AN: Last chapter! Stick around for the end notes, please!
Special shout-out right here though to Megwill. Before I began this story, I'd noticed something and thought about bringing it into this story. I then shelved it. A discussion we had recently changed my mind...
YT playlist for this story - Remove spaces etc. (hate the no link garbage) youtube dot com (slash)playlist(?)list = PL4421A69402C5A66E
Music: The Scientist - Coldplay; Miles - Christina Perri; Drops of Jupiter - Train
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or plot elements of Bones used for context and grounding of story. Original elements are mine, are not for profit and are done out of love. Typos are due to tendencies of writing past midnight.
"Are you okay, Bones?"
"I'm perfectly capable of walking Booth, albeit slowly," Brennan replied.
"I'm sorry. It's just—"
"It's just that you are protective because you know that you can't always protect me and Christine. Thus, you feel that you must be overprotective to reassure your alpha male instincts," she concluded. "You have explained this to me before, and while it's tiresome, I understand it is an expression of love and will indulge your persistent delusion."
Booth unlocked their front door, shaking his head. "There you go, taking all the romance out of things."
He held the door open for her, setting Christine's car seat down by the door. Their daughter was fast asleep, having conked out on the drive home from Dulles. He assumed that the extended drives during their absence had something to do with that, although he wouldn't say it aloud.
He sensed there were a lot of things that neither of them would speak of, but would instead accept as the past.
The service this morning for Maggie before their flight out was one example. He'd tried to talk it out with Bones, but she'd shut up tightly, silently crying for the entire drive to St. Paul International. Max had confided in him that the cousins had grown close during their time together. She'd had her heart set on Maggie moving to Washington to start a new career.
He could never thank her enough for sacrificing her life to save his family. She would remain in his prayers each week until his last breath.
"The living room looks mostly the same," he heard her comment. "The flooring near the stairs is new."
Booth nodded. "Yeah. The upstairs had to be completely overhauled after… after Angela."
"I trust you hired Wendell? He needs the financial compensation."
He smiled. "Of course. I also didn't trust anyone else in the house."
Brennan made her way gingerly to the couch, settling into the soft cushions with a sigh. Her ulna fracture was healing nicely but the cast itched. Her ribs were still a source of aggravation, although they had vastly improved during her stay at the hospital. She made a point of demonstrating to Booth that it was possible to be an obedient patient when medically necessary.
Secretly, she had not wanted to return home early. Home meant the discussion Booth had promised, and said discussion would likely end in pain for her heart, because there was no way he could truly forgive her actions. Now that she was home, her heart rate accelerated. She could no longer hide from Booth's anger, and with her father choosing to go home and recover with Russ and Amy, they had no buffer, no distractions. They'd have to talk.
"I'll go tuck Christine in," Booth said. "I'll be right back."
She sat silently, mulling her best course of action. What would be logical? What would be appropriate within the construction called love? She didn't know. This was not her domain; it was Booth's. Her hand pressed to the bandage on her chest, cupping it as if to offer it up as her penance. Her blood, a sacrifice for her crimes.
"Hey, are you okay? Do you need your pills?"
Brennan shook her head. "No, I'm not in much pain. I do feel exerted in spite of minimal physical activity."
"It's normal," he reassured her. "Give it another week."
He sat down next to her, but did not touch her. Brennan knew this to be a bad sign. She steeled herself mentally, preparing for his anger. She would listen to him because it was entirely justified. To not listen would be disrespectful and only compound the hurt she'd inflicted.
"Bones…" Booth sighed. "God, I don't want to do this."
"You have to," she replied quietly.
Even now, he's too kind to banish me from his life.
"You really hurt me," he said at last. "You gutted me when you left."
She understood this to be metaphorical. She had grown more astute with such colloquialisms, had even experienced them herself. She had felt gutted that first night in the motel room, curled up next to Christine with her newly-dyed hair.
"I made a choice based in logic," she said. "Pelant had us in a corner, and I couldn't bear for anything to happen to Christine. I knew if anything happened to me during incarceration, you would blame yourself and be hurt. I accepted my father's proposition and left."
"You should have told me," he said.
"But it would have compromised your principles as an FBI agent and jeopardized your career, and you've worked so hard—"
"Screw the goddamn job, Bones!" he shouted, and she flinched. "It wasn't your decision to make! We're supposed to be a family. We operate as a unit, a partnership. You had no right to take our daughter and disappear without warning."
"I understand how awful my choice was," she agreed. "But I really was trying to do the best thing for everyone…"
Booth rose to his feet, pacing as he often did when frustrated. She averted her gaze, unable to maintain her calm otherwise. Her emotional lability had been severely affected by the pain medication she'd been prescribed, and she resented it.
"You didn't trust me, Bones," he said. "You didn't include me. Again. In the end, I know it was the safest course of action. There were two corrupt FBI agents under Pelant's thumb and I have no doubt that something terrible would have happened to you behind bars. But I can't help but think that you're never going to stop leaving me out of the big decisions. I don't know how I'm supposed to trust you, and that hurts."
"Relationships don't operate without trust," she said.
"No, they don't."
"What would have been the right course of action?" She finally glanced up, giving in to the urge to cry. "I'm so lost, Booth. Tell me."
"Telling me you were going to run," he replied. "At least letting me say goodbye."
"I… tried to… I'm sorry."
He'd forgiven her actions, but the trust… Trust was a far more complex matter. She knew that all too well from her childhood. How cyclical life could be: the pain done to her was the pain she'd now created, and would now pay a terrible price for.
"You no longer trust me," she concluded. "Relationships do not function without trust." She rose to her feet, ignoring the pain of movement. "I will go pack a bag. If you could call Angela—"
"It's okay, Booth. I understand why you can no longer be with me. I'm sorry that I've failed you." She moved towards the stairs, mentally preparing a list of necessities for the immediate future.
"Damn it, Bones! I never said that." He cut in front of her, eyes flashing. "I thought I explained this to you in the hospital."
"You were kind to me, kinder than I deserved…"
"Don't you want to be with me?"
His voice was so small, his expression pained. Wasn't this the conclusion he was coming to with his explanations? They no longer had trust, ergo, there was no relationship. But she wanted to be with him, desperately. Nothing made sense. Her silent tears broke into uncontrollable sobbing and his arms closed around her, his head resting on hers as it had so many times before.
"Please don't cry," he whispered. "I love you. I don't understand what you want, Bones."
"You." It was all she could manage between gasps.
"You have me. Forever."
"Forever is scientifically impossible," she mumbled into his chest.
"Metaphor. If you want to be with me, why are you talking about packing bags?"
She pulled back, shaking her head. "I'm confused. If relationships need trust, and you don't trust me, you must no longer be able to be in a relationship with me. But you're mad at me for accepting this painful conclusion."
"God, you're frustrating sometimes," he complained. "There are different kinds of trust, Bones. Levels of it. There's trust that can be rebuilt and trust that can never be fixed once you break it. You following me?"
"I-I think so."
Booth's hand found her cheek, gently holding it as he often did when they made love. "I trust you with my life. I trust that you love me, and never intended to hurt me. Those are the big ones. The ones you can't rebuild. You've broken my trust in you including me in all aspects of life that affect us both, but I know it's something you struggle with. I may be a little paranoid for a while when you don't call back, or when you stay late without telling me, but we can fix that. We're a little broken, but we can heal."
"Like bones," she said.
"Like a broken bone," he agreed. "So unless you want to break up with me, we're staying together. And if you want to go, I'll put up a hell of a fight for you."
"I don't want to go. I love you, Booth."
His lips found hers, a gentle kiss that warmed her entire body. "Then it's settled," he whispered. "Let's go to bed."
"It's rather early."
Without warning, he scooped her up into his arms, cradling her to his chest. "Booth!" she protested. "You'll hurt your back!"
"No, I won't. You've lost a lot of weight that I intend to put back on you," he replied, making his way up the stairs.
"It was hard to eat," she admitted. "Hard to sleep."
"I know exactly what you mean."
He sat her down carefully at the bedroom door, nervous about her reactions to their modified space. While the furniture remained the same, they'd lost artwork, photos, and a few small knick-knacks. The paint was a shade brighter, the carpet a little darker.
"It seems strangely appropriate that things aren't the same," she said at last.
She forced a smile. "Our foundation was rocked – literally. Our house reflects our lives. The bones have healed. It survives."
Booth grinned. "I like that explanation. Come on, let's get some rest."
He undressed quickly, pausing to help her lift off her shirt. She flushed slightly, suddenly shy, which made him chuckle. Her pout was met with a kiss, which seemed like a fair apology. After some adjustment, she was able to manage a comfortable position half-twisted to her right, her back leaning against his chest.
"I missed you," he murmured in her ear.
"I missed you."
He kissed her neck lightly, his arm draped over her abdomen, avoiding her healing wound. There had been several discussions about her decision to place herself in harm's way. Booth was adamant she never do it again, to which she'd countered that he could not do it again for her. They'd settled on a stalemate, neither willing to compromise.
"Pelant's still out there."
She hadn't intended to bring it up, but it had been her nightly terror for so long, it had become a mental reflex.
"I know. He isn't getting anywhere near my family."
"No, Bones. He won't. I don't care if we have to quit our jobs and disappear off the grid forever. I will protect you," he insisted.
"I'll protect you, Booth."
His fingertips grazed the edges of her bandage, his breath hitching slightly. Her hand covered his, fingers entwining.
"I know you will," he whispered.
She awoke to a loud bang downstairs, followed by Booth cursing. Instinctively, she reached for her nightstand, furious as she remembered where her gun was: her purse, downstairs. She'd dropped her defenses and now Booth was in trouble.
Gingerly, she crept down the hall, first checking in on Christine. She was fast asleep, curled around her elephant with a contended smile. Brennan slid along the wall as she approached the stairs, calculating her best strategy for helping Booth. Another bang drew a whimper from her pursed lips as she peered down the steps. And then, she smelled it:
Booth was cooking breakfast. A perfectly normal and common routine, one that frequently resulted in banging pots and pans and a good deal of mess. Moving as fast as her ribs permitted, she padded into the kitchen, finding him fussing over an omelet.
"Some things haven't changed," she remarked sleepily.
"Crap Bones, did I wake you?" Booth looked very disappointed to see her, which was troublesome until he explained, "I was trying to bring you breakfast in bed."
"That's sweet of you, although perhaps you should avoid noisy surprises for a while. I heard a bang and thought…"
He nodded in understanding. "I know. I'm sorry, I'll keep that in mind. I think we'll both be on edge for a while."
He turned back to the eggs cooking on the stove and she turned to the living room, taking a seat on the couch. Harder chairs were difficult right now, and she wanted to enjoy her breakfast. She also wanted to retrieve her purse from the table, which she did with a slight hiss of pain as she bent forward.
"Do you need something for the pain today?"
Sniper senses. She shook her head. "No Booth, I just need to avoid bending in certain ways."
She watched him dish out her omelet with a soft smile on her lips. Booth was the best cook of all her previous male companions. His repertoire was small, but he excelled at what he knew. His breakfasts were her personal favourite, although she playfully denied it was because he tended to cook naked or in minimal clothing. Today, for instance, he'd opted to cook in his boxers, and the view was very pleasant as he brought their plates over.
"For you," he announced, handing her a plate.
Omelet, fresh fruit, toast with light butter. He knew her so well.
"Thank you. Although I'm puzzled as to how you had the eggs to cook with."
She smiled. "Of course."
She took several bites, unable to resist the delicious scent. She had a mission today, but her appetite had returned suddenly and with violent force. Spearing a chunk of pineapple, she glanced across the table at Booth, who was devouring his own meal as if he'd not seen bacon for a decade. She knew he'd stayed the entire time with Ange and Hodgins, but with Angela incapacitated, she sensed there'd been a lot of take-out in the last few months.
"Everything okay? I didn't overcook it, did I?"
"No, it's perfect. It's always perfect."
Booth grinned. "Not the time I burned it to a crisp."
"Well, in your defense, I did intentionally sit on the counter without undergarments—"
"So you finally admit you did it on purpose!" Booth cried triumphantly. "I knew it!"
She laughed. "You know me."
"And you know me, Bones." He grabbed another slice of bacon, popping it into his mouth whole.
"I have been derailed from my intended discussion," she said. "I was thinking of what you said last night about trust, and how it can be like a bone healing from a fracture."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah. What's going on behind those blues of yours?"
She felt herself flush as she sat her plate down and reached into her purse. "I know it's not the same type of trust, but I thought I could extend some things to you. Like a cast. I'd meant to, anyway. When I was gone, I promised myself…"
He was intrigued, she could sense, as she pulled her wallet from her purse. She pulled several cards out of the way – a blend of false ID and her true ID, provided by a mystery courier in Minneapolis – and finally extracted a well-worn piece of paper.
"I've had this for almost six years," she began. "I should have delivered it years ago, but I wasn't strong then."
"You were impervious," Booth chimed in, remembering her analogy.
"And terrified of this," she added, tapping the square on her knee. "Because in a raw moment, I'd allowed myself true honesty. Dad told me to ditch everything when we first met up, but this… I couldn't."
She unfolded the square with trembling hands, smoothing it out gently on her leg before extending it to him. Booth examined the page, scanning the message and looking up in confusion.
"When The Gravedigger had us, Hodgins… He wrote a note to Angela. When he asked me if I had a note to write…"
"Booth," he began reading aloud. "Don't blame yourself for what's happened. I know you tried harder than anyone else could as you are the best at your job. Take care of Angela. Her heart is like yours and I'm certain she'll be very distressed." He paused here, overcome by emotion. "Bones…"
"You're not Andy Lister, Booth. You're better," she recited from memory. "And you are. You truly are. I'm so sorry I didn't give it to you then, or anytime sooner. I'd forgotten it after my return from Maluku."
He moved to sit beside her, kissing her lightly. "Thank you. I know this was hard for you to share."
She shook her head. "Not as hard as in the past. In experiencing life without you, I understand now that I need you in my life. Every part of my life."
He kissed her harder and she pulled on him, deepening the kiss in spite of her protesting side. They would be okay. They would heal the bones of their relationship. All they needed was time and the right supports on all sides.
"I have something else," she murmured as he pulled away.
"How many things are you hiding in that bag of tricks?" he asked. "Did you buy that bag from Mary Poppins?"
"I don't know what that means."
Booth rolled his eyes. "We're DVD shopping today."
She smiled and tugged her MP3 player from the purse. Scrolling through her tracks, she found what she was looking for. She handed him the ear buds and smiled.
"This is what got us through," she said. "Christine and I both."
He popped in a single ear bud, gesturing for her to hit play. As his own voice kicked in, his eyes widened.
"You recorded this? You were asleep!"
"I woke up. I'm very glad I did. It was all I had."
She could tell he'd reached the conversation with his daughter when he began to tear up. She remained silent, allowing him to appreciate just what he meant to her. To both of them.
"Christine, she heard this?"
"At least five times each day," Brennan replied. "It was comforting to us."
"I was so worried I'd be a stranger to her," he admitted. "But she came right to me, no hesitation. I thought it was luck, or instinct, but it was you."
Now it was she who was on the verge of tears. "No, it was you. Your voice. Your love for us."
She fell into his embrace, as she had so many times throughout the years. Her head tucked beneath his chin, listening for his breathing, his heartbeat. Signs of life. Home.
"We're going to be fine, Bones," his whispered. "I love you."
"I love you."
In her mind, she felt the bones set into place, properly aligned. And now, we heal. With time.
The knock on the door startled her more than she cared to admit. Instinctively, she glanced around, looking for Booth. She was relieved when he came down the stairs, Christine in his arms.
"She's hungry, Mom," he said gently. "But that should wait a few minutes."
"It's okay. I'm expecting our visitor."
Booth opened the door, his voice strangely cheerful. "Hacker! Nice of you to stop by."
"Andrew?" she called out, bouncing Christine lightly on her knee.
The two men rounded the corner into the living room and she smiled warmly. Booth had told her that Hacker was one of the few who'd stood by them during the summer months, working to clear her name. She hoped this would end Booth's irrational moments of jealousy where his boss was concerned, but she ultimately doubted it. Booth was too much of an alpha male.
"Hello, Temperance. You're looking well."
"Thank you. I'm feeling much more like myself again."
She glanced coyly at Booth, who grinned. She'd woken up that first morning in their home to Angela knocking on the door, hair dye at the ready. Booth apparently hated the blonde as much as she did, and they quickly shifted her back to a deep auburn. Her hair remained shorter than she'd been keeping it before the summer, but Booth enjoyed the extra bounce to it. Perhaps she'd keep it this length for a while longer.
He'd also gone to work immediately on bringing her weight back to her customary range, procuring indulgent desserts and hearty pasta dishes. Her clothes no longer slid off her hips, although she remained a few pounds lighter than before her pregnancy. Booth had blamed it on nerves, to which she'd pointed out that lipids and nerves were two very different things. He hadn't taken that well.
"Good to hear it!" Andrew glanced at Booth anxiously. "Should we?"
"Of course. Bones and I don't keep secrets from each other."
Andrew nodded. "Shaw finally started talking, looking to cut a deal. We're getting a greater sense of how everything unfolded now."
"Was Flynn involved?" Booth asked.
"Blackmailed into it with the CI files and other shit in his personal emails that makes me angry to speak of, so I'll leave it at that. She says he helped plant the Johannsen body and worked to keep the Jeffersonian off Pelant's scent. Made sure none of the random spot checks during Pelant's house arrest occurred when he was off taking a walk. He also ran a program that hijacked the orders for the Krane body from his own laptop."
"And Shaw?" Brennan asked.
"Lured away and helped kill Ethan Sawyer. She made sure the bomb was overlooked during the search warrant execution as well. She planted the hair evidence in your car and assisted with Agent Flynn's murder, and that of her sister. Her intention was to lose the ballistics evidence for Flynn and Alleyne if need be." Hacker shook his head. "Still can't believe she was involved in all of this."
"I think it caught all of us off guard, sir," Booth remarked sadly.
"I do come with happier news, however," he continued. "I just came from a meeting with Cullen and Internal Affairs regarding your restrictions with the Jeffersonian."
"Restrictions?" Brennan looked to Booth, upset. "You never spoke of anything."
"That's because it wasn't set in stone," Booth replied. "What's the word, Hacker?"
"If Booth isn't our liaison, I will withdraw my services from the FBI," Brennan stated firmly. "I am very well off and don't need to even work at the Jeffersonian. Give my status as a donor—"
"Temperance, please relax. Everything's fine. The X-Files are re-opened and Mulder and Scully are back in business."
Booth chuckled. "Nice job, Skinner!"
"I do my best."
Brennan frowned. "I don't know what that means, but I assume we're still partners?"
"You're kidding! Bones, didn't I tell you to watch The X-Files years ago?"
"Booth, that was when I didn't have a television," she protested.
Booth groaned. "This woman spent over a year without a TV, Hacker. You believe that?"
"No comment," Andrew replied, smirking.
"There are plenty of things to do aside from watching television," Brennan insisted. "Writing, reading, engaging in sexual—"
She grinned. "I'm certain that Andrew is well aware of such activities, Booth. We have a child. It's a given step in the procreation process."
"Thanks for stopping by, Hacker," Booth said abruptly. "Bones is medicated and needs her rest."
"I haven't taken anything in days!" she rebutted.
Andrew smiled, heading for the door. "It's good to have you two back. You're reinstated effective immediately."
"I am not on any medication!" Brennan repeated as Christine laughed.
"Sure Bones!" Booth saw Hacker out, chuckling to himself as he returned to an indignant partner and unusually amused daughter.
"That wasn't funny."
"Christine thinks so."
"Obviously, she gets her sense of humor from you."
"Can't you just be happy that we're back to work tomorrow?" Booth pleaded.
He grinned as she unbuttoned her blouse and prepared to nurse their hungry child. It was so good to be home again.
"This seems unusually late to be permitted a visit," Brennan noted.
"Yeah, Sweets is kinda bending the rules for us."
They approached the visitor checkpoint and dutifully began removing metal objects, their cell phones and other prohibited items. The attending guard ran the wand over both of them and, duly satisfied that they weren't planning to facilitate a third escape, buzzed them into the corridor outside the visitation room. Booth hung back, allowing his partner the privilege of entering first. Her enormous grin was worth the late drive.
"Dr. Brennan, Agent Booth," he greeted them. "It's good to see both of you."
"Am I allowed to hug him?" she asked.
"Technically, no. Save it for the end," Booth advised quietly.
They took their seats across from him, Brennan grinning ear to ear.
"I hear that I have you to thank for a lot of the evidence that cleared my name," she said.
"It was a collaborative effort, as all of our past casework together was. However, I did manage to be the King of the Lab again. I enjoyed the challenge. It's boring in here when it comes to intellectual materials." Zack's face fell slightly. "I also felt it was a means of atoning for the disappointment I caused with my actions."
"Oh, Zack… You didn't need to feel obligated to do anything," Brennan gently chided.
"You were a wonderful supervisor, mentor and friend, Dr. Brennan. I betrayed your core teachings on the value of human life, and that is unacceptable to me," Zack explained.
"I have always felt that I failed you," she confessed. "That I somehow didn't make you feel a part of our team, that you didn't know how dearly I valued your friendship. I admittedly wasn't very good with expressing emotion until recently. I still miss your presence at the lab."
Booth remained quiet, allowing the conversation to unfold. He knew that Bones needed this reconnection. It hurt him to remember their conversation as the team packed Zack's belongings. She hadn't appreciated that she'd given Zack the greatest gift, not even after Booth pointed it out. Vincent had helped heal the loss of that workplace younger brother, only to be ripped from her as well. She needed Zack in her life.
"You didn't fail me," Zack insisted. "I'm working towards a full recovery now. Dr. Sweets has assured me that I won't be moved to prison in spite of lying about my role in the death of the lobbyist."
"Booth told me about that. It never made sense to me how you could take a life directly." She smiled warmly at her former protégé. "I look forward to you healing, Zack."
"I know I can never work with the Jeffersonian again, but if I'm released, would you be able to help me locate a position that will challenge me?" he asked.
"Of course. I can already think of three projects that would benefit from your expertise."
Booth glanced over at the door and noted the guard standing by, looking incredibly impatient. "Bones, we need to wrap up."
"It was really good to see you."
Booth smiled. "Yeah, buddy. You came through for us."
Zack nodded proudly. "I did. I look forward to continued visits, if you're willing."
Brennan rose to her feet, rushing around the table and embracing Zack tightly. "You saved my life. Thank you, Zack."
"No contact with the prisoner!" the guard shouted, badging into the room.
"Sorry," Brennan called out. "My pain medication makes me hyperemotional."
Booth nodded, affirming her white lie. "See you around, Zack."
"Wait, Agent Booth. Can we talk privately?"
Brennan looked to him and Booth gestured for her to leave. "I won't be long."
Shrugging, she followed the guard into the corridor, moving to retrieve her belongings beyond the detectors. Checking through the contents of her purse, she noted a missed call from Cam on the display. She hit her voicemail button, ignoring the guard's protests.
A case. A body.
"Booth! We got one!"
His head poked out of the room. "At this time of night?"
"Cam says it's en route to the Jeffersonian. She'd like us there in a few hours to meet them."
"Okay, one sec," Booth said, popping back into the room.
Brennan rolled her eyes, leaning against the wall. He was as impossible as ever. She loved him for it.
Riverside National Cemetery
He stood in front of the grave marker for several minutes, quietly contemplating beneath the moonlight. There were some who feared graveyards in the night, but he had always found them strangely soothing. There was a serenity that came with surrounding oneself with the quiet presence of those no longer with the living. Their wisdom simply was, if one listened carefully.
He desperately needed wisdom now. He'd miscalculated in a devastating way this time. He couldn't afford any further mistakes, not if he intended to succeed. The lone wolf had attempted to play nice with the sheep, only to have them stupidly leap off a cliff. There was a fine line between attention and notoriety, and he'd been pushed over it against his will. It couldn't happen again.
He owed his uncle better than that.
He crouched down, tracing the letters on the stone, memorizing the feel of it beneath his fingertips. This was where it all began in earnest: a phone call and the bitter hindsight that came with unrelenting desire for knowledge and truth. Blood spilled, time and time again, while handshakes traded cash on the backs of the dead.
He could not stop, would not stop. He owed Colonel Daniel Pelant far better.
With a quick salute, Christopher Pelant retreated into the night, having received his desired counsel. Patience. Surprise. These were the keys. The Jeffersonian may have won the battle, but they sure as hell would never win this war.
The unease began as they swung into the Founding Fathers to kill time over fries and a drink. They'd chatted about Christine and Michael's rapport and their thoughts on Angela's belief in a future marriage. Booth was unhappy because he suspected he'd have to shoot Michael for touching his daughter before the age of eighteen, while she'd countered that he was hardly a virginal teen himself, never mind the fact that Billy Gibbons would show up and kill Booth, leaving her a single mother. She'd then pointed out the anthropological data that made such a gender bias ridiculous, certain that he wouldn't be so critical with Parker's choice of sexual activities before adulthood. Booth had tried to deflect, insisting he couldn't have as much influence due to Rebecca having primary custody, which somehow led to discussion of them having a son, which she'd outright declared a non-starter. She loved Christine dearly, but their relationship had essentially begun in earnest with impregnation and she now desired more freedom to sexually explore. By this point, Booth was crimson and fully embarrassed, and too distracted to notice her eating his fries as well as her own.
But beneath the surface of the laughter and discussion of social and sexual mores, she felt uncomfortable. Insecure, really. With every glance at the time indicating the team would be back at the lab soon with the remains, she felt her body tensing to where she felt pain in her shoulders and neck. It reached its peak just inside of the Jeffersonian's main doors and she ground to a halt, wincing as Booth slammed into her from behind.
"Bones! Warn a guy, will ya?"
"I'm afraid, Booth."
He pulled her gently to face him, puzzled by this declaration. "Afraid? Of what?"
"That I won't belong anymore. That I will no longer excel at my job."
"Of course you belong. Why would you think that?"
Because I've changed. I'm not who I was when I last stood on that platform. Because I still fear that we are not solid, that you will leave me. She did not speak of these things aloud. Instead, she shook her head and buried her face against his chest, inhaling his scent for comfort. She felt him kiss the top of her head and relaxed slightly. His touch was powerful. It always had been, ever since that first case.
"You're not alone. I'm with you, like always. Everyone is thrilled to have you back."
"Are you certain?" She glanced up nervously, relieved to see him smiling. He was her rock, her truth.
"This place doesn't work without us," he said. "They need us as much as we need them. We're the center, remember? You've been gone a long time, Bones."
"Ten million, nine hundred and seventeen thousand…" He glanced down at his watch and nodded. "Two hundred and seven seconds. That's far, far too long. It's time."
"Booth, how on earth did you—"
"I looked at my watch when I sat down on the church steps," he explained. "Zack cranked out the math for me."
"Is this why you were so particular on when we arrived tonight?"
"You think I'm redoing his math? Not a chance!"
Brennan grinned, pulling him in for a kiss. "You're a wonderful man."
She shoved him lightly, rolling her eyes. "We have a case to solve."
"So let's go!"
The hesitation and doubts remained, mingled with the guilt for the hurt she'd caused all of her friends, let alone Booth. She pressed on anyway, her arm linked through Booth's for strength. She couldn't allow Pelant to take this from her. He'd taken so much from them already. Without her bones, who was she?
Drawing a deep breath, she stepped through the automatic glass doors, smiling as four sets of eyes immediately met hers.
"Let's get started..."
Whew! What a ride!
Let me take a moment to say thank you. Jumping into a new fandom is always a scary prospect, and this one is so supportive and fun. The reviews, PMs, chatter - it's all been a blast and made writing so very easy.
In particular, tremendous gratitude to: threesquares, NCISVILLE, FaithinBones, Megwill, petuniatc, Dyna63, SchwuppDiDupsi, OoopsAmObsessed, and damn, anyone I'm forgetting who's reviewed on the regular. You are all superstars!
I set out with a single goal: write something plausible that does not contradict any spoilers (through Comic-Con at least). I believe I've succeeded. How accurate am I? Not a clue! But I do know that science supports everything, as well as canon, so I'm happy to have created this ride. Is it September yet?
I'll be writing plenty more one-shots to prompts in the other 'story' and I'm plotting a case fic out (amusing - if you've read the fic set in Disney World, you know what to expect). If you're game for something non-Bones, I have a novel available! PM me if you need details. Otherwise, leave me that last shot of love. Tell me your favourite scenes from the entire fic, gush about B&B, whatever! It's a Bones party up in here.