Author's Note: Another time for me to have another random one-shot! I didn't write this with the intention of using it for Nouns and can't find a way to make it fit in that series even if I wanted it to. So here it is. Kudos to whoever notices my subtle reference to another show. Extra kudos if you name it!

This one is specifically for penandra and mendenbar, but happy holidays to all!

Setting: Didn't write this with a setting in mind, but I figure it has to happen any time after S3E01. Well after, in my opinion. But that's just me.

Brennan: Why are you asking me this?
Booth: Because you and me we're the center.
Brennan: And the center must hold.
Booth: Right. So we gonna hold?
Brennan: Yeah, we'll hold.
Booth: We're the center.
Brennan: The center.
"The Widow's Son in the Windshield" S3E01

They say they're the center, Booth and Brennan. They believe it and so do others. They are what keeps everyone together, the people who keep the team running. And the center must hold.

Some days she is not sure that it will. Some days she thinks that, even for her personal self, everything will become too much, not that she would ever admit it. Some days she honestly doesn't know how they hold, her and Booth.

Those days are far and few, though—usually only during rough patches of their partnership and friendship. Most of the time, nearly all of the time, she knows what keeps them together, even what metaphorically holds her together.


In the beginning of their partnership she was convinced it was her curiosity. She wanted to be involved in current murder investigations, to learn the workings of the FBI. She didn't want to simply shadow an agent and throw out ridiculous suggestions of pure conjecture for consideration. She wanted to use her helpful skills and learn all at the same time. She was presented with a challenge and there was no way she would back down.

Eventually she saw the situation for what it was. Yes, she was involved because it was fascinating, but it had grown into something more. He became her best friend, someone she relies on. He knows what to say to heal her wounded heart, and sometimes his guy hugs are exactly what she needs.

This is one of those times. This is one of those moments when she's not sure she can hold, that she's uncertain of her capability to keep it together, to control her half of their very own center.

She is sitting on the couch in the office looking over case files and crime scene photos. So engrossed by the horrible sight of the small, fragile, decomposing skeletons, she doesn't hear when her glass door slowly opens or when Booth calls her name the first time.

Brennan hates it when he sneaks up on her, mostly because it means she isn't as observant as she prides herself to be, but this time it startles her more than usual. She's already emotionally weak and catching his cautious movement out of the corner of her eye honestly frightens her.

Booth put his hands up in front of his chest, palms facing her. As she jumps up from the couch pictures and files scatter to the floor. Her own hands clutch at her chest, her breathing interrupted.

He bent down and retrieved the photos from the floor and under the coffee table. He had his hunch about what was bothering her and the pictures confirmed it. Cases with children take a toll on him as a father, so he understands. He doesn't bother to ask, doesn't need to. Awkwardly, from his position next to her on the couch, he wraps his arm around her shoulder and pulls her close.

She knows he's waiting for her to talk, another one of the qualities that keeps her going, but she cannot find the words. He stays silent and still, the only movement in the form of his thumb rubbing her shoulder.

His presence and concern soothe her, tugs the fragments together that were beginning to crack apart. For another day, the center will hold.

They say they're the center, Booth and Brennan. They believe it and so do others. They are what keeps everyone together, the people who keep the team running. And the center must hold.

Some days he's not totally certain that it will. Some days he thinks that, personally, everything will grow to be too much. Some days he doesn't know how they hold, him and Bones.

Those days aren't very common, usually only when he's frustrated or she's being all distant. Most of the time he knows what keeps them together, what holds him together.


At the beginning of their partnership he was convinced he only worked with her because of her qualifications and exact specifications. In the beginning it was purely a matter of putting up with her and her squint's attitudes. Their partnership was only to professionally benefit him and to bring justice, nothing more.

It didn't take long for him to realize how much more it had become, how much more she meant to him. There is no use in denying it, although he occasionally still does. She often reminds him why they do what they do.

He needs her cold, hard facts. On occasion he allows his emotions to guide him, sees victims as children, spouses, siblings. Even though it can cause a shiver to run up his spine, she keeps him in check when she compartmentalizes. She brings him back when he's on the precipice of going too far.

Her rationalization and focus on black and white, he understands, is her backwards, unconscious way of illustrating just how much a case gets to her. It's how he knows she cares and, sometimes, he longs to watch that process take place.

This is one of those times. Stuck behind his desk, studying profiles, leads, evidence, and interrogation transcripts, he needs her soothing presence to bring him back. He needs her seemingly unbothered air to remind him to stay professional as that is the only way to solve the case.

He hears a knock on his glass office door but doesn't bother to look up. He signals the person inside, figuring it is Charlie or another agent coming to bring him another file per his request. The carpet mutes the sound her heels make as she walks up to his desk so, until she speaks, he didn't know it was her.

"I believe I have good news."

Emotions flow through him with her words. He is certain he won't understand whatever comes flying out of her lips but he has a feeling it's exactly what the case needs, precisely what he needs to hear from her.

She's particular in her explanation, taking more time than necessary to explain her findings. Somehow this comforts him. It tells him that he is not alone and he takes solace in that.

With a small smile, she says, "We've got him, Booth," and gives a look meant to reassure him. It's nothing, really, but her effort to help lower his stress means a lot.

Hastily he throws his jacket on and grabs a new clip for his gun before rounding to the side of the desk where she stands. Booth softly wraps his thumb and index finger around her wrist and gives her his own small smile. "Thanks, Bones," he says before turning back to the task at hand and ushering her out of the office.

He knows, just as well as she does, that they can do anything. They hold each other and that is how the center holds.