Over the past few years circumstances had changed so many aspects of Booth. The damage had altered him in numerous unpredictable ways. But at the core he was still the same man he'd always been. No more than a week of recuperating was permitted before his impatience got the best of him. His face was tilted towards the window bathing in the sun when Brennan came to visit one morning. She smiled at his contented expression. Her lips met his in a simple, chaste kiss. "Good morning."

His eyes shined warmly at her. Welcoming. It was more emotion than she'd seen out of him since he'd declared himself ready to fight. She lowered herself into a chair at his bedside. "How are you feeling this morning?"

Trouble brewed. His gaze averted away from hers. He was hiding. She sat forward in her chair, intrigued. "Booth? Are you in pain?"

Without looking at her, he nodded. "Nothing out of the ordinary," he quickly amended.

"Do you want me to call your doctor?"

"No." Finally he turned his head back around. His demand startled her, though in retrospect she supposed she should have been prepared. "I want to go home."

"From what I understand Dr. Smith plans to release you back to the institute soon."

He was already shaking his head. Earnestly he told her, "I want to go home home, Bones. I don't want to go anywhere but back to D.C. I want you and Christine. I want our home. And I want you to go back to having a normal life."

She chuckled at the irony. "Life won't ever be normal for any of us ever again. It would be foolish to ever believe otherwise." When his expression saddened she grasped his hand. "Booth, my only concern outside of Christine is seeing that you get the help you need. You know that. We need to stay until we uncover the reason why your ribs won't heal as they should."

That melancholy expression transitioned quickly into anger. Impatience ran neck and neck with his abrupt mood swings. "We're never going to find the reason. I've been like this for months. I don't want to waste my time with any of it any more. I'm too tired. It's done."

She certainly could sympathize, but she also felt that she needed to maintain the upper hand. His life could never truly move forward again until the last of his issues were resolved. "I know you're frustrated. I am, as well."

"Really? Because I don't think you have any idea how I feel. I fight to move forward, and I just keep getting pushed back again!"

"That's not true. Look how far you've come. Your determination has carried you much further than anyone ever predicted."

"It's not enough. It's never enough! This isn't what I want!" He'd begun to pant heavily. "I should have been killed in the accident! Some days I still wish I had."

He might as well have plunged a knife in her gut. His outburst was unexpected, and therefore she was unprepared. No longer could she face him. "What do you want then, Booth?" Her voice was as cold as ice.

"Home. I want to go home."

"So ideally, you'd just like to give up? To forget all your hard work? All the good you've done?"

"…if that's the way you wanna look at it, then yeah. I do. I don't care anymore. I just want to go back to D.C. If that's giving up, then fine."

There was once a time in recent history in which she would have conceded to his desire. But that time had long since passed. She was a steel wall, and no amount of pushing would topple her over. "You aren't a coward, Booth. And I refuse to let you lose sight of that now. Above all your health is of utmost importance to me. Your bones aren't healing, and there's a reason-"

"Yeah. And it's called osteo… myo…is. Or something."

"Osteomyelitis. An infection of the bone." She translated for him. "But I believe there is an underlying cause for it. There must be a reason you contracted the infection. Your continuous pain is clear indication that all is not well. More testing needs to be done. I should have pushed for more from the very beginning. I was too blinded by my pain. I won't allow that to get in the way again."

He grunted in sheer frustration. "I don't want it, Bones. I don't want any of this. Not anymore."

"I know," she said simply without further elaboration. "Now would you like me to have your doctor paged so we can do something about your pain?"

"No. I want you to leave." He groused.

"Fine." She pivoted on her heel and marched out. All throughout the drive back to the institute she seethed. Why was he being so stubborn? So insistent upon getting his way? Why couldn't he see that while he'd covered a great amount of distance in his recovery, the journey was far from being over. His continued chronic pain just wasn't sitting well with her. It was a heavy weight pressing down on her chest. The medical staff they'd dealt with since the beginning had been exceptional. Overall she'd mostly been pleased. But there was a missing piece of the puzzle that no one had been able to fill in. She wanted a real, concrete reason for the failure of his bones to mend. She wanted a diagnosis; printed words on a piece of paper she could hold in her hand. She wanted her worst fears to be ruled out. She didn't want to think that he was much, much sicker than he was letting on.

Fate wouldn't be so cruel, she thought to herself as she retrieved Christine from the institute staff. Fate isn't real. You must remain rational. Booth is just having a bad day. He's still permitted to have them from time to time with little cause as to why. He always will. Tomorrow he'll realize how unreasonable and irresponsible he was behaving. We can have an open and honest conversation then.

Sleeping that night was difficult. She ended up passing the time by doing research on the internet; something she acknowledged she should have done a lot sooner. She scanned website after website. But by the time the sun rose over the horizon she had no more insight into his injuries than she'd had. The lid to her laptop was slammed down in irritation. There was a reason why his body was mending properly. Booth wasn't a medical marvel. So why couldn't anyone come up with a diagnosis?

She felt numb tracing the path through the halls of the hospital for the umpteenth time. In his room Booth was still asleep. As she drew close to his bed she could hear him gasping softly from pain. She noticed again how tightly his arm was wrapped around his rib cage. He was guarding himself from invisible demons. Was he dreaming of the accident? Or was there another cause for his nocturnal reaction? Her fingers brushed across his forehead, discovering it to be warm once again from a slight fever. "Something just isn't right with you."

She briefly spent time with him before her doubt propelled her into action. One of his nurses was sought out. Politely she requested to meet with Dr. Smith. "Has he begun his rounds this morning?"

"Yes. I'll let him know you'd like to speak with him."

Another hour had to pass by before the doctor arrived. He took no more than two steps into the room before Brennan was backing him out. Booth was still lost in slumber land. But should he wake she preferred he not hear what was on her mind. "He's running a low grade fever again."

Dr. Smith frowned. "All right. I'll check him out. Maybe we took him off the antibiotics too soon and he's had a relapse. It wouldn't be unusual with his immune system weakened."

She was hardly hearing him. Her nerves had unexpectedly gotten the best of her. Her stomach felt as though it were tied in knots. But despite her reservations she simply had to broach the topic. "I'd like to see his recent x-rays, please."

The doctor pulled back. "It'll take me some time to request the images. May I ask why the sudden interest?"

"I just can't stop thinking about his injuries that refuse to heal. I was wondering…" She exhaled harshly. "If he's been checked for any signs of cancer."

Dr. Smith blinked as though he'd been shocked by pure electricity. "I personally have not run any tests searching for it. But I haven't seen any reason to. All the reports I've received on him have indicated a damaged, but otherwise healthy man. There's been no reason to suspect such a thing."

"But there has been. I understand the osteomyelitis was most recently why he wasn't healing. But this has been an issue ongoing for over a year. We need to step up his treatment. We need to isolate the cause for this."

There was a moment of silence as Dr. Smith thought it over. Finally, he nodded. "Let me do my brief examination of him. Then I'll submit the orders for the tests we'll need to perform."

"He may not be cooperative. He was rather agitated yesterday."

"Nothing we're not used to." He smiled ruefully.

The two separated. Brennan gave Dr. Smith his space. She sat down in a chair outside Booth's room. Her head fell into her hands. She'd planted her seed of doubt. Now she just had to hope it wouldn't grow.