Eighteen Minutes

By: Lesera128

Rated: M

Disclaimer: ::stares:: ::blinks:: ::stares again:: Yeah. I still don't own anything…but, you knew that from the stares, right?

Summary: For 18 minutes, Dr. Temperance Brennan was clinically brain dead before resuscitation pulled her back only for her to fall into a coma. When she finally wakes up, Brennan must cope with overwhelming losses and an ensuing crisis of faith. AU.

Logistical Notes on the Story: Please see the earlier chapters for the picky details.

Epilogue – As It Was Meant To Be

It had taken them time.

It was hard for Brennan, letting go of the past. But, a little more each day, she filled her life with true memories of the real life she was building with Booth. And, each day, the memories of her dream world faded a little bit more. True, she'd never forget them. But, each day, she needed them a little less than she had as compared to the prior day. Gradually, the colors and textures of that world grew a little less brilliant, a little less sharp in her recall. And, in their place stood a slew of new opportunities experienced in a world where she loved Booth, Booth loved her, both knew it, and there was nothing keeping them from being together.

A couple of months after the fateful day when Brennan had made her confession to Booth about why she'd wanted to end their partnership, the truth of their feelings about one another had come out, they'd made love for the first time, and began a real relationship, the reemergence of the Gravedigger case had shaken the forensic anthropologist more than she'd come to realize. Since her miscarriage and gradual return to work—because, with his cajoling, she'd eventually seen the folly in not rescinding her letter of resignation—with Booth's help, she'd made progress at rectifying the woman she was with the woman she remembered into the new woman she wanted to be. But, the process took time, and that healing was interrupted when Heather Taffet came back into their lives.

Feeling frustrated and exhausted over the woman's sociopathic challenge, Brennan had left the lab early when it became clear that Booth would be tied up at the Hoover and there was no point in waiting for him at the Jeffersonian. She promised herself that the best thing to do was to go home and wait for him there after indulging in a hot bath and enjoying a glass of red wine so that she could come back in the morning rested and rejuvenated. However, the longer Booth was delayed, the less Brennan was able to relax.

And, that was how she'd ended up with some of the case files related to Taffet spread out all over her dining room table—never having taken her bath nor had the glass of wine she'd promised herself. After several hours, she got up out of the chair in which she'd been hunched for so long, cracked her aching back, and set both hands on the table as she tried to figure out what she was missing as her eyes roamed over the stacks on the table. She knew there was something she needed to see, but the harder she stared at the files, the more the black ink of the printed words swam in front of her tired eyes. Eventually, she heard the turn of the key in the deadbolt of her apartment's front door. Glancing over at the digital clock on her microwave in the kitchen from where she was standing, Brennan sighed when she realized how late it was as Booth let himself into the apartment.

Stopping only long enough to bolt the lock behind him, Booth blew into the apartment like a gust of wind, something obviously fueling his burst of energy despite the lateness of the hour. Nodding at her, he gestured with an FBI file folder he held partially folded in his hand.

"So. the Gilroy kid? He was last seen at the Rockland Mall on June 23. I'm gonna check all Taffet's credit card records for that day, too," he began, not bothering to even say hello.

Brennan, not one to take offense given how hungry she was for anything that might lead to something on Taffet, merely tilted her head as she considered his words. Instead of castigating him for his brusque greeting, she merely frowned and slowly shook her head as she stared at her partner and boyfriend.

Sadly, she responded, "Caroline said you can't give expert testimony if she's prosecuting your case."

Taking a step towards her, Booth waited until her had her gaze focused on him before he explained, "I told Caroline to drop my charges, too."

Brennan gave him a strange look as he told her what he'd done without telling her. It was a mixture of awe, gratitude, uncertainty, fear…and love.

"I'm not gonna let you do this alone," he continued, his voice firm in its resolve. "She's gonna see the judge tomorrow morning at 10, and then we can dive in on all this."

Placing her hands on the table, the burst of warmth she felt at his confession made her love him even more in that moment, if such a thing was possible.

"Thanks, Booth," she said with a grim smile on her face.

"We're partners," he said, wanting to take a step toward her, but uncertain if the physical contact he ached to share with her would be welcome or not, given how much he knew the case was weighing on her. "That's what we do—right?"

She nodded slowly, and her smile grew a bit larger as he waited for her answer. After she'd given it, Brennan felt the overwhelming sense of negativity that she'd felt since the Taffet case had come to dominate their lives in recent days reassert itself. "If Taffet is acquitted on this count, she can never be tried again. Maybe that's why she wanted us to find the boy."

"Yeah," Booth agreed. "Well, she's arrogant, like Sweets said." You can beat her any day of the week with one hand tied behind your back, Bones. She knows that and that's why she's try to throw you off your game. But, I know how wonderful you are, and we're not gonna let this bitch rock us, baby. We just aren't. We'll get her. You'll see. Hoping to bolster her confidence a bit, Booth nodded once more as he added, "And, she's misjudging you."

Brennan was quiet for a moment and then walked away from the table, placing her hand on the small of her back as she began to pace. I don't want to tell him this, but I have to, she thought. He deserves to know.

"I have nightmares, Booth," she began, her voice quiet but somewhat unsteady as she explained. "Hodgins is bleeding…you're drowning." She stopped as she felt a surge of emotion deposit a thick knot in her throat. Shaking her head as she told herself that she was not shedding another damn tear because of Taffet, she paused as she drew in a deep breath before she continued. "I…I-I can't help anyone."

Unable to afford her the luxury of coming to him, Booth followed his instinct as he set the file folder he carried on the table and quickly closed the distance between them. "Alright, you know what?" he asked as he walked towards her and extended his arms. Brennan hesitated for a moment, and like he often did, Booth knew he needed to tempt her into trusting herself. "She's never gonna get the better of you, alright?" He leveled his strong and reassuring gaze at her and refused to look away until he saw a flicker in her blue eyes that told him he was very close to getting her to concede the point. He gestured with his hands again as he said, "Just know that. Alright?" Slowly she nodded as she allowed him to pull her into his strong embrace. "I promise. Okay?" he breathed into her ear as she nestled her head into the crook of her neck.

"Okay," she finally agreed quietly.

He held her for a moment, and then gave her one final squeeze before he murmured into her ear, "You're exhausted."

"No," she immediately protested, although her body seemed to betray her as she yawned slightly in spite of herself as she pulled away slightly. "I'm okay."

"Bones―" he began as he gave her a knowing look. "Come on, I can tell."

"I am tired," she finally conceded. "But, just a little bit." She paused and then sighed before she added, "It's more a feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed than anything else."

"You need to sleep," he said, his voice gentle but firm as he tried to convince her that he was right. "I'll stay with you. I won't go anywhere. I won't leave you. I'll hold you the entire night if you need me to―I promise."

"No," she quickly countered with a firm shake of her head. "As nice as that sounds, it's not happening, Booth."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because," she said. "Even if you're there…if I fall asleep without having a lead on this case, I know I'm going to dream about her…and I can't do that. In the end, It'll just do more harm than good."

"Bones―" he said softly, knowing he was going to fight a losing battle with her, given how stubborn she was being despite in exhaustion. But, for her sake, he knew that he still had to try. "You've got to sleep."

"And, I will," Brennan promised. "I will, eventually―" She stopped and then, a bit of the fight going out of her, she added, "I just can't…I just…not right now, okay? I need to…I just need to feel like I'm in control of something. As long as you're here with me, I promise―I'll try to go to sleep eventually. I will. I promise I will. Just, please―not now, okay? I won't go back to the lab before I get a couple hours of sleep."

"Bones," he sighed. "You're making me worry about you, ya know?"

"I don't mean to," she said honestly. "And, as long as you're here with me, I will sleep, eventually. I promise."

"You promise?" he said, his resolve giving in more and more with each second that ticked by them.

She nodded wordlessly.

"You know...I'm not leaving you," he reassured her with a light squeeze of his arms. "I'm never leaving you―not ever."

"I know," she sighed she reached for him once again. Booth immediately closed the distance between them and folded her into his strong arms. "I know. And, that makes me love you more than I already do."

"I just―" Booth's voice trailed off. "I know this hasn't been easy for you, Bones."

"No," she agreed. "It's been difficult―having to face everything…dredging up a part of my past that I hadn't really dealt with in some time, despite all that's happened to us. But, even still―maybe, now, it's worse dealing with Taffet." She stopped and then sighed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled away just enough so that she could look into his eyes―more to reassure herself than anything else. "I just…I can't stand it that she almost took you away from me...and if she had, none of this would've ever happened―the good or the bad…all of it never would've happened, and we never would've gotten to where we are right now. And, that terrifies me, Booth. It absolutely terrifies me."

"But, she didn't, ya know?" he sighed, as he watched her close her eyes and hoped that she was finally letting the reassuring warmth of his strength flow back into her instead of flashing to when Taffet had kidnapped him and locked him in a boat the year before...something at the time that had greatly affected her, but even more since she'd fallen and woken up. "She didn't. You found me because you were better than she was. You found me, and you saved me… just like I knew you would."

"I didn't have a choice," Brennan said simply, a bit of strain coming into her voice as she spoke. "I had to because…even if I didn't want to admit it at the time, I don't know what I would do if I lost you. I knew even then...I'd do whatever I had to do to get to you. I couldn't give up. I just couldn't."

"Of course you didn't," he responded as tightened his arms around her once more. "And, that's why I'm right here, Bones."

"I know that," she said. "I know that…I just―I just can't tell you how damn scared I was."

"I know," he replied in a soft whisper. "I was, too."

"I can't―" Brennan's voice trailed off. "I can do whatever you need me to do, but I don't know what I'll do if I ever lose you."

"You won't," he promised once more. "I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere."

"I know that," she nodded. "I know that, and I trust it…I trust you, I trust us, I just―"

As she spoke, Booth tilted his head, and suddenly he interrupted her by slipping his tongue into her mouth. The kiss was soft and gentle, and after a few seconds, they pulled apart.

Smiling, as he was quite pleased with himself, Booth nodded at her and said, "There. I like that part."

"What part?" Brennan replied with an arched eye.

"The part where your tongue was kissing me just like it always has," Booth explained. "It, apparently, doesn't know any difference between when you were sticking it in my mouth before Taffet's trial started versus right now, Bones, and I find that not only very reassuring, but sexy as hell."

Reaching up, she gently stroked his cheek with the soft pad of her thumb as she said, "Is that your way of telling me something, right?"

"I think," Booth said tentatively. "I'd like it a whole hell of yourself if you'd stop beating yourself up long enough to put Taffet aside and take some time for yourself, Bones―for us. Just for a few hours…if you don't want to sleep right now, that's okay, I guess. Because, you're right―we'll sleep eventually. But, for now…if you'll let me, I have an idea or two of what we could do that has absolutely nothing to do with Taffet, everything to do with us, and would definitely make both of us feel a whole hell of a lot better than we do right now."

She smiled as she recognized his look. "Are you trying to seduce me, Booth?" she asked.

"Hey," he said. "I'm not the one who said she didn't want to go to sleep. So, since we've gotta pass the time anyway, I'm just throwing out some possibilities, Bones."

"That sounds like seduction to me," Brennan said as she smiled when she felt him draw away from her just enough that he tugged at the bottom of her white button-down shirt.

He grinned back at her as he pulled the blouse out of her jeans. He fingers were quick to unfasten the six remaining buttons that kept her blouse clad tightly on her curvy form. When he'd worked free the last one, his grin widened even more as he ran his hands up her torso in a smooth line, reached her shoulders and followed the curves of her body as he wiggled the shirt off of her body. It fell to the ground in a nearly silent whoosh, and when he saw her nipples had already hardened through the flimsy fabric of her nude-colored bra, as the pink nubs peaked back at him, Booth just about lost it. He reached for her with both hands, wrapping his arms around her waist as he reveled in feeling the pressure of her body against his.

"I'm going to take you to bed now," he said in-between kisses as they made their haphazard way back in the direction of her bedroom. "I'm going to strip you naked, throw you on that bed, and make you forget your own name, I think."

"I have absolutely no problem with that," Brennan grinned as she let him lift her into his arms.

A short time later, once clothes had been haphazardly strewn about her bedroom in their frenzy to continue with their foreplay, Booth moved slowly but steadily on top of Brennan. She'd wrapped her legs around his torso, tucking her ankles so they rested just above the cleft of his gorgeously muscular ass.

Their tempo had built towards something that was faster and harder than either one had anticipated given their acknowledged fatigue. However, Brennan's body hummed with want as Booth moved in her, eliciting a glow that made her creamy skin even more resplendent in its rosiness. For his part, the sweat that beaded on Booth's forehead had already dampened his the short spikes of his hair so that they were slightly wet on his forehead as his tanned skin flushed with want of his impending orgasm...and want of her.

"I love you" he murmured as he pistoned into her, feeling his little self-restraint crumbling each inch he came closer in being seated in her to the hilt. "Oh, God, I love you."

"I know," she whispered as she twisted her hips and arched her back up to meet him as their tempo increased, her slick and wet walls drawing him deeper and deeper with each thrust he made. "Now, show me how much…show me that I didn't lose you…that she didn't take you away from me after all."

"I…almost lost you, too," he grunted, each word falling away from his lips with a gasp of breath as he drew his hips back and forth and felt the twittering at the base of his spine grow more and more demanding. As he moved, neither one could say if he was talking about the time Taffet had buried Brennan alive or because of her fall. In the end, it didn't really matter as he moved, and he grunted as much. "I almost lost you, and, you almost lost me. But, we didn't. Oh, fuck, Bones, we didn't…we didn't―"

"We're here," she cried, a throaty drawl falling away from her voice as his greedy lips sought out hers, and his tongue thrust sweetly into her mouth just as he was using his cock to penetrate her sleek wet folds, even if he'd slowed his pace as they'd whispered to one another. "Oooohhh, Booth―"

Opening her eyes to meet his, she smiled and repeated her earlier words. "You haven't lost me, and I haven't lost you. I'm here…right here...and so are you."

Her reassurances renewed both his faith and his focus. As reached for her mouth again, his tongue plunged in and out of her sweetness, eager and angry as he tried to show her how scared he'd been, how close he'd come to allowing the darkness he fought to keep at bay from overwhelming him just as he'd known she fought her own similar battle. Not to be outdone, Brennan allowed her hands to come to Booth's shoulders as she caressed the broad expanse and then dug her fingers into his shoulders.

"God," she pleaded with him in a soft voice her whispery breath falling away from her mouth to dance across the short distance between them until it fell to meet his ears. "Booth―keep…please. Don't stop. I won't break. Please…please let me feel. More, I need more. Go harder….make me feel, please." She then added the word that had become slightly magic between them as she whispered, "Trust."

"I love you," he whispered again, as he nodded once, and continued thrusting into her again at an even more frenzied pace, increasing his tempo as moved in and out of her, if such a thing were even possible. "Love you, love you, ohhh, God―I love you."

And, a moment or two later, when her cries mingled with his own―his sweaty body covering hers once more in a gesture that was both protective and loving―both eventually fell quiet but for the gasping of air. Not another word was spoken. In the end, when he slipped out of her, drew her into his arms, and wrapped his arms around her, true to her word, they both eventually slept.

Booth wasn't having a good afternoon.

It'd been a difficult week for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the US Army seemed to have made it their personal mission to get him to reenlist…and wouldn't seem to take a hint an accept that 'no' was his final answer. Combined with the recent bout of a fairly foul mood that Brennan had been in since the Taffet trial had ended―despite their victory over the sociopath―he wasn't sleeping much, he was getting laid even less, and the combined pressures were starting to weigh on him in more ways than one

After he'd gotten rid of the latest emissary that the Army had sent to tempt him to re-up, Booth contemplated whether returning to the Hoover was worth it given how little time remained in the afternoon of the remaining work day's hours. Or, he wondered, was it possible that he might be able to blow off what was left at work for the day, call Rebecca, see if he could wheedle permission out of her to pick up Parker from school, and spend some unscheduled quality time with his son since being with Parker never failed to cheer him up. He glanced at his watch and realized that he had at least two hours before Parker's dismissal, so the least he could do after calling Rebecca was to sit back and enjoy a slice of pie in peace and quiet…even if the visitor that had interrupted his lunch had left his stomach somewhat…unsettled.

He'd just reached into his pocket to get his phone so that he could call Rebecca when he saw through the diner's window an unexpected, but very familiar face coming down the street and moving towards him. She waved when they made eye contact, and he moved to stand. However, Booth was taken slightly aback as she gestured to him to wait for her. It took Booth a minute to realize what was so strange about her current appearance. And, then, as she entered the diner and slid into her customary seat opposite him at their table, he realized what was so off about his girlfriend―for the first time in weeks, Brennan was actually smiling.

"Hi," Brennan said with a large smile on her face.

"Heya, Bones," he said, still a bit taken aback by Brennan's seemingly positive mood. What's got you so happy today, huh? "What are you doing here?" His eyes then darted down to the table as he realized that the offer letter the Army's latest emissary had sent was still visible on the tabletop. He quickly slid a menu over it as Brennan made herself comfortable in the chair and gestured to their usual waitress.

"Well, you asked me this morning to compare notes on the murder, but since I had the appointment that I had to leave early for, I thought I might catch you here now, we could grab lunch, and maybe do it afterwards?"

"Right," said as he contemplated her offer. If Brennan was in a good mood, Booth certainly didn't want to waist the opportunity to spend some time with her since it'd been so long when she wasn't tired or moody or general annoyed with him in the last few weeks. So, even if they were working, as long as she was in a good mood, he decided that plan was just fine with him and thoughts of Parker danced out of him head. "Yeah."

A couple of minutes later, after Brennan had ordered what seemed like an unusually hearty meal for herself―and breakfast of all things, Booth couldn't help but frowning at her strange behavior. Both Booth and their waitress had quirked an eyebrow when she ordered three eggs, over easy, hash browns, grits, and an English muffin in addition to her normal bowl of fresh strawberries and crème. He also noticed, quite interestingly, that Brennan asked for a cup of decaf coffee in addition to an extra large glass of orange juice. He couldn't help but give her another strange look once the waitress had scribbled Brennan's order and told Booth she'd be back shortly with a fresh warm up for his coffee.

"What?" Brennan asked, as she reached for her silverware and began to unwrap the napkin that was coiled around the fork, spoon, and knife with its customary band of paper. "What'd I do now?"

"Nothing, Bones," Booth replied.

"Booth," she clucked. "I know that look, and I know that tone. Why don't you just tell me whatever it is that you think I did now that you think's weird so we can save some time and be ready to eat when the food gets here, huh?"

Booth made a face and then said, "It's just...fried food? You really don't do fried food...and breakfast? At lunch? Breakfast for lunch?" He blinked and then shook his head. "That's something I would do, but you―"

Brennan reached out and took Booth's water glass, sipped it, and then said, "Breakfast is what...was appealing to me. I mean, you get breakfast morning, noon, and night, and I never castigate you, Booth―"

"Okay," he conceded. "Fair point, but...then―what about?"

"What about what?" Brennan said with narrowed eyes.

Shit, Booth thought as he recognized that look. Well, so much for her good mood. There it goes...straight out the diner's front door. Realizing that he was in for the penny, in for the pound by that point, he decided to get the answer to satisfy his curiosity since he was pretty certain he was going to pay for it anyway. "It's just…hungry much?"

"I'm hungry," Brennan repeated. Booth arched an eye and then quickly added, "And, I couldn't eat this morning."

"Why not?" Booth asked. "I thought whenever you have an early meeting with your publisher that she bends over backwards to get whatever healthy crap you want to keep you happy."

"My meeting wasn't with my publisher," Brennan explained as the waitress returned and deposited Brennan's mug of decaf coffee and large OJ on the table before she topped off Booth's cup with a refill from the regular coffee carafe. "And, I couldn't eat this morning because I was getting blood drawn so I had to fast. That's why I've only had water since midnight last night."

"Oh," Booth said, not really certain what to make of what she'd said.

After quickly scrolling through his mental calendar, and not remembering any significant regularly scheduled follow up appointments with any of her doctors, he shrugged. Knowing that Brennan would tell him if there was anything to be concerned about, and still distracted by the Army's annoying persistence in trying to re-snag him for duty, he was content to let the matter lapse.

A couple of minutes went by in silence before Brennan was the one to break it. Looking over at him, she tilted her head before she began to speak.

"So," Brennan began as soon as she finished dumping several packets of sugar into her coffee and used her spoon to stir the milky concoction to her exact specifications. Before she lifted it to her lips and took a sip, she asked casually, "Who was that soldier?"

Booth frowned a bit as he realized that Brennan had apparently been watching him for longer than he'd originally thought before she made her presence known. Damn, he thought. Damn, damn, damn.

"Oh, just, uh―" he fumbled for an explanation―his stuttering not lost on Brennan as she arched an eyebrow at him. "Just an old Army buddy of mine."

Brennan's brow furrowed in suspicion as she considered his explanation. "You didn't look like buddies."

Although Booth was very clear in that he didn't feel like he was purposely keeping anything from Brennan about the Army's recent reemergence in his life, he didn't want to cause her undue worry given how off kilter she'd seem to have been in the past few weeks. Since, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing to tell, he didn't see the point on dwelling on the topic and decided the best way to disinterest Brennan was to deflect.

"What, all of a sudden, you can tell stuff like that?" he joked lightly.

Brennan considered his question before she nodded. "Well, you've taught me to be more observant of human interaction. I can also tell that you're reluctant to be honest about your real relationship with him―" She stopped, and then moved so quickly that before Booth realized what she had done, she brushed aside the menu he'd left on the far side of the table―out of the reach of their waitress―and swiped the letter that lay underneath. Booth winced as he realized there was no way to keep her from reading the letter now, which she did as he watched in expectant pain, a preemptive flinch hoovering on his face. After a minute, Brennan lowered the letter and arched her eyebrow once more as she commented, "Secretary of Defense? They want you to go back into the Army? As a Sergeant Major?" She paused, and then frowned as she added, "Wait―I thought you were a Master Sergeant?"

Sighing, Booth nodded. "They're just trying to tempt me with a promotion, but, you know, I'm not going."

Her eyes darted back to the paper, and she scanned it again as she then looked back up at him. "This lists your commendations." He shrugged noncommittally and then Brennan continued, "You were really good at being a soldier." She stopped and then titled her head as her voice took on a slightly different tone when she quietly asked, "Why do they want you back?"

Booth stared at her for a moment, trying to figure out what she was really thinking and feeling, because the last thing he wanted was for her to freak out over something that, really, in his mind wasn't that big a deal.

"Yeah, you know, they just think that my experience as an FBI agent and a sniper in the First Gulf War..." he let his voice trail off as he shrugged again and left the thought unfinished.

Brennan stared at him for a moment, and then a bit of comprehension dawned as she replied, "You could train soldiers in techniques for tracking and apprehending insurgents."

"Yeah, well, I'm real happy tracking and catching murderers right here," he said with a shake of his head as he lifted his coffee mug to his lips.

Brennan's brow furrowed as her eyes darted back to the letter. "They say you could save lives."

"Course they're gonna say that," he sighed as he set his coffee mug down. "It's the Army. They say that 'cause that's what they want."

Pursing her lips for a minute, Brennan asked quietly, "You don't think you'd save lives?"

"Well, yeah," he responded instantly. When he saw Brennan's frown lines grow deeper, he then quickly amended his statement. "But, I mean, anyone would in that position."

"Not everybody is as good as you," she observed, the tint to her voice quite serious as she made the factual complement seem like a simple statement of fact.

Shaking his head, Booth responded, "I served my country, and I have a kid here." Brennan's eyes darted up to meet his, and she studied his face intently as he continued speaking with a strange glint in her eye that Booth didn't seem to notice. "I've got responsibilities, all right? I'm not going to Afghanistan, and you're not going to the Makapoopoo Islands."

"Maluku," she instantly corrected him.

"Right," he nodded, not missing a beat. "Exactly." He paused for a minute before he said with a firm nod of his head, almost as much as if he were convincing himself as to explain the point to her. "You know what? We have our jobs here, right?" She nodded her head imperceptibly, and he smiled. "Yeah."

We have our jobs and are about to have a whole lot more here, Brennan thought wryly. Taking a breath, she pursed her lips as she tried to figure out how best to tell him what news she'd been given just a couple of hours earlier. Okay, here goes.

"Speaking of our jobs, I believe I have a new project that will be steadily occupying more and more of my time over the next few months that I feel I should tell you about," she said, stopping only when their waitress returned with the stack of dishes that carried Brennan's food.

Booth frowned as he considered her words. Oh, God, I thought we talked about this, and she wasn't really thinking about that Machoochoo Islands Great Escape in the name of looking for the Missing Link, Booth mentally groaned.

"Oh, geez, Bones," he muttered. "What now? I thought you said that you weren't going to take the job on the dig since it was a minimum of a year commitment."

"I'm not," Brennan said as she took her fork and stirred the melting butter that sat on top of her small bowl of grits. "The project I mentioned is less of an anthropological nature and more, of one might say…gestational."

"Great," Booth muttered under his breath, shaking his head. She's gonna bolt again, and now I'm gonna have to follow her to some godawful backwater hell to wherever she's gone 'cause I can't just let her go. It's never simple with you is it, Bones? Still, Booth tried to remain upbeat as he went fishing for more details. Maybe it won't be that bad...maybe it's just a new book tour or something that her publicist wants...even though she did say that she wasn't meeting with her publisher this morning. Hmmm... "What…are you doing research for some new book or something? Because, we both know that you do get just a little nuts when you're doing something that you've never done before, and then when you're nuts, I get nuts, and then it's never a good thing for anyone."

Brennan silently chuckled as she realized that Booth hadn't understood what she'd said as he continued rambling.

"So, what is this? I mean, you aren't going to go anywhere, right? Because, we talked about this―"

"This is a…local project," Brennan interrupted him with a shake of her head. "But, it is a rather… long-term commitment."

Booth scowled a bit, but said, "So, what…does this mean you're gonna be working less in the lab, because you know how much I need ya in the field."

"My time in the lab will be reduced, eventually, yes," Brennan said, mentally chuckling even harder as she realized that Booth was still oblivious to what she was trying to tell her partner. "But, I'm afraid that I'll also be likewise reducing my time in the field...eventually."

"Awww, Bones," Booth complained. "Why…and for how long?"

"I told you why," Brennan said as she scooped a forkful of grits into her mouth and swallowed. "And, as for how long―well, let's just say that I'm not certain, but I'm certain it will be a minimum of several years." She stopped and considered before she said, "Now that I think about it, it may be prudent for you to think about how you're going to rearrange your schedule because I know that I will need a tremendous amount of assistance and various types of support from you in this pursuit."

"Years?" Booth asked, his eyes widening as he processed her words. "And, wait…you're gonna need my help? Since when? I mean…seriously…okay, what gives? What's up here, Bones? Because you just told me that you're making a long-term commitment that's gonna take you away from the lab, away from our work, and it has nothing to do with your squinty anthropological goodness, so what's going on, huh? I mean, do you really have to do this?"

Brennan set her fork gently down on her plate and daintily wiped the corner of her mouth with her napkin.

"I'm afraid I've already made the commitment," Brennan said. "It's sort of…as you might say, a 'done deal'."

"But, why?" Booth whined slightly. "I mean, Bones, you can't really do this type of thing without consulting me." He stopped and then sighed, "You aren't being straight with me because you really don't want to tell me that you agreed to the Macocku thingy in Indonesia after all, are you?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that you weren't consulted," Brennan said softly. Deciding she'd toyed with him enough, she folded her hands on the top of the table and waited until he was looking straight at her. "Booth?" she asked.

"What?" he whined, the scowl still present on his face.

"I said I believe you were consulted, in a manner of speaking, since you were there and were an active participant when your ejaculation resulted in the conception of the fetus I'm now carrying," she said, almost losing her straight face as she stumbled over the term 'ejaculation'.

"Wait―what?" he blinked as he considered her words and a dazed look suddenly graced his face.

"And, no, I didn't accept the invitation to participate in the Spice Island project. As I said, it would be highly inadvisable for me to accept the position of director of the Maluku project, and not just because of our personal relationship, but because I have absolutely no desire to give birth in the traditional rites of the Bandanese tribe," she explained, a slightly self-pleased look coming onto her face.

"Give birth?" he mouthed, uncertain if he was hearing her correctly.

Her smiling growing wider, she nodded as she picked up one half of her English muffin and gestured to him. "Yes, Booth. Traditionally, giving birth is the culmination after one is finished gestating one's progeny. Now, can you please pass the strawberry jam? Like I said, I'm starving, and while it's likely that I may throw this up in a few hours due to the incorrectly named 'morning sickness'― since such retching can occur at any time of the day―I would like to enjoy a full stomach for as long I can since there is a slight chance that your offspring might not make me throw it up like it has every other day this week."

His eyes darted from where he sat staring at hers, down to her stomach, even though he couldn't see if since she was seated at the table, and then bounced back up to look at her.

"Bones?" he croaked.

"Yes, Booth?" she asked sweetly, still smiling. He sat in complete dumbfounded shock as he watched her holding the English muffin expectantly. She then tilted her head as she said, "Booth?"

"Yeah, Bones?" he finally managed to utter.

"Could you please pass the strawberry jam? My muffin's getting cold," she grinned.

His eyes widened further as he finally wheezed, "Bones…seriously…what are you trying to tell me here?"

"As I said," Brennan said, as she set down her English money, finally reached over him and grabbed a plastic tub of the strawberry jam, ripped off the plastic foil cover, and then lifted her knife and jab it into the tub and put a healthy sampling of the thick jam onto her utensil. She then began to slather it onto her English muffin, before she set down her knife and lifted the English muffin to her lips.

However, right before she bit into the piece of bread, she smiled and said, "I just told you several times, Booth―but I can tell you again, if you like. I'm pregnant."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Booth's not good afternoon and difficult week had suddenly become the best of his entire life.

Several months later, a radiant Dr. Temperance Brennan sat on the couch in her apartment, holding a small squirming bundle in her arms as she watched several of their guests enjoying the reception that was being hosted after the christening ceremony that had been held for their daughter. Special Agent Seeley Booth stood next to the edge of the couch, grinning one of the largest grins he'd ever felt crack his face, as he watched his partner and girlfriend cradle their child, who was making cooing sounds at her mother.

"Ya know, Bones," he said. "It helps if you bounce her because she likes the rhythm."

"I find that Kathryn quite enjoys it when she isn't having her axis of motion overstimulated so that she can fully process the other sights and sounds around her," Brennan said as she looked at her partner and boyfriend. "Besides, I just fed her, and I have no desire to have her vomit the breast milk she just consumed all over her christening gown."

"Awww," Booth said as he squatted down and looked at the six-week old infant that Brennan was keeping safe in her arms. "She'd never do that to me, Bones. The little princess here knows that the only person she should spit up on is Mommy…and Sweets."

"I don't think she's been made aware of that point," a cutting English voice said as she emerged from the kitchen with two glasses of blue punch in her hand. Walking over, Sister Bernadette Magdalena (AKA Bernadette Gordon), came towards Brennan and extended one of the glasses to the mother. "Now, make yourself useful and be a dear and take the baby, Seeley, so that Temperance can wet her proverbial whistle." Booth knew better than to cross the old nun as he promptly plucked his daughter out of her mother's arms. As Brennan gratefully took the punch, Bernadette reassured her, "Never fear, dear―I know you're still nursing, so I took the liberty of grabbing you a glass of the non-alcoholic Shark Attack Punch." She stopped as she made a face and said, "I hate to admit it when Donnie's right, but it just doesn't have the same kick as the real stuff." Sighing, she shook her head as she then added, "However, it's not like you can go and get pissed, so some sacrifices do have to be made in the name of my lovely, lovely namesake who doesn't, as I was saying, Seeley, seem to be aware of the fact that she isn't supposed to puke up all over her godmother." She stopped and then a general smile cracked her face as she told Brennan, "Of course, she does it even more often to Donnie, so she gets points with me on that one."

"Of course, she does, sister dear," the melodious voice of Dr. Gordon Gordon Wyatt answered as he appeared from the kitchen with his own brightly-colored blue drink that both Booth and Brennan were both certain wasn't one of the non-alcoholic versions. "Now, quite trying to incite my goddaughter against me."

"Honorary goddaughter," Bernie was quick to point at him. "Honorary goddaughter, brother dear, since we both know that you've never given up Father's stubborn clinging to the lighter version of Catholicism, and you've insisted that you remain tied to that rather dirty Protestant denominational faith of yours."

"Yes, well, Bernie, love, I'm certain that when I die, if I go to see St. Peter, and he tells me that I made the wrong choice when I stuck with the Anglican faith of my childhood―just as you have so ardently remained committed to Mother's Roman Catholicism once our dear parents permanently separated," Wyatt said dryly. "Hopefully, I won't have to spend too long in Limbo since you've been praying for me for so many years, and I think nun's prayers might carry a bit more weight than most."

"Yes, well, be that as it may―and, who say's I've been praying for you, you sot―the godfather title you've been lording over young Kate isn't official, it's honorary since you're not Catholic," Bernie pointed out. "However, as I am of the true faith, I am Kate's actual godmother, which does put me, as usual, brother dear, more than one step ahead of you." She stopped and then added, "Of course, I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but you could've left Father's house in Oxford any time you wanted and come to live with Mum in Edinburgh and then we wouldn't be having this problem."

"And, as I've told you many times before, Oxford compared to Edinburgh is like comparing tea to coffee, McVities to Nabisco, and baseball to football…it's an exercise in futile stupidity, Bernie, and it's a waste of time to even contemplate such horrors."

Bernie rolled her eyes as Wyatt explained a slightly confused, but clearly amused Booth and Brennan, who were watching the pair with great interest. "Da and Mum split when we were minors," Wyatt began. "Mum was a Highland Scot of Clan Gordon, since she was Catholic, she raised Bernie after the separation, and Bernie took Mum's last name when she was old enough to make the choice since our mother had reverted to using her maiden name even though there was no divorce because of her religious beliefs. I stayed with Da at Oxford, and stereotypical don that he was, he was quite content with the arrangement as long as his time with his books wasn't interrupted. And, that's how Bernie also ended up with that huge ego even though she is a bit of a numpty at times. It's the Scottish blood, you see…since it always tells."

"And, Donnie's priggish self-righteousness is stereotypical of the bloody Sassenach, so we'll just all have to forgive him, I suppose," Bernie sighed. "But, since I'm used to it by now, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I have to indulge him like this."

"And," Wyatt sighed as he shook his head and let his gaze turn from Booth to Brennan and back again. "I'm afraid that no matter how much time you spend around her, Bernie never quite loses her edge. I think it's because she spends so much time sharpening her knives at the nunnery instead of keeping up the good ole tradition of overkill that led her to take the vows in the first place when she decided she wanted to pray for our dear father's and my damned souls." He stopped and then added in a conspiratorial tone to the new parents, "Of course, I can't be blamed for not warning you that this would happen you if you made her Kate's godmother. Combined with the fact that the baby's middle name is Bernadette, you were going to stoke her incredibly large ego to an even greater epic size than it already is by it's very nature, and now you know why."

"Donnie!" Bernie began with a strong bolt of recrimination clear in her voice. "I can't believe you―"

Booth chuckled as he leaned in to Brennan and whispered, "You know, we can probably still get Kate's middle name changed."

Brennan smiled as she looked down at their daughter, who's eyes were bouncing around from left to right and back again as she took in the entire scene before her. The baby, who Brennan knew had to be named Kathryn as soon as she saw her infant's fine hair that made it seem as if she was as bald as a Georgia Peach, had been named after Booth's grandmother…and her godmother, Sister Bernadette. However, in deference to the child of her dream that Brennan had lost, Booth had suggested they call her Kate instead of Katy, and that made Brennan feel better about the entire situation.

Smiling as she rocked the baby slightly in her arms, Brennan slowly shook her head. "No, it's all right…I think with parents like us, Kate is going to need a backbone if she's going to be her own person. And, Bernie's a good role model for that."

"Are you saying we bicker too much, Bones?" Booth grinned as he leaned in an let his face rest just an inch or two from hers, their noses barely touching.

"Yes," Brennan smiled, chuckling slightly as she answered. "Of course we bicker."


"Of course, we bicker," Brennan repeated as she leaned into close the remaining distance between them. And, just before she kissed him, she whispered, "But, because I trust us―you loving me, me loving you, us loving Kate…I know that everything, and I mean everything, Booth…I know it sounds silly, but I know we'll always be okay because things will work out like they're supposed to, right?"

A toothy grin of his own appeared on Booth's face as he nodded and met her ready lips with hers with a silent thanks of what they'd been given and for what happiness was still theirs, but yet to come.

~The End~

Author's Note - And, that's, as they say...a wrap! So, there you have it folks. That's it. I hope everyone likes how this heavily angsty piece finished up.

This story was born for a couple of different reasons. I think I've shared before that I wrote the prologue several months before I actually posted it as I tried to wrap my head around these thoughts. First, I had the question running around in my head…what would have to happen for Brennan to become religious (or, at least, question her atheism) given her atheistic belief system? The second would be how would she handle that occurrence if she couldn't turn to Booth for guidance? So, the plot for this story was hatched out of those meanderings. Sister Bernadette was born, and Sweets was broomed for Gordon Gordon. The good Dr. Wyatt's baby sister has become one of my favorite OC's. Someone asked, why did Bernie call Gordon Gordon Donnie, and I never got a chance to answer it in the story as it never really fit anywhere. The answer is…we all have siblings that shorten names…and Gordon Gordon never seemed like a Gordy to me…so, that left Don…which didn't sound sibling-like enough…thus, Donnie was born. To my longtime readers who've inquired, never fear―we'll definitely be seeing her again at some point in one of my other stories. I just have to figure out where to plug her in and how.

Since this is the end of my story, and this is the spot where I like to ramble on a bit more than normal (hard to believe, I know), but for those who do actually read the author's notes (and, gah! Some of you may this hard to believe, but a lot of people actually skip them. Go figure.) I like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who's supported it. Be it Dharmasera, Inc. in-house Boothifying services (yes, she was my Boothifying-Boothchecker, but not all of Booth's ramblings/words in the story were necessarily from the monkey…for either good or bad), my regular readers (some of you guys who I know leave a review every damn chapter that it makes my day when I see it, even if it's just a one-line to let me know that you're still will me), new readers who stuck with me through the end of this angsty story, and even those lurkers who haven't come out and said a word. I know with the reader alerts you've got to be reading, so even if you didn't say anything―although, it's not too late you know? You can still hit that bright shiny blue button below and let me know what you thought of the story as a whole since reviews of stories at their completion are just as important as those given at other times―I appreciate you taking the time to read and discuss. Even if I'm horrible at it, all the reviews, PM, and twitter inquiries via my PR monkey agent are near and dear to my heart, so thank you so very much. I really do sincerely mean that, too.

Now, that having been said, as far as future projects in the short term…plans include wrapping up "Revisting a Big Mistake" (as there are only two chapters and an epilogue left in that story) and probably focusing on "More From Brennan's Journal." I do have a few ideas rattling around the old noggin' for what may be my next solo piece. But, until the muse gnaws down on which one she seems most interested in, I'm happy to say that work will continue on the opening chapters of the dharmasera epic "Proprietary Interests" which will be the long-awaited sequel to "Costly Signals" and "Cogitative Dissonance." ::stares at somemonkey:: ::coughs:: ::stares some more:: ::gives M.C.:: :stares some more:: ::grin::. Anyway, just so everyone knows what's in the pipeline…there you have it.

Until next time, see everyone in the funny papers. Take care.~