AN: This is (finally) the first chapter of my companion piece to "The Couple in the Aftermath". You don't need to have read that one to understand what's going on here, but if you want to, feel free.

This starts the "morning after" during "Hole in the Heart", and we'll see where it goes from here.

I'd like to thank toeventually and Some1tookmyname for reading this and providing feedback that was very much appreciated. You ladies are awesome! (And if you haven't read their stuff, be sure to take a look!)

I'd also like to thank everyone who has put me on author alert as a result of "The Couple in the Aftermath"; every time I get a new one, I am humbled all over again. :)

And so, without any further babbling, I present "The Partners in the Relationship", and of course, I don't own Bones... except on DVD. I'm just playing on the playground.


She had developed the habit of waking quickly during her time in foster care and honed the skill during her many trips to trouble spots and war zones around the world. Taking the time to wake slowly was not a luxury one indulged in when living under a stranger's roof, or when sleeping in a tent, yards away from mass graves and soldiers with dubious loyalties and unknown agendas.

As a result of those life experiences, lounging in bed after waking was not within her typical pattern either. In foster care, lounging in bed could mean punishment – or worse. In unstable countries, lounging could mean giving an attacker an advantage.

At this stage in her life, as the top forensic anthropologist in the world, there was simply no point in her lying in bed thinking about the things she wanted to accomplish in a given day when she could actually be doing them.

On this particular morning, though, everything was different. For the first time in longer than she could remember, waking had been slow and gradual, and the usual drive she felt to get out of bed and start her day had not come at all.

Hanging on the drowsy precipice between slumber and wakefulness, Temperance Brennan found that she wanted nothing more than to savor the feeling of waking up, cradled in Seeley Booth's arms, pressed skin-to-skin, under the duvet.

Coming home to him had been the dream that had kept her going during her time in Maluku. Thoughts of him had made the lonely nights when she had been unable to sleep just a little more bearable. During those nights, she would remember some of her favorite times with him, and on rare occasions, allow herself to imagine what it would be like to be with him and awaken in his arms the next morning. On the nights when she had been able to sleep, her dreams had been filled with him, what they could be together, and what it would be like when they got home to D.C..

Then they had been called home early, and everything had been different.

Instead of picking up where they had left off, she had been left holding the tattered pieces of her heart, and had endured long, lonely months of thinking she had missed her chance. During that time, the dreams had not stopped, but she had refused to believe they were anything more than her subconscious mind working through her day. She dismissed the dreams with science and logic, explanations that, if she were honest with herself now, she had never quite believed.

In the weeks following his breakup with Hannah, she had slowly begun to allow herself to believe in those dreams again.

Reality, though, proved to be much better than her dreams had ever been, and she marveled at the way he held her, his arms wrapped around her, holding her close, even in slumber.

A slow, shy smile worked its way across her face as she remembered what they had shared only a few short hours ago: the whispered words and confessions; the declarations of love, and the ultimate proof that breaking the laws of physics was, in fact, possible.

A wave of emotion washed over her when she thought of just how close they had come to never experiencing their moment; and although she knew it wasn't logical, she found herself wishing they could remain cocooned in his bed for the rest of their lives.

But they couldn't. There was a murderer to catch and a friend to say goodbye to.

At the thought of Vincent, her smile faltered, and she wondered, briefly, how long it would have taken for she and Booth to get to their moment had it not been for her student's untimely death.

Knowing the alarm would sound soon, she pushed the thought away, determined to just be in the moment, surrounded by Booth and the love she felt so strongly it was an ache in her chest. So she lay there, quiet in the watery dawn light filtering through the blinds concentrating on the strong, steady beat of his heart beneath her ear and the gentle cadence of his breathing gently ruffling her hair with each exhalation.

She had just begun to drift off to sleep again, when she felt his breathing change and felt him stir, his muscles rippling beneath her cheek. He moved his arm, and she felt bereft at the absence.

She heard the gentle click of the alarm clock being switched off behind her, even though it had yet to sound, then his arm was back around her, his hand settling back into the curve of her waist, pulling her tight against him once more.

"Have you been awake long?" His voice was low and sleep filled.

She shook her head against his chest. "No. Just a few minutes." She slid her left hand from his waist to his chest; smiling a bit as his muscles twitched beneath her hand and she felt him shiver. "How did you know I was awake?"

"I could hear you thinking."

"It's impossible to hear - " She paused. "Oh, you're being metaphoric."

His low chuckle reverberated in her ear. "Yeah, Bones. I'm being metaphoric."

She stroked her finger against the small, puckered scar marking the spot where he had taken the bullet that had saved her life. In the midst of the passion they had shared, she had paused, kissed the scar and thanked him for saving her life that night. For once in his life, Booth had been unable to say anything, so he had simply pulled her up roughly and claimed her mouth with his, effectively keeping either of them for talking for quite a while.

He covered her left hand with his right, stilling her finger, and slowly stroked his thumb against her knuckles.

"So what were you thinking about?"

"Us."

His thumb stilled mid-stroke and she felt him tense. "Are you," he paused and started again. "Are you having second thoughts about last night?"

She could hear the uncertainty in his voice, so she lifted her head to look him in the eyes. "No, Booth. I'm not having second thoughts about earlier." She smiled as she felt him relax and watched as a grin spread across his face.

"Good, because I'm not either." He pressed a kiss to her forehead and pulled her back down against his chest, stroking her shoulder with his left hand. "So what were you thinking about us?"

"How good it feels to wake up in your arms." She stroked his chest with her index finger again. "And although it's not logical, wishing we could stay here forever."

"That makes two of us, Bones."

"I'm glad it's not just me."

"It's not."

She shivered as he trailed his fingers down her side to settle his hand in the curve of her waist again, his thumb idly stroking the delicate skin there.

They lay together in silence, listening to the traffic outside. Water was running in the next apartment and a bird was singing in the tree outside.

In the distance a siren wailed.

"I hate to say it, but we should probably get moving," he whispered, sliding his hand back up her body to stroke her hair. She felt his lips brush her forehead again.

"I wish we didn't have to."

"I wish we didn't have to either."

She sat up and slid her palm against his stubble-roughened cheek, enjoying the rasp against her palm. He leaned into the caress and wrapped his fingers around her wrist, holding her hand against his face. Their eyes met and held and he pressed a kiss against the base of her thumb.

"Promise me you'll be careful today, Booth." She wouldn't ask him to promise to come back to her, knowing there was a chance the choice would not be his to make.

He stroked the back of her hand with his fingers and nodded as he pressed another kiss to her palm. "I will be, Bones. I promise."

They stared into each other's eyes for a span of several heartbeats. The air grew heavy around them and she found herself wanting to sink back down into the pillows and make love with him again in the light of day.

She watched as the corner of his mouth slid up in that cocky half-grin she loved so much. "If we don't get out of this bed in about five seconds, we're both going to be seriously late for work."

She returned his grin. "That doesn't sound so bad."

He chuckled and pushed her hair behind her ear with his free hand. "It sounds pretty damn good to me; but…" He trailed off and sighed heavily.

"But duty calls," she finished, nodding in understanding as she dragged her hand from his cheek.

"Yeah." He nodded and glanced at the clock. "Do you want to shower first?"

"No." She shook her head. "You go ahead. I'll get my things together in the other room and take my turn when you're done."

"Okay. I won't be long." He didn't move.

She nodded. "Okay."

He gestured towards the bathroom door. "I'm gonna just..."

She nodded again and gestured towards the bedroom door. "Okay, and I'll just..."

They looked at each other for a moment and started laughing, the tension broken. She watched as he shook his head, pushed back the covers and slid out of bed. As he walked across the room towards the dresser in the corner, she braced herself on her arms and settled back to enjoy the view that his lack of modesty afforded her.

He stopped short, spun around and came back to the bed in three long strides. "Almost forgot."

She cocked an eyebrow and looked up at him as he stopped beside the bed. "Forgot what?"

He leaned over the bed, bracing his hands on either side of her hips and closed the distance between them. "This." His whispered reply danced across her lips just before he captured her mouth with his.

She moaned and leaned into him, cupping his face in her hands as she returned the kiss. It was gentle and sweet and just when she would have deepened it and pulled him back down onto the bed with her, he pulled back and nuzzled her nose with his own, before resting his forehead against hers.

"Good morning, Bones."

She smiled and pressed her lips to his again as she caressed his cheekbones with her thumbs. "Good morning, Booth."

He gave her another quick kiss and winked at her as he straightened up. "Now, I can go shower."

She watched as he stalked across the room and pulled a pair of boxers from the top drawer of the dresser. He turned toward the bathroom and paused to look at her. "I won't be long."

She nodded and gave him a smile. "Okay."

For several moments she stayed where she was, listening to the sounds from the bathroom while fighting the temptation to fall back into bed and bury her face in his pillow. When she heard the water turn on, she sighed and slid from the bed to begin straightening the sheets that they had tangled. She almost hated to do it; as though making the bed would erase the tangible evidence of what they had shared.

When she pulled the blanket from the floor, she discovered his t-shirt. She smiled as she picked it up, remembering the last time she'd had it in her hands, helping him push it over his head in her eagerness to touch him. She couldn't remember which one of them had tossed it aside.

She brought the shirt to her nose and inhaled deeply, smiling at sensation that washed over her as his scent filled her nose and lungs. Scent memory was one of the most primitive parts of the brain, and although his scent was already imprinted on her brain from all the times she'd buried her face in his neck while he held her, somehow, breathing in his scent from his shirt was more intense; more intimate.

Taking one final deep breath, she turned the shirt right side out and pulled it over her head. Wearing a man's shirt the morning after was an intimacy which she had never indulged in before, and yet, with him it felt right; like a way of visually staking her claim on him and, in turn, marking her as his.

The irony of the thought was not lost on her, but she couldn't help the smile that slid across her face as she tugged the shirt down around her hips and caught sight of herself in the mirror. She pulled the collar of the shirt to her nose and breathed deep again, his scent enveloping her senses once more and intensifying as the fabric slowly warmed from the heat of her body.

She had never understood the way the girls in high school and college had acted, with their ludicrous tittering and giggling about wearing their boyfriends' clothes. She had, on anthropological level, understood the significance, but it had never meant anything to her until now. Now she understood it, and she reveled in it.

She finished straightening the covers and made her way to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. While it brewed, she moved to the living room to fold the blankets she'd used during her short, fitful attempt at sleep the night before.

When he had told her she was staying at his apartment, her immediate instinct had been to refuse his alpha male instinct, and for a split second, she almost had. Something in his voice, though, and in the look in his eyes, had told her he hadn't wanted to be alone any more than she had. So she had agreed, so she could be there for him when he needed to talk. It was she, however, who had been the one that ended up needing to talk.

The one time she had drifted off to sleep, she had jerked awake, panting and sweating after dreaming it had been Booth lying dead on floor of the forensics platform. The dream had been so vivid, the only thing that had kept her from rushing in to make sure he was alive had been the creaking of his mattress as he shifted.

After that, sleep had been elusive. Every time she had closed her eyes, all she had been able to see was Vincent, bleeding out on the floor and pleading with her not to make him go.

A gentle beep from the coffee pot signaling the end of the brewing cycle pulled her from her reverie, and she moved back into the kitchen. When the scent of the coffee hit her full force, her stomach started growling, making her realize she didn't remember when she had last eaten.

She opened a few cupboard doors, looking for something to have for breakfast, and after passing on several boxes of sugary cereal bearing cartoon characters, one violent orange box with a hockey team on it, and a bagel so stale it was rock hard, she gave up. Sighing, she shook her head, tossed the bagel into the trash and thought that she really needed to talk to him about his breakfast habits.

She pulled two mugs from the cupboard over the sink, and paused, struck by the ease with which she moved around in his kitchen even though she hadn't been in it regularly in months. It just felt right, somehow. Smiling at the thought, she poured coffee for herself, pulled one of the chairs from his kitchen table away from the window, and sat down.

As sipped her coffee, she listened to the sounds coming from the bathroom. She heard the water shut off and the rasp of the curtain hooks dragging against the rod, heard a cupboard door open and close, and then it was silent for moment and she heard the water running again, but from the sink this time. It shut off for a moment or two and then came back on. She heard tapping, metal on porcelain, then silence. The process repeated itself several times before she realized he was shaving.

As she listened, a long forgotten conversation she'd had with Angela sprang to mind. They had been sharing a bottle of wine, the majority of which, Ange had consumed while reading the revisions of Brennan's latest novel. Angela had been talking about an old boyfriend whom she had loved to watch shave and had been trying to convince Brennan to include a scene about it in her latest book.

"Sweetie, it is the hottest thing. Don't ask me to explain why, because I can't, but there's something about watching a guy shave with soap and a razor that is just so sexy. Trust me: if you ever get the chance to watch, you should. But it's got to be the soap and razor, not an electric. Electric razors are boring." Angela had paused then, a sly, Cheshire-cat grin sliding across her face. "You know, Bren, Booth's an old fashioned kind of guy. I'll bet he shaves with soap and a razor. I'll bet he'd let you watch if you asked him."

At that point, Brennan had put the bottle of wine away, told Angela she was shut off for the night and instructed her to keep reading.

As she stared at the bathroom door, sipping her coffee and listening to the rhythm of the water and the tapping, she had to admit, the thought of watching Booth while he shaved had appeal. She loved to watch him move; all lithe grace and power, like the tiger he had compared himself to when they had first come back to the States. She would never admit it to him, but that was one of the many reasons why she never let him walk too far ahead of her; watching him walk was distracting. She wondered what he'd do if she slipped into the bathroom to watch him, but it seemed too soon to ask for something as intimate as watching him shave.

And just like that, the doubt began to creep in.

She meant every word she'd said to him in the early morning hours, and would never regret making love with him, but she wasn't sure she knew how to be part of a relationship. She knew how to be his partner and she had wanted to be more than "just partners" for a long time - longer than she was willing to admit - but she wasn't sure that she knew how to be what he needed in a romantic partner.

She heard the door open between the bathroom and his bedroom and listened as he moved around the room to dress. One spot on his floor creaked every time he crossed it, and the closet door and dresser drawers added their own distinct sounds to his morning routine.

She got up, poured herself a second cup of coffee and was pouring one for Booth when she heard his cell phone ring in the bedroom.

"Booth."

She heard a few "yeahs" and "uh-huhs" from his end of the conversation and watched him come out of the bedroom, phone to his ear. He tossed his suit coat over the back of the couch and tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder as he buttoned his shirt cuffs.

His eyes met hers and he smiled. "Yeah, I'll be there," he paused. "Yeah, I'll let Bones know." Pause. "Yeah, I will be." Pause. "Thanks, Cam." Pause. "Talk to you later."

He ended the call, shoved the phone in his pocket and took the cup of coffee she held out to him. "Thanks. That was Cam."

She nodded. "I thought as much when you said 'thanks, Cam'."

He grinned. "Can't put one over on you." He paused, sipped the coffee and let out an appreciative groan. "That's good coffee."

"Thanks." She sipped her coffee and looked at him over the rim of her mug. "What are you going to tell me?"

"What?"

She pointed to his shirt pocket. "The phone call. You said, 'I'll let Bones know.' Let me know what?"

"Oh. That." He leaned against the counter, set the mug down behind him, and crossed his arms over his chest. "The coroner released Vincent's body. They're bringing him back to the lab and Cam is working on arrangements to ship him home. She wants us all to be there to say goodbye."

She nodded for a moment. "I'll be there." She took a deep breath. "I feel like I should. Like I need to be."

He nodded. "Yeah. Me too."

She glanced at the clock on the stove and drained the rest of her coffee. "I'm going to go shower." She moved to the sink and rinsed her mug.

"Leave it." She looked up at him and he smiled. "I'll take care of it later."

"Okay." She set the mug in the sink and slipped past him, but she stopped short when he grabbed her arm and tugged her back to him.

"What?" She asked as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against his body.

He shook his head and smiled. "Just this." He leaned in and kissed her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck as she returned the kiss, marveling at how natural it felt to be in his arms like this. Just when the kiss started to intensify, she pulled back, breathing hard. "I really should go shower, Booth."

"Yeah." He sighed, pressed a kiss to her nose and another to her forehead before he loosened his hold on her.

She stepped away and moved into the living room to get her overnight bag.

"Hey, Bones?"

She turned to find him leaning against the wall between the kitchen and the living room, his head cocked to the side, coffee mug cradled in his large hands, watching her intently. It was the same way he had watched her so many times from her office doorway. "Yes, Booth?"

A grin spread across his face. "I really like how you look wearing nothing but my t-shirt."

She felt her cheeks heat, but she returned his smile. "Me too."

They stared at each other for a moment then she gestured to the door behind her. "I'm going to go shower."

He nodded. "Okay, and when you're done, I'll take you to breakfast."

"I could eat. I'm not sure when I last ate."

He gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry about that. I wasn't expecting company for breakfast."

"No, you weren't, and neither of us was hungry last night; but Booth, you really should have better breakfast selections on hand. Those sugary cereals aren't the best way to start the day, and I'm not certain that having hockey players on the box makes a cereal any better for you."

"Didn't you say you were going to shower?"

"Yes, but -"

"Then go," he cut her off with a grin, "and stop picking on my cereal."

"I'm not picking on your cereal."

"Yes you were."

"No, I wasn't, I was simply- " she stopped when he raised his eyebrows and gave her a pointed look. "I'm going to go shower."

"Good idea." He grinned. "Next time, Bones, I'll make you breakfast, the best pancakes you've ever had." He paused and sipped his coffee. "And if you play your cards right, I might even be persuaded to share some of the maple syrup Parker brought back for me the last time Rebecca took him to Vermont."

"Next time?"

"Yeah, Bones. Next time." He paused and she could see the uncertainty filling his eyes. "That is, if you want a next time."

"Of course I want a next time, Booth. I just..." She bit her lip. "I didn't want to assume. I'm not good at relationships and I'm not sure how this works now. I don't know how to be what you need."

"I meant every word I said to you last night, Bones."

"This morning."

"This morning. Whatever." He pushed off the wall and moved towards her, setting his coffee mug on the table as he passed it. "The point is, Bones, I meant what I said. This thing between us," he waved his index finger in the air between them several times as he moved closer. "It's been there for a long time." He stopped, inches separating them, his gaze holding hers intently.

"What happened this morning, Bones, like I said, that was about us; you and me. I don't want or need you to be anything other than who you are. Ilove you and I want to be with you. That's all I need and that's all I want." He skimmed his knuckles against her cheek. "You, Bones. Just you, being you, with me. Nothing more, nothing less."

Her eyes filled with tears and she felt herself relax as his words sunk in.

He cupped her cheek and slid his thumb against her cheekbone. "And Bones? The only reason we aren't lying in my bed right now, sleeping off round three or four is because of this case. Otherwise, I'd have called in sick, talked you in to doing the same, and we'd be buried under the covers, wrapped around each other so tight you wouldn't be able to tell where one of us ended and the other began."

She felt her mouth go a bit dry and she stared up at him, breathless and blinking away tears. "Oh."

"'Oh'? That's all you've got to say?" He smiled and pushed her hair behind her ear. "Have I actually rendered you speechless?"

Her answering smile was shy. "Perhaps a bit."

"I meant every word, Bones. Got it?"

She nodded. "Got it."

"Good." He stroked her hair. "You ever need me to repeat it, you just let me know."

She nodded in understanding. "Okay."

"Feel better?"

She smiled and nodded again. "Yes." She leaned in and kissed him. "Thanks, Booth."

He returned the kiss then rested his forehead against hers. "Now you better go shower or we're going to be late."

She kissed him again and moved away to pick up her overnight bag. "Hey, Booth? I think your idea sounds like a very good reason to use a sick day."

He grinned. "Yeah?"

She nodded. "Yes."

"I'll have to keep that in mind."

She smiled, settled the bag on her shoulder and dug around in the side pocket to find her hairbrush. "It sounds quite enjoyable, in fact; and I've never played hooker before. It'll probably be good for keeping my frontal lobe from drying up."

Booth made a strange noise and she looked up in time to see him pulling his coffee mug away from his mouth and start coughing violently.

"Are you alright?"

He nodded, managed to set the mug back on the table and waved his hand to reassure her as he kept coughing.

"Are you sure?"

He nodded again and wiped at his eyes as he got the coughing under control. "I'm fine, Bones. Just inhaled a bit of coffee." His voice was raspy and he coughed again before continuing. "But the term is 'play hooky'. The word is hooky." He coughed some more and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Playing hooker? That is something else entirely."

She looked at him for a moment and felt her eyes go wide as realization dawned, then a slow, mischievous grin slid across her face. "Who says we can't do both? I'm always up for a little role-playing, Booth; how about you?"

He started for her again; a predatory gleam in his eye, but the ringing of his phone stopped him mid-stride. He pulled the phone from his pocket and glanced at it. "Dammit." He looked at her. "We'll have to pick this up another time. I've got to take this call. You better go shower."

She nodded and went to do just that.