyes opened several times before she adjusted herself in her seat and pulled the tiny pillow from her back up so she could squeeze it between her cheek and the back of her seat. While Booth held his breath, he watched her fall back to sleep, then he rushed off to the bathroom with that gift bag hidden under his arm.

Once he locked the airplane bathroom door, he sat down on the tiny toilet seat cover and carefully dug through the crinkly crepe paper. He gasped when he saw what was nestled under five times the paper necessary to cover such a tiny item. Then his heart started pounding in his ears. This could only mean one thing. He sat, panicked, pondering his options. He chewed on his lips, his knee pumping up and down like a jackhammer. In the end he decided he just didn't have the heart to tell Brennan. Besides, she would figure it out soon enough. Then he'd have to deal with the fall out. Why rush it?

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Thank you, Lord above, for these wonderful reviewers whom I consider
the cream in my coffee, the caffeine in my chocolate: I LOVE YOU GUYS!

jsboneslover, DWBBFan, Maunzeli, Diko, SammieAtHome, alexindigo, daniellejoy07, bostonlegalgirl, pasha54, threesquares, babyface99f, Dyna63, Kimberrn, Kimber3333, EveyEve1215, yenyen76, mef1013, Melissa, kdgteacher7, latetobones, Tristan Thompson, MiseryMaker, JayBee188, elmasuz, Ellegant22, soxgirl69, grandma bones, Fluffybird, Marebear, eyeofisis57, Melissa, OhSnapItzAmelie, , ghlover8907, meezer-meow, coterie2, jazzyproz, hillhappy, Jo7, fantasyfanatic13, manicpixiedreamgurl, Aveburygirl, Martreiya, ILuvBonesNDool, Angie, dovepage1 Lbrs brensfan JBCFlyers19 dlh, roomwithamoose311, bubbles526, nannygs, Monilovesbones , Dobbi, ciaomichaella, Someoneslove, sarahlizlangas, sandyholl , Alicia9876, , Jenny, FaithinBones, TraciM, maryfran, daisesndaffidols, Boneslvr38, chosenname, yoshimi0701, alwaysthere39, appiedala, SquinTern447, katyrosek, eire76

💜 You know you rock my world, don't you? 💜

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😈 FINAL NOTE: PAY ATTENTION. YES, YOU! 😈

WHERE ARE THE MISSING CAFETERIA CONVERSATIONS?!

Folks, I've been trying to tighten my writing by only including content that 1) Shows character development or, 2) Moves the plot forward. As a result, sometimes I have to cut pieces that may be funny, or sexy, or thoughtful, but they are, nonetheless, extraneous. So ... instead of crying over sweeping them up and dropping them in the trash can, I'm putting them in their own little home, which I have entitled, "The Sexy Anthrpophagist: Missing Meanderings from TWATH:AB2P. You can get to that collection by clicking on my name, then scrolling down to my stories.

That is where you will find the first of the two cafeteria conversations referred to in this chapter. You will have that second conversation posted presently. I have to pace myself!

All my love and appreciation to all y'all Bones fans!