Author's Note: This little one shot was inspired by a conversation with va32h about episodes that could (read: should) have ended with, at the very least, some serious making out, if not B & B jumping each other. In reference to Cinderella in the Cardboard, she said:
Hello, Booth! When a woman comes to your door in the middle of the night saying she wants to believe in love...take her to your bed, you idiot!
Which got me thinking about that episode so I watched it and then this little idea just wouldn't go away and leave me alone. When I went back to read the first draft, I found that I had mixed past and present tense, so I decided to try something new and write in the present. If you see any corrections I missed, please alert me so that I can fix them.
And, Barbara, if you're reading this, I didn't edit out a single ellipse. I even added a couple on my last read through.
"You know, intellectually, I know that jealousy is absurd. But I see that it's real for people."
Booth frowns slightly, trying to figure out where she's going with this.
"I even experience it myself." She flicks her eyes at him, then looks down at her lap.
Booth slowly moves to join her on the couch. "So…who are you jealous of?"
"Because you all want to lose yourself in another person. You believe that love is transcendent and eternal." The earnest quality of her voice makes him ache. "I want to believe that, too."
Booth looks at her, wide eyed and pleading for him to offer the reassurance she needs, and feels his heart thumping irregularly. "Bones," he takes a sip and then wipes his mouth, "I think you've got the wrong idea here."
"What do you mean? You believe that love can last forever...don't you?" He's surprised that there isn't even a hint of skepticism or ridicule in her tone.
"Yeah," he scoffs slightly. "Yeah, of course, but…" he scoots back a bit, settling into the corner of the couch. "But even when it lasts, you don't feel that way all the time. Feelings come and go."
"But…" she looks crestfallen. "But when I say that feelings of love are caused by elevated levels of dopamine and serotonin in the limbic system you always insist—"
"Wait a minute, there, Bones. That's not what I meant. I just mean…" He stops to gather his thoughts. "Okay. My grandparents were married for almost 45 years. They loved each other more than any two people I've ever known. But sometimes, they fought. Sometimes they'd get so mad they couldn't even be in the same room with each other and Pops would go fishing and Nana would weed her garden. But they always always came back to one another."
"I don't know what that means."
"It means, Bones, that I don't believe that 'eternal and transcendent' love is easy. It's hard work. It starts with a feeling, yeah, but then it's about choices."
"Yeah, like…" suddenly his stomach was flipping and Booth wasn't sure if he should continue. She showed up at your door, asked for a drink, and then told you she wants to believe in love. What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? He clears his throat. "Like us."
"Us?" In the space of a heartbeat a series of emotions flicker across her face, almost too fast for him to identify.
He holds her gaze for several beats before finding his voice. "Yeah, Bones. Us. I mean we…we don't really make much sense. We don't see the world the same way and we don't believe in the same things, but…we push each other. We make each other better. And even when we argue, and drive each other crazy, we always come back to each other."
She tilts her head to one side, considering. "Is that…is that what love means to you?"
He shifts uncomfortably under her scrutiny, wondering if he's overstepped the line. "Yeah. Y'know, one of my Army buddies had to go to this couples seminar before he got married, and he said they told him, 'Love is a decision.' At the time I was just a kid, and we laughed about it, but…I think there's truth in that. I mean…love isn't about words or even feelings, it's about actions. And when you keep coming back to the same person, no matter how hard it is, that's love. The kind that lasts anyway."
"But what if that person disappoints you?"
Without his consent, his shoulders tilt in her direction. "Everybody disappoints you eventually."
Her face falls slightly, and she remembers Do you think I'm a loser?
His lips quirk in an affectionate smile. "Nobody's perfect, Bones. Love isn't about always making each other happy. It's about give and take and the promise that even when you don't like each other, you'll still love each other."
"How can you love someone you don't like?" She seems genuinely perplexed, as if he's presented an unsolvable paradox.
"Well…" another pause. "You and me, for example. We…" deciding to tread lightly, he continues, "care about each other, right?"
"And when you're angry with me, do you stop caring about me?"
"Of course not," she whispers, her eyes so low that he can see the outline of her lashes against the pale curve of her cheek.
"That's what love is."
She raises her eyes in surprise. Studying his face, she leans back against the couch and takes another swallow from the bottle. Then another.
Booth waits for some reaction, feeling as if every muscle in his body is coiled in anticipation.
Brennan stands, murmuring, "Excuse me," and heads for the bathroom.
Stunned, Booth isn't sure what to make of her non-reaction. The fact that she didn't hit the door running is promising. The fact that she didn't respond worries him a little.
Brennan locks the bathroom door behind her and looks at herself in the mirror, trying to determine if Booth has just confessed that he loves her. She needs a moment to process this without the weight of his gaze on her.
She isn't sure what to make of his explanation of love. When she talked about the transient nature of love she was referring to the euphoric feelings she associated with meeting a new, desirable man whom she considered to be a potential sexual partner.
The way she'd felt about Booth when they'd first met.
But the way Booth defined love—the kind that lasts, he'd said—that…
That accurately describes her feelings for Booth now.
Is she in love with Booth?
Her cheeks flush at the thought. She'd always considered herself too rational and reasonable to do something so flighty as fall in love, but…
Even when she is angry with him, she craves his company. When she is upset, his presence is a balm. When she has good news, he is the person she wants to share it with first. His happiness brings her pleasure and his pain causes her grief.
She feels as if the world has just turned on its axis. For years she has refused to believe in love, but the evidence suggests that she has been giving and receiving love without being cognizant of it.
Could loving someone and being loved in return really feel so effortless? She'd always assumed that it would feel like sacrifice. But her relationship with Booth came so naturally. It had never occurred to her that this could be love.
She is startled by a sharp rap on the door. "Bones, are you okay in there?"
She opens the door, but doesn't answer.
"What is it?" he asks warily.
"If I were to take your definition of love and apply it to us, logically speaking—"
"Bones," he interrupts. "It's not a theorem. Love isn't an equation to be solved. It has to start with feelings."
She seems to shrink slightly, and in a very small voice she says, "I do feel things, Booth." She raises her eyes and he feels pierced by her gaze.
"For me?" He sounds simultaneously hopeful and incredulous.
"Yes," she breathes.
"What—what kinds of things?"
"Fondness…affection…physical desire," her words are slow and hesitant.
"Physical—" he splutters. "You can't just say things like that, Bones!"
"Things like what?"
"Like, 'I want to have sex with you,'" he said, exasperated.
"I didn't say that," she protests.
"But that's what you meant…isn't it?" Booth prays he doesn't sound too eager.
"Yes," she admits frankly, in that no-nonsense tone that has featured in so many of his fantasies.
"But…" Jesus, he couldn't believe he was actually trying to talk her out of this. "What about after?"
"Immediately after, or—"
"Bones," he grates. "You know what I mean. What about…where would that leave us? Our partnership, our…friendship?"
"Well, what you said before." He tries to remember if he's ever seen her so inarticulate before, and wonders if that's a sign that she is as affected by the turn of their conversation as he is.
"We keep coming back to each other. You said we do that already. Did you—did you not mean it?"
"Of course I meant it!"
"Then why are you so reluctant?" She searches for an explanation for his behavior. "Are you not physically attracted to me?"
"Bones…" he looks pained and conflicted.
"It's fine, Booth," he hears a catch in her voice, but she clears her throat and presses on, "I misunderstood. I can…I'll go." Her face flames and she tries to step around him.
His arm snakes out and wraps around her, pulling her flush against him. He takes two steps and she is trapped between his body and the wall. As soon as he touches her he decides that he is finished talking and second-guessing. But he won't force himself on her. So he waits, their hips pressed together, the swell of her breasts soft against his chest, his face centimeters from hers.
For several seconds she looks at him in surprise, but he was already at half-mast from their conversation and her current proximity causes him to swell almost to the point of discomfort.
She rocks her hips slightly and before he can vocalize his responding groan she has opened her mouth against his to swallow it. She curls one foot around his calf as his lips blaze a path down her neck. Her fingers fly over his skin, removing his shirt and exploring every inch of his chest and back.
They stumble to his bedroom, depositing a trail of clothes in their wake. They tumble into the unmade bed as a knot of limbs; kissing, touching, stroking everything they can reach.
As their bodies cool, Brennan curls into Booth and his fingertips trace lightly over her spine. After a brief silence, Booth says, "What?"
"I didn't say anything."
"I know, but I can practically hear your brain whirring. What is it—you're not—" he looks slightly panicked.
"Booth. Everything is fine. Better than fine, actually," she grins.
"Just 'better than fine'? Not earth-shattering or life-changing?"
She sobers. "Certainly life-changing," she says softly. "Actually, I was just thinking that you were wrong."
He rolls his eyes. "I'll bet you say that to all the guys."
She raises her eyebrows.
"It's a joke, Bones. Ooooo-kay…not that I'm surprised you think I'm wrong about something, but we need to work on your pillow talk," he says with an affectionate smile.
She regards him curiously, and finally he says, "I'm waiting for my report, professor."
"Oh. Well…you said that 'Love is a decision,' but I disagree. I don't feel that I had any choice in the matter."
His heart swells at her backward declaration of love. "Did you just admit that you believe in fate?"
"Absolutely not. That's ludicrous."
"So it's because I'm irresistible?"
"Booth!" She swats his chest.
He rolls her underneath him, reveling in the feel of her soft thighs cradling his hips. He kisses her lazily until she is bucking beneath him.
"Yup. Irresistible, baby," he whispers with a smirk.