Disclaimer: These characters are not mine; they are the property of Fox. No infringement intended.

Summary: Can you work out what's got Booth acting so strange? New mother: Bones, is compelled to after a tragic event appears to be more sinister. Two parts. Be brave reader and look out for the clues. Most characters appear. Spoilers. Epically long story…

Rating: K-M

Thanks: To those who encouraged me back to write for Bones - you know who you are. XX

Part One Of:

In Pursuit Of Solace

Chapter I

In The New House

The front door slamming in her face made Bones flinch and punctuated the end of their most recent argument instantly. A wintry gust from outside blasted across her hot cheeks and cooled her down like she'd been splashed with iced water. Deflating her chest in a sigh of despondency and perpetual confusion, she closed her brimming eyes, hanging her head. The noise of his hasty exit had another consequence, their seven week old daughter began to cry; inevitably shocked awake by the commotion and raised voices.

Bones' shoulders sagged even more hearing the cries, and made her way to the only room in their new house that was decorated and an acceptable living space. On her way, she had to negotiate between paint splattered ladders, trays of drying paint brushes and sheets of ripped soggy wallpaper. The treacherous obstacle course was made more difficult because only half the cherry floorboards had been laid, leaving the joists exposed. The pungent scent of varnish and gritty plaster dust accompanied her until she opened the nursery door. The gentle sanctuary of the airy, softly painted yellow and cream nursery was disturbed by her baby's sobs.

Closing the door quickly behind her to shut out the carnage of her incomplete home, Bones quickly crossed the plush carpet to the crib.

'Sshhh,' she calmed softly, picking up her squealing daughter, and held her close over her shoulder. 'S'ok, it's ok. Did we wake you? Sorry - I'm so sorry…' Patting her back gently, and rocking her preciously, Bones made her way to the nursery's bay window. Swaying absently, she watched as Booth slammed another door, the car's this time, then sped off down the grey snow covered drive.

Kissing the top of her child's head, she whispered her pledge against it, but with her eyes fixed on Booth's exhaust trail, 'Don't worry, Mommy's here - I'll always be here.'

Turning away, Bones sat in the white rocker by the window, and settled her baby in the crook of her arm. Her cries slowly subsided as she smelt her mother's milk and her anticipation of lunch grew. Bones released a swollen, leaking breast from her bra, and began to position her newborn to nurse her.

Reading, cover to cover, several pregnancy help books had not fully prepared Bones for the agony of breastfeeding with cracked nipples. As the weeks had gone on and the soreness increased, she knew to brace as her daughter began to latch on. Sucking in a gasp, Bones closed her eyes again, attempting to block out the excruciating pain. Biting her bottom lip, she felt a tear squeeze out from an eyelid and balance precariously on her cheek. She stoically accepted that this nurturing was necessary to give their daughter the best start in life. The benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby had been scientifically established and Bones was never one to go against scientific fact.

Gradually, slowly, her daughter began to feed ravenously. Bones felt the pressure and pain subside as natural endorphins numbed her areola, then finally she relaxed to breathe again. Looking down at her baby, she saw her looking back up with her huge amber eyes and blink. Bones felt her smile materialise and the tear roll further down to the corner of her lip with the change of her expression. She brushed the salty drop away quickly with her free hand. Their visual exchange and the deep bond they now shared, lightened the shadows on Bones' face and made the pain she endured worthwhile.

'There you go,' Bones said tenderly. 'Now - don't get lazy and fall asleep again,' she warned quietly, while caressing her fine caramel hair with her palm. Her daughter blinked her long lashes again as if she had no intension of falling asleep, and suckled more positively, staring back. 'Do you know how beautiful you are? Yes, of course you do… I know, as your birth mother, I'm programmed to think that, but I assure you, you are and will be. Trust me, I'm an anthropologist,' she said rather proudly. 'That's a bone doctor - I examine bones and their structure...' Realising her conversation was pointless, and feeling foolish, Bones added, 'But you need not concern yourself with that information now.'

As they slipped effortlessly into their regular routine, the memory of this morning crossed Bones' mind, and she looked out of the window pensively. Bathed in watery January sunshine she began to speak again; her voice was heavy with emotion and sprinkled with apprehension, 'I don't know if I should talk to you about what I'm feeing but as we're here, it would be helpful to me, would you mind?' Bones looked down again, seeing her daughters eyes were still locked on her face as she feasted, and smiled. 'Ok, thank you…' Taking a deep breath, she said reflectively, 'I don't know what day it was - I can't seem to pinpoint the moment or issue when it all started to go wrong… I suppose what I'm trying to work out is…' With a furrowed brow, Bones paused, and changed tack, then said with a heavy heart, 'The fact is, I'm very concerned about your father…'

Bones continued to have her one sided conversation as her daughter fed contentedly.

Chapter II

Going Anywhere

This dank late January day was yet another bitter one with an evil northerly wind that cut deep into Booth's flesh before the car warmed up. Heaps of icy grey snow still fringed the roadsides and drives because the defused sunlight wasn't strong enough yet to melt it. Nothing, it seemed, was helping his dark mood to brighten.

Booth's grip on the steering wheel tightened the further he drove away from her and his daughter. The expression of distraught confusion in Bones' eyes as he'd snapped at her, along with the echo of his daughters cries still tolled loudly in him. He twitched, uncomfortable in his seat, knowing he'd been unfair to her and completely irrational. He knew that had been becoming a habit of late.

Booth felt like crying but he fought the emotion and urge strongly although his corneas burned then glazed. His whole world had changed in the last few months and only some of it for the better. Everything he'd always wished for, and in some respects, prayed for, had fallen into his arms, almost literally. All that was good however, was slipping out of his control, and he felt an utter hopelessness.

Putting his foot down, the car surged onwards, driven on autopilot it appeared to Booth. He didn't know where he was going but found himself on the freeway heading towards Pops' retirement home. He thought that was as good a place as anywhere to get lost for a while, so kept going.

Picking out his cell from his leather jacket pocket, he hit speed dial #3, and waited for it to connect. Booth was so distracted, reliving the last twenty four hours and their previous arguments, he didn't see the beefy vehicle racing up fast beside him with intent. Nor did he have a premonition that his life was about to change yet again and literally be turned upside down.

The charcoal Hummer slammed into Booth's rear right flank, kicking his vehicle onto two wheels effortlessly. With the sudden jarring impact Booth's head snapped sideways, hitting the door frame; rendering him unconscious immediately as his scull fractured. The SUV wheels screeched and spat off rubber in two black clouds. Then they left the tarmac completely while the engine revved violently having no purchase. Momentum tossed the FBI SUV over a full three sixty degrees, twice, in a slewing, terrifying airborne corkscrew. Pieces of metal; fibreglass, and toughened glass spun off, littering the carriageway as his vehicle crumpled under the force of the spins and impacts.

Unrestrained by a seat belt Booth's body was tossed viciously in the front; only marginally protected by the roll frame and side impact bags exploding to inflate. Being unconscious he naturally missed the spectacular destruction of the vehicle. Although other motorist gasped in shock, and slammed on their brakes to avoid flying debris and the wrecks horrifying trajectory. In all but a few heart-stopping seconds the SUV rumbled down an embankment into a run-off ditch, coming to rest on the mangled roof.

The Hummer driver watched the carnage in his rear view mirror as his target somersaulted off the road with a smug smile. 'Woops…' He put his foot down, and took the next exit, leaving the scene of devastation he'd created behind.

Chapter III

Freeway

One of the vehicles that witnessed the wreck pulled over immediately and its occupants hovered cautiously on the top of the embankment. Others drove on by not wanting to get involved or have their day interrupted; grateful it wasn't them. One man, who'd seen the whole crash unfold, leapt from his car, and took off straight down the gouged slippery bank to see if he could help. His partner, however, was not happy with his impetuous decision to assist. 'Jesus, Tom - be careful!' she yelled after him, hugging herself close in the stiff icy breeze.

Throwing his order over his shoulder, Tom shouted, 'You just get the paramedics! I'll be ok,' as he slid down to steep slope on his ass. She fumbled out her cell, and did as instructed with trembling adrenalin-charged fingers.

The wheels of the crumbled SUV were still rolling but slowing when he arrived beside the car. On his knees, peering under the SUV, Tom felt his hot clouds of breath condense on his face, and his heart thundering in his chest. Inevitably he saw blood; deflated air-bags, shards of glass littering the churned up soil, and heard an ominous ticking from the engine. Catching the smell of gas, he immediately reached inside to the buckled steering column to turn off the ignition. Once done he turned his attention to the unfortunate driver. 'Oh. God,' he muttered, swallowing to moisten his dry throat. 'Poor guy…'

Booth hung half out of the upturned vehicle through the windshield, still and blooded, trapped under the car. His head was face down in the icy dirt, and his shoulder at an ugly angle, Tom noted.

Grimacing, seeing what Tom was seeing, she informed her boyfriend with relief, 'They're on the way!' She saw him nod, then she spotted something else, and said agitatedly, 'Tom? Tom, there's gas leaking out of the tank! Come back here!'

Tom tried to reach to Booth's wrist to feel for a pulse. 'I can see the guy. He's… ssshit, he's pretty banged up. He might be dead. I have to get closer…'

'No! Leave him! Tooom! If that things goes up, I'll kill you!'

Tom grinned, hearing her ridiculous comment, but lent further under the twisted metal to get to Booth's wrist. 'I dunno, I can't feel a pulse… Hang on...' Tom lay on his stomach now, then wriggled a little nearer to the unconscious man.

Looking back up the freeway, his nervous jiggling girlfriend, heard the distant sound of sirens, and felt a wave of relief. 'They're coming, Tom! Get back up here RIGHT NOW!' she snapped manically.

'Shut up, will you? I can hear something!'

'I will NOT shut up!' she said indignantly, then intrigued, 'What - what can you hear?'

'A voice, I think!' Fumbling around blindly towards the frantic voice inside the cracked dash, Tom shouted, 'Keep talking!' The voice paused for just a moment then started to shout more loudly - steering Tom.

Tom heard, 'Seeley-Jared-Seeley?' Just as he felt the phone in his fingers the sirens approaching drowned out the voice. Tom grabbed the cell, and scurried back out of the wreckage, and said into it, 'Hello?'

Pops answered in a clearly strained tone, 'Is my boy ok - I heard terrible noises?' Tom looked to his girlfriend as he scurried back up the bank with the cell phone at his ear.

'Umm. Something's happened,' he said vaguely, unsure of how much to tell the caller.

'What? What's happened? What's all those sirens?' Pops rattled off his frantic questions as the firemen unloaded their equipment to smother the leaking fuel.

Tom put his arm around his trembling partner as he said as gently as he could, 'There's been an accident on the freeway… A man is unconscious, trapped under his car but the fire truck and paramedic are attending to the scene now.' The couple stood back to allow the emergency teams get to work, while sharing the ear-piece of Booth's cell.

'Is, is he dead…?' Pops asked tremulously, with his voice cracking.

'I, I don't know - I'm not a paramedic, just a witness. Look, it might not be your boy…'

Pops begged, 'Describe him to me, please'

'Umm. I couldn't see his face…' pausing, Tom sighed, staring into his partners eyes as she nodded for him to tell the worried man. 'Ok. He's got short brown hair; black leather jacket, paint-splattered jeans, fit looking and driving a black SUV.

'Oh. God… What's the number on this phone?'

Tom looked to the cell. 'It says calling - Pops. Is this your son?'

'Grandson. He has a, a lady friend and new baby...'

Hearing the trauma in the old man's voice they both had a change of heart, wanting to leave this to the professionals now. 'Look, I'm sorry, Sir. I don't know if I should be doing this - the police are here now.'

'No! No-wait! Stay on the line! I need to know some things…' Pops tears began to trickle down his cheeks as he said, 'I have to know what's happening. If they can get him out - if he's ok - what hospital they're taking him to, can you do that for me? Please, don't hang up...'

Again the couple exchanged worried glances, and sagged to agree, while the emergency teams bustled around the twisted wreck. 'Yeah. I can do that for you. Then I'll have to hand the phone over, ok?'

'Yes-yes, I understand, Son. Thank you. Tell me - what's happening now?'

Chapter IV

Emergency Room

'Ange? Its Tempe - listen…' Bones' brevity put an abrupt end to the perfunctory greetings when calling a friend, so Ange knew instinctively something was terribly wrong. 'Booth's been in a MVA and taken to St Bart's ER.' Bones missed Ange's gasp of shock, as she went on without breaking stride, 'Please can you call Michele, I need her to take Christine for a while. Jared is picking up Hank -,' then she informed with a hint of exasperation, 'and Max has insisted he come to support…' she trailed off when Ange interrupted her flow.

'Slow - slow down, Tempe. I'll call her now. How is he?' Bones looked through the round windows of the closed double doors of the trauma room to the eight ER staff frantically working on Booth, and sighed to calm.

With her voice quivering, and re-adjusting her hold on Christine, she explained softly, 'They're stabilising him for surgery. I've not been informed of all his injuries yet. I want to be in on the surgery - I know he'll want me with him...' Bones didn't notice the salty trickle leave her eye as she spoke, with her eyes fixed on her broken partner.

'We're coming too. Anything else you need, Sweetie?'

'Yes - breast pads. I shall lactate again at around four and in my haste I omitted to pack any.' Ange couldn't help the smile that flirted with her lips in such a tense moment.

Ange said sweetly, 'No, I meant…'

Bones cut in over her, 'I know what you meant... I was being practical - it stops me from getting overwhelmed with difficult emotions I can do without right now.' Just as she made her frank confession one of the doctors came through the doors to speak to her. 'Ange. I have to go,' that left Ange's jaw hanging as Bones hung up.

Bones looked to the bloody latex gloves the MD was removing, and swallowed the lump in her throat. Dragging her eyes up from Booth's precious blood, she asked with hope, 'Is he stable enough for surgery yet?'

'We need to talk, Doctor Brennan - somewhere private…' The solemn doctor gently ushered her into the family room down the hall. Bones felt her heart skip too many beats as she sat precariously on the edge of the well-used couch. Instinctually she held sleeping Christine a little tighter in her arms, and her breath.

Florescent lights are harsh on the retinas and Booth found they were blinding him now as he fluttered open his eyes. He closed them again quickly, disoriented by the swimming glare. On his next attempt, he squinted out the harshness but it wasn't there any longer, to his relief. Directly above him was a uniform tiled ceiling with a few dark dots speckling it. He thought it curious, and tried to focus on the dark spots. But he quickly became distracted by alien noises and people clothed in white and green bustling around him. He could hear voices, they spoke in a technical way which he didn't understand or have the inclination too, mainly because he felt very strange. He tried to look around the room but for some reason he couldn't.

'Excuse me,' he said to one of the voices close by his head. 'Excuse me? Where am I? Oh and by the way, you got blood spots on your ceiling - not very hygienic…' Getting no answer he tried again, 'Ok. HeeelllooOoo,' he cooed. 'FBI - Special Agent Seeley Booth here. Could someone please speak directly to me and tell me where the hell am I?'

'We have a good systolic. Chem 7's back, electrolytes…' the medic droned, then perked up when he saw his patient had opened his eyes, 'Oh. Seeley, can you hear me? Seeley? Spontaneous eye opening. Page Doctor Peroni STAT.' The medic peered into Booth's eyes, and flashed his pen torch to check their dilation.

((Yes, finally. I can hear you but please don't call me Seeley - Booth's fine. And isn't Peroni a beer? Not so close dude - personal space and all that.))

'Seeley, you were in a car accident. Don't try and talk,' the medic urged. (( Didn't I just say don't call me that? Jeeze...)) 'Do you understand? Your family have been informed.' (( Breath mint wouldn't go amiss either.))

The next face Booth saw hovering over him was one that relaxed him instantly. 'Booth?' (( Bones. Oh. Thank God. Bones, I've been in a car accident apparently. Ooh. You've been crying. Why you've been crying? I'll be ok, don't worry.))

Bones leant in a little closer, peering into Booth's eyes. 'It's going to be ok - you're going to be fine. You need surgery, Booth, to fix the multiple fractures you've sustained.' (( Oh. This is not good. Your reassuring smile isn't cutting it when your tears roll like that. Touch me, why aren't you touching me, Bones?))

Not knowing where to touch him, Bones hesitated for a second, then stroked her index finger over an undamaged wrist delicately. Booth neither felt her caress or saw her cautious tenderness. There was a sound of doors opening, a scraping of casters on the floor and then another voice spoke to him.

Dr Peroni began quietly, 'Seeley…'

'He prefers Booth,' Bones interjected quickly, still smiling as best she could manage into Booth's eyes.

Peroni began again, 'Booth, there was a crash on the interstate. Do you recall?' ((No, but I'll take your word for it. Your breath is fresh - I like you.)) 'You have multiple injuries to your arms, face, pelvis and…'

'I'm always reminding him about wearing a restraint…' Bones said absently, wiping her cheeks quickly, her gaze unstinting on Booth's. (( Yeah, she does nag me all the time.)) Booth tried to concentrate on the doctor but refused to break eye contact with Bones. He thought by watching her expression he'd discover how severe his injuries truly were.

Flicking Bones a gentle smile, Peroni continued with, 'We have intubated you via a tracheotomy and a machine is breathing for you. Your mandible is…'

Bones interjected softly again, 'Jaw - your jaw -,' ((Yeah, I know, Bones. Not as hard as we both thought, I guess.)) 'that's why you can't talk right now.' (( Wait - I can talk. I've been talking to ya… Oooh, ok, all in my head - got it. That isn't a problem. Bones and me, we talk with our eyes all the time. We know what the other is thinking, don't we? ))

Bones kept smiling at him, but she knew her feeble smile was only just masking her real emotions. Peroni explained with an emotional detachment which he'd learnt over the course of his illustrious career, 'We've stabilized you for surgery. But I must inform you, there are risks to all surgery like this…'

((Yeah, I know. It's just a few broken bones though, right? I want you in there with me, Bones.)) Booth watched apprehensively as Bones' skin paled to delicate parchment and her lids brimmed with more tears. 'Booth…' she began, and placed her lips at his ear, then whispered, 'I'm so scared, Seeley...' (( Oh. Shit, this is serious - she never calls me Seeley.Don't be scared, my love.))

'I'm not sure what you want to do. We never discussed this outcome.' (( What outcome, I don't understand? ))

Swallowing, then whispering even quieter; as if she said the words quietly they would have less impact, 'You, you are - paralysed, from the clavicles down as far as they can tell - therefore you have two options…' (( Holy shit. Not that, no, not that, please, God no)) 'Doctor Peroni wants to try to remove a bone shard from your spinal cord, giving you the best chance of a full recovery - in time. Or, no surgery, and you'll be like this, on a respirator, for the rest of your life. But the surgery is extremely hazardous, Booth. If it doesn't go well you still might be paralyzed indefinitely - or worse...' Booth felt her tears trickling into the shell of his ear as his heart began to break and not just for her. He could sense her turmoil and agonising over her choice for him. Then she moved away to stare back into his eyes, Booth saw blood on her lips. He knew it was his blood, and it terrified him. With her expression scarred with torment, Bones asked, 'Surgery or not - blink once for the surgery, twice for…'

(( Fuck. This is a fucking nightmare! What's worse than dead, eh, Bones! I can't make that decision - not right now! I need more time - give me more time. Once, twice what difference does it make? I wanna get outta here! Let-me-go. Let-me-go-home!))Booth heard machines start to bleep rapidly around him and a flurry of activity displaced the thick air in the room ominously. ((Oooh. Bones-Bones I feel kinda, feel… feel so… Help, help me, meee…))

Seeing Booth's eyes roll, and the monitors go wild, Bones squeezed his hand, and with mortal panic lacing her voice ordered, 'Booth, yes or no! Look at me - focus on me.' She began to sob, pleading, 'Booth - blink once for yes, twice for no…' But it was too late, Booth had slipped into unconsciousness again. She looked anxiously up, and around at the scurrying doctors. 'Did he blink? Tell me he blinked!' With non-committal expressions most shook their heads, continuing to attend to Booth's immediate needs as he hung between life and death.

Dr Peroni placed a compassionate hand on her tense shoulder, whilst leading her away, and asked, 'We need to make a decision, Doctor Brennan. What do you think he would want? What's your gut instinct telling you?'

Unable to drag her eyes from her beloved Booth, Bones blanched, 'I don't have those - he does!'

'Doctor Brennan, please…'

With his insisting tone Bones drew in a deep calming breath, and let it go slowly through pursed lips, while staring into Booth's contorted face. 'He's is a man of faith. Any form of living is sacred and worthwhile whether he's on a ventilator for the rest of it or not,' she pondered aloud. 'However, Booth's compassionate, noble attitude would prevent him from burdening me or his family with what he would perceive as servitude to his daily needs. He'd loathe living that way - he'd rather die. He's the gambler in our partnership, so I ask you for him, Doctor Peroni, what are the odds of success?'

Peroni gave his honest, emotionless answer, 'Twenty percent - at best.' Bones covered her eyes, and rubbed away her tears.

Visibly sagging, Bones remarked forlornly, 'That's not good odds.' The time had come to make a unilateral decision, so with her fractured heart, she made it. Now looking into Peroni's eyes, she lifted her chin slightly, concluding, 'The fact is, I cannot, nor his children bear to be without him in whatever form this surgery leaves him. He can hate me all he wants later but at least we'll have him with us.'

Soberly Peroni nodded. 'Ok. Surgery it is then.'

Nodding, Bones confirmed her decision, 'Yes - surgery.'

Chapter V

Booth's Room

Bones woke with a start as someone tapped her shoulder. She took a moment to get her barings, then focused on the gentle smile above her. 'Doctor Brennan?' A portly uniformed police officer hovered over her with an expectant expression. His friendly wrinkly smile only just covered for his chilled grey eyes, she thought.

Straightening from her chair beside Booth's bed, she responded huskily, 'Yes.'

'I'm charged with investigating the accident that Agent Booth was involved in. I was wondering if he's up to giving us a statement yet?' Bones stood, shaking her head, and rubbed the small of her back.

'No. As you can see he's still heavily sedated. He's in and out of conciousness and not lucid when he is conscious, I'm afraid.'

'Yes. So I'm told, but I wonder…' pausing, the distracted officer then mumbled, 'Oh. Umm. You are… umm - wet.' The officer nodded vaguely in the direction of her chest, clearly embarrassed. Bones looked down to her breasts. The dark patches covering her nipples through her green sweatshirt gave away the time of day.

Checking her watch briefly, she explained succinctly. 'I'm currently breastfeeding, Officer..?'

'Chesney, Officer Chesney. Where's your baby?'

'Down the hall with our nanny. Follow me.' They left the room, and headed down the corridor. Bones' pace was brisk and the stubby-legged Officer Chesney had to rush to keep up with her. 'I suspect you want to ask me if Agent Booth has mentioned anything about the crash.'

'Yes. It's just I've been interviewing some of the witnessess and there seems to be some inconsistency in their accounts.'

Bones shot him a sideways glance, saying, 'In my experience witnessess are always inconsistent, Officer Chesney - that's nothing unusual.'

'Yes, agreed, but when we found the burnt out Hummer in the ditch...' Bones stopped abruptly as did Officer Chesney.

'Agent Booth was driving a SUV not a Hummer, Officer Chesney.'

'I know. The Hummer, apparently, according to one witness, deliberately hit Agent Booth. Others say they didn't even see a Hummer on the carriageway. That's where the inconsistencies come in.' Bones attempted to keep her expression as placid as possible to conceal the fact that her mind had shifted gears. 'However, we found a burnt out Hummer four miles away via an anonymous tip-off that matched the witnesses' description. So I wanted to talk to Agent Booth to see if he could throw some light on the matter - if he knew anyone that might what to harm him.'

'Agent Booth and I have made many enemies during our association and put numerous criminals behind bars. It's not beyond the realms of possibilities that one of those people could be out to seek revenge on either one of us. I would suggest you contact the FBI - they may be able to give you some leads.'

'Right, yes - I'll do that. Umm. May I just make an observation.'

'By all means.'

'You don't seem too surprised by my revelation that another driver tried to kill your husband.'

'Agent Booth and I are not married, Officer Chesney - we just have a child together.' Officer Chesney hitched his pants by his loaded belt, and nodded. He thought it curious that she didn't fully answer his question, so didn't let it go.

'Then would you like to comment on the allegation that Agent Booth may have been deliberately run off the road?'

Bones swapped her weight from one hip to the other, and sighed, 'I don't have the energy to speculate on possible scenarios. However, have you considered that the Hummer driver panicked when he realised what he'd done and simply disposed of the vehicle after the incident?' She began to walk on ahead, adding, 'I will say this though, I have every confidence in you, Officer Chesney to investigate those allegations and get back to me when you have something more substantial than hearsay - such as evidence, for example.'

The officer came to a halt again, and rubbed his jaw, feeling it had been gently slapped. 'Right. Well, I'll find out what I can and get back to you then.'

'Yes. Thank you. We'll appreciate that. Good afternoon, Officer Chesney.' Bones left the puzzled, dismissed officer in her milky wake. She ducked inside the waiting room, leaning heavily against the door on the other side with a sigh.

Standing, Michele asked softly, 'Is everything ok, Doctor Brennan?' seeing Bones looking unusually shaken up. 'Is Booth ok?'

'No change, Michele. How's Christine?' she asked, smiling at her daughter, as she reached into the cot. Bones quickly took a seat on one of the couches, and prepared to nurse her daughter.

Michele gave her an unseen wonky smile. 'She's been a little fretful to be honest. I don't think she likes being here much,' she said, looking around the clinical room.

'No. It's not an environment I would choose to leave her, or you in, but I want Christine to be here when Booth comes around. He'll want to see her, I'm sure.'

'I understand that, Doctor Brennan. But - you haven't slept properly for well over a week and I haven't seen you eat a square meal either - that isn't good for you or Christine.'

'I know,' Bones said reflectively as hungry Christine latched on, and she winced. Michele couldn't help but notice Bones' significant discomfort, and grimaced for her, on seeing her sore nipple.

'I wish you would express, Doctor Brennan. It would give your breasts time to heal and you a break. No one will think less of you for it.'

'Booth's been quite forthright in his opinion on breastfeeding. I don't want to disappoint him - he missed so much of Parker's early months.'

'Yeah, well, he doesn't have to go through the pain of it, does he?' As the words left her lips, Bones head snapped up, and her expression chilled to marble. 'Well, he doesn't -,' Michele defended her outburst softly, 'and if he knew how difficult it is for you at the moment, surely he wouldn't hold that against you?'

'I enjoy the act - it's a wonderful sensation despite my initial discomfort, Michele.'

Michele was just about to push her again to relent when the door swung open and in leant a smiling nurse. 'Seeley's awake,' was all she said before Bones was on her feet again.

Square tiles again, Booth thought. What was it with with square tiles in this place? he questioned his bland narrow universe. Every time he'd opened his eyes he'd seen the most boring square tiles. This time, granted, they were clean and were highly polished but still boring. The upside was it meant he wasn't dead, because he reasoned heaven wouldn't be so completely blank.

Slipping his eyes to his left as far as he could, he spotted a plastic bag hanging just off the floor, which to him looked like it was filling with weak Scotch. The epiphany was not heartening though; its tube was winding its way to his neather regions. He had a catheter and realised he was probably wearing the indignity of a diaper too. He surmised this wasn't heaven but it could be hell though, and he had a slight panicky moment.

Dismissing that thought, now he looked as far to the right as he could manage. This side was at least a little more interesting. He saw four metallic legs with rubber casters on the end but he couldn't see what they supported. But he assumed it was monitoring his vitals because he could hear a steady beat. Which reassured him that he was neither in hell or heaven but most definitely somewhere in between. The floor was brightened by the sun leaking through a window in a rectangle which almost made it feel like summer. He watched the bright patch edge its way across the grey tiles for a few moments; feeling almost mesmerised by the miniscule movement of the Earth.

Finally he forced his focus south. What he saw took time to registar in his fuzzy brain. Sticking out of his naked bruised torso was a tube that he mulled over for sometime. Before he came up with an answer for it he heard footsteps around his bed. Then finally he saw three pairs of shoes; one pair of black Crocs, a pair of highly polished brogues and a pair of sneakers he had no trouble identifying who they belonged to.

((Bones?))he said with relief and joy. Booth felt this eyes burn just knowing she was this close. However what he heard coming from his throat wasn't her name, it was an indistinct croak reminiscent of a bull frog call. What's more the movement of his jaw to form her name created an atom bomb in his temple and exploded his skull with pain. This only made his eyes water more. He noted two tears drip directly from his corneas and spalsh to the tiles below, forming perfect wet crowns.

There was an ominous whirring of machinery and his world began to turn up the right way, very, very slowly. His eyes darted from side to side as he tried to see her, disorientated at which side she was to be seen first.

'It's ok, Booth - we're just flipping you,' a kindly voice informed, he presumed from the Croc-clad feet. 'It has to be this slow so we don't pull any tubes out. Bare with us.'

Booth could hear his heartbeat quicken via the monitors which was almost drowned out by compressed gas hissing loudly. It was as he was half way over she squatted beside him with a glorious smile that turned him to jelly and set the heart monitor alight. 'Hello,' she whispered as sweetly as a daisy nestled in a dewy meadow. ((Touch me, kiss me.)) Seeing his tears, Bones lost a little of her smile, and pleaded, 'Don't cry, Booth, please don't. You're alive - that's all that matters.'

Booth didn't hear her plea and couldn't stop himself anyway, his euphoria at being alive and seeing her again was overwhelming him. (( I had so many bad dreams, Bones, terrible dreams.)) Her eyes followed him around till he was cushioned on his back and came to a gentle halt.

'You're still intubated. You have a catheter and a feeding stint directly into you stomach.' (( I don't care, how are you - how's Chrissy, Parker?)) 'This is Doctor Peroni - do you remember him, Booth? One blink for yes, two for no.'

Booth immediately blinked to answer and got another gilt-edged smile for his solid effort. 'Wonderful. That's just…' Bones trailed off, seeing Booth's eyes continue to leak with sorrow, and dragged her eyes to the doctor she spoke of. 'He would like to do some tests. Are you up to it?' (( No, I just wanna stare are ya. Let me stare, please.)) 'Blink, Booth, you need to blink for us.'

'Good to have you back, Booth,' Peroni charmed, pulling up a stool, and sat close. 'Let me give you the positive news first.' Booth was only partly listening, because he felt better keeping his eyes focused on Bones. 'The surgery, as far as we can tell, was successful. However, the not so good news is you are going to be like this - in this fancy bed for several weeks yet. We have to let the swelling subside to be sure, obviously- but we're hopeful.'

Then Bones added, 'I know that will frustrate you and make you uncomfortable with what is needed to facilitate that. With the washing and cleaning of you, you'll have no privacy or secrets from these nurses,' Bones said with a cheeky smile which paled before she finished her sentence. (( I love you, love you.))

'Then a lengthy stretch of physiotherapy - which will undoubtedly be extremely painful.' ((Way to burst my bubble there, Bones.))

'You have a fratured pelvis, left clavicle, right wrist, a compound fracture of your right tibia, several skull fractures and your jaw is held together with pins and metal plates.' (( Ok. Hush now, I got it - mangled. Hey gorgeous smile again for me.))

'Plus the surgical teams repaired numerous lacerations and saved your spleen…' (( Woohoo, still got a useless organ!))

Peroni shot Bones a querying look, surprised by her frankness, and interceded, 'I think that's enough for now, Doctor Brennan.'

Bones shot him a glance in return. 'Oh. I thought we decided to tell Booth all the facts?'

'We did, Doctor Brennan. But lets just give Booth a moment to digest the good news first,' he said sweetly.

Registering her mistake, Bones nodded, and sighed softly to relax. Casting her eyes down, she muttered, 'Sorry, Booth.' (( No, don't apologise - I wanna know. Please look at me again, Bones.)) As his mind and eyes began to clear, Booth took his time looking her over sat anxiously beside him. What he saw didn't make him feel better but took the edge off his euphoria. She looked haggard, gaunt, her hair lank, unkempt and unwashed. The sweat top she wore was stained with milk from her breasts and the dark circles under her eyes matched the colour of his abnormally dull irises. Not surprisingly she looked riddled with exhaustion and worry too. This accident had not only taken its toll on him, he realised, but she was suffering as much too.

When Peroni began talking again, she too looked back into his eyes, he thought almost shyly. Booth tried to convey his concern for her via his eyes, certain she would read him and it would console her.

'Obviously, with the nature of this injury and surgery, it has been prudent to immobilise you completely. You do have function of your left hand but your shoulder needs to be stabilised. We're going to take you off the ventilator because we're confident you can breathe on your own now. However due to the extensive fractures to your jaw and skull you are unable to eat - chew or speak yet. So the stint in your chest is a way for you to receive sustenance and can be removed once your face has healed. Do you understand, Booth?'

Booth blinked once, and waggled the fingers of his left hand almost joyously. He saw Bones catch the feeble miniscule movement, and smile hesitantly. Her torso filled, and she straightened slightly, heartening him.

'Good -,' said Peroni, then, 'my next question is, are you in any pain?'

Booth blinked twice. 'Great. That's very good. This is a morphin pump and switch. When you start to feel uncomfortable push the button and a dose will automatically be injected into your canular. And don't be brave - if you're in pain, push the button. The more relaxed you are the quicker you will heal.' The nurse placed the switch between his fingers with a chubby smile. Booth tried to smile back but learnt a fast painful lesson. (( Fuck-Shit-Bastard - that hurt! ))

'Right then, let's take out the ventilator tube and see if you can breathe on your own.' (( What - right now? Hang on, I'm not sure about this. Is that wise, I mean, I've just come round? ))

Seeing Booth's eyes widen and his fingers twitching, Bones piped up cheerfully, 'Yes, I know, Booth. Its all happening so fast - exciting, isn't it?'

Booth wanted to scream to stop them. The shock of realising that Bones hadn't read his expression and body language panicked him even more than being starved of oxygen. They had both been so arrogantly sure they knew the other so well they hadn't stopped to check. (( Bones, look at me! Read me. No, don't let them do it! I'm not ready. I'm too weak…))But it was too late the tube in his throat had already been disconnected and he felt his lungs deflate, terrifying him. The monitor beside the bed began to bleep rapidly as Bones' smile started to drift off her face, seeing his mounting agitation.

'Good. Now breath in through your nostrils and between your teeth, Booth. One long deep breath in, please.' (( Bones? I'm scared - I can't - help me! ))Noting he wasn't taking a breath, Peroni became more insistent, 'Booth - breathe in, concentrate.'

Booth felt utterly helpless and without control of his body or what was happening to him, left him rabidly frustrated. And he knew it didn't bode well for future communication of his wishes to Bones or his carers. Peroni warned, 'Breathe, Booth, or we'll reconnect the tube.'

All at once Booth felt warm fingers lace with his, and snapped his eyes to Bones. Her smile was intended to be strong yet it was tissue fragile. 'I know you hate me for putting you and all your family through all this, but I had to make a choice...' (( Hate you? What are you talking about? I love you…)) With the shock of her declaration, he gasped a frail breath unknowingly, while other figures fussed around them. But all he could see was her harrowed eyes and lips moving. 'Christine, Parker, Pops, everyone loves you, Booth. My decision was for them and me. Please don't give up, we'll get through this,' she vowed, refusing to allow her tears to fall yet. But they betrayed her.

(( Oh. God. She thinks I wanna die. She thinks I don't want to be like this or breathe. No! That's not it at all, Bones! Squeeze her hand, you moron - hard - then she'll understand.)) Booth did as he told himself, but with his sudden jarring clench came a wave of agony that ripped his lungs apart. With it, his eyes slammed shut, inadvertently locking her out. He gasped again, and fumbled for the morphine switch to rid himself of the excruciating pain. He pushed it three times in quick succession, and mumbled weakly while the monitors played a terrifying symphony.

Bones watched Booth's frantic actions to overdose and felt the crushing weight of her hasty, selfish decision on her trembling shoulders. She'd been dreading this moment for weeks and tormenting herself about what reaction he would have. Now it was clear, he hadn't agreed with it. His continuous tears, his suicide attempt and refusal to breathe were her unequivocal evidence.

The strangled sound from Booth's throat caught everyone's attention until all eyes lanced his. Peroni neared his face, and asked gravely and precisely, 'Do you want us to put you back on the ventilator, Booth?' Horror-struck, Booth knew that was the wrong ambiguous question, but he had to answer it. He attempted to breathe, and stared directly into Bones' hollow bloodshot eyes, begging her to correct this simple misunderstanding. With a chronic sense of impending doom he responded in the only way he could to what he was asked.

Bones saw Booth blink deliberately twice; making her blood grind to a halt in her veins. No, he'd confirmed and they all interpreted that as; let me die.

Tortured, Bones swallowed the sickening lump in her throat; rejected and cold she tried to draw breath but it was too painful, too hard, and she was too weak.

Booth knew, that yet again, his actions had been misinterpreted by her and by his medical staff. The look of colossal distress on Bones' face and her anguish delivered a deeper pain that was not masked by the morphine shot that was now coursing his veins. Moreover, the morbid awkward silence from Peroni and the nurse thickened the atmosphere to the point that his rare breathing became shallower.

'You seem to be struggling, Booth. Would you consent to having oxygen administered via your nostrils?' With his mind starting to drift, Booth just managed to blink once, not knowing if he'd ever wake to see her again. 'Thank you,' Peroni said, and that was the last thing Booth heard.

Seeing him drift away and out of her reach, chilled to the marrow and trembling, Bones stood. Everything around her began to cloud and swirl out of focus. Feeling woozy, she reached for his hand but missed it as her knees buckled beneath her. Darkness fell slowly across her eyes like a heavy curtain being drawn then she felt nothing.

Hearing the clattering of a stool and the sickening thud of flesh thumping to the floor, Peroni and nurse Mary turned quickly from their patient. 'Oh! Doctor Brennan?' Nurse Mary rushed to the ashen unconscious doctor.

(( Booth looked around the oddly familiar, sun blanched park he found himself in, feeling disorientated and misplaced suddenly. Then, in a glint of history, he recognised the pretty woodland and the leaf covered path that stretched out ahead of him and into perpetuity. Almost instantaneously he heard a distant voice speak his name, which spun him around. Out of the blinding sunlight walked a figure reminiscent of himself. Squinting through the rays to see the face clearly, the apparition slowly became dimensional, and was smiling at him.

The handsome man, at around his age, said affectionately, 'Hello, Seeley…' Booth felt a concerto of conflicting emotions and terrifying confusion when he finally recognised him. Nearing slowly, he added, still smiling, 'You shouldn't be here, Son…' Booth sucked in a sharp ragged breath, and instantly began to weep, and wilt. The man sympathetically gripped his shoulder, then pulled him into his chest in a cripplingly loving embrace. 'Not yet -,' he assured tenderly, 'this is not your time.' Booth wrapped his arms around his soothing warmth, and nodded his understanding on his shoulder. 'I'll be waiting right here for you when it is - have no fear…' Silent, Booth gripped him harder, looking over his shoulder through his trickling tears up the verdant lane not yet his to walk… ))

Chapter VI

The Royal Diner

Bathed in watery winter sunshine through the window of the Royal Diner Bones stared out, and watched the wrapped up folks of Washington scuttle by. She was on her second glass of orange juice and had just put Christine back in her carry/car seat after breastfeeding her. Although discreet she'd ignored the disapproving glances from some whilst doing so, and conversely acknowledged the accepting smiles from others, mainly women. Christine was fast asleep again but still gripping her index finger for comfort and connection. Bones absently caressed the back of Christine's hand with her thumb pad with her mind stuck in fifth gear. Every time the diner door opened Bones looked over to see if it was the person she was waiting for. Eventually the slight Agent Shaw rushed in, and weaved her way towards her with an anxious smile.

'Doctor Brennan, I'm so sorry I'm late,' she apologised in a flustered way, then took a seat opposite Bones in a rush. Looking at Christine her smile grew wider. 'Oh. Doctor Brennan, she's a-dorable…' Shaw cooed, then, 'Still keeping you up?' Bones grinned, and nodded. Then she asked with true concern, 'How's Agent Booth doing?'

'Slightly better, thank you for enquiring. Shall we eat?'

'Yes, sure. What's good?' she asked cheerfully, picking up the menu card, then scanning it. But she secretively scanned the doctor too, surprised by her pale complexion and uncharacteristic dishevelled appearance. Their waitress came over and they ordered.

Once she'd taken their order Agent Shaw asked, 'So, Doctor Brennan, what can I do for you and Agent Booth? Your text was a little vague...' Bones sighed, and looked out to the street again. Seeing her strife, Agent Shaw pushed gently, 'Doctor Brennan, what's wrong?'

Bones looked back to her, flicking her eyes around her face, then said, 'I have a suspicion - an instinct, I suppose you'd call it.'

'About?'

'About Agent Booth.' Bones glanced around the busy diner, checking they weren't being overheard. But the din in the restaurant at lunchtime always covered any conversations in the past, so she went on, 'Booth has mentioned to me that you are one of his best Agents and your discretion can be counted on.' Blushing, and flattered Agent Shaw smiled, and briefly dropped her eyes to the table. 'Can I count on your discretion?'

'Absolutely,' Shaw said positively. 'What's troubling you?'

'I don't know quite where to begin.' Bones rubbed her hands slowly together, then folded them, and placed her clasped hands on the table in front of her. 'Agent Booth and I have been having some… problems. By that I mean…' Agent Shaw touched her clasped hands gently, and smiled. Bones looked up from her warm touch, and asked, 'He's told you?'

Smiling, and shaking her head, Shaw said, 'No. But it happens to all couples, Doctor Brennan. Especially with a new baby, the pressures of..' Bones shook her head which put Shaw on pause. That obviously wasn't the issue, Shaw realised.

'He's been acting, saying and doing things which I consider out of character for him. We've had several arguments born of silly things of little consequence but they have been...' Bones struggled for the right words to explain their situation, then with a resigned sigh, she sagged.

Seeing her torment, Shaw helped her onwards with, 'You've been getting on each others nerves?'

'Yes. I suppose that's it exactly. Except, it seems I've been getting on his nerves more than the other way around,' she confessed sadly. 'I know some of the reasons for that and I'm working on those solutions. But we've been together in some capacity for seven years or so and we've had our differences before. However, this feels very different.'

'I see. I'm not quite sure I'm the one you should be speaking to about this. Maybe Doctor Sweets is better qualified to…' Bones shook her head rigorously.

'No - not Sweets. Not this time. What I'm going to ask you to do for Booth and me I hope you can keep out of official FBI channels.'

'Okay - but that depends,' she said cautiously. 'What do you want me to do?'

Bones took a breath. 'I want you to investigate Booth, and this crash for me.' There was a few seconds of stunned silence from Agent Shaw as all around people bustled on their blurred peripheries. Bones went on cautiously, 'I need to know certain things that at the moment I can't ask him directly for fear of upsetting him further.' Agent Shaw cocked a confused brow so Bones enlightened her, 'Booth, unfortunately, seems to be of the opinion, that his life is not worth living in his current condition…' Agent Shaw would have gasped but seeing the look of depression and anguish on the doctors face she stifled that expression of incredulity. 'I fully understand his negative reaction to his severe injuries. But either through a warped sense of morality, shame or pride he's chosen not to tell me the problems he's been having. Then yesterday, a state police officer told me he was investigating the accident. But it seems, to him at least, Booth was run off the road deliberately. I asked him to contact the FBI for a list of suspects that could bare a grudge against us. But I don't think, in this case, that course of action will yield any answers.'

'Right then, that gives me a starting point, at least.' Shaw swallowed, and looked her over, then inferred, 'Forgive me, but reading between the lines you already have a suspicion of what Agent Booth's problems have been.'

'I do -,' Bones said stoically, 'but I'm not going to taint your investigation with my suspicions. I'll either be proved wrong or right. Please understand I don't want you to do anything illegal or anything which could jeopardise your position at the FBI. But if you could shadow Chesney's investigation, and report back to me, that may help.'

'That won't be a problem.' She saw Bones offer her a tiny relieved smile, and let her have it for few moments, then she asked carefully, 'I feel uneasy asking this but I must.' Bones nodded for her to continue. 'If I find out something which could ruin your…'

Bones had expected her question, so eased her discomfort at asking it with, 'Believe me, Agent Shaw when I say, there is nothing I haven't already considered Booth might have done that will effect how I feel about him. We are first and foremost, friends. And I believe my friend is in trouble and I want - need to help him.'

Agent Shaw took a deep breath, and nodded soberly. Their bowls of soup arrived so they began to eat their lunch. Lightening the atmosphere, Shaw asked, 'I suspect you're going in to see him this afternoon?'

'Yes, but I have a few errands to run first.'

'Is he up to visitors yet?'

'Well - yes,' Bones said, surprised but cheered by Agent Shaw's implication of visiting him. Bones smiled warmly at her. 'His communication skills are limited due to his immobility. But he can blink to answer yes and no and has one hand partially free.'

'That's something, at least,' Agent Shaw said, trying to sound positive although she was shocked by her explanation of his limitations. Saddened by the doctors revelations about his condition, she changed the subject again, 'Will you be going back to work soon?'

'Actually yes - in a limited capacity. In fact that was what we were arguing about the morning of the accident.'

'Oh. I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me,' Agent Shaw backtracked, seeing the cloud descend again over the doctor.

'No. Its fine - really,' Bones placated, scooping up some soup onto her spoon. 'It was one of the incidents which confused me about his behaviour actually. It was very irrational.'

'Tell me what happened,' she said softly, then added compassionately, 'Only if you're up to it…' Bones buttered her bread roll slowly, took a bite, then looked out of the window to take herself back to that morning…

(( 'Shall we have a coffee?' Booth asked cheerfully, perched on the top of a ladder. Bones snorted.

'That means will I make us a coffee. You're so predictable, Booth. You make it.' Bones continued to paste the reverse of the paper they'd chosen for their feature wall while he was hanging another one she'd already prepared.

'I'm in the middle of something here!' he goaded, with a cheeky smile.

'So am I,' she reminded. 'This could all have been done weeks ago if you'd let me call in the decorators,' she mumbled under her breath.

Booth caught her comment, and felt his increasingly short fuse spark. 'Oh. Here we go again. We're supposed to be doing this together, Bones. Its more personal and intimate this way. Remember, we agreed?'

'Yes, but its very time consuming and lets be honest, we're not doing a very good job. Those joins are out by at least three millimetres.'

'I'm doing my best - Jeez-us!' he snapped. Bones looked up from her task to him, and sighed heavily. A thick silence decended between them as they both kept their thoughts to themselves. Bones had found herself treading on egg shells around him recently. Everything she said seemed to aggravate him and made her less confident in herself, something she'd never expected to feel with him. 'I'll make the coffee then,' she said after a few moments, and walked into the half completed kitchen. She knew Booth was watching her as she left the room.

When she came back in he was hanging the next piece and concentrating hard on getting the lines straight. She put his coffee on the upper step, and stood to watch him slide the paper into position.

'I'm thinking of going back to work,' she said ordinarily. Booth stilled, and slowly looked down to her. Booth's expression turned stony as he picked up the coffee, and took a sip. 'What?' she queried his expression.

'Back to work - already?'

'Yes. It's been seven weeks, Booth. I have a duty to my elite profession. I've been missed and had several requests to…' Booth bristled, putting her on pause instantly.

'What about your duty to Chrissy? You're a mother now. She needs you.'

'Yes. I understand that but many woman go back to work after their statutory maternity leave. Most have to for financial reasons.'

Booth began backing down the ladders, flushed, and spat, 'Well, that argument doesn't apply to you! And you seem to be shoving it down my throat at every opportunity, that you have more money than Bill Gates!'

'I don't have as much as Bill Gates. That's an absurd argument. And what do you mean shoving my financial status down your throat?' Bones endeavoured to keep her tone even to temper his much less controlled one and not to aggravate him more than she already had. Booth spun to face her, slopping coffee to the cherry boards.

'For example, you just had to have this fancy wallpaper.' He gestured to the wonky pieces he'd poorly hung. 'The hundred dollar a roll kinda crap. You couldn't go for the twenty dollar stuff?'

'I said I would pay for it - you agreed to this.'

'Yeah, and that's just it! You wanted to pay for it all! The decorators, the floor fitters, kitchen guys - they charge a frickin' fortune when we can do most of it ourselves!'

'Booth, I compromised to do this ourselves because of your sensibilities about the huge disparity between our incomes. You once told me the money didn't matter, but it clearly does.'

'Yeah it matters - when you don't have it!' he snarled in her face.

Exasperated, and losing her cool momentarily, she shot back, 'We do though!' Bones then calmed, and carefully placed her palm on his mid-torso, as she said the words, 'What's mine is yours, Booth...'

Stepping back from her, he snorted at the irony, 'That's for married couples, Bones. And as its unlikely that we'll ever marry, what's yours - is yours, not mine!'

She felt his step back like a foil had cut her through. 'I thought whether we were to marry or not didn't matter to you?'

Booth turned his back on her, and mumbled, 'Yeah, well, a lot of things have changed... Shit happens.'

Feeling her heart stalling, she asked but dreaded his reply, 'Like what - tell me what's changed?'

He didn't answer her but stumbled over the stacked floorboards to the paste up table, and began to pull out a length of wallpaper. 'Anyway, you can't go back to work like that.' He briefly gestured in the direction of her torso with the paste brush. Bones looked over herself, seeing her breasts leaking through her sweater, and dropped a hip forlornly.

'You're concerned how this appears to your work collegues? Are you ashamed of me, Booth - embarrassed by my natural lactation?' Booth clenched his jaw, and screwed up the paper in his fists. Growling, he ripped it apart, and stormed to the door over the shreds. In the nursery Christine began to cry, adding to their tension.

He grabbed his leather jacket, and keys, then snatched open the door. He paused, then turned slightly. 'I need some air.'

'Fine - get some air then.' She walked towards him, adding coolly, 'And thank you for reminding me of my duties to our child...' Booth flicked his eyes to hers properly, he saw only fire inside them. Bones could see his cheek muscles flutter as he grit his jaw, then he was gone. ))

Chapter VII

Jeffersonian

Bones carried the car seat on the crook of her arm as far as she could from the garage, but found she had to take a rest after only a few hundred yards. Not that Christine was heavy, at ten pounds, she was of an average weight for her early weeks. But it proved to Bones how tired she was. She was not sleeping well, and with the lack of square meals and tending to her offspring's every need, her exhaustion was inevitable, she judged. Then there was the emotional worry for Booth to take its toll too.

Feeling woozy again, sensibly Bones paused to butt herself up against the wall of the corridor, and closed her prickly eyes, as a wave of fatigue swamped her. She'd discovered making time to bathe, sleep and cook had become almost impossible. All of those activities, when she scheduled them, were interrupted by Christine's demands on her. It had given her a new perspective and respect for other single parents of this world. Bones was not one to give in lightly to emotional weaknesses but right now, she felt she could just sit down in the corridor and cry indefinitely. Not weep with self pity or resentment but with sheer mental exhaustion and weariness.

A voice she recognised called her name, and she looked up the corridor. The night security guard she often had conversations with drew closer, clearly delighted to see her again. With each thick step that echoed of the walls from his shoes Bones began to sink lower, as if weakened more by his sweet smile. By the time he was helping her to the floor to sit she was weeping unashamedly, silently.

'Oh. Doctor Brennan,' his said softly, compassionately, sitting close next to her on the floor. He gathered her into his warm embrace, and let her cry on his pristinely pressed white shirt that smelt of all the comforts of home. As she wept he checked Christine was still fast asleep, and rocked Bones gently. He handed her a clean handkerchief from his pants pocket which she took immediately.

She muttered through it, 'I'm, I'm…'

'Exhausted? Emotional?' She nodded on his, now wet, shirt. 'Overwhelmed?' Again she nodded, and drew in a deep shuddering breath to replenish her energy to sob some more. 'To be expected, Doctor Brennan,' he said wisely.

'Yeeerssss,' she whined like a child, nuzzling into his chest, grateful for the comfort of another human being. 'Pa- pa-thetic…'

'Ha. That, you can never be.' He squeezed her reassuringly. 'From what I hear you've been far from pathetic. You've been a dedicated mother, a staunch emotional rock for every member of Agent Booth's family, and a forceful voice for the best treatments for his recovery and rehabilitation. And all this has been done without once thinking of yourself or your needs. You've refused help from most quarters, I'm led to believe, and determined to take all this on your shoulders and go it alone. Those are not the actions of a pathetic creature.'

'But I can't stop cry-ing.'

'You will - eventually, Doctor Brennan. Sooner, if you take some advise from an old man.' Bones looked up, sniffing, and wiped her cheeks and her bloodshot eyes. The guard saw her chin quivering, and smiled affectionately.

'W-what advice?' she whimpered.

'Not advice per sa, but a thought for you to consider.' Bones nodded for him to bestow some great knowledge or insight upon her, holding her breath for it. 'You are not superwoman and no one expects you to be. There is not such a creature; although you're doing a very fine impression of one - until now.'

Bones snorted, which blew bubbles of mucus from her nostrils. This shocked her when they burst splattering her face, and made her sob again through her embarrassed chuckles. He chuckled too, holding her a little tighter. She blew her nose again, loudly, and settled back to his pillow-soft chest. 'I need to sleep…' she said, taking deep breaths to check herself finally.

'Nooo,' he droned, 'You need to express your milk, so someone else can feed Christine and then you can have a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.' Bones looked up into his eyes, and pouted. Reading her instantly, he went on, 'Two feeds a day by someone else will not do her any harm. She'll still want you, believe me. You must be aware of the concept of wet nurses? It's the same thing, except with your milk.'

'Yes -,' she sighed, 'but Booth…'

'But Booth - nothing. You are no good to him or for him like this, Doctor Brennan,' he said sternly.

'You're correct - of course, you're right. Thank you.'

'No need to thank me. Its common sense, you just lost yours for a while - understandably. Ok. Are you all cried out?'

'For now, yes,' she conceded, sniffing.

'Good, come on then. Let's get you and little Chrissy to the crèche. I believe they have the necessary equipment there. Then you can take a nap in your office. Doctor Saroyan will make sure you're not disturbed.'

Agitated by his plan of action, she tensed again. 'But I need to see Booth later.'

'Yes, but later - after you've slept.' The night watchman lifted her up to stand. She wobbled a little, so he held on to her till she nodded she was steady. Then he picked up Christine, and they began to slowly walk towards the crèche. Bones felt her shoulders lose a little of the weight she'd been burdened with leave her. 'Take my arm, Doctor Brennan - just in case.' Bones didn't hesitate, and gratefully looped her arm through his sturdy one.

'I'll launder this and get it back to you when I can,' she said, vaguely waving the sodden handkerchief between them. He grimaced, then laughed, making her smile.

'Keep it. I'm sure you'll need it again - such is the nature of motherhood and all that comes with it...'

Dr Brennan's Office

By the time Cam was placing the comforter over Bones she was already asleep. Cam smiled as she turned off the lights, and carefully closed the door on her. Cam nodded in the direction of the night watchman, he acknowledged her, then with a satisfied smile he disappeared.

Ange and Jack stood outside, waiting anxiously for Cam and news of their friend. Their expressions held guilt and worry, Cam noted. She placated them with, 'She's asleep - snoring actually,' as she walked away from Bones' office back to hers.

Shadowed by Ange and Jack, Cam purposefully clipped onwards in her heals. They buzzed around her like gnats, and threw their profound apologies at her, 'We've been so busy with Michael and work, she said she was doing ok,' Jack rushed.

'Yes!' Ange agreed with her distraught husband, then, 'She refused what help we offered, saying she was perfectly capable and had it all under control. We didn't doubt her, we had no reason to,' Ange added in their defence. Cam nodded slightly, with a enigmatic smile curving her lips.

Jack continued, 'At the hospital she seemed fine, up beat actually, especially after Booth's surgery went so well. She was on the phone organising that state-of-the-art spinal injury bed for him and consoling Pops and Jared - who were in pieces.' Ange nodded rapidly, agreeing with his assessment wholeheartedly.

'I guess it's all caught up with her. We feel so bad now, seeing her like this. Did she say anything?' Ange asked anxiously. Cam sat at her desk, and showed them the flat of her palm to silence them. Obediently they fell silent, knowing not to cross Cam. Then they both drew breath, feeling like naughty school kids in front of the headmistress awaiting their reprimands.

'Doctor Brennan, Tempe, is exhausted - obviously. I'm sure you can appreciate that being first time parents yourselves. And if she refused your offers of help I can't see what else you could have done. She refused mine too and Michele's if it makes you feel any better…' They nodded at her and each other, then sighed. 'She did say, she had some adjustments to make and realised her obstinacy - her words, in refusing help had been an error of judgment probably brought about by her hormone imbalance.'

Ange and Jack snorted, and relaxed, knowing that was just like Bones. Ange perched herself on Cam's desk as Jack rubbed her back to comfort her. 'What do we do now then?'

'We let her sleep. Apparently, I'm reliably informed, she has expressed enough milk to sink a battle ship. Christine is in the crèche but that closes in a hour so I suggest you take Christine's next feed, Angela, and I'll do the one after that.' Ange nodded, pleased with Cam's orders. 'Jack, you are going to organise a decent meal for her for when she wakes.'

'Consider it done! A veggy feast will await her,' he announced proudly, squeezing Ange's shoulders to him, and pecking her smooth cheek.

'Good. And I shall prepare the decon suite for her so she can clean herself up a bit.' Cam picked up her phone, and began tapping in digits with aplomb. 'I'm contacting Hank to swing by their place and collect some fresh clothes for her. Now, I suggest we all get back to work.'

Ange slipped off the desk, and stood to attention along with Jack. Cam looked up as they both saluted her. 'Yes, Ma'am,' they said in unison, trying not to laugh.

Without changing her expression, and looking back to the keypad, Cam said, 'Dismissed.' They turned tail, and marched out of her office, giggling. Cam grinned to herself, just as her call connected. 'Hank? Hello again. Its Cam Saroyan…' she said officiously.

Dr Brennan's Office.

Dreams don't always mean something. They're often disjointed, jumbled images of people, events and places. They can be pale imitations of situations and conversations experienced in waking moments that we relive in the dream state. Or violently strong images that refuse to leave us for hours after we wake. They can confuse and obscure facts and sometimes answer questions we may have. Then, at other times, they frighten us or highlight our deepest fears.

When we wake, the dreams that often stay with us are the strange ones; flying pink enormous elephants and balloons made of silver sand exploding to blind us. Those random images cannot be explained, so we toss those aside on waking. We say to ourselves; it was just a dream. Then there are the others, which stay with us all the day long and often re-occur another night. Those are the ones which we usually keep to ourselves. We lock them away; not trying to rationalised them because we fear the truth of them. That was the kind of dream Bones was having now…

(( The witching hour on the clock, cold, silver light from a full moon hues a silent cluttered bedroom. She waits patiently for him to return home. Naked and sore she anticipates his arrival, and ponders a physical reunion, long overdue. Keys turn a lock, and footsteps signal his return. Her heart quickens. She strains to hear more, and stares at the closed door ahead. It opens and he steps inside at a creep. She doesn't let him know she's awake but watches his dark silhouette. It excites her as he disrobes carefully. She smells cigarette smoke, scotch and breath mints taint the air. Her heart stalls. He climbs into bed beside her. She feels him sigh and the mattress sinks to cushion his physique. Her heart quickens as she listens to his breathing. Courage, she thinks, and slips her palm across his warm smooth chest. He tells her softly to go back to sleep. Her heart stalls again.

She moves her body slowly along his, and seeks out his ear with her lips. He doesn't move. Scared of rejection again, she pauses. Courage, she thinks. Then she whispers her plea, and holds her breath for his reply. He doesn't move. She asks again, and this time moves her hand from over his heart downwards. He moves suddenly to stop its seductive progress. Her heart stalls again, courage wanes and tears blister. She hears more soft excuses and the sound of baby crying in the next room.))

Bones gasped a breath, and sat bolt upright, and called out, 'Christine?' Disoriented as to where she is for a moment, she tossed the comforter away, and looked around. 'Christine?' Just as she was about to go into complete meltdown, her office door swung open. Bones snapped her head around to see Ange. She bore a huge smile, and held Christine in her arms while she bottle fed her.

'Sit down, Sweetie,' Ange calmed softly. 'I've got her.' Bones slumped to the couch with a massive sigh as Ange joined her. 'She's been an absolute angel. Look at her guzzle!'

Bones went to take her from her arms, saying, 'I'll do it.'

'No you won't!' Ange scolded. 'This is my first real cuddle with her.' Bones snagged her head back, shocked by her, step away from the baby, look. 'Oh. I miss Michael being this small,' she confessed sweetly, giving Christine an adoring smile. 'As her soon to be God Mother and most cherished aunty, I insist you let me feed her. Besides you need the break. How did you sleep?'

Seeing Ange and Christine seemed perfectly comfortable, Bones relaxed back to the couch. She slumped on the cushions, and quirked her lips. 'I've been irrationally over protective, haven't I?'

Ange grinned, and looked up to Bones. 'A little, Bren…' Bones kissed Christine's head, then sighed.

'She's so precious and fragile. I never expected to feel like this - this connected and so protective of her. Its overwhelming to know I love her so completely, I ache with it...' Ange beamed at her friend for openly confessing that. Blushing slightly, Bones flicked her eyes to Ange's, then went on, 'To answer your question, I feel much better. How long was I asleep for?'

'Four hours twenty minutes. I don't think you would have woken up if you hadn't heard her fussing for her feed. She's been changed, and wearing a fresh romper. Your dinner is on the way and Cam has set up the decon suite for you.'

'Oh. Decon?' she said, looking over her dishevelled self. 'Things must be serious if I'm in need of decontamination,' Bones said with a wry smile. Ange couldn't believe she'd just made a joke at her own expense but loved her for it.

Ange bellowed heartily, rocking into her friend. 'Haaa!' Bones smiled, then began to chuckle too, whilst looking onto her daughters eyes.

'Did you hear that, Christine, Mommy needs to be decontaminated…' Christine's eyes widened, then she pulled away from the teat. As the adults laughed, Christine smiled at her. 'OH!' Bones exclaimed, twitching on her buttocks with excitement. 'Did, did you see that?' she blustered.

'Yes, she smiled at you. Either that or she's straining to fill her diaper,' Ange cautioned sweetly, having a little more experience with babies than the doctor.

'No, no that was definitely a smile! Her first smile. It's a milestone.' Bones shot up, and began looking for her purse. 'I must make a note of the time and duration of it.'

'Haa. Tempe, sit down and just enjoy the moment, will you?' Bones stilled, still beaming, then sat closer to Ange. Christine's huge eyes locked on hers and Bones found her cheeks starting to ache because she couldn't stop smiling back. Seeing her friend so excited, Ange waxed sweetly, 'It's a fantastic moment. You wait, when she laughs for the first time - you'll just melt. I swear, something inside you physically shifts. It's like your heart explodes or your soul leaps or something.'

Bones scanned Ange's face for a moment, then said, 'I'm so glad you were here to witness it with me, Angela - being her most cherished aunt and my dearest friend…'

Deeply touched, Ange cooed, 'Awww. Tempe. That's such a sweet thing to say.' They both could see the other start to get emotional, and swallowed the lumps in their throats. Ange quickly chastised, 'Stop it or we'll end up blubbering,' with that Jack walked in with a tray of food. The main dish had a silver dome over it and he looked so proud of himself and his tray.

'Doctor Hodgins - Jack, Christine just smiled!' Bones gushed proudly.

As he placed the tray on the coffee table, and lifted the silver lid, he said, 'More than likely wind. Have you burped her yet?' His flippant comment was greeted with gasps and disaproving looks which made him back off instantly. 'Okay-okay - she smiled!' he said, putting his hands up in defence of the savage Amazonians. Christine, having finished the bottle, then burped loudly making them all laugh. Then she smiled again as if proud of her riotous satisfied burp.

'Yeesss! She did it again!' Bones rejoiced. She took her daughter from Ange to butter her with kisses and sweetly spoken words of adoration. Jack and Ange exchanged knowing glances, enchanted by Bones' open show of affection towards her child.

'Right, Doctor B, time for you to eat. Ange can burp her then you have a date with the de…'

Bones interrupted him, whilst handing Christine back to Ange, 'Yes, I know, I have to be de-con-tam-inated,' she said self-mockingly. Jack shot Ange a look which she fully understood, and smiled.

'Yep, she's making jokes too now,' Ange confirmed his silent question.

Bones began to eat ravenously without prompting, much to Jack and Ange's delight and releif.

Two hours later Cam, Ange and Jack were waving off Bones, Christine and Pops from the car park. As they watched them all drive away they felt a sense of pride in themselves and for Bones.

'She looks much better,' Jack observed. Ange nodded to agree, looping her arm with his.

'I just hope she asks for help when she needs it again,' Cam said reflectively. 'She took some work home with her, you know?' she informed them, turning away towards her vehicle. Ange and Jack shook their heads forlornly after the initial shock of her statement had worn off. Opening her car door, Cam looked back to them, adding, 'I don't think she can help herself…'

'Night, Cam,' Ange said, with a little wave as Jack opened the car door for her to get in.

Chapter VIII

En Route to St Theresa's Private Medical Facility, Maryland

The dark of the evening was descending quickly over the State and there was apprehension in the atmosphere. It had rained earlier and the street lights reflected off the puddles and thin sheens of water that coated every surface. Trash cans, cars, sidewalks and even people glared the reflected light and made Bones squint. The rush hour was winding down; so very few cars were hindering their journey to the hospital.

'Are you ok to drive?' Pops asked. Bones grinned, and flashed him a placatory glance, knowing he was trying it on.

'Perfectly - thank you.'

It didn't surprise her when he tried again, with a little more persuasion than before, 'I can drive, if you'd like. I've driven all sorts in my time, tanks, busses - a Studebaker.'

'I'm sure this Prius wouldn't be a challenge to you then. Except… Booth told me you had your licence revoked some years ago. And with your heart condition, do you think it wise that I let you drive with your great grandchild in the back?' She flicked her eyes to Hank just in time to see him roll his, and snort silently with annoyance at being thwarted.

After a few more empty minutes and ten minutes from the hospital, Bones asked out of the blue, 'Do you know of any reason why Parker hasn't been to visit Booth, Hank?'

Hank snapped her a glance, and twitched uncomfortably in his seat, then mumbled, 'No-no, no reason that I know of. Maybe he's busy - school and stuff. Have you spoken to Rebecca?' he asked, looking out of his side window and deliberately away from her. Bones wasn't that clueless; the tension in the car had risen considerably and in Hank too, she realised.

'Hank?' she said, trying to get him to open up. But when she saw his fingers playing with the crease in his pants, she judged, he was desperately trying not to say anything about what he knew. So Bones tried a different, subtler approach.

'It is possible Parker's busy, I'm sure,' she began. 'However, his father nearly died in a car crash and at the moment is paralyzed. I can't imagine he wants to stay away despite Booth injuries. He may look frightening but Parker would insist on seeing his father, I'm certain of it. What's more frustrating is that Rebecca hasn't returned any of my calls or texts - of which I've made many. And thinking back, the last time Parker saw his father was just after I gave birth to Christine and he came to the hospital to visit us. Again, I can't imagine any circumstances in which Rebecca would keep Parker away from his half-sister - or should I?'

Hank twitched, biting his lip, again preferring to keep his eyes forward now. Bones pulled into a parking space, and turned off the engine. They sat for a moment in an awkward silence. Bones realised whatever he knew he wasn't going to share that information with her readily. So deflating, Bones pulled the latch on her door. As she was about to exit the car, Hank said, 'Wait - wait a moment...' Bones sat back around, and waited as instructed. Hank turned to her with a deeply saddened expression. 'I'm in a difficult position, Temperance…'

'I appreciate that, Hank. But I need to know why Parker and Rebecca are keeping their distance. Booth needs to know he has friends and family that want him alive, now more than ever.'

Hank nodded to agree, and took a deep breath. 'I don't know the full story but I spoke to Rebecca - she called me actually. She's a bitch,' he blurted suddenly, obviously very upset now. 'When you were in hospital after the birth - she called to say Parker wouldn't be visiting because she hadn't received any maintenance from Booth for Parker.' Bones didn't enquire why Rebecca would go to Hank rather than Booth directly but then, she thought, maybe she already had. Hank sneered, 'She always uses him to stick a knife in my boy's heart…'

Bones felt an ominous sinking inside her but she endeavoured to hide her sadness from Hank. 'I see,' she said softly, pensively looking out of the rain spotted windshield. 'But Parker did come to visit us…' she paused deliberately, then ventured, 'Did you pay Booth's maintenance so Parker could visit us?'

Hank nodded reluctantly. 'Yes - I paid her,' he sneered scornfully, and opened the window a little for some air. 'It's blackmail, that's what it is…'

Bones didn't comment on Rebecca's emotional blackmail or using her child as a pawn although she agreed it was. Then she asked, 'Did you tell Booth what you'd done on his behalf?'

Again Hank began to twitch, and faced away from her. 'Yes. He was grateful and paid me back later that week although I told him I could afford it…' When he looked back to her, she saw his eyes were filling.

Bones looked over his dear face, and tilted her head as if she knew more than she was letting on now. Hank grunted, and looked away again. She touched his fidgeting hand, and gave it a squeeze, he squeezed it back harder. Seeing his frustration and disappointment in Booth, she said sweetly, 'Let's not jump to any conclusions, Hank.'

Hank sighed heavily. Bones didn't feel it was the time or place to add to his worry by telling him that Booth's accident may not have been an accident after all. However, there was one more question she needed him to answer with complete honesty. The phrasing of it was not easy for her without alarming him more though. 'Hank?' He looked up, and smiled weakly, waiting for her. 'Booth's check to you, bounced, didn't it?'

With complete amazement, he questioned hesitantly, 'H-how did y…' Bones was already fumbling for her purse, and retrieving her check book and pen. Seeing what she was about to do, he vehemently refused it before she'd finished writing it. But Bones ignored his protestations.

Gritting her jaw, she lanced him with her eyes, ordering, 'You will take this and bank it.' She planted it in his palm forcefully. 'You will not tell Booth his bounced on you nor that I've paid you back,' she commanded, scrunching it in his retreating hand. 'He's not to know. What's mine is his and I will not have it said any other way, Hank. Put it away, now, before you aggravate a woman who is awash with postnatal hormones and liable to strike out violently at anyone, irrelevant of their age, gender or medical condition.'

With an admirable smile, and completely charmed at having his knuckles rapt, he said, 'You are one scary, formidable woman. I can see why Seeley loves you - I love you.'

'I love you too,' she shot back, then insisted, 'Bank it,' flaring her eyes at him, as she stepped out of the car. Hank watched as she opened the rear door to unhook Christine, and tucked away her check in his wallet. 'Hurry up, Hank, it's starting to rain again.'

And just like that, their difficult conversation was over and resolved, Hank realised. He couldn't help but admire her pure logic and straight talking. Few people possessed the courage to be so frank. The more time he spent with her the more he was spun up in her unique peculiar web. 'I'm coming, Woman. I'm old and slow, remember?' he retorted, climbing out of the car, with a smile.

'Yes-yes, I'm aware of your frailties but I don't like the rain.' She slew the keys across the top of the car towards him. 'Bring the change bag, could you?' Bones was already halfway across the shimmering monotone car park, and heading for the sliding entrance doors before he picked the keys up. Just as a mischievous thought crossed him mind, looking at the her keys, he heard, 'Don't even think about it!' He spun, and offered her a rude hand gesture in reply which made her laugh.

Booth's Room

Booth had received plenty of visitors throughout the day. Jared had stayed for a couple of hours this morning, he recalled. A couple of guys from his ice hockey team stopped by after lunch. Even a couple of his diligent nurses had sat with him a while, and just chatted about the hospital gossip which he considered above and beyond the call of duty. It wasn't till Max popped in at tea did he start to realise his visitors had been carefully orchestrated. Bones, he mused, must have had a hand in that.

He'd had little time to sleep, not that he felt like sleeping but he'd had no time to reflect on his situation, which was probably her intention.

When the visitors were with him, no nurses entered or disturbed them. As they left, in they'd come to flip him, check his drip, monitors, catheter bag to empty it, and bathe him. Dr Peroni came in twice, once in the morning and again after dinner.

He didn't have conversations with any of them in the true sense, as he still could only blink and wiggle his fingers. And he reaslised that by mid-morning he'd never just truly listened; although he considered himself a good listener. This was different and enlightening. It seemed to him people told him all sorts of things they probably wouldn't if he could reply or give an opinion. It was if his immobility and dumbness liberated them in someway.

He'd discovered Jared had Padma had been trying for a baby and having difficulties which saddened him. However, Jared seemed to relish telling him about the sperm test he had to take. Apparently he'd managed to miss the cup completely and spurt his sample across the floor. Jared acted out how he tried to catch each further spurt in the cup but missed each time. At the time Booth wanted to bellow in hysterics with him and almost did. However his monitor going crazy and his ensuing painful coughing fit put Jared into a panic, and a halt to that particular farcical story. Booth pledged that when he could talk he would laugh again with his brother and would recount what had happened to him.

Then he recalled when Max sat with his feet up on his bed, crunching sunflower seeds and telling him about his boyhood exploits. Then how he'd met and courted Christine, Bones' mother. That had been another enlightening hour or so, Booth mused. He'd learnt so much about her and Max. Their romance, it turned out, was frought with parental interference but a passionate one despite the obstacles put in their paths. It was clear to Booth that they'd been devoted to each other from the outset.

Max was full of anecdotes about their time on the run too. Booth wondered if Max had ever told Bones one particular episode where they'd disguised themselves as social workers. Under the pretence of checking up on the foster parents they'd visited Bones in one of her foster homes. They blagged the mother to letting them take Bones to a nearby park to talk to her privately. They'd talked with her for an hour before returning her undiscovered. Max had explained how risky it had been but Christine was desperate to know Bones was ok before they went underground again.

Despite all his visitors and full day the one person Booth was itching to see had not appeared, and he was starting to lose hope of seeing her today. Darkness had fallen and without a clock in his eye line he had to guess the time. He judged it was about eight, or nine, or possibly ten. His mind ran amok with what was happening outside his bland four clinical walls and with her. He wanted to try and put right what went wrong yesterday. He needed to see Chrissy and Parker and he wanted to hear what Bones might divulge, just like all the others.

Booth closed his eyes and her saw her instantly behind them. She was smiling at him but tears trickled down her cheeks clouding the beauty of her. Saddened by that image, he opened his eyes and to his surprise she was sat beside him in the flesh. The monitor beside him gave away his joy to see her finally. He saw her eyes flick to the monitor and the daintiest of smiles crossed her lips.

Instantly he waggled his fingers, she saw them, and stroked them softly. 'Hi,' she said quietly, unsure of herself and him. He squeezed her fingers tight, and lanced her with his eyes. (( Kiss me. I've missed you. You look so good. I thought you'd never come back after… I've missed you. ))

'The nurses say you've been inundated with visitors and had a cought fit this morning. So I won't stay long - you must be tired.' (( No! I'm not tired. Stay with me, please, Bones. ))

'I've brought Hank with me, he's looking after Christine while I visit but I shouldn't leave him for long.' (( I want to see her. Bring her in, please, please.)) Bones felt him crush her fingers, and saw his tears slip from the side of his eyes to the pillow. 'Would you like to see her?' she asked tentatively, scared he might not want to. To her colossal relief she saw Booth blink hard once, and smiled. 'Ok - I'll get her - but first I have to tell you.' (( What? Tell me what? ))

'Christine smiled today, for the first time - twice actually...' (( Ohh. Fantastic! That's incredible. What was she smiling at? ))

'She saw me laughing at something and just smiled - it was wonderful, Booth.' Bones felt him squeeze her fingers again. (( What were you laughing at? I love to see you laugh. I'm glad you've been laughing. ))

'Of course, I ran to write down the event in my diary but Angela reminded me to just enjoy it. Then she burped and did it again.' (( What, Ange burped or Christine? I'm sad to miss it but there will be other times, won't there? ))

'Well, that's my news,' Bones said, feeling awkward, and having nothing else to add that she thought he'd want to hear. Booth seemed to deflate too, and attempted to lace his fingers with hers. But again she misinterpreted his actions. 'Oh. Sorry. I'm hurting you,' she apologised, and slipped her fingers away from his, wilting. Booth blinked twice hard, and fumbled for her hand again. (( No you're not! Don't let go. Please don't. I'm so fucking scared, Bones. ))

He grunted with frustration when he couldn't find her delicate hand.

Seeing him struggling, Bones asked bordering on another emotional collapse, 'I don't know what you want me to do, Booth - I just don't anymore…' (( Ask me questions - yes, no answers, touch me, kiss me - anything. You're the genius, work it out. Please, God, let her work it out, cos I can't - the fucking useless vegetable I am! I'm barely keeping it together here, Bones... ))

Bones flicked her eyes to the desperate tide pouring from his, then to the frantic monitor and back to his fidgeting fingers. Booth could see the cogs turning in her beautiful mind and the cute wrinkle that was forming between her brows and it gave him a sliver of hope. Then to his horror she stood with a face like marble, and walked to the end of the bed. He couldn't see what she was doing, and thought she was leaving. He heard his monitor struggling to keep pace with his racing, breaking heart, and drew in air through his teeth to fuel it to keep on pumping. With his eyes closed he felt a soft touch on his face, and flickered open his eyes to see her wiping away his tears with a tissue. She'd obviously just retrieved it from a box at the end of the bed and was smiling at him. Inevitably his monitor began to settle a little.

'I going to make some assumptions -,' she said tenderly, hovering over him, 'given this evidence...' She finished wiping his eyes, and scrunched up the tissue, placing it precisely on the table beside him. Peering back into his eyes, she took a shallow breath, then continued just as tenderly, 'With your emotional state - the fact that you seem to get agitated when I say I'm leaving, or stop touching you. Your wish to see Christine, and that you are breathing on your own now, all suggest you do want to carry on. All this can be interpreted that you don't want me to go, and you do want to be touched - and want to live in whatever condition you find this accident has left you in...' (( Thank GodYes-yes-yes. I don't wanna leave you alone.))

Booth blinked hard once. The smile from her that followed blistered his corneas with its power, and saw her eyes shimmering. With a weak timbre she said, 'This is highly irregular, may cause you considerable discomfort and I'll probably get into trouble for it… But it's the only thing I can think to do right now.'

Carefully Bones started moving tubes and drips out of her way until eventually she was free to lay beside him on her side. (( Sweet, God - yes. )) The delicacy in which she performed these tasks astounded him. He hardly felt her settle along his battered immobilized body. He was whimpering his relief before her face finally settled like a petal to his swollen cheek. Then he felt her palm slowly trickle over his torso to rest over his heart. Her sweet breath tickled his trembling cracked lips, and her intoxicating scent seemed to make his breathing easier. As his breathing slowed and became deeper so consequently his heart monitor calmed too. Booth felt a sudden wave of fatigue engulf him, and couldn't help but close his eyes in surrender to it. He was back in her arms and finally he felt safe. Nothing else mattered to him - only this.

Chapter IX

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility, Maryland

Booth woke early only because he was being fiddled with again. As he opened his eyes, flicking them around he saw his two regular nurses smiling at him from either side. 'Morning, Booth,' Mary chirped, unhooking his finger clip, then began bathing him with a warm flannel across his face. He winked at her making her giggle like an adolescent and blush.

'You're perky this morning and you slept right through the night.' Booth wasn't surprised that Bones wasn't around this morning. He knew she had to attend to Christine but he was desperate to see them both already. 'Doctor Brennan has left us a list of things to attend to today. She's been quite insistent and frankly - a little bossy.' Booth agreed with her assessment with another impish wink. As she continued to bathe him, he wondered what Bones' list of instructions were. 'But we've insisted that we limit your visitors to four a day, you need your rest. She was negotiating with us, can you imagine?' Mary asked incredulously. Booth blinked again, trying not to laugh. 'She doesn't want you to get bored, but how can you get bored with us, I ask you?'

Jennifer, his other regular nurse, who was changing his urine bag, piped up, 'We give you the best gossip and news events, don't we?' Booth blinked once again, not wanting to upset them, but he didn't know how or if he should tell them he would kill for a TV.

'Well, you two are the gossip this morning - cuddling till the early hours,' Mary gently reprimanded. Booth waggled his brows at her. 'Ha! You're so naughty, Booth. What if she'd pulled out a drip or hurt you…?' Booth blinked twice this time. 'Well, as long as you don't get up to anything else - you're on our monitors, you know? We see everything at the nurses station.'

Booth drew in a breath, feeling suddenly very naive and vulnerable. He hadn't considered that he was under constant surveillance and their tender moments and his tears had been witnessed. He flicked his eyes around the walls, and spotted the camera in the corner, then sighed forlornly.

Jennifer whispered in his ear, seeing his sudden distraction, 'Don't worry, Booth, there's no sound just a grainy black and white feed.' Resigned to his lot, Booth put his thumb up, gesturing he was ok about the intrusion.

The cheerful question, 'Hungry?' from Mary jolted his him back to her and away from the camera. He wasn't hungry but knew from experience they would feed him anyway, so he blinked. Nothing had past his lips for as long as he could remember but had been syringed directly into his stomach via the stint in his torso. The goop they injected was grey and unappetising. He obviously couldn't taste or smell it and was glad of that. But was told it was nutritious and filling and he did feel better after he had a full stomach.

With efficiency and little effort he was fed with two carefully measured, and double checked syringes of the grey goop. While one wrote up his chart the other changed his diaper which he hated them doing. He couldn't imagine how these precious women could do this odious task and with unaffected smiles too. He made a special effort to thank whoever did it each time by trying to squeeze their hand before they disappeared. To his astonishment they always seemed to understand his small gesture and what it meant to him. They always accepted it with humility and grace which humbled him.

'There, all done. You're ready to receive guests and hold court,' Mary said, making herself chuckle. 'Doctor Peroni will be in shortly - you are the last on his rounds this morning,' Mary explained, scribbling on his chart. Booth stuck his thumb up again to acknowledge her statement. But seeing her writing, he waggled his fingers as vigorously as he could to get her attention, and grunted. The grunt came out like a strangled bull frog, drowning. Mary flicked her eyes to his, and asked, 'What is it - are you in pain?' Booth blinked twice, and pointed to the chart as best he could. 'You want to read your chart?' He blinked for no again, then began to pretend to write on the fresh sheet under his hand. He saw a wry smile crinkle Mary's motherly features. 'Arr. Booth, Doctor Brennan has something much more sophisticated in store for you from now on. Be patient, all will be revealed…' With that she placed his chart on the end of his bed, and left after wagging her bushy brows at him tantalizingly.

Booth's excitement sky- rocketed and his mind raced with the possibilities of what his genius partner had planned for him. He felt like whistling or singing with joy, but when he tried his wired jaw tweeked making him groan, and close his eyes to the pain.

(( Idiot! )) Before the pain had begun to subside the door opened again, it grabbed his attention, then he forgot about his discomfort.

Bespoke suited in dark rich violet and crisp lavender shirt, Dr Peroni blew in with a purposeful brogue stride and warm smile for him. 'Booth, how are you this morning - good?' Booth gave him a thumbs up. 'Excellent. Lot's happening today for you. Busy- busy day,' he chirped, while scanning his chart, and wrote something on it. Pulling over a stool, Peroni rattled on, 'Right, firstly we're going to pop down to the operating theatre…' Booth felt a slight sense of panic, and deliberately widen his eyes at the doctor. 'Don't concern yourself, Booth. We're just going to stitch up your tracheotomy incision, it will be done under local anaesthetic as you don't need it now. Your breathing and oxygen saturation are excellent. You haven't used the oxygen for a few days now and its prudent to close up the incision properly. Do you agree?' Relieved, Booth gave him the thumbs up again. 'Great. Then after, we'll whisk you over to the MRI. We want to see how your spine is repairing and all your other fractures - standard procedure. Do you consent?' Booth blinked, but wished Peroni wasn't so cheerful and flippant because it made him suspicious of his motives. 'Then later, I believe, that gorgeous anthropologist has a few treats for you…' He smiled so wide at Booth he was definitely suspicious of him now but for a whole other reason. (( Watch it buddie, she's all mine. ))

'Right then, that's it. I'll see you down in the operating theatre in about an hour.' Booth waved feebly as Peroni replaced the stool he'd been sitting on, and watched him leave. Taking a deep breath, he wished he could speak to Bones or anyone because he was nervous now, and an hour alone seemed an awful long time to wait.

To his unadulterated joy in walked Bones with Christine in her arms moments later. Bones beamed at him as she made her way over to the bed beside him. 'She's asleep, I've just fed, burped and changed her. I wanted you to see her before you went down.' Bones slid over the stool, and sat close, then showed Christine to him. Booth's gaze, she noted, flicked between her and Christine. (( My, God, she's grown! How long have I been in here? Aww. She's beautiful-beautiful. Look what we created, Bones… ))

'She still not going through the night - but we're working on it,' Bones said with a wry smile. Bones carefully laid her next to Booth's arm, and teased out her tiny hand so he could touch her. He did without hesitation. 'Isn't she astonishing? She's thriving, Booth, and put on almost a pound since…' Bones trailed off, and changed the subject, not wanting to remind him of the accident. 'If it's ok with you, I'd like to be with you during this little op and the MRI. Do you want me there? I'll not be offended if you'd rather do it by yourself.' Booth hummed, and put his thumb up but returned to stroking Christine's hand immediately. 'Great. That's excellent.' (( She's so soft - her skin is so soft. Oh. I wish I could hold her and give her kiss. You too, Bones…))

Bones watched his fingers caress Christine's tiny hand in silence but her mind was racing with what she wanted to say. Then she couldn't keep it in any longer and blurted, 'Last night I did a lot of thinking about this communication problem. I've always assumed that we understand one another, sometimes with just a look. I can't clearly explain it, or rationalise it in a scientific way, I think its due to familiarity and knowing how you react to any given situation. And its possible that my skills at reading body language have improved. However, over the last few weeks, and possibly months, for some reason, that non-verbal connection which we've relied on has failed us...'

Booth stared into her eyes, relieved in a way that she was acknowledging it too. He waggled his fingers for her to take, and squeezed her hand. 'Do you concur with that assessment?' Booth blinked for yes. (( Ok, Bones, what have you come up with? Lets have it.))

'I've thought of a practical way that you can communicate your wishes to the staff here and have limited interactions with your visitors.' (( Great! What is it? Don't keep me in suspense, you sexy anthropologist. ))

'With you not being unable to talk for some time, this presents us with a golden opportunity.' (( Oookaaay. ))

'As we cannot rely on that anymore I propose that I talk to you properly.' (( Have you been talking to Sweets again? ))

'I should not assume that you understand me, and conversely, you should not assume you understand me. Does that make sense?' (( Yep - you're gonna talk and I'm gonna listen. I'm getting some reeeally good gossip like that. I can't wait to tell you about Jared and his sperm. ))

Bones was just about to continue when the door to his room opened and a blue gaggle of nurses arrived. Bones smiled at them then back at Booth. Whilst she picked up Christine, she said, 'Looks like they are ready for you. I'll just hand Christine over to Michele and I'll be back.' Booth gave her the thumbs up, and heard his monitor start to bleep a little faster.

Chapter X

Residence of Dr Brennan and Agent Booth

Evening.

Agent Shaw pulled up on the drive behind Bones' Prius, and looked the the file on the passenger seat. Turning off the engine, she looked through her windshield towards the huge bowed bay window, and sighed. She hadn't been looking forward to this all day, but grabbed the file, and got out.

Walking up the drive to the double front doors with bevelled oval glass that obscured the inside, she felt her heart begin to quicken. She paused for a second before she tapped the knocker twice, and stepped back. She looked around the neighbourhood they'd chosen to make their home in and thought it was pleasant enough. Although with their assumed salaries she thought it rather a modest choice.

On hearing the door, Bones stepped down the ladder, grabbed a cloth to wipe her hands en route to open the door. She recognised the slight figure through the glass, and plastered on her regulation smile, but full of apprehension. Unhooking the chain, she then opened the door.

'Agent Shaw, welcome. Please come in.' Bones gestured for her to enter, and stepped aside. 'I'm attempting to hang wallpaper so please excuse the disarray. Come through to the kitchen.'

'No problem.' Shaw followed the scruffily clad doctor down the hall, and turned left into the kitchen. 'You're brave, wallpaper hanging always caused arguments in our house.' Shaw took a sneaky look about while Bones headed for the double sinks to wash her hands. Shaw thought the kitchen was stunning. It had a contemporary feel, yet retro with clean lines and real Italian black marble work surfaces. She spotted a huge SMEG which dispensed chilled water, juice and ice. In the centre of the square kitchen was a breakfast bar bigger than a double bed and could easily seat six. This was cluttered with books; Jeffersonian files, piles of mail opened and unopened, and a massive overflowing bowl of fruit.

'I can sympathise,' Bones said, drying her hands, then turning. 'I confess, I've used several choice expletives this evening already,' Bones confessed with a wry smile. 'Have you eaten?'

Bones' invitation stunned her, she hadn't expected to be invited to dinner. 'Err. Umm. No, actually I haven't.'

'Good - neither have I.' Shaw watched on as Bones opened the fridge, adding from behind the door, 'Do you like pasta?'

'Yes-yes, I do. I don't want to put you out or anything…'

'You're not. I've made plenty. Please, sit down, Agent Shaw.' Bones motioned for her to take a seat around the island. She sat immediately, after cocking a brow, thinking it amazing that she'd time to make her own pasta. 'Wine?' Bones poked her head out around the door but pointing to the state-of-the-art separate wine chiller on the other side of the kitchen.

'No, I err don't drink - tea-total. Thanks all the same. Water's good though,' she said, trying to make things as easy for her as possible.

Bones was still behind the door, and rummaging. 'Ok. I've got - still or sparkling, milk, juice - orange, apple and cranberry, ice lemon tea, tea - herbal or English breakfast, coffee - instant or filter, aaaand breast milk…' as she offered her the last choice, she popped her head out from behind the door, and was grinning at her.

Shaw chuckled. 'Oh. Haaa! A whole array of beverages! Ha. I'll have milk, ordinary, milk, please. Do you have enough?'

'Plenty. Booth's partial to a glass too.' Bones poured her a large glass with a smile. Then she was off again, this time Bones retrieved a ball of chilled pre-prepared pasta, and took it to the machine to roll it out.

With Bones' back to her she scanned the rest of the kitchen, although it was stunning there were a few jobs that hadn't been completed. Shaw continued to chat, while she nosed, 'He seems so much better. I popped in last Friday to visit.'

'Yes, I was aware.'

'I'm on the rotor for this Friday too.' Shaw quirked her lips, saying, 'But of course, you already know that...'

Bones glanced over her shoulder at her, then asked, 'You seem very nervous, Agent Shaw. Do I intimidate you?'

'Intimidate? No-no!' Unconvinced, Bones stopped what she was doing, and looked at her again. Shaw sagged, and picked at her fingernails. 'Err. Yes a little, sorry. But that's not why I'm nervous.' She saw Bones nod slowly several times, and felt very uncomfortable suddenly.

Bones turned around, and rested her hips against the work surface, saying, 'You've got some information for me that you're anxious about telling me.'

'Precisely, yes,' Shaw confirmed, lifting her chin slightly as if expecting a blow. But she sunk a little when Bones turned back to the pasta, and began cutting it through the machine, not commenting.

'Three minutes -,' Bones said quietly, 'it'll be ready in three minutes.'

'Right, lovely… You have a great kitchen, Doctor Brennan.'

'It's not finished as I'm sure you've noticed. The fitters are back at the weekend. I would have done it myself but you can't be too careful with electrics.'

'Goodness! You've got enough to do without fitting a kitchen.'

'Booth wanted us to do it together but…' she trailed off, and took a seat opposite Shaw now. She rubbed her hands together, and sighed, whilst looking at the file Shaw had brought with her. When she looked back up into Shaw's eyes, she said, 'It can't be as bad as I've imagined - can it?'

Shaw didn't change her expression, but pushed the file towards her slowly over the island. Bones hesitantly opened the file, and began to read. Shaw got up, and made herself useful at the stove.

As they cleared away the plates to the dishwasher, Bones began to go over what she read with Shaw. 'The Hummer was stolen a day before the accident from the car park of Wallmart in south Arlington.' Shaw nodded. 'And it was registered to a Horace P Fenton, 49, single, bank clerk for thirty years, twice divorced, no children. He's never had so much as a parking ticket.'

'Nope. He pays his taxes on time, exemplary employee and has never missed a mortgage payment. He's clean. He was grocery shopping and came out to find the Hummer gone, and reported it stolen at two thirty on that Saturday.'

'Right. The forensics report matched the paint scrape on Booth's SVU to the make and model and year of manufacture. They recovered no fingerprints from inside or outside the vehicle other than Fenton's. The camera images only had a limited view of the crash and didn't show any contact between the vehicles - only the aftermath. And as far as Chesney is concerned he has nothing else to go on. So he's put it down to an accidental hit and run by a joy rider.' Shaw nodded her head to confirm. Bones added, 'However, the statement given by Tom Renchan said the Hummer sped past them and deliberately veered, in his opinion, into the side of Booth's SUV. But it was going too fast for them to get a good look at the driver.'

'Yes. But Claire can't be sure that's what she saw, however Tom stands by his statement. When I spoke to them last week Tom remembered something about the driver.' Bones nodded keenly for her to go on, as she made them tea. 'He said it came to him in a dream later. So how reliable it is, I cannot say…'

Intrigued, Bones pushed with, 'Go on.'

'He said the man - the driver was black - possibly African American and had long square side burns. And what he thought was a tattoo on his neck - just below his ear.'

'Did he say what he thought it might have resembled?' Bones unfolded the map that had been created of the accident, and checked the position of each of the cars in the lanes before the accident.

'No. Like I said, he couldn't swear to it so he didn't want to add that to his statement. His partner, incidentally, seemed to think he was wrong even about the drivers colour. She said if she had to swear to anything she would have said his colouration was more Hispanic.'

'If Mr Renchan was here and the Hummer came past at this point… the tattoo would have had to be under his left ear.' Shaw agreed with a nod, sipping her tea.

Bones recapped, 'So, we're looking for an African American or possibly a Hispanic man with some kind of tattoo under his left ear - or not.' Agent Shaw's hid her wry smile as she sipped again. Frustrated, Bones blurted, 'I loathe witnesses - they're so unobservant and unreliable! That's why I stick with science and leave the suppositions to Booth,' she chuntered.

Shaw reset them with, 'Let's look at it from the other direction then.'

'Agreed. Did you ask around or hear anything about Booth at the FBI?'

'Yes. Actually the water cooler can be a fountain of information.'

'Yes. I imagine the DNA left on the water spout could yield much.' Shaw looked at her as if she was insane, and shook her head slightly, obviously perplexed by her statement.

'Err. No, Doctor Brennan, I meant people gossip around the cooler. They talk about their weekend, what they got up to, FBI politics, who's doing who - that kind of thing.'

'Oh. I understand, please continue.'

'Well, as you can imagine Booth has been the main topic of conversation around the cooler. Many agents have talked openly about his condition and expressed real concern for his well being and continued recovery.' Bones nodded, pleased to hear that but still curious about what she'd found out. 'I don't know if its true or not, but I heard that a few months ago Booth was seen and heard talking to AD Hacker. Apparently the conversation got a little heated and Booth was seen leaving his office looking angry and flushed. Hacker followed him out and shouted after him, something like, go and cool down, or, simmer down. Then Hacker slammed his door... Did Booth mention he had a run in with AD Hacker?'

'No - he didn't,' Bones said thoughtfully. She began scribbling notes on a pad that was by the phone, which Shaw noted flashed eight messages. She couldn't read the pad upside down, although she desperately wanted to. Bones said, flicking her eyes up to Shaw, 'I'm a great one for lists - lists of things to do, Agent Shaw.'

'Got it. What are you going to do?'

'Firstly, I'm going to call in a couple of favours. One from Assistant Director Hacker and another from Doctor Sweets. I want you to contact Mr Renchan again for me to see if he's willing to talk to Doctor Sweets about what he thinks he may have seen.' Shaw nodded. 'Your discretion, I presume, can still be relied upon?'

'Absolutely - yes.'

'And I'd like us to pay a visit to this squeaky clean Mr Horace P Fenton. Booth would say - no one is that blank. Booth trusts your instincts and so I trust you to partner me.' Shaw seemed to rise a foot, flattered by her endorsement. 'And with that in mind, I'm going to tell you something I've discovered about Agent Booth which may help us with this investigation.' Shaw shifted on her seat, her face turning solemn. 'Telling you these things I don't want you to make any assumptions with regard to this investigation. Nor do I wish you to repeat anything I tell you to a third party.'

'I understand. You have my word and silence.'

'Thank you.' Taking a deep breath, Bones then calmly relayed what she had found out, 'I recently discovered that Booth has missed three monthly payments to his ex-partner for maintenance of his first born - Parker. Consequently Parker's mother has stopped him from visiting Booth or seeing him in hospital. Booth neglected to tell me this. I became suspicious and it was only by talking to a family member I discovered what had happened. I'm going to straighten out the misunderstanding tomorrow with Parker's mother. Secondly, Booth has, prior to the accident, been working very late into the night. He told me he was working a case at the office but that he could not discuss and one that demanded more of his time in the run up to Christine's birth. I took him at his word. However, when he came home his clothing smelt of cigarettes and alcohol although I could sense he'd been consuming breath mints to conceal both.' Briefly Bones paused, and flicked her eyes over Shaw's face, deciding if she should tell her this next part as she knew it may call Booth's fidelity into question. She continued but cautiously and with rare delicacy, 'More disturbingly, Booth was often exhausted, and increasingly became more - physically distant from me...'

Seeing Bones' cheeks flush slightly, Shaw dropped her eyes, and nodded. 'I see…' she said, attempting to keep her expression even as she could. 'It's possible he was on a case - a stake out maybe?' Bones nodded, but not convinced. 'But I can tell you he's been leaving work at the normal times. He may have came back when I wasn't there though.'

'Of course, that's plausible. Can you ask discreet questions around the water cooler again?

'Umm.' Hesitating, Shaw tucked her functional bob behind her ears, then said, 'I'd rather wait and see what AD Hacker offers you first. If it looks like I'm too interested in Booth's activities it might raise suspicions.'

Bones drained her tea mug, and checked her watch surreptitiously. 'Agreed - very wise.'

Seeing Bones check her watch, Shaw asked, 'How's Chrissy doing?' Bones slumped back to the stool with a sweet smile.

'She thriving -,' Bones informed gleefully, 'and smiling now and seems very content. Plus she's only waking me once a night for a feed. Once she's in with me I usually keep her till the morning. I know I shouldn't but I get lonely. It's peculiar I never used to get lonely. I suppose it's what we get used to,' she reflected, looking off into nothing.

'He'll be home soon, Doctor Brennan.' Bones pushed her fingers through her hair, and gave her a half-hearted smile. The fact that Bones didn't elaborate on a time scale disturbed Shaw a little but she didn't pry, choosing to enquire carefully instead, 'Has his memory returned yet?'

Bones shook her head, and filled her lungs to capacity, preparing to explain in more detail his ongoing problems. 'Peroni feels we should let him get there on his own. He and the neurologist are convinced Booth's memory lost is due to the swelling on his temporal lobe - and I have to concur. His head and face were so badly crushed it's not surprising there maybe some damage to the hippocampus. Booth doesn't realise how long he's been in there, and hasn't asked. He remembers all his family, acquaintances and work colleagues, and all the main positive events in his life. But nothing which has a strong negative emotional resonance for him. For example, he remembers Christine being born but not his father's death. He knows we're living in a new house but not the stress we had finding it. The current theory is… that Booth's mind has shut down and out anything which causes him emotional stress - like our recent arguments and their causes. It's been suggested that its the minds safety mechanism, his severe physical repairs are taking precedence at the moment. So as he improves the brain will gradually give him back those memories when it judges he can cope with them. That's the hope anyway…' she explained with a positive smile yet her doubt leached through it, Shaw noted.

'I, err, understand Booth had memory problems before - after his tumour surgery.' Bones nodded. 'He recovered perfectly well, didn't he?' she stated, keeping positive for her.

'Yes he did. I've gone along with the specialists advice to keep him away from clocks or the media, and I don't discuss anything remotely negative with him. But - it feels so deceitful…' Shaw could see the turmoil in her eyes, and felt huge compassion for her predicament. Then Bones found herself opening up effortlessly to Shaw, surprising herself, 'Our interactions are superficial at best. I want us to disagree and bicker again. I want him to remember the grief he felt when his father died and the resolution and peace he found in my arms. I need him to remember the problems we were having so we can work at them. I want him to be honest with me again…' Bones paused, and looked up into Shaw's eyes. 'I just want - I need my old Booth back.' Shaw swallowed slowly, clearly moved by her sentiment, and nodded in sympathy.

The sound of a baby moaning then crying filled the kitchen and shocked Shaw. She flashed her eyes around, trying to see where it was coming from. Bones grinned, seeing her confusion, and reached into her baggy sweat pants, and pulled out a monitor. 'Right on cue,' Bones said, waggling the monitor.

Shaw smiled, and stood. 'I'll leave you to it then. Keep the file. I'll call you when I have something and have arranged that meeting.'

'Thank you, Agent Shaw,' Bones said sincerely as Christine got up a full head of steam. Bones began to walk her to the door.

'No, don't trouble yourself. I can see myself out, Doctor Brennan. And thank you for the excellent pasta.'

'You're welcome. Good night.' Bones left Shaw in the hall as she went right into the lounge towards the nursery. Bones heard the front door click shut, as she opened the nursery door. 'Heeey, what's all this noise? I'm here, see?' Bones picked up her squealing daughter as she began to calm slowly, then sat in the rocker to nurse her.

Chapter XI

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility

Family Waiting Room.

While Jared and Hank waited for Dr Peroni to speak to them, Bones stared at the fake bunch of daisies in a little vase on the table. The flowers were caught in a shard of sunlight and cast a long shadow which she watched move slowly towards her. She didn't want it to reach her. She'd already got a shadow of a cloud hanging over her and didn't want to darken it in case it engulfed her.

Jared was pacing the floor like sentry. He spun at the end of each length of the room, and paced back with his hands clasped behind him. But Bones had long given up watching him wring them. Hank, on the other hand, had tried several times to get Jared to sit down, and he too had given up. He was currently tapping out an erratic drum beat on his knees, giving away his agitation for what was about to be revealed. Bones was the only one statue-like and just as pale.

With the door swinging wide, Jared came to a halt so did the soft drum beat. Bones didn't move, but lifted her eyes slowly to Peroni. She could tell her worst fears were realised because the doctor didn't make eye contact with any of them. He had a thick medical file in his right hand and other was clenched, giving away his agitation to Bones. She took a breath, and dragged her gaze back to the daisies as he sat down. Jared sat next to him one the edge of the couch, still twitching.

'Here is what we are looking at,' he began. 'The MRI shows that Booth's spinal injury is healing better than we anticipated - much better in fact. We can safely take off his neck and back brace. The heavy plasters on his fractures can go too. Then we can put him in a more comfortable cushion restraints for his leg and shoulder fractures. Then he'll have almost maximum movement of his torso and arms… In time all bones heal.' Jared calmed hearing all of the progress that his brother was making, and smiled at Pops and Bones.

Peroni went on, 'I'm recommending, and have scheduled, physiotherapy and thrice weekly massages. We will keep on with the antibiotics and pain relief for another couple of weeks too. Later, when his jaw has healed fully, he can have cosmetic dental treatment to replace his lost teeth and remove the feeding stint… .'

'Wow, that's good right? That's really good…' Jared gushed, clearly relieved. Hank was still holding his breath, and noted Bones staring at the plants, and knew this wasn't over.

Dr Peroni looked around at all of them, as he agreed, 'Yes - very. The spinal injury bed Doctor Brennan procured seems to have facilitated a very fast recovery. However…' Peroni paused, and whipped off his rimless glasses, then pinched the crest of his nose, as he said, 'It's ironic really. We were so concerned about his spine we hadn't fully appreciated his other injuries.'

Bones lifted her head, and said, 'His pelvis.' Dr Peroni nodded, and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

'What about his pelvis? What are you talking about? His spine's good, right?' Jared threw his questions at them, clearly frustrated by the heavy atmosphere, and not understanding all the glum expressions.

'We're not certain but from the MRI we suspect Booth damaged several, vital, nerves.' Peroni added quickly but stoically, 'Nerve endings do heal and there are ways to hasten that repair with steroids. The swelling has not yet dissipated fully, so there's still a chance of a good recovery. But for now - it's a waiting game...'

'What does that mean?' Hank asked tremulously.

Bones looked over to him, and offered him her most comforting smile. She spoke the words she hadn't allowed herself to whisper until now, 'It means - Booth will probably be doubly incontinent, and - might never walk again...'

The gravity of her statement and the stunned silence that followed it almost choked the family into their own graves. Bones looked back to the daisies, and closed her eyes without a flicker of readable emotion. It was clear to Hank that she'd been silently living with this knowledge for a few days now. He recalled, she'd been with Booth during the MRI and seen the real time results.

Jared was the next one to react. 'Aaawwwwhh - Shit!' He was up, and pacing again, this time much faster. 'No, not Seeley - in a fucking wheelchair for the rest of his life? Na-ah. Ain't gonna happen! Ooh. God - he's gonna hate this. He's gonna fucking flip. Hasn't he been through enough? Jesus fucking H Christ!'

'Calm down, Jared,' Hank said softly. 'He may improve, didn't you hear the doctor?'

'Calm down? What the fuck do they know? Use-less fucking bastards - you screwed this up -YOU!' he snarled in Peroni's face. 'First chance he gets he'll blow his brains out, I know my brother,' he assured them arrogantly, smacking his chest.

'Stop swearing - lady present!' Hank scolded more firmly.

Jared drew breath, and looked at Bones emotionless and eyes closed. Her apparent apathy incensed him, so he lashed out, 'You knew this would happen! You knew it, didn't you? Look-at-ME!' Bones opened her eyes, and looked up to Jared slowly. He yelled with the wrath of Zeus in her face with so much vitriol she felt every insult like a violent stab to her heart, 'You could've let him die with some dignity, but NO! You, SELF-FISH emotional-less cold-hearted bitch!'

Hank leapt to his feet, and grabbed Jared's shoulder to pull him out of her face. 'Get off me!' He flicked Hank off him in his ire, and continued on Bones, 'You were desperate to trap him.' Jared threw his hands into the air, and ranted, 'It's the oldest whoring trick in the book - getting pregnant! I gotta take my hat off to ya, you must've timed that FUCK to perfection!' Bones winced at that withering blow but didn't have the strength to retaliate or correct him. Jared towered over her, covering her with his pitch bristling shadow. 'Well, what do you care now, eh? You got your Booth sprog! There won't be chance of another, will there?'

Dr Peroni intervened, 'Enough! This isn't helping…'

Jared snapped his head around to him, and sneered, 'Butt out, Doctor Meingala.' As he turned back to Bones a large aged fist connected with the point of his jaw, and sent him flying into the couch. As soon as he bounced into the leather, Jared began to sob. He curled himself into a ball on it in slow motion, and covered his head with his arms as if he was trying to hide himself away.

Hank shook out his fist, and sat back down. They all stayed where they were as Jared sobbed for his brother and his own shame.

Bones took a few minutes to compose herself, then stood, surprising Peroni and Hank. 'I'm going to see Booth,' she just managed.

As she walked past the foetal, whimpering Jared, she stroked her hand over his hair in a gesture of deep understated affection and empathy. He blindly grabbed her hand, and squeezed it, humbled by her forgiveness and understanding. She squeezed it back, then leant down, and kissed his head gently.

Jared was reluctant to let go of her hand, but as she walked away, compassionately she slipped her fingers free of his slowly.

Bones felt her knees trembling as she walked along the corridor towards his room. So much so she paused, and put her palm against the wall to steady herself. She took two controlling deep breaths, and lifted her chin about to move on when her cell vibrated in her jeans back pocket. She half turned, and let the wall take her weight as she answered it.

'Hello, Sweets. Thanks for getting back to me.' Sweets was suspicious of her fragile sounding voice.

'Are you ok, Doctor Brennan. You sound - odd?'

'Yes. Fine. Can you meet me for lunch at the hospital?'

'Sure - no problem. Is Booth ok?'

'As well as can be expected. We'll talk at lunch then. There's a little garden to the left of the car park - I'll meet you there.'

'Ok. See you later.' Bones disconnected quickly, and tucked her cell away again. Looking both ways up the corridor, checking she was alone, she slid down the wall to squat, and covered her face with her palms. It didn't surprise her to find she couldn't cry although she wanted to. The last few nights, alone in their bed, she was able to, at times unable to hold back the tides of tears. Each morning she woke with a cold wet pillowcase against her cheek, which cruelly reminded her of the nightmare that seemed to be perpetual.

A janitor turned the corner with a polisher, and began to swing the contraption from side to side as he edge up it. He had earplugs in and was unaware of her, she realised. But his appearance was her prompt to move on. Pushing herself off the wall by her shoulders, she stood, and walked into Booth's room.

Booth's bed was holding him in a semi-upright position this morning so he could see her the moment she entered. A table with a propped up Ipad was in front of him and in easy reach as usual. His bright eyes tore to hers immediately, and she could tell he would have smiled if he could, so she did it for him. 'Morning, Booth. How are you feeling?'

'Love, you,' the sultry tones of a computer generated Marilyn Monroe answered back, complete with a breathy sigh. Booth waggled his brows at her as best he could. Bones burst out laughing because it sounded so strange to hear him speak as a woman. 'Kiss, me - kiss, me,' Marilyn insisted.

Bones was still giggling as she neared his bedside, and kissed his forehead several times. 'You're having way too much fun with that. I may have to confiscate it,' she warned playfully, and sat on a stool beside him.

The Ipad app she'd loaded was giving him the ability to pick out pre-programmed words and phrases. Since he'd had it, he'd become quite adept at creating his own memorable phrases too. Most days she was greeted with a different voice. Yesterday it was Yogi Bear and the day before, Winston Churchill, she recalled. All he had to do was use the qwerty keyboard the write what he wanted to say and store it for use later. She found it amused him no end and it had several games on it to stave off his boredom.

Booth tapped the screen, and Marilyn cooed, 'Chris-tine?'

'She's fine. Parker is coming this afternoon, did you remember?'

'Yes,' Marilyn sighed. 'Look-ing, for-ward, to, it. Kiss, me.' Bones grinned, and kissed his cheek softly, holding her lips to him for a few moments. Booth purred cutely, delighted he'd made her laugh.

Peering into his eyes, with a wisp of a smile, she asked, 'You're frisky today. Did that nubile red-haired nurse give you your bed-bath again?'

'Yes.'

'Haa! That explains it. I'm having her taken off your rotor and the man with the rough hands put back on,' she jested, pretending to sound jealous.

'Love you,' he tapped again, making her smile hard at him. Booth gorged himself on her face, but sadly thought she looked tired again. He slipped his fingers though hers, and squeezed. She looked into his eyes briefly, then away again across the room. Booth let go of her to tap the Ipad.

'What-is-up?'

'I'm just tired, Booth. I'm not sleeping well without you and I've been busy.' She shuffled a little closer, and gently rested her head on his shoulder. 'The decorating is frustrating me. Everytime I get into it the phone rings and it's much more difficult than I expected. I suspect I'm a perfectionist when it comes to straight lines. I've hung the same piece of paper four times now and still it looks off the verticle. I was convinced the plum line you used was wonky, so I've reset it - it's still wonky,' she explained despondently. Then in complete seriousness she added, 'I strongly suspect the house has subsided.' Booth started to chuckle, his shoulders rattled, and grumbled his amusement. 'Don't laugh - we're nearly out of wallpaper.' That only made him snigger more.

She lifted her head off him, then went on, 'I know you told me to get the decorators in but I'm determined to do it myself now. I've an exceptionally high IQ - I should be able to hang seven strips of wallpaper.' Resting her head back on his plastered shoulder, she huffed. Which he thought so adorable he wanted to kiss her delectable pout.

'Did I tell you I've been doing a little work at home?' She flicked her eyes to his to see him blink once. 'I've got the broadband link set up, so I can communicate with the Jeffersonian much easier now. Cam's been extremely accommodating - they all have actually.'

Bones watched as his fingers began to spell out a sentence. It took him a while so she waited patiently, and closed her eyes for a few moments. He tapped the pad, and Marilyn spoke wistfully to her. 'You are doing too much. Slow down. Too thin. Go home. Eat. Sleep. I am ok.'

She remarked, 'I have lost weight - I've been exercising by restarting my yoga regimen.' Bones lifted her head off him, stood, and started to wander. She began absently fingering objects within the room which was a sure sign to Booth she was pondering something. Whatever it was he didn't like the sensation it was giving him, seeing her so pensive suddenly.

Bones quickly contemplated the risks involved in being completely honest with him about her feelings and jogging his memory. Making her mind up, she took that calculated risk; as she felt it had been long enough. Knowing she had to be careful she attempted to keep as much of her hurt out of her tone as possible. So she spoke slowly and precisely, without looking at him, preferring to cross to the picture window that overlooked the garden below.

She began her gambit with, 'Some, just some of your comments and actions, however well intentioned at the time, before I gave birth to Christine, implied you thought I was eating too excess... I understood from them, you thought I'd become obese and therefore unattractive to you.' Booth would have gasped in horror if he could have, but was too confused to do anything but listen intently.

'I saw the way you looked at me, especially after I gave birth, and, with our complete lack of physical intimacy I slowly came the conclusion that - that you no longer found me physically desirable...'

Booth felt this eyes burn, and he clenched his fist as a memory scorched across his eyes. He recalled snatching a pot from her hand and throwing it in a bin. Before he'd processed that image another crashed in. He saw them in his old apartment, and coming home from work then pouring himself a scotch. Realising he'd walked past her without giving her the simple affection of a kiss, filled him with shame. He could see now how that might have been misinterpreted as indifference. Then finally, the worst of all which wrenched at his heart; her whispered plea in his ear echoed: I need you to prove you still love me. He painfully recalled his verbal rejection now and stopping her hand from touching him. His confusion escalated because he didn't know why he hadn't remembered that real incident before today, or indeed, why he would have rejected her affections.

Bones continued to his mounting panic and confusion, and he dreaded what else was to come, 'So I've made a concerted effort to get back into shape and lose the weight I gained in the hope that… Well, I think that maybe we've got a little more to work on than our sex life, if you're willing.' Booth stared at the back of her head as she looked out of the window. 'We've been having problems outside of that too, haven't we? Do you remember our disagreements about our choice of residence and money?' she deliberately probed. 'I thought you were stalling me - that you didn't want us to live together after all. I surmised that because of the obstacles you put in our way - such as location, cost, the number of required rooms and so on. I adore where we are now, but it was just in time for Christine's arrival… Do you remember the rush to get the nursery ready?'

Every sentence she uttered threw up another heart stopping revelation. He was completely shocked that she'd felt this way and hadn't spoken to him these things so frankly before. Or had she and he couldn't recall? he questioned himself. Listening to her now, talking without accusing, and just stating her point of view was gut-wrenchingly painful and bewildering. It felt like he was falling on a sword which was slicing his head open, spilling these memories.

'To be completely honest with you, Booth, I thought you may have thought we made a mistake getting together over an emotional event…' Dropping her aching head to rest her brow on the cool pane, she took a breath. 'I've felt you were having doubts about us as a couple in recent months. We've been constantly butting heads, haven't we? Your irrational behaviour confused me and I started to wonder what I'd done and what had changed between us…' she paused to briefly look over her shoulder at him. She could see his brow was furrowed deeply and he was staring at the featureless ceiling. Clearly he was attempting to recall those arguments she spoke of and concluded her ploy was beginning to work.

She looked back out of the window to the garden below. 'The thought did cross my mind several times that I didn't give you a choice. It was me that came to you that night. I instigated us having sex too. Maybe, I thought, out of a sense of compassion, or male curiosity and lust, you obliged me…' Booth recoiled at the word: obliged and its implication. It nauseated him to hear her say that, or even that she thought that about him and the monumental night they created Chrissy.

'Then, when I told you I was pregnant, was is out of a sense of duty you stepped into a relationship with me?' Bones knew she had loaded the gun and had slowly pulled back the trigger. She hoped the bullet she was sending into his brain would bring him back to her, back to reality.

Bones felt her nails nip into the window frame as she sent the bullet on its way with, 'Or did you think… like you said to me the morning of the accident… Things change - shit happens…?'

Booth sucked in a coarse breath as her bullet slammed into his memory centre and blasted out the suppressed images lodged within. Those images multiplied exponentially, and quickened as if they were on fast-forward. Each image of his waking dream bludgeoned him with feelings of shame; deception, humiliation, anger, frustration, desperation, love and fear.

Booth felt himself strapped to a bed, immobilised at the epicentre of a dark space as they began to scuttle past his eyes.

The first memory flashed - …a smoky, noisy, seedy bar full of people drinking too much. The next, a woman in a short black dress crossing her long legs and smiling at him. Fingers flipping a poker chip. Him and Bones naked, entwined - rapture engulfing them. Then a slippery newborn dropping from his grasp into a void. Cash changing hands - lots of cash and many grasping greedy hands.

Faster and faster the images and emotions came and went as he struggled against his restraints to escape them all - A hollow chime sounding above a snow covered gravestone, white dice rolling on blue baize. A bleeding nipple weeping milk. Slamming doors to his left, right and in his face. Rebecca angrily sneering at him, dragging a weeping Parker away - a swallow tattoo.

Then at light speed they came now: an FBI badge - Bones' brimming eyes - icy grass on his tongue - pools of blood - a baby crying - splintered, twisted bones. Finally the ground beneath him opened up and he dropped free of his restraints and slipped off the end of the bed. In a terrifying crescendo he screamed through an empty black sky, heckled by laughter from unseen faces. He tumbled and twisted, vainly grasping at a single saving hand to stop his decent into the abyss. The mocking laughter faded, the delicate hand disappeared, and a cold deafening silence engulfed him, ending his nightmare…

The sound of the Ipad clattering to the floor spun Bones around from the frosty view out of his window. 'Oh. God - Booth!' She ran over, watching in horror as his crippled body convulsed and his monitors went wild; filling the room with a petrifying blare. She smacked the large red alarm on the wall above his head, and yelled over her shoulder, 'SOMEBODY!' She held his head steady as the violent spasms continued and he frothed at the mouth. 'Booth - don't let go,' she whimpered.

The room was suddenly full of critically serious people. Nurses and doctors swarmed around the bed with needles injecting him and administering oxygen. The bed was laid flat accompanied by the hiss of compressed gas and pistons clonking. Medical terminology flittered backwards and forward between the busy, but surprisingly calm staff as Bones held his jarring head preciously. Tearful and withering with remorse, she glanced to Hank and Jared, they looked as traumatised as was she for what she'd done.

'What happened?' Peroni asked her, listening to Booth's lungs with his stethoscope.

'I was just talking to him about my feelings. It's all my fault - I shouldn't have pushed him,' she muttered with a harrowed expression. Peroni nodded, understanding what she'd attempted. Riddled with guilt, she whispered in Booth's ear, while stroking his hair, almost scared to touch him now, 'I'm sorry - I'm so sorry - forgive me.'

The drug they'd administered began to work and the terrorising fit started to subside. Jared and Hank, who had been joined by Sweets, were ushered out and back to the family room. Bones stood trembling, staring at his face, wishing him to open his eyes.

'He won't wake for a while, Doctor Brennan.' Peroni got her a stool to sit on as she continued to stroke his hair, and her tears dripped onto his pillow. 'I know this looks bad and you feel guilty but this may have happened whether you spoke to him about what we discussed or not.'

'That doesn't make me feel less responsible, don't try and rationalise my actions - it was irresponsible of me. Jared was right - I am selfish. I just wanted…'

'You wanted him to remember - to move forward,' Peroni said sympathetically. 'Maybe we should've told him more. You took our advice but I think now, you were right to begin with.'

'It doesn't matter now.' Bones looked to Peroni, wiping her nose with the back of her hand, then asked with hope, 'Do you think he'll remember this?'

Peroni hedged, 'Let's wait and see...'

Chapter XII

FBI Headquarters

AD Hacker's Office

'Doctor Brennan! What am I saying… Tempe, how are you - how's Booth?' Hacker charmed effortlessly, holding his door open, and gesturing for her to enter. Bones strode in passed him, carrying Christine in her car seat, and placed her carefully on his desk. Hacker closed the door, and went to his coffee machine to pour them a cup.

Bones said, 'Why don't you come and see for yourself? I'm sure he'd enjoy seeing you.' Hacker stopped what he was doing for a moment, and glanced over his shoulder to her. The accusing tone she used signalled she was unhappy that he hadn't visited him yet.

'I'm sorry,' he said placidly, returning to pour her a coffee, 'I've been very busy recently.' Hacker turned, holding the two mugs, and smiled so falsely wide Bones knew he was lying. Ignoring him, Bones fussed over Christine once she sat down. She put a little silver rattle back into her hand she'd dropped, deciding it wasn't worth aggravating Hacker before she asked her favour.

Hacker took a little peek at Christine, and grinned. 'Adorable…' Bones shot him a glance, noting the blandness of his comment. He placed the mug beside the car seat, and sat down behind his desk.

Seeing her scowl, he clarified, 'Don't look at me like that, Tempe. I'm just not a baby man. Not all of us are, you know? If I'm honest, I've never felt the need to procreate.'

'No. Probably wise in the circumstances.'

'Excuse me?' he asked, confused by her comment.

Bones thoroughly enjoyed that stab at him on Christine's behalf, but didn't elaborate, 'Never mind.'

'So, pleasantries out of the way. What can I do for you?'

Bones went straight for the throat, 'Are you recording this meeting?'

Stunned, Hacker blustered, 'What? No! Course not. Whatever gave you that impression?'

Bones pointed at each bit of her evidence, as she said, 'The security camera in the corner with its light blinking. The open line on your phone. Your paranoia about not letting yourself get entangled in anything which may hinder your career path. The agent stationed outside this room with an ear piece in, pretending to be reading a file. Shall I go on?'

The novice agent outside twitched, and glancing through the window at Hacker, obviously not knowing what to do now they'd been rumbled. Hacker snapped his mouth shut, sagged, then waved the agent away.

'Sorry, Tempe - force of habit. Shall we go for a walk then?' he offered brightly.

'I think that's an excellent idea. I'm hungry and Christine is due a feed soon. You can buy me lunch, Andrew.' Bones was already on her feet, and gathering up her things again.

As she left the office ahead of him, she flicked her eyes to Agent Shaw in the pool, and covertly winked at her. Hacker trotted after Bones, following her to the elevator, looking flustered, making Shaw feel very smug.

Oliver & Burke's Restaurant

Table Two

'When you said lunch, I thought you meant we were going to grab a sandwich or something.'

Scanning the menu, Bones replied, 'You have a very large expense account, Andrew. I'm just taking full advantage of it.' Hacker rolled his eyes, amused. Their dickie-bowed penguin-like waiter arrived with their drinks. Before he'd placed them off the silver tray Bones was giving him her order. Unruffled, the waiter listened patiently, then nodded.

Hacker handed the waiter his leather menu booklet. 'I'll have the same, but with red meat all over it - thank you,' Hacker said theatrically, picking up his elegant crystal goblet, and taking a sip. 'Mmm. Good,' he cooed, tasting the smooth red wine. 'You're not drinking?' he asked, seeing her having an iced club soda.

'No, Andrew - I'm still breastfeeding.' Hacker looked agitated suddenly, making Bones secretly smile because she knew he'd be mortified if she did that in this elite restaurant. Christine was cooing happily in her chair, and shaking her rattle, which seemed to distract Hacker a little, she noted. 'You really don't like children, do you?'

'No. I'm sure she's a dear thing, Tempe, but -,' pausing, he leant in slightly over the round linen covered table, and whispered, 'I just don't like them. They scream and spit up. Yuckie - ghastly creatures.' He visibly shuddered, then relaxed back into his antique carver chair, fingering the stem of his glass.

'I admire your honesty, Andrew.' He nodded once elegantly to accept her flattery. Then she ventured, 'If I ask you a question will you be so honest in answering it?'

'Arrr. Well, that depends on two things, Tempe…' Bones raised a brow with curiosity. 'Firstly, what you ask me, and secondly, is it worth me lying to hide a truth,' he offered cryptically. Bones understood from that their dance had began but she was intending to lead it. Hacker sat forward again, and crossed his arms, leaning on the table, as he said, 'But I already know what you are going to ask me, you see. And what's more, I've all ready made up my mind to lie to you to cover a truth.'

'I see,' she said, studying his countenance closely. 'So, you have to lie to me then?'

'Yes - precisely,' he confirmed.

'Then you've answered one of my questions.'

'Good,' he beamed, and relaxed back again, sipping more wine. 'That wasn't too difficult, was it? What's your next question?'

Bones swallowed slowly, feeling her heart pound under her sternum. 'What did you argue about?' Hacker carefully replaced his glass on the cloth, and lost most of his brassy smile.

'Aaah. That's a lit-tle more tricky to answer, Tempe. I can't tell you what we argued about because I shall be breaking a confidence. And that, I will not do,' he informed heroically.

Bones nodded slowly, then flattered again with, 'Ok. I can appreciate that and respect you for it.' Bones chose her steps carefully now. 'However -,' she went on, 'if I should happen upon the answer while telling you what I think you argued about, you'll not be breaking that confidence, will you?'

To her considerable relief he confirmed, 'No - I most certainly won't.'

'Good - that's agreed then.' Shaking out her napkin, she placed it over her lap neatly, then smiled directly at him which he mirrored handsomely.

'Yes - agreed. So… before you tell me the answer to your question, shall we eat first?'

'I think we should. Christine can have her lunch when we're on dessert.' Hacker visibly paled, grabbed his wine glass, and downed its contents. Then he signalled the waiter to bring him another as Bones casually buttered a poppy seeded bread roll.

Hacker didn't know where to put his face or gaze. Bones was breastfeeding Christine at their table with the most natural unaffected air he couldn't stop blushing. She had the child casually held in the crook of her left arm, while she efficiently forked up her dessert into her mouth with the other. Granted, Hacker noted, she was being very discreet and had managed to cover most of her exposed breast with a piece of muslin. But he still felt extremely awkward, and flashed his eyes around the other patrons to see if they were offended by her actions.

'You shouldn't be so squeamish, Andrew,' she chastised, seeing him anxiously looking around. 'Breastfeeding is as natural as breathing. If find it fascinating that western sensibilities towards the nursing of children in public has become almost taboo. Yet the media and western culture encourages young women to expose as much flesh as possible in public to attract a mate or titillate. That is accepted and encouraged, even expected in some situations. Yet something so natural as breastfeeding in public is considered impertinent or distasteful. I find that double standard completely illogical, and frankly, disturbing. Your mother almost certainly breastfed you, Andrew.'

'Please, leave my mother out of it, Tempe. Can we change the subject?' Bones swallowed her mouthful, then pushed her dessert plate away, grinning.

'Sure.' Bones sighed, replete, and looked down to her child with a loving wisp of a smile. Her sigh had caught Andrew's attention. He finally looked at her, and waited for her to gather her thoughts. As he studied her now, he couldn't help but note the distant sadness in her features. Or that the sparkle of her eyes had dimmed a little over the last few months. However, motherhood, he thought, had made her even more beautiful despite those slight temporary blemishes. She was trimmer than she'd ever been and more toned. Her skin glowed with a radiance that spoke of a women complete and happy with path she'd chosen. Her figure had altered and to him become more seductive and alluring. Her silky hair feathered her soft features and elegant neck drawing his eyes to her full lips. But while she oozed mothering confidence from every pore, their was an underlying vulnerability that tugged at his heartstrings. Putting a ornate gilt frame around her now, he thought that this painting could be hung in the Louvre, and be admired for centuries.

Bones looked up slowly from Christine and into Andrew. He grinned toothily wide to cover his embarrassment at being caught gorging on her. Bones didn't comment, but began to answer her question, 'I know, that Booth is on a standard remuneration for his experience and status as Special FBI agent. However, I believe he came to you to ask - for an increase in his salary,' Bones said softly, carefully. Hacker didn't react. 'He would have considered that as - begging, and it wounded his pride to have to ask you. You told him that the pay review wasn't until April this year, and I suspect he became agitated. A conversation ensued, I imagine, where he explained his reasons why he deserved special consideration before the April pay review. Which, at the time - was six months away.' Andrew continued to look blankly at her not giving her anything to confirm or deny her suspicions yet. She continued with, 'As you were unable to acquiesce to his request he became more upset, he felt undervalued, humiliated - and hurt. Then he walked out of your office before you could offer him a suggestion how to alleviate his situation...'

Hacker slowly leant forwards over his folded arms, and smiled sweetly, saying, 'There's very valid reasons why you and Booth are so admired at the FBI. You being the sharp, formidable scientist that sees infinitesimal details no other can see. And Booth, the instinctual gut-man - that can sniff out a lie at forty paces. I strongly suspect, Tempe, that those separate gifts you possess have rubbed off on each other.'

'A simple yes would've sufficed but I thank you for the endorsement and flattery, Andrew.'

'You're welcome, Tempe. Coffee?' he asked, sitting back again. Christine sucked off her nipple having had her fill. Bones nestled her breast away again, then stood. As she offered Christine to Andrew, she said, 'Tea, please. Burp her - I need to use the facilities.' That wasn't a request it was an order, he realised. Andrew looked horrified as Bones forced Christine into his hands. He held Christine at arms length, and they stared blankly at one another as Bones strode off.

'B-b…but. Burp you - how do I do that?' Andrew muttered, looking around the restaurant for the nearest female to come to his rescue.

When Bones crossed the deep plush carpet back towards their table, she could see Hacker looked distraught. They locked eyes, and he explained, 'She spit up. Look - on my shoulder,' he whimpered. True enough, Bones could see a little bird-like-shit on his exorbitantly expensive suit, and chuckled silently to herself.

'Oh. Don't fuss, Andrew. Its just a little of my breast milk and stomach acid.' Her comment only horrified him more.

Bones took Christine again, and strapped her into her seat as Hacker explained, 'And we were getting along so well too…' He wiped the puke off his shoulder with his napkin, and grimaced. 'She burped twice then smiled at me. It was all so cute - then she did this.'

'Taxi for Doctor Brennan?' a voice called out, and Bones acknowledge her ride with a wave. She began gathering her things quickly.

'You're leaving - you haven't touched your tea?'

'Yes, I'm leaving - I have somewhere to be, Andrew.' She picked up Christine, and smiled warmly at him. 'Thank you so much for the lovely lunch. I've already charged the taxi to your expense account.'

'Out-rageous,' he exclaimed, standing, and pecking her on the cheek affectionately. 'Do you need a hand?' he added, walking with her to the restaurant doors.

'No thank you. Good bye, Andrew.' She made a point of taking his hand, and giving it a warm squeeze as she pecked his cheek again. 'Come and see him when you can,' she said softly.

Hacker smiled affectionately, and nodded. 'When I can,' he confirmed.

Chapter VIII

Cherry Blossom Ave.

Apartment 38

Washington DC

Stepping out of the taxi, Bones looked up at the tall apartment block to the third floor, and hoped it was serviced by an elevator. She climbed the steps of the stoop, and pushed the relevant apartment button.

The box crackled and a voice said, come on up, followed by the door buzzing. She pushed it open, and stepped into the modest foyer. Walking past the mail boxes, she headed for the elevator. As she reached apartment 38 and was about to tap the door when it swung wide surprising her. Daisy was vibrating with excitement to receive her distinguished guest, and gushed, 'Doctor Brennan, welcome to our humble abode.' She stepped aside to let her enter, practically bowing, and instantly reached for the car seat on her arm. 'Let me take Christine. Aww. She's just so precious,' Daisy idolised over her with a scrunch of her shoulders.

'Thank you, yes - she is. I'm late. Has he arrived yet?'

'Yes - Lance has him under already.' Then Daisy prattled on as if she'd taken speed, He's so clever - my Lancelot. Agent Shaw is taking notes. What's that unpleasant aroma?'

'Christine needs changing,' Bones explained flatly.

'Oooo! Can-I-do-it?' Daisy hyper-begged. Bones instantly handed her the change bag with a charmed smile. Daisy squealed, and jigged on the spot, taking the offered bag too. 'They're through there. You go, I'll take care of little Christine.' Daisy nodded in the direction of room down the hall, but went left into a bedroom. Bones wasted no more time, and made her way into Sweets lounge. She entered quietly.

Sweets was sitting opposite Mr Tom Renchan on the edge of his seat, and looked over to Bones as she entered. He smiled, and gave her a come hither gesture with his hand, then pointed to a free seat. Bones tip-toed over to it, and sat quietly. Agent Shaw was sitting behind Renchan at a round dinner table, and was writing something on a pad. She too acknowledged Bones arrival but with a high chin nod. Renchan had his eyes closed, and his right arm was kinked at the elbow, and sticking up on the armrest of the couch. He seemed completely relaxed to Bones and he was talking quietly.

'So let's move forwards a little -,' Sweets said ordinarily, 'to when you joined the freeway.' Renchan nodded slowly, Bones noted. 'What can you see?'

Tom said, 'Cars - a few cars.'

'Do you change lanes?'

'Yes.'

'Look in the rear view mirror, tell me what you can see…' Although Bones was aware that people could be hypnotised she'd never witnessed one in progress. She was sceptical if this tactic would yield any workable results but had to try. So despite her reservations of hypnotism as tool Booth would have tried, so she'd arranged this meeting.

Renchan took a deep breath, and let it go slowly through his nostrils. 'I see two cars inside mine - one red the other silver. The road is quiet - not busy. Music, I hear music. Claire is changing the station.'

'Can you see a black car?' Bones knew Sweets was gently pushing Tom to recall as much detail as he could within a specific time frame.

'Yes, the SUV- its ahead,' Tom confirmed.

'Good. Can you read the registration plate?'

'No, its too far away.' Bones calculated that at Tom age his visual acuity was good enough to see a number plate at 30 yards, so on that premise Booth's SUV was at least that ahead of Tom.

'Ok - Look behind you again - can you see any different cars now?'

'No - wait - yes a big one,' Tom explained, twitching slightly in the chair. 'The Hummer, I can see it. I can't see his face the sun is bright, reflecting off the windshield,' he explained edgily.

Tom was clearly struggling with the images, and getting frustrated. Sweet knew this too, so calmly he told him, 'Don't try to see him. Let him come to you. What's happening now?'

Tom sighed, lolling his head a little, then explained, 'I pull my visor down, the sun's so low and bright. I have to squint.' Then Bones saw Tom grin as he said, 'Claire's singing - badly.'

Sweets smiled, asking, 'What's she singing?'

'A chick song - love song. God, I love her but she can't carry a tune. I laugh at her.' Everybody smiled at one another, charmed by his honesty and obvious affection for his girlfriend. 'I can see the SUV, it changing lanes ahead and going faster.' Bones snapped her eyes to Tom again, getting slightly nervous herself. 'The driver, he's moving in the seat. Oh. He's on a cell, listening, I think. OH! God!' Tom stiffened in his seat, notching up everyone's tension.

Sweets pushed gently, 'What's happened?'

'The Hummer cut me off, I swerve,' Tom said at a rush.

'Stop. Go back - rewind to the point just before he cuts you off.' Tom nodded. 'Look to your right past Claire, can you see his face?'

'Yes. He's black.'

Knowing that Tom could see this man now he said quickly but calmly, 'Freeze that image, Tom. Now, describe him for us as precisely as you can...'

Tom took another deep breath, and sighed it out. 'He's big, not fat but buff. Strong, big forearms. He's wearing a, pale blue shirt - short sleeved - he fills it. Looks about my age, maybe a little older. He's black, like - ebony black. Flat nose, high forehead… Sharp cheek bones. Thick neck. Earring, I see an earring,' Tom said excitedly.

'Good, Tom, go on.'

Shaw looked to the back of Tom's head, and listened very carefully. 'Aaa. Umm. Its a gold loop thing - sleeper, through the top of his ear. Very short hair - black - trendy cut. Biiig sideburns down his cheek. A dark tattoo under his ear - yesss,' Tom hissed, delighted he wasn't wrong.

'Focus on it, Tom,' Sweets urged. 'Push everything else away and look closely at it. Shine a light on just that…' Tom grunted he understood. 'What does it look like? Do you recognise the shape?'

'Umm. Yeah, wings, I think, maybe a bird… Yes - its a bird, with long elegant wings.'

'Good. Think, Tom, where have you seen the shape before?'

'Err. Sssum-mer, yes the summer - blue skies… I hear screeching, it's warm. Swallow, its a swallow!' Tom smiled wide, proud he'd discovered what it was.

Sweets praised his efforts, 'Excellent, excellent, Tom. Take a deep breath - relax. Can you see anything else? What about rings on his fingers, scars?'

'No. Nothing,' Tom said airily.

'Ok. Let's move on very slowly then. Describe what happens next.' Bones knew this was the point where she was going to be hearing what actually happen to Booth, so prepared herself accordingly.

Tom tensed again as he told them, 'He cuts across me, shit - I swerve. I'm frightened by how suddenly he appears. He races to the SUV, oh, God!' Tom tells them, twitching, and clearly disturbed by what he's seeing. Bones looks to Sweets, concerned this is too much for the sweet young man. 'He's swung into the side of him. Oh. God. I can't breathe.'

'Calm down, Tom, you're ok. Breathe. Deep breath.'

Tom did, but only relaxed a little. 'He hit him hard. It was deliberate. It tips over - No!' Tom called out. 'Claire's screaming. It's ok babe,' he whispered desperately to her, then began to whimper his horror as he explained, 'His car spins in the air so fucking high, it crashed down, spins again - twirling-crashing. Shock, so shocked. Oooh. The car-nage - glass everywhere, noise.' Bones felt her eyes brimming as she imagined the crash through Tom's eyes. 'I brake hard - pull over. The Hummer drives on - he drives on. He doesn't care what he's done. Why, why…? Oooh,' Tom wined, confused and disbelieving of what the Hummer driver had done. Snatching a gasp of air, Tom rolled his head on his shoulders. 'He's so smashed up, the poor guy he's so fucked up.' Bones closed her eyes, dropping her chin as Tom suffered it all again, 'There's blood, oh-Christ his head. No pulse, can't feel anything. Nothing. Voices-voices.'

'Tom? Tom? Listen to me,' Sweets intervened quickly but calmly. 'You did all you could, Tom. Let's leave that place now. Let's go back, back to your safe place. Take two deep breaths for me, and go back to your safe place.'

'Can, can I leave him now?' Tom stuttered. Bones watched Tom's face twist with sorrow and pity, moved by his genuine worry about leaving Booth under the car.

'Yes - you can leave him. There are others taking care of him now. Go back to your safe place, Tom. Are you in your safe place?'

Tom sighed, and a serene expression crossed his face. 'Yes, it warm, bright. I'm safe here.'

'Yes you are. That's good, Tom. Now, listen to me carefully, I'm going to count backwards from five then you will open your eyes, and remember what you've told us. Ok?' Tom nodded, and took a deep breath. 'Five… four… three… two, one.'

Bones watched as Tom opened his eyes, blinked, and finally his arm dropped to the couch slowly. He looked around the room, and twitched in his seat, clearly coming back to the present.

Sweets asked pleasantly, 'Do you remember what you told us, Tom?'

'Yeah. That was so frigging weird to relive it like that. I could stop it and start it like a video or something - amazing.' Tom smiled at all the faces smiling at him.

'You did very well. Thank you very much for your assistance. Would you like a drink?'

'Yeah, thanks. A coffee would be great,' he said, sounding very relieved it was over.

As Sweets left the room, Bones went to introduce herself to Tom. She offered her hand which he took, and said, 'Hello, Mr Renchan. I'm Doctor Brennan - Agent Booth's partner.' He nodded as she took a seat beside him. 'I'm sorry I was late. But I heard what you went though and I'm sorry for the trauma it cause you - witnessing the crash. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to do this for us. And understanding the need to keep this session just between us.' Tom seem extremely shy to Bones, as he nodded humbly.

'H-how's Agent Booth doing?'

'Much better thank you.'

'How's your baby?' Bones looked surprised at his question, so he explained, 'I hear you and Agent Booth have a new baby.' He explained how he knew nervously, 'Umm. Hank told me when we were speaking on the cell phone on the day of the accident.'

Touched by his enquiry, she smiled warmly. 'Well, she's thriving, thank you. In the next room - and sleeping, I assume.'

'Cool. Claire and me, we've err, just found out we're pregnant - last week,' he said bashfully but obviously proud and excited.

'Oh! That's wonderful news. Congratulations - to both of you,' she said with sincerity.

'Thanks.' He blushed, then asked sheepishly, 'Umm… I know this is a bit of cheek but could you do me a small personal favour, Doctor Brennan?'

'If its in my power.'

Tom rummaged in the backpack he'd brought with him, saying, 'Could you sign this - we're huge fans?'

Taking the book from him, she laughed, 'Haa! Of course. I'd be delighted.' Bones wrote a few line of gratitude in her last, well thumbed, novel, then signed it for him. 'There you go,' she said, handing it back with a bewitching smile.

'Brilliant,' he gushed, flashing his blue eyes at her. He safely secured his novel away again.

After Tom had been put in a cab and waved off they all sat around Sweets small dinner table in the lounge. Agent Shaw was the next to leave. 'I'm going to run this description through the all the data bases tomorrow and I'll keep you updated with my progress.'

'Thank you. Have a good night, Agent Shaw,' Bones said, knowing she would be seeing her again tomorrow but didn't want Sweets to know that.

Once alone Sweets began his probing, 'So… Tom, eh?'

'Yes, charming young man.'

'Doctor Brennan - Temperance. I wish you'd tell me what's going on. I consider you one of my closest friends and that's why I did this for you today. And why haven't asked questions.'

'Then don't, Sweets, Lance.' Now he knew something was very wrong as she'd never used his Christian name before. 'I have very good reasons to keep you out of this as much as possible. You're just going to have to trust my instincts.'

Sweets cocked a brow. 'Instincts? You've told me you don't have those. That's Booth's domain.'

'Yes, well, people change, don't they?' she said on a sigh.

'On the peripheries maybe - temporarily but not deep down. Essentially we pretty much stay the same, in my experience.' Bones drained her coffee, watching him carefully over the rim of the cup.

'I visited Booth again today. He's very worried about you and wants to know why you've not been to visit him. He doesn't remember what happened - don't worry, we all made your excuses.'

Bones said frowningly, 'I have been in to see him, Sweets - just not in his room, not yet. Besides, I've been very busy.'

Sounding exasperated and hurt, he said, 'I wish you'd talk to me.'

Bones nodded. 'I know you do and I would given another set of circumstances. But on this matter, I can't,' she said convincingly and with empathy.

She held his stare while he searched her expression for a crack, not finding one to chisel at he backed off with, 'Oookay.' Then he brightened. 'Please stay for dinner. Daisy's been so looking forward to you coming today. She was desperate to see Christine. She loves babies and all things - teeny-tiny.'

'Oooh. I'm sorry, Sweets, I had no idea...' she said with a wry smile, glancing to his groin. Sweets gasped, then a smile blossomed on his face. Then they both started to laugh.

'I really must go. Thanks for today.' She got up, and went to collect Christine from the bedroom. Sweets followed a few steps behind.

'One thing, Doctor Brennan, when you see Booth next could you tell him not to pretend to be asleep when Daisy visits? She's getting suspicious now.' Bones stifled her laugh by biting her bottom lip, grateful he couldn't see her face.

When Bones opened the bedroom door, they saw Daisy fast asleep on the double bed in a foetal position, sucking her thumb. Christine was sprawled out on her back surrounded by cage of pillows, soundly asleep too. Bones grinned hard, and looked to Sweets over her shoulder.

'N'aaaww. Kodak moment…' he whispered. Agreeing wholeheartedly, Bones pulled out her cell, and took the picture.

Chapter XIV

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility

2AM

Bones stood with her hand on the door handle of Booth's room, trying to find the courage to open it. Closing her eyes, she tipped forward a little, and rested her brow on the cool door for a moment. Finding just enough, she pushed the handle down and forward, then stepped inside.

He looked so different now, she observed, even through the dark she could tell. He was laying flat still but the heavy plaster casts had gone replaced with light-weight shock absorbent ones. She'd been told he'd chosen to be multi-coloured as he wanted to brighten the room. His wrist fracture was in red; his lower leg electric blue, and luminescent orange for his strapped up right shoulder. Lastly his pelvic girdle was a shocking lime green. She mused, he looked like an ugly rainbow if there was such a thing.

Bones stepped quietly closer to see Peroni was good to his word and finally taken him out of the back and neck brace. The sides of the bed were up to make sure he didn't roll out but he had limited freedom now. There was a triangular bar which hung just in front of him so he could pull himself up if he wanted. His jaw was still wired and she could see the scar of his tracheotomy had healed and the stitches could be removed now. In fact, she saw that all of his lacerations had knitted together and those sutures could come out too. She made a mental note to remind Dr Peroni about that. The heart monitor was gone and no drips hung. A single canular in the back of his hand was left to administer drugs through. His chin was stubbly and his hair a little longer than she liked. Most of his bruises had turned from purple and black to sulphur yellow and made him look of oriental origins.

Finally having assessed all the improvements to his body and being satisfied with his physical recovery, she moved away towards the new addition to his room. An electric wheelchair near the window was on charge and humming quietly. She stroked her index finger along the arm rest, contemplating it. Just touching it brought a lump to her throat and a flood of the things this accident and ripped away from both of them in an instant. The crash didn't just make him a victim; in some respects all of his family, his children and friends had been made causalities of it too.

In this unguarded weak moment reality cruelly snatched command of her carefully controlled thoughts and emotions. This, she pondered, was where his life would be spent and although it gave him a certain freedom, it was also to be his weighty burden. An anchor which he had to take with him everywhere, always. The thought of his beautiful, powerful body resigned to this chair while it withered away as time lapsed, withered her too for his trials ahead.

Unbeknown to her, Booth opened his eyes, and watched as she turned her back on the chair, then sat down in it very slowly. Even with the virtual darkness he could see the anguish etched on her face as she settled into it. His heart stopped beating when he saw her cover her face with her palms, and began to rock to and fro in it, weeping into her palms.

Booth physically ached to hold her and comfort her. He wanted to reassure her that it was only a temporary measure. He didn't want her, or anyone, to cry for him. But seeing her so distraught got him to thinking that maybe her tears where for something he didn't know yet. Maybe things were being kept from him? he asked himself. So it was with a sense of colossal dread he closed his eyes again, and pretended he didn't see her breakdown. When he dared to open them again, the chair was empty and daylight had returned.

Mutual & Western Bank

Charles Avenue

Washington DC

Max walked through the cut-crystal revolving door, and looked around the baroque bank with his chin excessively high. He was expecting a round of applause for his attire but didn't get one, just a few odd looks. He was dressed in a light brown tweed suit, matching waistcoat, and a large sage-green bow tie. The glint of a silver chain in his waistcoat led to a fob watch in its small pocket. Topping off his eccentric ensemble a dandily cocked trilby, and he sported an ebony cane with an engraved silver cap. When the unimpressed people looked away to attend to their business, he muttered, 'Philistines…'

Spotting a free teller, he made for her immediately. The sparkly young woman beamed at him. 'Good morning, Sir. How can I help you today?' she enquired in a perky southern accent.

Leaning casually on the opposite side of the counter, he said, 'I'd like to open an account, please.'

'Oh. Lovely. What kind of an account - checking or deposit?'

'Well that's the problem, my dear. I'm not certain. Is there someone I can talk to? I have a rather large one…'

'Excuse me?' The southern belle took a double take of Max's innocent smile.

Max whipped out a check, and showed it to her. Her eyes dilated, and she got a little flustered seeing the amount on it. 'Oh. You'll need to speak to someone about the best ways to invest that, Sir. Take a seat and I'll get our specialist investment clerk. His name is Mr Fenton.'

'Smashing. I'll be over there.'

'Yes, he won't be long. I'll call him now. Err. Your name, Sir?' she enquired, with the phone already in her manicured hand.

'Maximus P Blaggermuch the III,' he announced proudly. 'Its Germanic...' She mouthed oh, and nodded with a smile.

'Mr Blaggermuch?'

Max stood. 'Yes! You must be Mr Fenton.' They shook hands firmly. Max had taken particular interest in Fenton's bland double breasted navy suit as he neared at a rush. Max had noted the material was a little worn behind the jacket buttons, and deduced that was due to repeated undoing and fastening of them. It was slightly tight over his mid-life paunch too. The pants had a sheen to them which smacked of repeated pressing, probably in a trouser press. His shoes were black leather and well creased over the toes, so he assumed they were at least two years old. The toe caps of them were highly polished but just on the caps, suggesting Fenton was a little lazy. His white shirt was so well worn Max could see it had greyed and was poorly laundered. He wore a large white-faced fake gold wristwatch. And most interestingly, Max saw tiny traces of foil under his thumb nail and his breath smelt of nicotine and mints. His hair was cut, but poorly, and his jaw stubble suggested he used an electric razor that was way past its usefulness. Finally, in his free hand he held a soft black A4 leather pouch which was stuffed full of bank forms.

'Yes. Would you like to come through to my office?' Fenton gestured the direction to it.

'No.'

Fenton lost his smile. 'Oh. But I thought…'

'Yes I expect you did. Look, it's such a lovely day - cold, but lovely,' Max said, slinging his arm around Fenton's shoulder. 'I have a hankering for waffles and I saw there was a little coffee shop across there a ways.' He pointed with his cane across the street. 'Come on, my treat,' he encouraged, steering Fenton towards the doors.

Refusing to budge, Fenton stalled, 'Umm. It's highly irregular to…'

'Come on, Mr Fenton. Did that little poppet tell how big it was?' Max winked at the curious teller who was watching them.

'Err. Yes but…'

Max whispered in his ear, 'Just think of the commission you'll earn on that, Mr Fenton.' Fenton swallowed, almost convinced to go with him. Max squeezed his shoulders tight, nudging him towards the door, adding, 'As we say in Germany, lay back and think of England!'

Before he could protest further, Fenton found himself already through the doors and crossing the busy street.

The Starcocks was full of people chatting with friends or colleagues and drinking strong frothy, fair trade, overly expensive java. Single twenty something's were on their laptops taking advantage of the free internet access and surfing the web. There was a queue at the counter for takeaways and the busy staff were efficiently taking orders and payments. While another worked feverishly to produce the stimulating beverage in every possible convoluted blend and absurd size. The hiss of steam, clinking of crockery, and frothing hot milk drowned out the cover version CD of the Eighties chart hits that were playing in the back ground.

The table Max had decided to sit at was strewn with investment paraphernalia which Fenton was tediously explaining to him. He was suggesting Max should invest in the stock market to create a portfolio with varied risk levels. Max noted he seemed to be pushing anything China related, spouting their industrial revolution as good reasons to invest there. Fenton also advised locking some of his surprise inheritance away to accumulate so he could live off the monthly income it would generate. But once Fenton started talking percentages, bonds and chips Max's eyes clouded.

Suddenly Max blurted, 'I wanna buy a car…' He grinned impossibly wide. Fenton stopped talking finally, and glared at him incredulously. 'I'd like to blow a few thousand - I have more than enough.'

'Umm. Yes - you do, Mr Blaggermuch.'

'What do you drive?'

'A Hummer - I used to drive a Hummer,' Fenton corrected.

'Oh. What happened to it - did you crash into a tailors window?' Max asked cheekily.

Fenton's brow furrowed, missing Max's sarcasm, and explained, 'Eerr. No. It was stolen by a joy-rider actually. Then it was used in a hit and run and found burnt out. I'm still waiting for the insurance company to pay me so I can buy something else.'

'Oooh. Shame… Hummers are those reeeally big cars, right?' Fenton nodded. 'Why would you want to drive such a huge car or were you over compensating for something?' Max glanced very obviously towards his groin, and grimaced.

'No-no. I err didn't want a big car - but I won it,' he explained.

'Oooh. Really - how?' Max probed, and leant on the papers over the table as if they weren't there, looking rabidly intrigued.

Fenton said softly, 'In a poker game.'

'Woooow. A poker game, eh? You must be good…' Max flattered, swivelling his trilby on the top of his cane, as if he was spinning plates.

'Not really. I was lucky - that's all. So, back to these investments…' Fenton tried to keep Mr Blaggermuch on track, and straightened up the papers on the table.

Max stopped spinning his hat, and clipped his cane on the floor. 'You're not married then?' Fenton looked confused by his line of questions, but kept thinking about his commission and keeping him sweet. Max explained how he guessed with, 'You're not wearing a wedding band.'

'No, not anymore - twice divorced. What do you think about China then?'

'Twice?' Fenton nodded to confirm with a quirk of his thin lips. Max leant in again, saying, 'Women can be so physically demanding, don't you find - and expensive?'

'Yes, very and they nag.' Max nodded to agree, flaring his eyes. He swung his legs to the side of his chair, and crossed them with an exaggerated flourish.

Max sighed despondently. 'I don't know about China, Mr Fenton.' Then he brightened as he enquired, 'If you had this disgusting amount of money what would you do with it?'

'Me?' Max nodded earnestly. 'I'd invest it in China.'

Max grinned hard and wide at him, wagging his index finger. 'No-no, be serious, Mr Fenton. Forget China for a moment - I'm asking what you'd do with it. There must be something you really want to do with it. Humour me - tell me your dreams…'

Fenton sat back, and pondered his answer for a few moments, then smiled, saying, 'I'd retire. I'd buy a new car, a Lexus or Mercedes - something classy.' Max shifted, excitedly in his seat, and encouraged him to continue with a fast nod. 'Take a long, long vacation. Then I'd buy a property - two maybe, a race horse, and invest in China…'

'Oh! You enjoy horse racing - bravo! My brother use to be a jump jockey. He was very small - Irish.' Then he reminisced airily, 'One day he just fell off and rolled under a tram - most distressing for the passengers. You're a gambling man then?' he enquired, flaring his eyes.

Fenton lost his confused smile a little. Max knew he'd jangled the right nerve when he said defensively, 'I have it under control now.'

Max smiled, then narrowed his eyes, saying, 'I like the cut of your tatty suit, Mr Fenton, and I'm feeling generous.' Fenton snagged his head back, and looked over his suit. Max was already writing on the check, then he handed it to Fenton, saying, 'Here - take it. Enjoy...'

Open mouthed Fenton watched as Mr Blaggermuch left the coffee shop, hailed a cab with his cane, and disappeared. He looked to the notarised check in his fist, then leapt into the air, yelling, 'Woo-hooo!'

Getting up from the next table, Agent Shaw closed down her laptop, and left Starcocks.

The Royal Diner

Three Blocks From The Mutual & Western Bank

Bones saw her father step out of a cab directly outside the window she was sitting next too, and started to chuckle. As Max paid for the cab Bones said to Christine while she was feeding her mashed banana, 'Can you see your grandfather, Christine - he looks absolutely ridiculous? I fear for his sanity sometimes. Haa…' Max turned to see her smiling at him, so he posed for her on the curb, then took an elegant bow to acknowledge her renewed chuckles. When she looked back to Christine she was smiling and her last mouthful was dribbling from her lips. Bones scooped it back up on to the spoon, and levered back in carefully.

Max waltzed in with an aloof smile, and kissed Bones on the cheek with a mmwah sound, then he beamed at Christine. 'Hello my little sugar plumb! Oooo -,' he cooed, 'mashed banana - scrummy.' Christine's little fingers flexed excitedly obviously recognising his face, and smiled at him. The banana squished from her mouth again. He kissed her forehead too, then took a seat, placing his hat on the table. Bones scooped again, and put the banana back in Christine's mouth for a third time.

'I think you may have over elaborated on the disguise, Dad…' Bones reprimanded gently, but still smiling.

'Not at all! It worked a treat,' Max rebuffed, peeling off his Hitler-like moustache as waitress came over to take his order. 'Coffee - filter coffee, please. And may I say, that shade of puce is really working for you…' The indifferent pretty waitress rolled her eyes, and wandered off. 'Are we waiting for Shaw?'

'Yes. She's just texted. She'll be here shortly.'

'Is she single?' Max waggled his brows suggestively.

'Stop it,' Bones warned sternly, but secretly amused. Max grinned, and fussed over Christine, playing with her wiggling fingers as her gaze swapped between her mom and Max.

Moments later his coffee was delivered and Shaw arrived taking a seat next to Bones. Max tried to charm her with his toothy smile, complimenting, 'Agent Shaw, you look positively ravishing this fine morning…' Bones glared at her father. Max ignored her with aplomb.

With complete professionalism and unmoved by his flattery, Shaw opened up her laptop, and hit a few keys, as she said, 'You can drop the act now, Grandpa.' Max sulked, and sagged. Bones grinned smugly at her drooping father, while still plying Christine with the banana.

Shaw plugged in a pair of earphones into the laptop, and offered the ear pieces to Bones. She handed the spoon to Shaw for her to continue feeding Christine, while she put in the little ear phones. Shaw hit play on the laptop. Bones watched the video recording she'd made, and listened to the meeting Max had with Fenton. Max unhooked the wire he had concealed in his waistcoat, and handed it back to Shaw, as Bones listened, and watched with deep concentration.

Once it was finished, Bones took out the ear phones, and closed the lid on the lap top. Max and Shaw waited for her to react. Neither could see much emotion in her expression. Bones then asked, 'What was your impression of him, Agent Shaw?'

'He seemed to be honest. He clearly knew his job inside out and was giving Mr Keenan, as far as I could tell, sound financial advice. As you can see he didn't suggests anything illegal or try to…'

Bored with her assessment of Fenton, Max cut in over her. 'Yes-yes, he knew his stuff, Agent Shaw. Here's what I discovered…' Having both of the ladies full attention, he enlightened them, 'This guy's happily single after two divorces. But with the lack of a woman's touch or nagging he's let himself go. He's a sloppy uninteresting dresser and lazy. He openly admitted he had a gambling problem in the past. That was probably the cause of the marriage break downs - I'd put my house on it. He must have a reasonable salary but the state of his well used attire suggests he doesn't have much spare cash at the end of the month once he's paid all his bills. He seemed a nervous sort and obviously smoked by the nicotine stains on his figures. But the minty nicotine gum that hung on his halitosis suggests…'

Shaw cut in, 'Implying he is trying to give up.'

'Exactly. It's a very expensive habit and he can't afford it anymore. Then there were the little traces of metallic foil under his thumb nail…' Both women looked confused, Max smiled, and explained, 'He buys a lottery scratch card most mornings when he also buys the Racing Post on his way to work. In his pouch was today's edition. It was the only thing left inside the pouch after he took out all the other trash. He may say he has his gambling under control but he can't resist the odd flutter still - but only within his means. His job is all about measured risk - investments and returns. But without the money to invest himself he gets off on doing it for others. He gets his buzz when his clients make a killing without risking anything himself. It's a win-win situation for him.'

'What do you think about him winning the Hummer in a poker game?'

'Easy. He's had it three years, right? And I'd bet you that was the last time he played poker and not long after that, his wife left him.'

'You're right - I checked,' Shaw confirmed, then confused by his insight asked, 'But how do…?'

Max grinned, and enlightened her, 'He kept his gambling under wraps from his second wife. But when you come home with a bloody monster of a car, how are you going to explain that to the misses when she's struggling to pay the grocery bills? She smelled a lying rat, confronted him, he admitted it, and she left - sick of trying to make ends meet and being lied to.' They all exchanged glances, thinking that was a logical and reasonable assumption. Then Max added, 'I think its unlikely Fenton personally knew the guy that stole the Hummer but it is possible that…'

Bones finished his thought with her own suspicions, 'Someone at that poker game, who saw him win the Hummer, tracked Fenton down, knowing he had the kind of vehicle he required for the accident he'd planned…'

Max nodded solemnly. 'Yes, Tempe - that's exactly what I think.' Bones looked out of the window in silence, deep in thought. Both Max and Shaw exchanged knowing glances after making their own assumptions. With gambling being the connection between Fenton, the Hummer driver and Booth's accident it wasn't hard to see where this was leading.

'I know what you two are thinking -,' Bones said sadly, 'and you're both jumping to conclusions about Booth's activities - don't,' she warned stoically. They knew she was deluding herself, and trying to think the best of Booth.

Bones looked back to Christine, and smiled. Wiping her mouth with the stained lump-ridden bib, she began to prepare to leave them. Shaw asked softly, 'Did you have any luck with AD Hacker, Doctor Brennan?'

'Actually, yes. He was most helpful and informative within his own parameters of decency and professionalism.'

Max tutted at her blatant obfuscating. 'Tempe, in American - what did he say?'

'I'd rather not, its a private matter.'

'Its evidence, Doctor Brennan. I can't help you without all the facts. I thought you trusted me?'

'I do, Agent Shaw.' Bones sighed, scanning her face, then divulged, 'They argued about Booth's salary. More specifically - an increase in it.'

'Then I assume, because the meeting ended the way it did, AD Hacker refused to increase it…'

Bones nodded slightly, almost ready to go. Shaw caught that Bones looked a little flushed and agitated, so changed the subject, 'Unfortunately I haven't had any hits from the description Tom Renchan gave us. But I'll keep searching.'

'Who's Tom Renchan?' Max asked, looking confused.

Bones shook her head, not wanting to tell him the whole story. She was attempting to tell as little as she could to individuals involved in her investigations, and only on a need to know basis. 'I've got somewhere to be, Dad. I'll speak to you later, ok?' she said brightly now, standing. 'Thanks for this morning. You were very amusing, Mr Blaggermuch.' Max grinned proudly, cheered she thought so. She kissed his cheek, picking up her change bag, purse and Christine. 'Could you help me to my car, Agent Shaw? You stay, Dad - we've got it.'

'Ok, Darling. Speak to you later and you, Agent Shaw,' he gushed, taking her free hand, and kissing the back of it gallantly. The women began to walk out of the Diner.

'Is your father always like that?'

'Not always, Agent Shaw, but he's still in character, I believe. I find it best to indulge him or he gets cranky and will sulk for days.' They walked along the street towards Bones' Prius, weaving between the pedestrians rushing back to work after their snatched lunches. 'I was wondering if you're free tonight, Agent Shaw?'

'Umm. Yes I'm free.'

'Good. Do you know the coffee cart stand in the park?' They reached her car and Bones began securing Christine inside it.

'Yes, of course.' Shaw put Bones' hefty, bulky change bag in the foot well.

'Good. Meet me there at around ten. Dress casually, provocatively if you can. I shall do the same.'

'Provocatively? You mean - slutty?' Bones nodded, and grinned to confirm. 'What are we going to do?'

'We're going on a bar crawl - I think the cultural terminology is.' Closing the car door, having secured Christine, she turned to face Agent Shaw properly.

Shaw confirmed with some surprise, 'Oooh! We're going undercover then?'

Grinning suggestively, Bones said, 'Yes, but only if you get tug a man,' and waggled her brows, impressed with her double en tendre.

'Haa! You mean pull a man, I think, Doctor Brennan. Tugging has a whole other connotation.'

'Does it?' Shaw blushed scarlet. Bones' quick mind turned. 'Ohh. I understand. It means to stimulate an erect penis with ones hand to encourage orgasm and ejaculation.' Shaw glanced around the busy street, hoping her frank comment wasn't overheard, and turned cherry red now.

'Err. Yes. Are you going to talk like that tonight - because I don't think you should?'

'I shall be in character, Agent Shaw,' she eased. 'I'll be Miss Tallulah Goodshank - nail art-teest from Clun, Illinois - recently moved to DC to avoid my old boyfriend turned scary stalker. You must think of an appropriate alias and career too.' Bones opened the drivers door, and slipped in, then pushed the start button.

'Wow. You've really thought this through, haven't you?'

Bones grinned hard, nodded, and closed the door, as she said, 'See you later, Agent Shaw.'

Shaw watched her edge into the line of traffic and get swallowed up by it. 'Tallulah Goodshank, ummm,' she confirmed to herself, then headed towards her car, thinking of what she was going to choose.

Chapter XV

Jeffersonian

Angela Montenegro's Office

Bones bustled into Ange's office loaded up with all her motherly accoutrements. Ange looked up, surprised to see her this afternoon. Bones wasted no time. 'I need to ask you a favour…'

Ange shot up from her desk, and went to help her instantly, unloading her of Christine. 'Good to see you too, Bren. How's my beautiful little niece,' she cooed, un-strapping Christine from her seat, and picking her up to give her a cuddle.

'Sorry, I'm in a rush. Can you baby-sit Christine tonight?' Ange's jaw dropped. 'I know it's short notice but there's something very important I need to do…'

'Say no more. I'm delighted you asked me. You need the break. Doesn't she, Chrissy? Yeererss Mommy need a little break,' she cooed, snuffling into her neck, and peppering her with kisses.

'Michele is busy and can't accommodate me. Max has done his fair share while I've been working from home and…'

'Bren. Its fine - honestly. We'd love to have her.'

'Really? I'll be very late back though.'

'Do you want us to keep her overnight then?'

'I err, yes. She's sleeping through the night now. I've expressed three bottles and in the bag you'll find her supper - numerous diapers, wipes, bibs, educational toys, two changes of attire - if required. A picture of Booth and…'

'Tempe, for God sake sit down and breathe. I'm sure you've thought of everything but the kitchen sink.'

Bones slumped to the couch, and smiled, relieved. 'I assumed you'd have a kitchen sink so didn't pack one...'

Ange shot her a glance. 'Haa! You're getting really good with those jokes. So, tell me what's happening tonight?' Ange bounced Christine on her knee gently, grinning stupidly at her.

'I'm going undercover.'

Ange instantly lost her smile. 'Ooh. I thought this was to give you a break. Do you think that's wise, Bren?'

'Yes. It's imperative I track down this Hummer driver. And with that in mind…' Bones pulled out a small digital Dictaphone from her purse, and offered it to Ange. 'This is a verbal description of the driver given by Tom Renchan.' Ange nodded solemnly now, and they swapped Christine for the Dictaphone. Christine squirmed in Bones' arms, snuffling in her breasts urgently. Absently, Bones released a breast, and nursed her as she explained, 'Can you draw me an image - a likeness from his description before I leave tonight? Again, I know it's short notice…'

'Consider it done, Bren,' she placated her quickly. Seeing Bones visibly relax, she smiled. 'You're not doing this alone, are you?' Ange got up to transfer the recording onto her computer from the Dictaphone.

'No. Agent Shaw's joining me - she'll be armed.'

'Oh. God - I hate this, Tempe. You should leave this to Agent Shaw.'

'I have my reasons, Ange, and I appreciate that you're concerned - but I'll be fine and careful.'

'Ok.' Ange sighed, dropping a hip. Then she wagged a finger at her sternly, adding, 'But I'm texting you every hour, on the hour to make sure you're ok. And you come straight back to ours and stay there the night. No excuses - do you hear me?'

Relaxing even more, Bones said, 'Thanks, Ange. I was hoping you'd offer.'

'Alert-alert. I sense an infant in need of a cuddle from Uncle Hodgins!' Jack came prancing in, with a blithe smile, then lost it seeing Bones' breast half exposed. He spun on his heals, and said, as he left again in the same manner, 'Alert-alert-Doctor B boob-alert!' Ange and Bones started laughing at his absurd antics and embarrassment.

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility

Booth held his breath as Peroni sat on the stool beside him, and rubbed his sweaty palms along his thighs, obviously deliberating his requests.

Peroni looked up finally, and nodded. 'Ok, Booth. But first I need to show you two things. Can you bare with me for a few moments?' Breathing again, Booth tapped the relevant reply on his Ipad. Peroni got up, and left the room without another word.

Booth looked over to the window to his left. He could see the tips of a tree, the species he didn't recognise, but he saw it had buds forming at the tips of the thin branches. It was silhouetted against a bright, washed out cloudless blue sky. Perched at the top of the highest branch tip was a sparrow. Although he couldn't hear its song he knew it was singing by the way its feathery chest puffed and its little beak was opening.

It was the first time he'd been able to sit up, and the first time he could actually see out of the window. Not that there was much to see, but for now it was enough for him. His anxiousness spiked when Peroni returned with Mary, one of his most liked nurses. She smiled warmly at him, and took a seat in the corner of the room, while Peroni took hold of the Ipad in Booth's hand.

'Before I answer your specific questions you need to be made aware of a few very important details…' Peroni paused to push a digital cruzer into the Ipad's USB point. 'This is the CCTV footage taken the day of the accident. The police released these images to your family last week. Are you prepared, Booth?' Without the Ipad to answer for him he blinked once solidly.

'Ok. If you want me to stop it…' Booth shook his head, determined to see what he knew happened but couldn't remember. Peroni tapped play and Booth took control of the Ipad.

The images were grainy and in black and white but he recognised the part of the road immediately as he'd driven it many times in the past. The camera was aimed towards the exit slip a few hundred metres ahead. A few cars passed the camera then from the top left of the screen his car came into shot. Almost immediately he saw it twirling viciously in the air and crash down. Aghast Booth watched wide eyed. He sucked in a breath in shock, gripping the Ipad tightly, and bringing it closer to his face. Then he saw his car continue to summersault across the carriageway. He sucked in another stunned breath through his mouth, and groaned in horror. The stillness and silence in the room was choking, and the atmosphere so heavy he found it hard to take his next breath.

Peroni said softly, 'Just breathe, Booth. It's not happening now - this is the past. You survived it thanks to the expertise of the paramedics and some quick decision making in the ER.' Booth nodded, breathed, then re-watched the same small clip again which finished as his SUV slipped out of sight down the embankment. He couldn't help wondering how anyone could have survived it, especially knowing he never wore a seat beat. 'Have you seen enough?' Booth nodded, and handed it back to him to take out the memory chip. 'Have you any questions?' Booth took the Ipad again, and began tapping out his question.

'What ER decisions?' a voice finally asked.

'You're injuries were so severe and extensive, I'm afraid, that you're heart wasn't beating. But naturally the paramedics attempted to revive you en route. When you arrived at the ER you were on oxygen and had a faint arrhythmia. You were assessed and they found your donor ship card in your wallet. Doctor Brennan was the first member of your family to arrive and took full responsibility. She assessed our findings via the x-rays and visual inspection of your multiple injuries. She vehemently rejected our suggestions to let you naturally succumb to your injuries and the harvest of your organs. She became extremely anxious and insisted that we attempt to revive you. Which we did against our initial judgments and criteria. Having revived and stabilized you, you came round.' Booth nodded remembering that vaguely.

Peroni went on, 'She asked if you wanted to continue or not. I explained that your spinal injury could be repaired but the chances were slim. You then went into shock and we nearly lost you again. It was then that Doctor Brennan made a brave decision for you - she insisted that heroic measures be taken to save your life and my team perform this delicate operation…'

Booth began tapping again. 'Success?'

'Yes. Your other injuries were cared for by another team of surgeons too. You were in the operating room for nearly ten hours.'

'Right choice,' Booth tapped out, and spoke via the Ipad. Booth felt himself so lucky to have had her there.

Peroni smiled strongly. 'Yes. It was the right choice. We were wrong - she was right.' Booth nodded. 'Doctor Brennan also insisted that you were given the last rites in case the surgery went badly. There was a strong chance that you wouldn't survive, so your brother - Jared, arrange for that to be done once you were taken down to the OR.'

Deeply moved, Booth tapped out, 'Love her, love him.' Booth began tapping again. 'Second thing?'

Peroni's smile slipped off his face, and he nodded towards Mary. Booth watched her come over slowly. She produced a mirror from behind her back, and handed it to him. 'Prepare yourself, Booth,' Peroni warned compassionately as he looked into it. Gasping again, Booth recoiled, and moaned, his eyes sprung leaks, and he looked away from the ghastly mess that was his swollen face.

The trauma of having his self image shattered by his own reflection almost stopped his heart. His shock was palpable and nauseating. He felt a comforting hand curl around his fingers and squeeze, not knowing who was touching him but was grateful for their tenderness. None of his visitors had let on what state he was in. Not one of them had given the slightest hint that he was anything other than his normal self, when in fact he was hideous. Now he knew why Parker had only been in a few times. Booth sobbed, realising he was probably scared of what he saw.

Peroni began talking again much more softly this time but with reassurance in his tone, 'When the car flipped and landed in the ditch your were partly thrown from it, Booth. The SUV was upturned and it landed on you head - crushing it. Thankfully the ground was soft and you sunk into it - otherwise that would have been it. The neurological and then the plastic surgical teams worked for several hours to repair all your skull fractures and perform a facial reconstruction. I know it's shocking and terrifying to see yourself like this but all this will heal eventually. With some dental implants you'll look as you did, Booth.' Mary handed him a tissue so he could wipe his swollen eyes, he took it quickly, gathering himself.

Peroni explained, 'It was Doctor Brennan that stopped you from having any mirrors because she knew how important it was for you to stay positive during your lengthy recovery. Which brings me to your initial question…'

Booth slowly opened his eyes, and rolled his head to look at him. It was Mary that held his hand, he realised, and laced his fingers with hers. 'You've been in this room for ten weeks.' Booth snagged his throbbing head back, and stared at the ceiling, trying to remember how that could be. 'For the first two you were heavily sedated - in a drug induced coma. Then in and out of consciences for another two. Eventually you began to be lucid for several hours a day till over the last three you've been much more aware of lapsing of time. Your neurologist can speak to you more eloquently about recovery of your memory and coming to terms with the time you've lost. We are even more positive of you regaining your memory today because you asked us how long you'd been here. That's a really positive sign that things are improving.'

Booth tapped on the Ipad, dreading this questions answer more than any other, 'Wheelchair?'

'Yes,' Peroni said sighing. Booth saw Peroni swallow, and lance him in the eyes as he said, 'You injuries were acute, Booth. Although your spine is fully repaired your pelvic fractures have caused us some concern. We've been giving you steroids to speed up the repairs and we're hopeful this will show results soon. With the physiotherapy, massages to stimulate the nerves and to aid the reduction of oedema this plan of treatment has excellent potential.'

Booth began to tap quickly, then today's voice said, 'Bull-shit. Honesty, please…' Peroni took a deep breath, and Mary sat next to him on the bed. Booth had already suspected what was coming but needed to hear it.

'There was some nerve damage, Booth. That's why you have a catheter and wearing a diaper. You cannot sense either sensation, can you?' Booth shook his head slowly, his eyes trickled and his breathing quickened with his anguish. 'You have full sensation to just below your navel and we hope, in time, that will improve to encompass your legs.'

'Rest of life in chair?'

Peroni said sombrely, 'I cannot lie to you, Booth, it's a possibility.'

Booth tapped again. 'Bones knows…'It wasn't a question this time but a statement he wanted confirmed.

'Yes, she's aware. She was aware before all of us.' There was a ominous silence for several empty minutes and Booth felt all eyes on him for his reaction.

Booth was no fool or delusional; he knew exactly what that all meant for him. The withering reality was: he was a doubly incontinent, impotent paraplegic and likely to be so for the rest of his life. Those weren't his most distressing thoughts however. Immediately his mind thought of his paired soul; Bones and his beloved children. The sacrifices they would have to endure on his behalf were too many for him to calculate now. But he knew even one burden was too heavy and he couldn't let them carry an ounce of that weight. He had one option left, one that he could control. So it was with nobility and compassion for them that he made a decision. It was an escape for him but ultimately for them too - so he took the only option he felt was right.

Booth began to type slowly, as his eyes poured. Then they heard him say, 'Wrong decision. Leave me…' Booth let go of Mary's hand, and closed his eyes to block them out.

'Booth?' Mary said almost in tears with him, but he just grunted, and squeezed his eyes tighter together, turning his head away.

'Ok, Booth. We'll leave you for a while, but try not to dwell on the negative…' Booth grunted loudly again cutting Peroni off. Mary motioned with her head for them to leave him. Peroni got up, and left the room quietly.

'I'll keep a close eye on him tonight,' Mary said, as they walked deflated down the corridor. 'I hate this part of my job,' she confessed.

Chapter XVI

The Coffee Cart

Agent Shaw waited anxiously for her ride, and had checked her watch several times because it was well after ten. She'd been propositioned twice already and nearly decked an aged dog walker for goosing her as he trotted by. But at least, she thought, her sluttish attire had encouraged the right responses if not unwelcome ones.

The glittery black boob tube was way too small as it was her younger, club loving, niece's, as was the mini skirt. When her niece had offered it to her she thought it was a neck cuff but was assured it was indeed a skirt. It was far too revealing for her liking, and she found herself pulling the hem down at every opportunity when no one was around. The only thing she wore that was her own were her shoes. They were high and she could walk in them without rolling her ankle, which was a bonus. She had on a faux fur white bolero which was barely keeping the bitter night breeze at bay, consequently her nipples were standing to dogmatic attention. She idly thought she could hang her beloro on them if need be.

Just as she was about to call Bones a red Mini screeched to a halt and the door was flung open. 'Sorry I'm late,' came from inside. 'Get ya tush in here, it's freezing!' Shaw bent over to look inside the miniscule car to see a blonde big wig adorned what she thought was the doctor.

'Is that you, Doctor Brennan?'

'Tallulah Goodshank at your service!' Bones chewed gum too loudly, and waved her in briskly, with a toothy smile. Shaw slipped in, and pulled her skirt down, before she'd put on her seat belt. 'You look adequately slutty, excellent disguise. What's your name?' she asked, putting her foot down, and heading down town.

Shaw giggled suddenly at the absurd situation. 'Britney Turner.'

'Bore-ring!' Bones rebuffed loudly, grimacing. 'What about, Doolittle - Britney Doolittle?'

Shaw shrugged, not careing what she wanted to call her. 'Sure, whatever. Whose car is this?' Looking over Bones, she saw the blood-red six inch heals that she was trying to drive in were covered in diamante. She also noted she had very long shapely legs and was secretly envious. She too wore a short black skirt but didn't seem to be concerned at how it rode up as she crunched through the gear box.

'Jack Hodgins' - I had a choice but I thought this appropriate for a single fun loving woman. In my purse you'll find a rendering of the man we're looking for tonight. Help yourself, Britney,' Tallulah urged, nodding in the direction of her purse in the foot well.

'Right,' Britney said, slightly thrown by her drawl and open mouthed unsightly gum chewing. She reached to retrieve the purse, but as she did she nearly put her head in Tallulah's substantial cleavage as the car was a little cosy.

'Woops! Haa!' Tallulah chortled.

'God, I'm sorry, Doctor Brennan…'she apologised instantly, horrified.

'Tallulah, I'm Tallulah,' she corrected, waggling her false red nails in her face excitedly, obviously unconcerned.

'Umm. Yes, they're lovely.'

'Not lovely - kickin', Britney,' she encouraged her to get into character. Britney opened her little purse, and pulled out the picture. As she did she saw a fifty dollar poker chip, cash and a lighter in there but didn't enquire although she knew the doctor didn't smoke. Bones watched her expression, between watching the traffic.

'That's pretty much what I envisioned from his description,' Britney said, nodding.

'Yes that's why I was late pickin ya up. I took it to Tom to see if it was a good likeness. He said it was so - result…' Tallulah added, 'Tomoz you can run it through the FBI.' Britney nodded.

'So, where are we going, Tallulah?' Britney asked, folding it back up, and putting it away in her purse.

'Three clubs with bad reps and back rooms.'

'Back rooms?'

'Yeah, ya know, back rooms for cards and ovver stuff?'

'Okaay. I don't like the sound of other stuff …' Britney sounded extremely dubious, having visions of perverted sex acts and shifty drug dealers.

Tallulah shot her a glance, asking, 'Are you packing?'

'Ha! Actually yes - I thought it prudent.'

'Cool. Where is it? Doesn't look like there's much room under that skirt to stash a piece.'

'Its in my purse. I hope I don't have to use it,' she muttered, looking out of her side window.

'We won't - chillax, Babe.' Tallulah changed lines like a racing driver, nipping between two vehicles and got honked.

Shaw gawped at her. 'Where are you getting this from?' Britney asked, blown away by her effortless use of slang language.

'Jersey Shore re-runs.' Bones slammed on the brakes at the traffic lights, and they skidded to a halt just in time. 'Woops, my stiletto slipped.' Britney let go of the door handle, and relaxed a little, slowly losing her horrified expression. 'There's a roll of fifties in my purse take half and flash it in the club. Buy a few guys drinks and flirt wid 'em while asking questions about a game and drugs.'

Britney knew to ask about a game but didn't see the relevance of the drugs, so she enquired, 'Drugs?'

'Yeah, E's, blow, crystal meth, that kinda thin'…'

'Oh. Jesus. That's entrapment…' Britney looked truly panicked now Tallulah noted.

'We're not going to cuff anyone - just get the low down. If we don't get any bites after an hour we'll split and head over to the next bar - kay?'

'Kay,' Britney mirrored nervously, pulling her skirt down again.

Seeing her anxiousness, Tallulah eased, 'Hey, ya got great legs - don't hide 'em. Here we are. Now remember, Britney, we're fair game and out for a good nite. Follow my lead.' Bones leapt from the car after parking poorly, then locked it. She looped Britney's arm, and began to laugh at nothing. Britney gave her a, you're insane, look as they wandered down the sidewalk. Seeing her incredulous expression, Tallulah said encouragingly, 'Act your ass off, Babe…'

They turned the corner of a darkly lit street where a small light in a doorway lit some narrow stone steps below. There was a rough looking man in an ankle-long leather trench on the stoop smoking a cheroot. Tallulah began acting, 'So I said - if you put that in there I'll chop it off! Haaaa!' Tallulah squeezed Britney's arm to make her join in with their ruse, and she did.

Bones locked eyes with the bouncer, and seduced him with, 'Hey-ya, Sweet Lips. Is Joe in tonight?' Bones stepped right by the bouncer, and opened the door behind him as if she'd done this every night for years.

'Yeah. He's in,' he said in a tar-laden gruff, grinning, and checking out their asses as they walked past him. As they tottered down the dimly lit corridor the noise increased of laughter, music and the crack of pool balls. The smoky, stale beer-scented room was virtually dark except for the bar to their left and the low lights highlighting the blue baize on the pool tables to their right. Only a few people casually looked to see who'd entered. But Bones paid no attention as she confidently made her way over the sticky floor to the small bar through the steamy throng. Shaw thought the bar reminiscent of a speak-easy in the Twenties during prohibition but far more seedy.

Opening her purse, she held out a fifty, and waved it casually at the bearded bartender, that looked like Big Foot, while she pretended to finish her story to Britney. 'Can you believe it, Brit -,' she said fairly loudly, 'right in my eye, and that stuff stings…?' A few more guys inevitably looked over now, and were preening themselves Britney noticed.

'Ladies, what can I get you?' Bones leant on the counter with her elbows tight against her flanks which exaggerated her cleavage, and caught all the males eyes within eight feet of her.

'Oh! Hey gorgeous, two Buds and a couple of Sambucca chasers to start us off - and whatever your poison is.'

Big Foot grinned after dragging his eyes out of her plunge, and said, 'Coming up.'

Tallulah nudged Britney, retorting, 'That's what he said. Haaa!' They fell over each other, laughing hard. Tallulah quickly whispered in Britney's ear, 'Down half the beer and spit the shot back in the empty bottle.' Then Tallulah laughed again, spinning to check out the guys playing pool. She eyed them seductively. The beers were delivered they clinked the bottles, and downed half in four gulps, each slamming them on the sticky bar again.

'Ready?' Britney said, picking up the shot. They clinked glasses, and pretended to swallow but spat the shot back in the beer making it look like they'd drunk it.

'Hey, Whiskers? Two more - doubles!' Tallulah said to the bartender, and shoved her change towards him, as if money meant nothing to her.

Britney whispered in Tallulah's ear, 'I can't see him here,' pretending to be talking about the fit guys playing pool who were watching them. Tallulah nodded, cocking a brow, giving them the come on.

Hooked on, one of the guys waiting his turn sidled up a little too close to Tallulah. But she didn't recoil. Instead she looked him over provocatively, shamelessly, and smiled, while chewing her gum harder. 'Let me get those.'

'We're emancipated. We can buy our own,' Tallulah said aloofly, then, 'Ooo. That's a long one,' she said, flaring her eyes at his cue but the innuendo was obvious, playing to his one fuck fantasy with considerable flair. Britney almost laughed at Tallulah's smutty banter, but pretended to sip more beer from the bottle.

'Haa. Its a standard length, its what you do with it that counts…'

'Umm. What's ya name, Standard Length?'

'Haa. Tony Drago - you?'

'Good at meet ya Tony Drago,' Tallulah oozed seductively. She shook his free hand lightly. 'I'm Tallulah this is my best babe - Britney.'

'Hi, Britney, that's Luke he's my best bud too. Come and join us?'

Britney smiled, saying sweetly, 'You're playing pool - we don't wanna' mess up your scoreing.'

'Oh. You won't! We play better with an audience.'

'Ho'kay.' Britney tottered over to Luke, and purred, 'Hi, Luke,' just as he was taking his shot, and he missed the pot. 'Ooooh. Sorry, I put you off. What can I do to make it up to you?' Shaw was now in deep character, and Bones thought she was playing the part extremely well.

Luke undressed Britney with his dark eyes, saying, 'I can think of a few things.' Britney turned bashful, and fingered the baize, batting her lashes. Smiling at her, Luke said, 'Hey, Tony, you're up.'

'Not quite, but getting there…' Tony retorted, and flared his eyes at Tallulah, picking up their shots. Tallulah grabbed their beers and change, laughing at his suggestive comment. She followed him over to one of the pool tables.

Twenty minutes later Tony was instructing Tallulah on the finer points of playing pool and practically taking her from behind as he showed her how to hold the cue correctly. Britney was on Luke's lap, and giggling as he whispered all manner of filthy comments in her ear.

Pretending to be drunk, Britney got up, and grabbed the cue off Tallulah. 'I wanna play now. Come on - let us play,' she begged like a drunk spoilt brat. She pulled out a fifty from her bra, and slapped it on the table in a challenge. 'Girls against the boys.'

Tallulah agreed, 'Yeah!'

'Oh. Girls - that's not gonna be fair,' Tony said arrogantly, sniggering.

'Not sweet enough for ya?' Britney challenged with a slur, fumbling for another fifty, and slapped that down too. Luke and Tony exchanged glances.

Luke gave him a slightest of nods. Tony said, 'Ok. But don't moan when you loose.' Luke put down a hundred to cover the bet.

'Rack 'em, Standard Length,' Tallulah instructed, patting his ass cheekily. She grabbed a cue, and attempted to chalk the tip but missed the end deliberately. Giggling, she tried again, concentrating on the end, and finally managed it.

The girls huddled up, and giggled, pretending to talk tactics behind their hands. Tallulah whispered, 'Can you play?'

'Yes. Missed spent youth. You?'

'Oh. Yes. Haa! Its simple geometry. Found anything out?'

'Yes. Luke's packin' and offered me coke. No, Tallulah - I can't do that? Haa!'

'Yes ya can, Brit! Buy some. Then after we've beaten them head to the rest room - I'll meet you there.'

'Come on, Ladies!'

'Keep your Kliens on, Tony Draaaago,' Tallulah simpered, high-fiving Britney as she walked to the end of the table to break them. Britney winked at her as she settled to crack them open. On splitting the pack, three balls rattled down the pockets and Tallulah leapt in the air, making it out it was a pure fluke.

When Tallulah was taking her next shot she observed Britney paying for a little packet which she slipped into her bra, then pecked Luke's cheek. He pocketed the cash in his back pocket and with little secrecy, she noted.

A few minutes later, Britney was on the black, and took her time measuring it up although it was an easy shot. Tallulah knew it was for the guys benefit. 'Don't sweat it, Britney. You can do it. Woo, Babe!' Tallulah hollered her encouragement, staggering into Tony, and hung off him as if she needed the support.

Britney rolled the black in, it spun in the pocket then rattled down. Tallulah ran into Britney's outstretched arms, and they jiggled up and down in their excitement at winning. The men shook their heads, grinning, and chalking that one up to beginners luck. Luke slapped the two hundred into Britney's hand, and smiled.

'Well done. Double or quits?'

'Yeah - double!' Britney gushed, then lost her smile, saying, 'But I really need to pee first…' She grabbed her purse, and wobbled through the noisey crowd to the ladies restrooms which were down another corridor.

'I thought women always went to the bathroom in pairs?' Tony quizzed, caressing Tallulahs thigh after he pulled her onto his lap, and tried to kiss her.

'Haa. You know what - you're right?' She slipped off his tensing lap, and made her way towards the rest rooms. She tinkled him a cute wave as she went, then blew him a Marilyn Monroe kiss off her upturned palm. The guys looked at one another, then whistled their steam off through pursed lips, convinced they were getting some action later. Toasting their arrogance, they took sips from their beers to cool down.

Once in the back corridor Tallulah saw the sign for the ladies room but went in the opposite direction, looking for another door. When she found one, she listened carefully at it for a few seconds. Looking up and down the narrow corridor, she opened her purse, and pretended to be searching in it as she crashed through the door.

'Oh!' she exclaimed, dropping her purse. The contents; a wad of cash, poker chip, lighter, lipstick, and a small photo shot out across the gritty floor. Looking around at all the surprised faces staring back, she started to giggle. 'Oh. Crwap. I'm so sorrie…' she slurred her words. The room was small, filled with thicker smoke than in the illegal bar and in the center was a large round table with seven men sat around it and one woman sat in the opposite corner. In the middle was a pile of cash lit by a single bulb above, and it obvious was a game of poker. 'This ain't da r-rrest oom. Haa. Sorrie.' She staggered as she leant down to fumble up the contents of her spilled purse.

Tallulah's heart pounded as she spotted the man she'd come to find sat around the table with cards in his hand but didn't let it register on her face. He was just to her right and looked pissed off at the surprise intrusion. The attractive, scantily-clad woman jumped up to assist her quickly as the men settled again. 'Its ok. The rest room is the other way down the corridor,' she explained sweetly.

'Tank, thank you. I've got it,' Tallulah left the picture of Booth she'd brought with her till last to see if it meant anything to her. The woman picked it up, and turned it over, as they were crouched down. She snapped her eyes to Tallulah's immediately. 'Thanks,' Tallulah said, taking it from her, knowing she recognised the face in the picture. 'I'm so drunk, sorry. Won't 'appen again.' She stood, and waved stupidly at the sour-faced men, giggling on her way out.

With her heart pounding, Tallulah walked quickly to the rest rooms, and closed the door behind her, then leant heavily on it. 'Where the friggin' hell have you been, Tallulah?' Britney scolded, looking highly agitated, but relieved to see her finally.

Tallulah froze with eyes wide, asking quickly, 'Are-we-alone?'

'Yes.'

'Can-you-run-in-heals?'

Britney's stomach dropped to her knees, while her heart palpitated in her throat. 'Yes, but where are we gonna run, and more to the point, why are we running?'

'Swallow tattoo man - he's here - in the back room - playing poker,' Tallulah explained in staccato, still stuck fast to the back of the door. 'There's a woman - she recognised Booth - from the picture I dropped.' Britney could see Tallulah's eyes and mind calculating and processing the evidence.

'Why would you drop a photo of Booth?'

'I dropped everything - it was a gamble.' The door behind her went to open so Tallulah shuved back, and held it closed, saying airily, 'Just a minute!' Britney threw her hands out in panic, not knowing what to do. Thinking fast, Tallulah mimed for her to sniff the cocaine she bought on the sink counter with the skill of an expert charades player. And all at high speed. 'Hang on, be with you in a minute!' she said again. Just as Britney laid out a squiggly line of coke, Tallulah rolled the fifty bill, giving it to her, and stepped away from the door. The woman from the back room came in, and closed the door quickly. She saw what they were doing, and was completely accepting of it.

'You have to leave - right now,' the woman said, now in the same stuck position against the door as Tallulah had been, and looking just as worried.

'Yeah ok. Let us just finish this line. Hey, look I'm sorry for…'

The leggy woman in the short black dress, cut her off, 'I know who you are. You have to go - now,' she insisted more urgently.

Britney asked, 'You know Booth?'

'Yes. My boyfriend is very dangerous and gets really jealous.'

Bones was back, slipping immediately out of character to say, 'I know that - he tried to kill Booth, but what I don't know is why…'

The woman rolled her head in anguish, saying, 'Look, it was a mistake, a terrible mistake. Just go. Turn left out of here and go to the end of the corridor - there's an emergency exit. Tell Joe I'm really sorry.'

Bones narrowed her eyes at the woman, then ordered a, 'Pen.' Tallulah snapped her palm out for Britney to give her one. She fumbled in her purse, and handed one to her. Tallulah grabbed the terrified woman's hand, and wrote a number on her palm. 'Call me - anytime.'

All three ladies jumped as the door rattled, being thumped twice, and they heard a gruff, 'Charlie? You in there, bitch?'

'Yeah - just coming.' Charlie frantically motioned to the window and their only escape route.

In seconds Britney was standing on the sink counter, and pushing the window open as wide as she could. She threw her bag out, then climbed through, falling in a heap in the puddle-strewn dark alleyway. Tallulah's purse landed on her head, so she knew to get out the way fast. 'Call me,' Tallulah mouthed, as she pulled the toilet flush, then began to scramble out the window too. Britney grabbed Tallulah's arms, and began to tug her through, noting her voluptuous hips getting stuck. 'Pull - Clearly my pelvic girdle has widened since I gave birth...'

'No shit,' Britney retorted, yanking the doctor into the alleyway. They fell into a heap with muffled groans. Bones now had her face in Shaw's cleavage as they lay still to listen.

The restroom door burst open, and Swallow Man saw Charlie snorting cocaine up a pristine fifty dollar note. 'I needed a buzz - your cards have been lousy all night,' was all she said in her defence. She walked past him, and out of the rest room, rubbing her nose. Suspicious, he checked in the graffiti-covered cubicles, then left too.

'I hate to say it, but it's all falling in to place, Tallulah,' Shaw ventured, as they quickly trotted out of the alley under the fire escape ladders. They turned left down the street and back towards Hodgins Mini.

'Is it?' Bones said, looking back over her shoulder, checking they weren't being followed. She crossed the street, dragging Shaw down another alley in a loop around to avoid the scary looking bouncer.

Shaw's mind raced, and she explained adrenalin charged, 'Here's what I think, Agent Booth needed money to fund your new life together - he's an ex-gambler so he tried to resist the compulsion but got tetchy and distant with you because of his financial worries. He asks AD Hacker for a raise. He refused him so Booth was desperate - you two were in need of a property and pretty quick with Christine on the way. He sought out a secret gambling den and bought his way into a game. He wins a few but eventually loses big time. Then drowning his sorrows in the smoky bar meets Charlie - a downtrodden girlfriend of a violent man in said den - shit happens. Swallow Man gets jealous seeing them together and decides to top him. So Swallow Man steels a Hummer from a man who he saw win one in a poker game in his club - knowing that will do the job nicely. Swallow Man jacks the Hummer, follows Agent Booth, and bam - runs him off the road…'

'I suppose all that fit's the evidence. I assume you think, but are not saying, Booth was having an affair with that woman too - hence her comment to me about it being a mistake and that she was sorry?'

'Well, you have to agree, Tallulah - it all fits. You said yourself that your sex life has dwindled and he was reluctant to be intimate with you. Maybe it was guilt or remorse which made him refuse to have sex with…'

Bones stopped still in the street, forty feet from the Mini, and whipped off her bleached blonde wig. Shaw came to a halt too, and shut up, seeing Bones drop the wig and her eyes to the ground and into a puddle. Bones stared at the wig for a few moments, took a deep breath, then walked faster towards the car, mute.

Shaw mouthed, shit to herself, knowing she'd gone too far. She raced to catch up with her. By the time she was getting into the Mini, Bones had already turned it on, and was waiting to drive off.

The first ten minutes of their journey was in an awkward silence until Bones said, 'Agent Shaw, can you please run that likeness through the data bases tomorrow? I need to know Swallow Man's real name.'

'Sure, of course...' Shaw bit her lip, knowing an apology now would be insulting and pointless as she'd divulged exactly what she thought had transpired.

A few more tension-filled minutes passed until Bones spoke again, 'Are you aware of which bank Agent Booth has his accounts with?' Shaw looked to her, and shook her head. Bones kept her face forward as she said in a stalwart tone, 'He's banked with the local branch of Mutual & Western, on Charles Avenue - for twelve years.'

A light bulb lit up above Shaw's brain. 'But that's…'

'Yes. It is…' Bones confirmed. Shaw now looked out of the window ahead, and narrowed her eyes. Bones glanced at her, seeing her cogs turning now. 'And how do you think I came to choose that illegal gambling club above any other in the seedier parts of the city to visit tonight?' Shaw snapped her head to look at her. That thought hadn't even crossed her mind.

'I don't know. How did you choose it? And how did know you'd find Swallow Man there?' she asked, fascinated and intrigued to hear.

'A lucky guess?' Bones glanced to her out of the side of her eye, and smiled wryly. Shaw saw it, and began to smile too.

'Agent Booth has told me, on many occasions, that you never guess, Doctor Brennan.'

Bones nodded. 'I prefer the adverb - rarely. Never should only be used when one is a hundred percent certain of a fact.'

'My-God, Booth's right - you can be so annoying! Tell me how you knew?' That comment broke their tension.

Bones laughed. 'Haa. You bring me Swallow Man's name, Britney, and I'll tell you how I knew…'

Chapter XVII

Residence Of Angela, Jack & Michael.

The shrill sound of her cell ringing stirred Bones from her deep slumber. Blinking open her eyes, she fumbled for her cell in her purse on the night stand. It took several attempts to pull out the persistent object and by the time she had, it had stopped ringing. She was exhausted after her very late night and early morning, so groaning, she surrendered herself to snooze a little longer.

Angela popped her head around one of her guest room doors, carrying a smile and a heavily laden breakfast tray for two. 'Temmm-pee,' she cooed, moving quietly over the threshold. Bones opened one eye, and closed it again. 'Wakey-wakey…' Bones groaned long and low, then swallowed, nuzzling the soft pillow. 'Break-faaast… Its your favourite - waffles smothered in maple syrup and real butter.'

Bones felt the bed shift, and knew Ange was sitting next to her now. With eyes still closed and in a sultry voice made huskier from her lack of energy, she asked, 'How was Christine?'

'She's fine, slept like a… Well, yes - a baby. Jack, Michael and Christine are all in the playpen - playing. You need to come and see them, Bren - it's so damn cute.' Leaving the tray on the bed, Ange got up, and ripped open the drapes to let the bright day in. Bones groaned, seeing the light pierce her lids even though they were still shut.

'If you were my true friend you'd leave me alone to sleep for a week - month,' Bones mumbled. The bed depressed once more, and she opened her eye again. Ange was grinning at her, while cutting up a waffle. 'I just need caffeine,' Bones informed.

'You can't live off that. Open,' Ange instructed, holding a dripping fork laden with sweet waffle at her lips. 'Open,' she said more firmly. Bones sighed, and opened her mouth. Ange mirrored Bones' action as she placed the fork into her mouth, and closed her lips over it. As Bones began to chew slowly, she opened both her eyes.

'Oooh. That's better than sex,' Bones moaned happily, tasting the sugar hit, wallowing in the sumptuous texture.

'Really? You're not having the right kind of sex then,' Ange retorted, and grinned mischievously.

'I'm not having any sex.' Bones held her mouth open for the next piece of decadence to be delivered. Ange obliged her, but wilted.

'Oh. God. I'm sorry, Bren.'

Bones skipped over her apology, not needing one with, 'And even if I were offered it, I wouldn't have the energy to enjoy it.' Chewing, Bones hauled herself up to sit against the pillows. Ange put the tray on her lap now, and sat on the bed beside her. They shared the very unhealthy breakfast together and in silence, as Ange understood she needed a little time to come too properly. She didn't pry about how last night went, and judged Bones would tell her when she felt like it. Just as they began on the third waffle Bones' phone rang again, she looked towards it. She pushed the accept and speakerphone buttons, leaving it on the bedside table as she continued to eat.

'Morning, Doctor Peroni. How was Booth's night?' she asked, sipping steaming coffee from a large mug.

'Morning, Doctor Brennan. Ummm. There's been some developments…'

'Oh? What kind of developments?' The women exchanged looks of surprise, but listened acutely.

'Yesterday Booth requested, no - insisted, that we tell him the answers to a few pointed questions.'

'Go on.'

'It didn't go very well, I'm afraid. He wanted to know how long he'd been here and what were the full extent and prognosis of his injuries. He wanted the truth - so we told him.'

'You told him everything?' Bones looked over Ange's concerned face, but didn't register her.

'Yes - he was insistent, Doctor Brennan. As his primary physician it was my duty to be frank. This morning and last night he refused his medications, and has asked to be left alone. He says it was the wrong decision to save his life now that he will probably not walk again. We explained that it might not be the case, but I'm afraid he's determined to… He's depressed, understandably, and the euphoria of being alive has, as we suspected, worn off and now the reality is setting in. He's broken his Ipad and refuses to communicate, is refusing all treatments, nourishment, or basic palliative hygiene care.'

'Is he now…?' Bones muttered, gritting her jaw. She ripped the cover back, and stood. Ange paled, putting the tray on the bedside table, and stood herself. She watched Bones pace the floor, as she thought of her next move.

'The one thing he asked for last night was a pen and paper. He has written you a letter, and sealed it, instructing us to give it to you when you come in today at your usual time.'

'I'm coming in now.' Bones disconnected the call abruptly, and began collecting her things at a frantic pace. She checked the time, and huffed, clearly annoyed at how long she'd laid in.

'What can I do, Bren?'

'Nothing.'

'What are you going to do?' Bones was already trotting down the stairs, and strode into the playroom without answering her. 'I'm coming with you!' Ange called after her, scurrying down the staircase in hot pursuit.

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility

Bones tore open the letter she'd been handed, and read it with Christine perched on her hip. Jared, Ange, Hank, Dr Peroni and Mary stood with her in the family room in silence, each wondering what he'd written to her. They saw her eyes cloud as she read the few lines he'd scrawled. Anxiously they waited for her reaction to it.

'Pass me the change bag, please,' she requested, as she screwed up the letter, and relegated it to the trash can. Ange noted the flush to her cheeks, and the tension in her body, understanding that was an ominous sign in her friend.

Bones left the family room with the change bag over her shoulder, but threw over it, 'Stay here,' to all of them.

As the door began to close slowly they all looked at one another, clearly frustrated. Then Mary said secretively, 'The nurses station has a monitor, if anyone's interested…?'

They all snuck out one by one, and made their way to the nurses station to watch what was to unfold. The only one to hang back was Ange. She reached into the trash, and read the scrunched up letter he'd written. Once done she threw it back in the bin just as dismissively as Bones had done, and went to join the nosey family huddled around the monitor.

Booth's Room.

Bones felt her heart in her constricting throat, as she barrelled into his room. Daisy looked up, shocked by the sudden storm blowing in. She stood immediately from sitting beside Booth's bed and Bones could see she'd been reading aloud to him. Booth was flat out with his eyes closed.

'Oh. Doctor Brennan, hi! I was just reading to Agent Booth - but he's asleep,' she said with a cheery smile.

'No he isn't, Daisy. Agent Booth is just pretending to be sleeping. He's always just pretending when you visit.' Loosing her smile gradually, Daisy looked to Booth, and sagged, clearly deeply hurt. She carefully closed the book she'd been reading him, and put the stool to the side wall. Bones could see her chin start to waggle as she did so. 'Thank you, Daisy for all the time you've spent with Agent Booth. I appreciate it. You can leave now and there's no need for you to return.' She saw Booth's hands twitch but he didn't open his eyes.

Daisy didn't look her in the eye as she exited the room quickly, preferring to keep her head down so her tears were not seen.

Bones looked him over, and then walked up to his bedside. She waited for him to open his eyes. She could see the corneas rolling under his lids, and grit her jaw, knowing he was deliberately refusing to acknowledge her.

Making her mind up she lay Christine flat on his torso, then her change bag on his stomach, which she saw made him flinch. Then she pulled up the sides of the bed, then walked around it, she did the same to the other side. The nosey metallic clanking frightened Christine and she started to whimper. Turning her head to see where her mother was going, she began to slip off Booth's torso, and obviously felt unsafe which increased her agitation.

Booth opened his eyes only as Bones turned to leave, but she didn't see them open. As she walked down the hall and away, Bones could hear Christine screaming for her to return. The gut wrenching sound of her daughter wailing tore at her insides and almost turned her feet around. She stopped still but trembled, clenching her fists at her sides. Riddled with uncertainty and the natural mothering instinct to return to comfort her child, she fought that almost overwhelming compulsion.

Bones planted herself against the wall, and slipped down it to sit on the floor of the corridor. Her cheeks were awash with her tears but she didn't wipe them because all she was focused on were her daughters high pitched screams.

Bones' insides churned and she bowed her head, resting her chin on her chest. She didn't see or hear another person settle on the floor beside her. A soft caring voice said close to her ear, 'That was a very brave thing to do - and the right thing to do.' Bones only nodded half-heartedly, still not sure of her course of action because Christine's cries were still echoing along the corridor, tormenting her. The woman took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. Bones still couldn't lift her head to see who was being so kind to her. 'Your Booth, he's a charmer,' she said with great affection. 'He always makes us nurses laugh, you know? Every-day we go in, push, prod, and clean him and he never complains - not once. He never pushes the call button either - we don't hear a peep from him. He talks about Parker, Chrissy and you all the time with such love - I'm secretly envious of you. He talks of his dreams and hopes for you all - you are his life.' Bones rested her head gently on the lady's shoulder, and let her tears flow. She was deeply grateful for her words, as they were just what she needed to hear right now.

'I'm afraid his reaction happens more often than you might think. Booth is a fighter though, a humble man but with a strong sense of masculine pride which he's had to lose since he's been in here. He feels a strong responsibility to protect you all but at the moment, he's struggling with that lack of control. By handing over the responsibility of Christine you're giving him back a little control. And, of course, it's a dramatic statement that everybody, from womb to tomb, needs someone to take care of them at some point in their lives.'

'I thought that he had to see he had a reason to live and live for.'

'Yes, and that's why I say you did the right thing. I know, as a mother myself, how hard that was for you to walk away.'

'Bren-Bren?' Ange hissed from the far end of the corridor, and waved her to follow her. Bones sighed, and looked back to the soft hand holding hers.

'Have you noticed - your darling daughter has stopped crying?' Mary asked, patting her hand, and grinning. Bones looked towards Booth's door, and wiped her cheeks quickly with a colossal sense of relief.

Mary got up with Bones' help, and they made their way to the nurses station. When they arrived everyone smiled at them as they neared. Ange held the back of the chair to let Bones sit down, and watch the monitor.

With eyes stuck fast to the screen, Bones saw Booth was sat up now, and cradling Christine while feeding her with her expressed milk. He was tenderly caressing her head with his lips and her little hand was on his cheek as she stared into him. The complete contents of the change bag where strewn over him and the bed while a couple of diapers had fallen to the floor. Bones felt her heart swell and leap under her sternum as she sat down.

'Should we go and help him?' Jared asked innocently.

Bones and Mary both rebuffed him simultaneously, 'No.' He put his palms up in surrender, and grimaced. 'No,' Bones explained more calmly, 'I want him left alone till…'

Because she'd deliberately stalled, Hank asked intrigued, 'Till what, Temperance?'

'Could someone please get me a coffee?' she asked softly, unable to take her eyes off the unforgettable sight of Booth feeding Christine for the very first time. It was a cathartic moment for her and clearly him too as she could see his joyous tears. She knew he was finally able to bond with Chrissy just like she did when she first put her on her breast.

Bones folded her arms on the table, then laid her head on them, but still watched the screen. With a smile, Mary rubbed her shoulder, and left her to it, while ushering everyone else away.

Coffee's arrived, were drunk and the world carried on around Bones at the nurses station. Still she watched Booth, unmoving and silent, oblivious to everything around her. She'd watched him burp her gently, awkwardly. Then with great difficulty and in considerable discomfort, he'd changed and re-dressed her. He had to shift his own legs and readjust himself via the triangular hoist above the bed. At times she could see the pain etched across his face and hurt for him too. But like Mary had told her, he never called for help, when he easily could have.

A small plate of chicken sandwiches arrived in front of her, she absently picked one up, and began to eat it slowly, not realising or caring it was meat. She heard Mary say, 'He must be hungry. He's not had any food for nearly twenty four hours, or pain relief.' Bones nodded on her arm but didn't verbally respond.

Suddenly Bones sat bolt up right, and stopped chewing, 'Oh. No…' This caught Mary's attention so she sat down too now, watching what was happening. 'He's attempting to reach for a diaper through the rail - he'll never reach it.' Booth had to keep Christine out of his way and safe as he painstakingly rolled over onto his stomach to reach through the rail with his good arm that only had the wrist brace on. She could see him struggling to reach for it. To her deep concern Christine rolled over unseen behind him, and into a crushing position. Christine began grabbing at a soiled diaper that he'd not secured properly. The dirty diaper unravelled as he readjusted himself to reach for the clean ones on the floor. With all the squirming and futile reaching from both parties, Christine managed to drop her face head first in the soiled diaper, and inevitably began to cry. Meanwhile Booth tried to look over his strapped shoulder to her, and got it trapped under the rail.

Mary and Bones could hear Christine crying from down the corridor, and looked at each other. Then they began to laugh themselves silly at the farce. 'Poor Christine - her face is covered in excrement.'

'Ooo. Look, Booth can see her now. He's free - thank God. Shall I assist him, Doctor Brennan?'

'No. Booth is resourceful. He'll work it out, Mary.' Bones watched with a secret smile as he moved Christine out the way. He gave up on the clean diapers on the floor, and fumbled for the pouch of wet wipes. He cleaned her up efficiently, if not very slowly, and nuzzled into her stomach while on his, clearly playing with her. Bones whispered to herself, 'Christine is laughing… Oooh, she laughing,' bewitched by the scene. Enchanted, Bones couldn't remember watching such a wonderful show on a TV screen, and felt her eyes brim with joy.

Hours ticked by, unrecorded by Bones as she watched her family play, then finally sleep. The room was a complete shambles; there were empty bottles of milk, toys, diapers and a messy cluster of wet wipes in a pile but she didn't care. Eventually as they slept together peacefully so Bones' eyelids began to droop, and she too succumbed.

Bones was woken by someone tapping her on her shoulder. She dragged in a breath, and snapped her head around to see who had tapped her shoulder. Booth was in his electric chair and Christine was strapped inside a papoose on his chest, and dozing on him. Bones pined; it was the sweetest thing she'd ever recalled seeing. Booth held up a piece of paper that he'd obviously just written, and she read the simple words.

Bones felt her whole being relax. 'You're welcome,' she said tenderly, seeing his eyes glistening. As one tear rolled down his battered cheek she shifted closer, and kissed it off his cheek softly. They gently rested their brows together, and for the first time in months she felt a sense of real peace.

Booth started to write again, she read it out as he wrote, 'Chrissy is hungry, no milk left. I'm hungry too. Where have you been - you look like a two bit hooker?' Bones looked over herself, and started to chuckle. In her exhaustion early this morning she'd literally fallen in to bed in what she had on last night. Then with the rush this morning she hadn't changed or taken off her raunchy make up. More surprisingly no one had said a word about her, fuck-me heals, or the shortness of her dress nor the fact that her stockings had ladders down both exposed thighs. 'Haa. I'll tell you another time,' she eased. This wasn't the time or place to elaborate, she felt. 'Let's get you both fed.'

By early evening Booth was exhausted, and barely keeping his eyes open but desperately trying to stay awake. Bones was sat on the bed next to him serenely breastfeeding Christine. They'd shared a wonderful, if not, traumatic day, Bones recalled with a ruby smile on her lips.

After he'd gotten himself in the wheelchair and found her at the nurses station, he'd insisted they go for a stroll around his temporary home. He felt a new man steering himself around the corridors, as Bones clipped along in her heels beside him. He'd even been allowed out into the small garden below his window for twenty minutes. The feel of fresh, albeit, cool air on his face had lifted his spirits so high he felt he could fly, like the sparrows that danced in the budding branches.

He'd been fed twice via his stint but insisted that he was instructed how to do it for himself and had done so. He was also back on all his medications, and had even bathed himself; the parts he could reach without causing himself pain. His bed had been lowered so it was easier for him to get in and out of his wheelchair too. Booth was also now on his third brand new Ipad which Bones had Jared purchase for him this afternoon. That was within easy reach on his bedside table.

Bones knew it wouldn't be long now before he could come home. With that thought in mind, she was already making mental lists of what she had to do to make that transition easier for both of them.

As he began to snore, she looked to him, and smiled. Christine was getting sleepy and not really feeding but just suckling for comfort. So she gently eased her off her nipple, and tucked herself away. Being so drowsy, Christine didn't stir as Bones put her in the car seat, and strapped her in. Once she'd gathered all her things together, she returned to Booth. She tucked him up, and kissed his forehead gently. She really just wanted to cuddle up next to him and stay the night here but she had so much to do at home.

Booth opened his eyes slowly, and reached for her face. She leant further down so he could touch her. She tilted her head into his palm, and smiled as he caressed her face sleepily with an accompanying soft moan. 'I know, me too but I have to go,' she said sadly, reading that he wanted her to stay in his misty eyes. 'Go back to sleep - we'll see you tomorrow,' she whispered, kissing his forehead again. Booth's eyes fluttered closed, and she placed his caressing hand back beside him.

Chapter XVIII

St Theresa's Private Medical Facility

Booth woke with a start, then froze instantly. He looked around him and down, then began to get agitated. He reached for his call button, and pushed it three times in quick succession.

At the nurses station Mary saw his room number flashing, and thought it was a glitch, so flicked over the next page of her novel to continue reading. As it kept flashing, she flicked the blinking light with her finger but it continued to blink and buzz. She casually checked the screen just to be sure as he'd never called before. Seeing Booth waving wildly at the camera from the shadows, she slung her legs off the table in portentous alarm. Tossing the book over her shoulder, she ran as fast as her comfy Crocs would take her down the corridor.

Panting, Mary flung open the door to hear Booth moaning anxiously. She flicked the light on, and what greeted her was quite surprising. It was obviously surprising to him too as his eyes were wide and wild.

Mary said, 'W'hell, Booth, that's a fine way to greet a woman of my age, I must say...'

Residence Of Agent Booth & Dr Brennan

'I suppose Seeley's told you that Padma and me are trying invetro…?' Bones froze, and stopped feeding Christine baby rice, who was in the high chair around the kitchen island. Jared quirked his lips, then sipped from his excellent coffee she'd made him.

Bones mentally ticked off another thing Booth hadn't told her. 'No, actually he hasn't, Jared. Who has the fertility issues - you or Padma?'

Christine leant towards the spoon just out of her reach, and tried to mouth off the rice but Bones didn't notice her missed efforts or her frustrated pouts.

Jared explained, 'I've got crappy swimmers apparently and she's…' he trailed off, looking into his mug which he clutched between his palms.

'I'm sorry, Jared, really,' Bones said sympathetically. He shook his head before she'd finished speaking.

'It's just a thing you never think about when your out there, putting it about. You're always trying to be safe, and not get pregnant, you know?' Bones nodded to agree, as Christine reached for the spoon, and pulled it out of her fingers. That action flicked the rice off and it splattered into her face. Bones absently took the spoon back from her, and began wiping her face with the pink Daddy's Girl motif bib she wore.

Jared got up, and wandered aimlessly around her kitchen. 'N' there's Seeley knocks you in one hit, and Rebecca falls like that!' He snapped his fingers, and went on, 'You just assume - being his brother 'n' all that…'

'Yes. I can understand how you might assume. How many cycles have you been through?'

'Three,' he said quietly, fiddling with her juicer now. Bones looked away to the rice bowl, and scooped some into Christine's, already open mouth. She clenched and unclenched her tiny fingers excitedly, having gotten her long awaited mouthful.

'I think the average is a little higher, Jared. Give it time,' she bolstered.

Then Jared confessed even quieter, 'Padma miscarried last month…' while keeping his back to her. Bones saw him drop his chin to his chest, and sighed. She handed the spoon to a jubilant Christine, and immediately went to Jared, and hugged him from behind.

'I'm so sorry, Jared. All this and Booth too…' She rested her cheek on his back, and squeezed him tighter. He placed his hand on hers, clasping hers tightly, obviously grateful for the hug and sympathy.

Christine was attempting to scoop up the rice but only chasing the bowl around the high-chair table, getting frustrated and noisy too. She started banging the spoon on the table like it was a drum, and kicking her legs frantically.

'I shouldn't be telling you this. I'm sorry - burdening you with our little problems when you have huge ones of your own.'

'I don't mind. Booth would say, a problem shared is halved. I'm glad you told me, Jared.' Jared kissed her hand, and turned around. She could see he was struggling to keep it together, and pouted at him. He rolled his head, then rested his brow on her shoulder sweetly. Rubbing his back, she asked, 'Are you happy with your doctors? Because I have some connections you might want to talk to - specialists in the field of fertility.'

'Yeah, no, but thanks for the offer, Tempe - appreciated.'

'Well, if you change your mind, let me know - ok?' Jared nodded, and smiled weakly. Bones looked over to Christine who was giggling now, and looked proud that she managed to get the yellow plastic bowl of rice neatly on her head. The contents of which were sliding down her cheeks, and she was merrily eating off her own face. Bones dropped a hip, and shook her head.

Smiling, she took the bowl off her head as Christine squealed. 'You are so naughty,' Bones said in a silly voice, and ticked her stomach. Christine belly laughed so loud and long, Jared jumped with shock.

Astonished and amused, Jared remarked, 'Hoo-oh My, God. I've never heard her laugh like that before.'

'Oh. She does it all the time now,' Bones said admiringly. 'Don't cha, you little monkey?' Bones tickled her again, and Christine duly responded with another hearty squirming cackle, except this time she flung the spoon away in her riotousness. Bones gasped in false shock, and narrowed her eyes at Christine who was grinning at her mommy. Bones wagged a finger in her rice-covered face. 'Your table manners are appalling, Christine.' Then as she cleaned her off, she cooed in her face, 'Yes they are, yes they are…' . Jared couldn't help but smile, watching the two interact. Bones was completely unruffled by the huge mess Christine had made in her pristine kitchen, and even seemed to relish her making as much mess as possible. He watched as Bones cleaned the surfaces spattered with baby rice with an impossibly large grin on her face. He judged she was loving being a mom; he didn't need to have that confirmed, so didn't ask.

'Anyway - moving on, why did you ask me to come over, Tempe?' Bones rinsed out a cloth under the nifty instant boiling water faucet, and began mopping up the high-chair table efficiently.

Without looking at Jared, Bones said, 'Before we do, Jared, I'd just like to say… There's good scientific evidence that suggests that when couples are having fertility problems it's often the case that having sex for fun peters out.' Bones was rinsing the cloth again, and began cleaning the fridge doors. She failed to notice Jared's gob-smacked expression. 'My advice, from a clinical point of view, is to have intercourse regularly, as regularly as possible - with Padma, of course.' Jared snagged his head back, and crinkled his brow at that add on. 'This will optimise your chances of conception. What's more, the female orgasm is extremely important - as many as possible to each ejaculation.' Jared felt himself blushing, as Christine attempted to reach for the fruit bowl in earnest, and whined because it was several feet away. Bones blathered on, 'The mechanism of the female orgasm scoops up the semen via the spasms of the cervix, and naturally draws it upwards and into the uterus.' Bones turned to him to ask, 'Does Padma orgasm regularly?'

'Whoa! Tempe, too personal! And not in front of Christine…'

Bones sighed, and shook her head at his embarrassment. 'Christine's language skills are not that advanced, Jared. She'll not be repeating what we say for a few months yet.' Bones picked up a banana, peeled it, then broke off a piece, then smushed it on the tray for Christine to play with; all done as she explained, 'Positions during copulation and assisting the sperm towards the womb after ejaculation are also something to consider. Raising the pelvis for example, ovulation cycles and…'

'Enough!' he barked suddenly. Christine barked too a second later, copying him as she awkwardly pushed a slimy piece of banana in her mouth. Bones and Jared started to laugh at her aping him so adorably. Finally Bones sat opposite him, and peace-offered him some of the banana. He broke a bit off, then they both began to eat it. After he'd swallowed it, and secretly watched Bones watch Christine, he asked quietly, 'How many times did you orgasm that night with Seeley then?'

Unperturbed by his direct, and very personal, question, she answer it, 'To my best recollection, not that I counted, was… four times. I'm sure Booth could be more accurate.' She took the last bit of the banana, and handed it to Christine who immediately scrunched it through her little fist, cooing. Bones clarified, 'That was over a period of several hours obviously.' Bones gazed off into the distance, clearly thinking about it, and revealed, 'He ejaculated twice inside me, as I recall, and once…'

Not needing her to get that specific, Jared quickly barked again, 'Enough!' Bones snapped her eyes back to him as Christine grunted her mimicry of Jared again. He muttered, absently playing with the spent banana skin between them, 'No wonder you got pregnant…'

'Yes. Those statistics would have most certainly tipped the odds in favour of conception.' Seeing his sadness and low self-esteem, she empathetically bolstered his fractured ego with, 'Knowing your brother intimately, I would strongly suspect that you are as generous and a loving sexual partner as Booth was with me once.' She saw a flicker of a smile cross his eyes but not his defined lips yet, so she added, 'Padma not conceiving naturally is no reflection on your masculinity or prowess in the bedroom either, Jared.'

'She said as much to me too.' Bones patted his hand on the banana skin, and smiled warmly.

'The good news is that Padma did conceive. Then clearly, there's hope - yes?' Jared gave her a full-blown glittering smile, and nodded. 'Good,' she said, picking up the skin, and putting it through the waste disposal.

'What did you mean by, once and talking about your sex life in the past tense? Surely there's hope for you two as well?' Bones turned off the grinder, and turned slowly.

'Yes, Jared. There's always hope.' Although she smiled as she said the words, Jared saw no conviction or hope in them or in the way they were delivered.

He decide to change the subject. 'Come on then, what did you want to ask me?'

'Arr. Right, yes. It's something very personal actually.'

Jared snorted at the irony and her hesitation. 'What - after what we've been talking about? What can be more personal than our sex lives?' Bones grinned anxiously, and sat back down again. He waited patiently for her to continue.

'Money…' she said carefully, knowing how sensitive the Booth men were about the subject.

Jared jumped to the wrong conclusion instantly. 'Thanks for the offer, Tempe, but we've got it covered.'

She shook her head. 'No, you don't understand, I'm not offering you money, although if you ever need…'

'Tempe - just ask me - whatever it is that's got you so weird all of a sudden.'

Bones took a deep breath. 'Ok. When your father died, his last will and testament had made Booth the sole executer and beneficiary, am I correct?'

'Yeah. His estate was substantial too. He'd left Seeley the proceeds from the sale of the barbers, the military pension paid for his care in the serviceman's home and some over to pay for his smokes and booze. And there were some savings and other investment stuff too. But you know all this, I'm sure.'

'Yes. Booth sort of told me but not the full value of his estate - he kept that to himself. I know he split it between you, Hank and himself.' Jared nodded. Bones twitched nervously in her chair, then asked, 'What I'm asking you, what I'm requesting of you is - can you please tell me how much your share of that inheritance was?'

Surprised by her question but not upset by it, he answered her casually, 'Sure. He gave me and Pops three hundred thousand each - give or take a few hundred.'

Bones bit her lip, and looked into the fruit bowl, then began toying with an crisp green apple. 'I see. And how did he give you that amount - by check or did he co-sign your names on accounts so you could draw on them?' She lifted her eyes slowly to his. To her Jared seemed perfectly happy to answer her probing questions.

'By one big check, Tempe,' he said with a charming smile that would have melted ice. 'Why do you need to know this?'

'I'd rather not say, if you don't mind.' She watched as Jared's smile cooled, and felt him attempt to read her mind.

'Wait - did Seeley pay me and Pops off and not take his share then?'

She jumped straight back to put him straight. 'No, Jared. To my knowledge Booth took his third of your father's estate.' Jared relaxed having had her assurance. 'One last question -' she enquired, 'do you recall when he gave you those inheritance checks?'

'Oh! That's easy - hold up…' Jared pulled out his smartphone from his back pocket, and looked up the diary appointments he'd logged in it. 'Here is it - dinner with bro and Pops. 7pm at The Rib 'n' Steak Shack, 3rd September last year. The timing was perfect - Padma started treatment within the month and you moved in here in the late November. I guess Seeley spent most of his share on this awesome house with you. Have I told you its frickin' awesome before?' There was that smile again, she noted, the one that almost burnt her eyes.

'Haa. No, but thank you.' Then she said, looking around, 'We still have so much work to do on it but we're getting there.'

'If you need help…' The door bell went putting Jared on pause, and cocked his brow into a question.

Bones grinned, saying, 'I'm expecting a colleague - Agent Shaw. She's got some paperwork from the FBI I have to sign - case related.'

Jared stood, and leant across the island to kiss her cheek. 'I'll get out of your way then. You stay - I'll let her in.' He pecked her cheek, adding, 'See you later. Bye, Tempe - bye, Chrissy!'

Jared was already down the hall before she realised she hadn't said, 'Bye, Jared!'

Chapter XIX

Agent Shaw walked down the wide hall en route to the kitchen where Jared had directed her but she had a quick peek in the lounge as she went. The decorating was still incomplete but the floor had been laid, she noticed, and was protected by dustsheets. The pasting table was still up and the smell of varnish and sawdust still hung in the air.

'In the kitchen! I'm in the kitchen, Agent Shaw,' Bones called out. Shaw jumped, and made her way there immediately.

'Sorry, Doctor Brennan, I was…' she trailed off on seeing Christine. 'Oh. My, Lord in heaven! What has she been doing?'

Grinning at Christine, Bones explained, 'That's rice and banana in her hair and face. Christine has a penchant for them and seems to relish making as much mess as she possibly can.' Looking at Shaw now, she continued, 'She has an excellent aim and often throws banana as far as three metres - often at other people. I suspect it's a dormant trait left over from when we evolved from early apes.'

'Really?'

Bones grinned. 'No, Agent Shaw, I'm being facetious. Haa. Please, sit down - but be careful not to sit on squished banana. I always think I've got it all, then I see people leave with lumps on their buttocks or elbows.' Shaw sat down in the spot Jared had just vacated, but gingerly.

'Oh! Haa. The kitchen looks amazing despite the squished banana.' Bones was making her a coffee, and placed a few choice cookies on a decorative plate for her too. 'And I had a sneaky look in the lounge - you've done so much since I was last here.'

'Yes, I've been busy trying to get it all finished, to at least make it habitable for when Booth comes home.' Bones placed the steaming mug and cookies next to her.

'Thank you. Which is when?' Shaw asked, then picked up a cookie, and took a bite. When her teeth sank into it she lost all train of thought as the confection attacked all her senses.

Bones took one too, and bird-like picked a miniscule piece off. 'The weekend hopefully or early next week,' she explained, with a sweet sparkle in her eye, replacing the cookie on the plate.

'That's fantastic. You must be so relieved,' she gushed, then, 'Are these homemade?'

'I am - and yes, they're fresh out of the oven this morning. So, Agent Shaw, have you got a name for Swallow Man?'

Shaw flared her eyes excitedly, and hissed, 'Yess.' She opened a file, and pushed a rap sheet towards her and everything else she'd discovered. 'I got a match off Miss Montenegro's rendering.' Bones picked it up, scanning it. Shaw blissfully took another bite out of the oozing milk chocolate chunk, caramel laced cookie while Bones read down the page.

Christine was playing with a set of plastic, brightly coloured, overly large keys that rattled, and happily dropped them to the floor. She squealed with joy for her accomplishment as they clattered loudly.

Reading the sheet aloud, Bones leant down to her side, and put the keys back in front of Christine without looking at her, clearly engrossed, 'Tolstoy Green, eh? Came to the US at fifteen with his mother as a refugee from Nigeria. Mmm. Interesting…' Shaw didn't interrupt although she was intrigued by Bones', interesting comment. 'Granted asylum - made full US citizen three years later. Nothing unremarkable until 2003.'

Christine gummed the keys again, mumbling, then dropped them to yet more delinquent squeals, Shaw noted. Bones reached down again but continued reading, 'Car jacking, joy riding and various minor assault charges in his early twenties, consequently dropped.' Shaw saw the pattern repeated three more times with the thrown keys being picked up in the same casual manner. And still Bones didn't seemed phased by Christine's persistent interruptions. Her patience was admirable, Shaw thought; if that was her she would have taken them away already.

'He took a plea bargain to serve one year for repeated drug possession and dealing back in 2007. Paroled for good behaviour after serving ten months. Vacated last known address after serving out his parole. No employment records since. No children - that's it.' Bones looked up into Shaw, adding, 'So - he disappeared and kept himself to himself since 2008 and off the radar.'

'Yep, that's it - except he frequents an illegal bar, where drugs and gambling are the norm and he tried to kill Agent Booth,' Shaw reminded, dramatising her statement with tone punctuation and loudly over the hysterical laughter of Christine.

Bones seemed unaffected by her heavily laced statement as she said, 'Yes - there is that...' Shaw felt a little deflated. 'Mind you, so did we frequent an illegal bar, and you bought cocaine…' Bones accused playfully, and flashed her a wry smile which Shaw mirrored.

Christine was in near raptures now, and suddenly flung the keys across the island out of reach of Bones this time. They clattered into the fruit bowl between the women, then slipped onto the floor, noisily spinning into an appliance. Shaw flinched, surprised by the flying toy whistling passed her nose. Bones gasped, and shot Christine a narrow-eyed glance. Christine stilled, and stopped laughing to gauge her mommy's reaction. A heartbeat later Bones smiled hard at her, then blew a large, loud raspberry on her sticky cheek and again on her neck. Christine began squirming in her chair now in complete gorgeous giggle meltdown. Bones eventually picked up the keys, and placed them in the sink, as Christine's chuckles died away slowly.

Shaw found herself unable to stop smiling, but cracked on with their business, 'I've checked Tolstoy's financial and medical records as you can see. He doesn't claim unemployment benefits, nor does he have any IRS records. In fact, he doesn't have a bank account or credit cards, and I couldn't find any aliases either.' Bones was nodding, Shaw noticed, and busily getting out ingredients from her designer cupboards, which only distracted Shaw a little. 'Even his medical records are sparse. He was treated for an abscessed tooth in 2001 and paid cash for his treatment. And he's never applied for a gun licence, passport or even passed a driving test.' Shaw had finished her cookie, and took another delicious treat as if on auto-pilot.

'Humm. No one can live without money. He must use cash for everything - but where does he get it from…?' Bones mused aloud. Suddenly she spun, and rushed to her purse. Shaw felt her adrenalin levels rising, and watched Bones tipped out the contents of the purse she'd taken to the bar last week. As they spilled and fanned out on the island, Shaw snapped her lips around the precious cookie. Quickly Shaw cradled the contents between her outstretched arms to stop them from falling on the floor. Bones started to find the change the bartender had given her, ignoring the wad of fifties. She picked up a twenty, and held it to the run of spot lights above her head. Shoving the rest of the cookie into her mouth pouches, Shaw squinted through the crumpled twenty dollar note too. The next twenty was held aloft, and she squinted through that one as well, while trying to munch down the decadent cookie.

Bones announced, visibly stirred, 'They're counterfeit, good ones, but definitely counterfeit - look...' Bones slapped one in her hand for her to inspect. Then she started pacing her kitchen with hands on her hips, and not seeing at the quarry tiles under her sneakers. Christine watched her mom intently too. 'I thought it was strange at the time but it didn't register till now. Gaah! I can't believe I missed that!' she chided herself strongly, then blazed on, 'The drinks we had in any other bar would have been twenty dollars minimum. I gave him a fifty, he gave me forty back - and change. I ordered another round of shots and he just poured them, he didn't take the charge from my change because he knew it was fake. We'd never have checked it or seen they were counterfeit as it was so dark in there. And if we complained, well, you can imagine...' Bones came to a standstill, but absently caressed Christine's nape, making her eyes roll deliriously with the soothing sensation as she mused.

Shaw agreed with her logic with a fast nod, and swallowed the lump of cookie dough to clear her mouth to say, 'So we add counterfeit cash to the list of crimes that hole oozes - So what? I don't understand…'

As Bones returned to the ingredients she'd gotten out, Christine's eyes began to refocus again as she tried to stay awake. Bones began cracking six eggs into a glass bowl, but deftly used the shells to separate the whites for the yokes. 'Think about it, Shaw,' she urged, explaining, 'It's an old trick to keep costs down in a place like that. It's a simple way to make money.' Bones turned to face Shaw now, and was vigorously beating the egg whites with a hand whisk. 'The bartender turns a blind eye to the drug dealing in there - probably taking a cut or is the supplier of it in the first place. He deals out counterfeit twenties for offered fifties or above. Very few customers will say, hey whiskers you gave me too much change, will they? No - they'd keep quiet and think themselves fortunate.'

Christine was seemingly mesmerised by the noise and action of her mother's proficient whisking, Shaw vaguely noticed. But she tried to keep her focus on what the doctor was saying too.

'The only place where the money is real is in the back room,' Bones said, flaring her eyes, sprinkling sugar into the fluffy whites, and rapidly whisked again. 'There was a substantial accumulation of cash in the centre - I'd calculate - seven to eight thousand. And why was Charlie the only woman in that room?' Shaw mouthed nothing as Bones didn't give her time to respond, and crashed on, 'She wasn't just there to serve drinks and be eye candy, she was signalling to Tolstoy when to bet and when not too. Remember what we heard Christine say to him?'

Bones spun again, and placed the fluffy mixture on a baking sheet in a mountainous pile, and slammed it in her oven. Shaw recounted verbatim, 'Err. Yes, she said, I needed a buzz - your cards have been lousy all night. But I don't under…'

'Stand - I know,' Bones finished her thought excitedly, turning on the oven. Christine's eyes began to droop along with her lolling head. Bones began to clean up efficiently, and wipe down surfaces at speed, as she explained, 'This is what I believe, Agent Shaw. Its clearly Tolstoy's club. He deliberately lives off cash because that's all he can deal in as he has to stay invisible to the authorities. And why would someone go to such lengths to stay under the official radar for so many years - if they didn't have something criminal to hide?

'Makes sense to me,' Shaw thought that a reasonable assumption.

'Incidentally -,' Bones stilled to look up to her from her task, 'do you understand the significance of his swallow tattoo?'

Shaw shook her head. 'No, isn't it just a regular bird tattoo, like people have butterflies or I love mom - it has a significance then?'

Bones grinned, carried on cleaning at pace, then educated, 'As well as being decorative, tattooing of the skin has its roots in many cultures throughout human history. Ancient tribal ritual, for example, or for spiritual purposes, to mark milestones attained through achievement or - as a brand of belonging.' Rinsing the cloth out, Bones looked over her shoulder to her now, seeing Shaw's pupils dilate as she got her gist.

'You're saying he belongs to a gang of some sort?'

'I am, Agent Shaw,' Bones said positively, and began again to clean. 'We've established Tolstoy came to the US at fifteen as a refugee from Nigeria.' Shaw nodded. 'Many criminal gangs brand their members and, on some occasions, their children too. I researched the swallow tattoo Tom described to us having little else to go on at the time.' Shaw cocked an intrigued and impressed brow, then Bones casually dropped her bombshell, 'Tolstoy's swallow tattoo is a well known branding mark in a particularly notorious human trafficking ring in a deprived part of Nigeria. It wouldn't surprise me to find that his father or other members of his family are also members of this gang back in Nigeria...' Bones paused again to look her in the eye, and asked solemnly, 'Do you understand what I'm insinuating?' Staring at the fruit in the bowl, Shaw narrowed her eyes thoughtfully, then nodded very slowly. If the doctor was correct, Shaw knew the stakes had just got a whole lot higher in this case.

Bones said solidly, 'Good -' then she continued with, 'there are two other illegal dens that I suspect Tolstoy either frequents or runs in the area we visited. But I've digressed - getting back to Charlie...' Bones came over to the island, and started wiping that down meticulously. 'Charlie was obviously Tolstoy's stooge. The players accept her in the poker room because they see Tolstoy treat her badly and think she's on a short leash. And why did he come chasing after her?' Bones asked the question, but answered it herself, 'Be-cause the game was nearing its climax. Only two men had cards in their hands - Tolstoy and an obese man with long nasal hair.' Bones was multitasking with astonishing speed and efficiency Shaw was flabbergasted and in awe. She didn't have time to eulogize because Bones was still hypothesizing, so started to devour yet another life-affirming cookie.

'Charlie gets scared seeing the photo of Booth and leaves the room to follow me. That's why he was mad with her - he didn't know how to bet and probably lost a lot of money.'

Shaw shook her head clear, then brought Bones back to earth with, 'That's possible, I suppose - but that doesn't get us any closer to why Booth was there…'

Tossing the cloth in the sink, Bones finally sat down, and nodded. 'I know, but it gives us, or rather you, a chance of blowing open your first big case,' she said, tapping the counter with her index finger to punctuate her buoyant statement.

Shaw snagged her head back, looked offended, and said defensively, 'I'm not doing this for that…'

'I know,' Bones reassured her, smiling hard. Finally she calmed, and said, 'Here's what you are going to do, Agent Shaw. Go to AD Hacker and tell him you need to talk privately with him. Leave the building and tell him what you know - all of it. Show him Tolstoy's picture and rap sheet, those counterfeit bills, the cocaine too. Explain to him the significance of his tattoo. Say you know of an illegal club where drug dealing and gambling is going on. You suspect Tolstoy is the club owner, of whom we have a rendering, confirmed by Tom Renchan, who was seen stealing a Hummer from a car park outside the…'

Shaw cut over her, 'But Tolstoy wasn't on the CCTV camera footage from the Wallmart, Doctor Brennan. I checked.'

Bones smiled wryly. 'I know that, you know that, but Tolstoy doesn't, does he? Believe me, Hacker will understand when you explain that Booth was definitely in that club, and seen talking to Tolstoy's girlfriend - a leggy attractive, scared stooge that needs his protection. And that a feisty Britney Doolittle has given you a statement that Charlie confessed to seeing and talking to Booth in the club. Then I want you to show the recording and video of Fenton confessing he won the Hummer in a poker game. Then you'll show him this…' Bones fingered through a pile of papers on the island, and opened out a street map of DC. Shaw saw it had been marked precisely and clearly in red pen. In a rough triangle three clubs were ringed off; one with a small cross through it.

Scanning the map, Shaw asked, 'Is that the location of the club we went to?' Bones nodded, mute. Shaw then noted she'd also marked where Fenton worked and lived. Not surprisingly, she thought, Fenton lived four blocks from the club they'd visited and was roughly in the centre of all three ringed clubs.

'How did you know about these clubs?'

With a coy smile, Bones explained haltingly, 'My, family - my brother in particular, was most informative and helpful in discovering the locations of these - dens.' Shaw grinned slowly at her, and shook her head in wry disbelief. 'I called him, and he in turn made few quick calls to his - previous criminal connections. That was all it took.' Shaw snorted, again astonished.

'So why did you pick that one to visit first - I still don't know? Fenton could have gone to any of them, they're all relatively close to his apartment.'

Bones sat back slightly. 'Booth has often remarked that men are creatures of habit - I concur. Fenton mentioned that he had his gambling under control - do you remember?' Shaw nodded, finishing the cookie. 'What he didn't say - but implied, is that he'd some control of it, which suggested to me that he's proactive in controlling it...' Bones waited for the nickel's to drop in Shaw's mind.

By the time her brow had creased in thought, Bones saw the money drop in her eyes. 'Oh. My, God! Fenton goes to meetings - GA meetings!' Shaw exclaimed. Bones grinned wide at her.

'Exactly,' she confirmed solidly. 'The nearest to his home and usually corresponds with his evening commute home is just - there.' Bones pointed to a tiny yellow dot she'd marked on the map. Shaw could see it was nearest to the illegal club they'd visited. 'Max said something which stuck with me, he said Fenton was a lazy man. So I deduced Fenton wouldn't want to go very far to anything. Even the grocery store he frequents is in walking distance but he drove there in his huge vehicle. And, of course, Tolstoy didn't have to go far to steal it either and probably saw it around these streets on a regular basis.'

It was Shaw who sat back now, and said, 'Why will Hacker go for this, it's mostly circumstantial evidence, Doctor Brennan?'

Bones looked to Christine who was asleep now, and smiled. As she looked back to Shaw, she revealed quietly, 'Because AD Hacker knows I've been privately investigating Booth's attempted murder, and he trusts me.'

'But then you should go to him with this - if its you he trusts.'

Bones shook her head slowly. 'I can't - for reasons I'll explain to you after all this is resolved. Listen, Booth trusts you, I trust you, so will AD Hacker trust you. He's no fool, Agent Shaw. He's turned a blind eye to your covert use of FBI resources while you've been assisting me, of that - I'm certain…'

Shaw looked over the map again, and spotted something else marked but in green pen this time. She tilted her head to look at it more closely. 'There's another mark here, Doctor Brennan… right near the GA meeting - what is that?'

'That -,' Bones paused, 'is the location where Agent Booth used to live.' Shaw snapped her eyes to hers as Bones avoided hers, and folded up the map carefully. 'Take this, I have another. Create a file with all this evidence and present it to Hacker. Answer his questions as honestly as you can without incriminating yourself. Don't be intimidated by him being your boss either. And make sure he lets you head the raid on the club. Oh. One more thing, tell him not to use a megaphone this time...'

'A megaphone?' Bones nodded, and began releasing Christine from the high chair. Christine started to grumble cutely at being disturbed. As Bones held Christine close to her, and rocked her back to sleep, she smiled, saying, 'He'll understand. Wait here - I'm just going to put her down for a nap.'

Shaw watched Bones walk away with a drowsy baby over her shoulder, and sighed, checking the time. She looked around the kitchen which was again spotless, and shook her head disbelievingly. She felt as if she'd been on a rollercoaster for the last hour and her mind had not cleared yet.

Spotting one last, lonely cookie on the pretty plate, Shaw forgot her waistline, and picked it up. She knew it was greedy of her but couldn't resist it. She opened her mouth, and slowly brought it towards the gaping hole with eyes dreamily closed in expectation. Shaw took a huge sumptuous bite as Bones returned, observing casually, 'You really like them, don't you?' Almost choking, riddled with guilt at scoffing all the cookies, and hearing the echo of her mother tutting in her head, Shaw hung her head. Chewing fast, and swallowing just as quickly, she nodded.

'Yes. I'm so sorry - I've eaten them all. They're absolutely amazing and completely irresistible…' she extolled, almost pining for her to understand her gluttony. Bones grinned pleasantly, obviously touched by her honesty.

'Guilt is the worst of emotions, I think, and the most personally damaging without forgiveness. If it makes you feel any better, I'd wouldn't have put them out if I didn't want you to enjoy them. Beside I've made over three batches - I can't possibly eat them all myself.'

'I don't know where you find the time. With Christine, visiting Booth, working from home, investigating, decorating, and I see you're planning your next novel… When do you sleep?'

'I've scheduled May 6th 2014 for that…' Bones said dead pan, flicking through a pile of mail. Shaw's jaw hung for a few seconds, then chuckled when she realised it was a joke. Bones flicked her eyes up to her, and smiled. Then she gingerly pointed to a piece of paper she's just retrieved from the pile of others. Surprised, Shaw saw that it was one of Booth's bank statements. Bones had discreetly covered the majority of the red marked transactions with her hand as she pointed precisely to a significant cash deposit. Digesting the large amount, Shaw looked back into Bones' eyes. 'There are three other similar deposits - I've yet to trace their origins.'

Shaw tilted her head, and quirked her lips, then ventured, 'Winnings…' Scrutinizing her expression, Shaw couldn't read anything to accept or deny the assertion in her eyes.

A moment later Bones folded the statement away again, asking, 'Do you think Charlie is short for Charlene?'

'Yes - normally, or totally unrelated to her real name.'

'Agreed. Two things I'd like you to do for me, if you will. Run the name Charlene, and Charlie and all derivatives of that name through whatever databases you deem fit.'

Shaw snorted wryly. 'Doctor Brennan, there are probably thousands of people on the databases like that. You have to give me more to work with so I can narrow down the search.'

'Finally, something we don't have to guess at,' Bones muttered under her breath, then stood. 'Please take notes…' Grimacing at her terse order, Shaw hastily retrieved a pen and pad from her briefcase. Seeing Shaw was prepared, Bones began, 'Female, between twenty five and twenty eight - Caucasian. Although her grandparents may have been of decent via the Iberian peninsular. Her skin pigmentation and facial structure suggest this's a possibility. Charlie is five foot six, and wears a size four and a half shoe. She has hazel eyes, wears contact lenses to correct at least two dioptres of myopia - soft type.' As Shaw scribbled the details down, she glanced to Bones as she pottered casually around the kitchen. Bones was doing something she couldn't see but didn't have time to speculate on what.

'Charlie has naturally dark brown hair, coloured to lighten it by approximately two shades. Slim build, size 36 enhanced breast enlargement - cosmetic. Waist 26, hips 34. From her voice inflections she hails from either New England or a neighbouring state but not north of it. Unfortunately I can't be more specific without analysing her bones.'

Shaw would have laughed if this wasn't so serious and completely mind-blowing.

Bones retuned to the island, picked up a choice apple, and took a small bite from it. 'Charlie had a compound fracture of her right ulna and an elbow fracture as a late teenager. She has a three centimetre scar over her right eye which was expertly repaired, and probably expensively. Her two front upper incisors were knocked out - I suspect in the same fall which broke her arm. She's had those incisors replaced with dental implants. This would have been well over ten years ago when dental implant surgery was expensive and relatively new on the market. And for the average teenager - surprising.'

Shaw had her head down, and was scribbling furiously. Bones took another leisurely bite, peering at what mark she was up to. As soon as she'd caught up Bones went on, 'Again that hints at a wealthy family background and probably an only child who may have had access to horses. She was well fed as a child and showed excellent muscle tone and skin. However, Charlie has also been a cocaine user for a minimum of four years due to the erosion on her nasal septum.'

Shaw took a minute or so to complete the description and when she had, she asked incredulously, 'You got all that from one minute with her in a dimly lit restroom?'

Bones shrugged a shoulder nonchalantly. 'Yes, and just over another minute when she assisted me picking up the contents of my purse. An observant wise man once said, Agent Shaw - the devil is in the detail.'

'Clearly,' Shaw understated, then she moved on with, 'You said there were two things you wanted me to do.'

'Yes. Secondly, I'd like you to run a financial check on this address.' Bones wrote down an address in DC under Charlie's description with her pen.

'What am I looking for?'

'Please, just do the check and bring me what you find.' Shaw knew not to ask again by the way her eyes pleaded with her. She nodded once, and grinned although intrigued.

Tucking away the address safely, Shaw gathered her file together, preparing to leave. Bones stood too, leaving the apple on the island as she showed her out. 'Thank you for all this, Agent Shaw.' Shaw dismissed her thanks with a shy shake of her head. As they walked down the hall towards the door, Bones said cautiously, 'Umm. As Booth will be home soon I'd rather we didn't meet here again.'

To her relief Shaw wasn't offended. 'Oh! I completely understand. How about I text you when I have what you need and we meet at the coffee cart?'

Bones opened the door for her. 'Excellent suggestion - yes.' Then she handed her a small silver carton tied up with a pink ribbon.

Surprised by its sudden appearance from behind Bones' back, Shaw asked, 'What's this?'

'My cookies - various combinations. You seem very partial to them.'

'Aww. That's so sweet. Thank you, Doctor Brennan,' Shaw said, deeply touched and with her mouth already watering.

Bones then said sadly, 'And I'm really sorry.'

Shaw stepped outside, but turned to ask, 'What for?'

'For the mashed banana on your suit sleeve.' Bones grimaced, then added a cheery, 'Good bye,' as she closed the door. Shaw checked her sleeves, and began to laugh, seeing the offending browned banana flesh on one of them.

Reviews always welcomed and replied to.

Part II coming soon. (Shameless…) J

Aptly named: In The Pursuit Of Solace, Part II.

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