Disclaimer: Still not mine. I wish I was clever enough to come up with an amusing, original way to repeat myself but I'm not clever. If I were, Bones would have been MY idea and I'd be the one reaping the benefits.

Author's Note: First, a very grateful thank you to those who have left me reviews. After stating I'm staying within canon, it was a bit scary to upload a chapter that follows an episode so closely, but with an extra scene that is controversial. To me, the evidence of the next morning in the Bone Room suggests something else happened between Booth and Brennan. She was wearing different clothes, it seems they hadn't spoken to each other since their fight the previous afternoon and, Booth said "I'm sorry for causing you pain."

Why would he say that word in particular?

And why was he drinking and looking so lost when Brennan got home at the end? To me, that's evidence that their fight had continued and had gotten a bit worse off screen.

Now, with the morning sun climbing higher, it's time to start cleaning up the mess.

Chapter Twelve

Do You Need Time and Space?

Preparing for the day, alone with Christine, reminded her far too much of three months spent alone and looking over her shoulder. For the last several years, if she wanted companionship she could simply go to the lab, or call Angela, or wait ten minutes for Booth to bustle in with either a case or a demand for food. Being completely cut off and isolated from society had in fact been much harder the second time, when she knew what and who she was missing. Her father had come and gone, staying with her for a few days, then disappearing to scout ahead for their next location. Christine's presence was reassuring and nerve-wracking in equal measures, partly because she knew having a baby with her made her more vulnerable to fatigue, distraction, and therefore to attack.

And there had been some attacks. Brennan had not been able to afford 'upscale establishments' and had not always been in the company of her father. The dingy "motel-no-tells" that didn't ask for ID also didn't provide her with reputable neighbors. She was mugged one night while walking to her room. With Christine in her arms, there had been no option other than to surrender and hope he only wanted her money, paltry sum that it was. Seeing that gleaming blade so close to her baby's innocent body was utterly terrifying in that way she'd known only when Booth was hurt or missing.

Another night, an attempted rape had robbed her of everything but livid instinct. Christine was safe in the motel with her father, Max, while Brennan had gone to start her all-nighter shift at a truck stop. The man had cornered her in the parking lot, hands on her arms, body moving in too close, his intentions made clear by the leering smirk and promise that he wouldn't hurt her, much. It was anger, a black and unquenchable fury that welled up in her when yet another man dared to touch her like he had the right because she was smaller and less physically robust, or perhaps it was simply because she was a female. Her anger had given him pause: possibly he'd expected tearful submission. But he'd chosen the wrong female to attack if weakness and tears were what he wanted.

Her eyes had narrowed, becoming as frigid and feral as a predator's unblinking stare moments before the attack. "Let. Me. Go." The guttural command had wrenched itself out of that dark well of wrath she carried inside, and he had been foolish enough not to heed it, instead moving in closer and giving her the opening she needed. He let her go willingly enough, though, when her martial arts training ensured he would be the one forced into retreat, not Temperance Brennan.

Never again would she be forced by a man.

Never again. Never.

Her breathing had increased as she stood safely in her home while the remembered rage flared, and the remoteness of being completely alone in the world taunted. Worst of all was the bitter taste of … well, there was no word for it. None that could voice what she had felt in that graveled lot, except perhaps for a forlorn grouping of sad and lonely adjectives: Lost, alone, unloved, exposed. No one who knew her, no one who cared, no one who would save her from the predators in this world, so she had to save herself. Again. During those three months, she'd gotten lost in Tempe's world.

The last time she'd felt that way was in an abandoned factory, arms bound and Special Agent Kenton promising he'd make sure she didn't suffer. That was the time before Booth, the last moments before Booth charged in and changed fate. Or fulfilled it. This was the time after Booth, but it felt like before.

Tears began, but she wouldn't give in to them. She didn't want to upset Christine. She hadn't wanted to upset Booth, either, so she hadn't told him these darker secrets. He would feel angry and helpless, he would yell and kick something. Most of all, she'd never wanted to relive any of it. None of it.

She wanted it all to be gone, done, over with. Move forward. But … like the moon riding high on a summer night, no matter where she went, the past floated along beside her. It was inescapable.

~Q~

Once at work, Brennan spent the morning in the Bone Room, going over Richard Bartlett's skeleton with careful scrutiny. Hodgins popped his head in to report that he'd run the particulates she'd asked about yesterday and would send Finn Abernathy with a verdict soon.

So she found her cell phone again and sent Booth a message. "I discovered something that you need to see."

What she had discovered was her own strength, her will to survive and hold on to the things she'd worked so hard for. What was it Mr. Abernathy had said…? Without the challenge she wouldn't know how brilliant she was. Well then, bring it up ... or out ... or whatever. She would face the challenge in front of her and she would prevail. Brennans never failed at anything.

The next hour passed quietly, giving her time to ruminate in the background as she applied her mind to the concrete task in front of her. Brennan studied each of Bartlett's bones carefully, running her eyes over their intricate surfaces with expert attention to the smallest defects, idiosyncrasies, nuances and flaws. Even the tiniest marks could mean something. She ran her gloved fingertips over the rough surfaces, eyes tracking foramen and grooves, crests and ridges, fossae and condyles, while her touch relayed information about the 'feel' and heft of each bone.

Still deeply engaged in the examination, a familiar sensation drifted over her. A comforting presence, a sense of returning security, an impossibly tangible sensation that lifted her chin and turned her head as surely as Booth's familiar fingers on a sidewalk outside a Diner. He'd told her, "There's more than one kind of family." And his warm eyes had loved her.

Her eyes lifted and moved and found him there at the doorway, wearing an awe-filled, love-struck expression that she'd seen once before.

Do you believe in fate?

He'd walked into her lecture and into her life wearing that look. The ice that had encased her all morning started to trickle tiny rivulets when their gazes met and locked. The rivulets became a flow, a running stream that gushed from her to him, carrying her cautious hope to him, reversing course, bringing him back to her.

Booth walked the last few paces that separated them, his gentle gaze conveying both love and sorrow. "I'm sorry, Bones."

She shook her head, knowing it was her fault, her messy fears and feelings that had caused it all. "You shouldn't be sorry for saying what you mean."

Only for not saying anything at all, her rational side sighed. But he'd said it now, and she had something tangible to grasp, a problem to solve. She would make sure he understood how very much she cared, how very intensely she wanted him in her life and at her side.

"I'm sorry I caused you pain."

The soft note of guilt and shame touched her, made her reciprocate.

"I'm sorry about that, too." She replied quickly. Then, realizing she may have said it with too much haste, with too little gravitas, and therefore he might misunderstand, she took a deep breath and elaborated. "I mean, for hurting you. Not for hurting me."

He smiled faintly, his gaze skittering to the side. "I get it."

The awkward moment held them both suspended, neither really looking at each other or looking away. Plans for reconciliation started turning slowly in Brennan's head, tangible things she could do or say to make him feel her love, to prove herself to him. Before any of them could fully form, a throat cleared nearby.

Poking his head around the edge of the door, Finn Abernathy hesitantly announced his presence. "Ah, should I come back, or…."

"Oh, no!" Brennan exclaimed and self-consciously stepped back from Booth half a pace. Booth circled away and strolled casually behind her, his hands deep in his pockets. "Ah, come in! Come in, Mr. Abernathy."

Bearing Bartlett's skull on a platter and looking inexplicably like Hamlet as he sensed the simmering discord between the king and queen, Finn cautiously entered the room. A random line from the play whispered through her head, amusing because it was so very apropos. Hamlet had held aloft Yorick's skull and mused, "Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now…?"

Glancing uneasily from his mentor to Agent Booth, Finn set down the tray he was holding.

And Brennan recalled her straying attention from Hamlet's lawyer to her own, to Bartlett, whose skull lay in front of her. She picked it up and rotated the intact side to Booth. "Do you see these fissure lines inferior to the squamosal suture?"

"The cracks," Booth clarified. His voice was still soft, his gaze gratefully fixed on the object she held.

"They're from the fire," Finn clarified.

Brennan nodded approvingly. "When I was examining the skull, I found that the fissures felt …" She turned to Finn, now fully entrenched in her teaching mode. "… what was the word I used, Mr. Abernathy?"

"Disquisitive." He said it quite distinctly, one corner of his mouth lifting as he confessed to Booth, "I had to look it up. In this case, it means that her 'spidey sense' was tingling."

Booth stared blankly at the two of them, clearly losing patience. "What's the deal? What's that mean? I don't…."

"There's something in the fissures," Brennan explained. She regarded Booth cautiously, his impatience reminding her of much earlier days, when he didn't trust her or her science. In later years, he'd taken to waiting with keen anticipation for whatever unexpected clue she always managed to glean, but now…. Now he only wanted her to get to the point.

Booth repeated impatiently, "Cracks."

Growing a bit uncomfortable, Finn glanced at the two of them again before explaining what he'd just learned. "Dr. Hodgins says it's a mixture of toluene, hexane, and methyl-ethyl-ketone."

Musing over that, noting she'd been correct about the organic nature of the substance in the fissures, Brennan finally ventured a supposition on its origin. "Most likely from the accelerant used to burn the body."

Finn nodded. "It's a highly flammable solvent used by architects when building polystyrene models."

She looked up sharply, her eyes growing wide and heading straight for Booth. "Architect."

He read her instantly, his own mind kicking into interrogation gear. There was a lot to do before bringing them in. With a nod, he told her, "Give me an hour.…"

She nodded back, understanding why he needed the time. Then, with a false brightness because of Finn standing there, she added, "Thank you for coming here."

"You're welcome," he replied with excruciating formality. They leaned together and kissed awkwardly, both painfully aware of their audience.

"Okay…." He stepped back, stepped away. At the door, Booth paused long enough to glance back. "Good luck with the maxo-miso-min."

"Good luck to you, too," she replied as stiffly as any dignitary following protocol. When he was gone, she turned to Finn to explain why none of that had felt quite right. "We don't usually kiss in front of people, but we had a disagreement."

Young Mr. Abernathy held very still for a moment, clearly puzzled. "You … already had the fight?"

Her confirmation came as briskly as ever. "Yes."

Even more unsettled, he continued, "And … that was the two of you making up after the fight you already had?"

Brennan lowered her hands, brow furrowing as full uncertainty claimed her once more. "I don't understand your tone of incredulity."

"Oh, no, Ma'am." He quickly tried to recant the unspoken comment on her private affairs. And yet, seeing that she'd clearly expected an explanation, he offered his own interpretation of what he'd seen. "It's just, when my mom and my step-dad used to get all polite like the two of you were just then? That meant all hell was gonna break loose."

And with that, he slipped away.

And with that observation from a young man who'd grown up in a situation rife with hostility and domestic violence, a sinking feeling of dread enclosed her. Because Booth had grown up that way, too. Did that stiff, awkward politeness hide a seething brew of fury? Was she that blind to social interactions, and to Booth?

Yes, of course she was. Biting her lip, Brennan lowered her head and acknowledged she'd never been good with people.

~Q~

When she went to join him as planned, she found Booth waiting for her in his office an hour later. He looked exhausted, betraying that he probably had not slept well. She wasn't even sure where he'd been all night. Feeling keenly that it was her fault he hadn't felt he could go home, she knew she had to absolve him. At least she could do that for him before they tried to outwit the Carmichaels.

Brennan glanced behind her at the bull pen, deciding to shut the door and give them a moment of privacy. "Booth, about yesterday…."

"Now isn't the time," he clipped abruptly.

Halting in front of his desk, her hand lifted to idly trace a pattern on the edge, skirting the inbox and stacks of old divorce cases he and Sweets had gone over the day before. "Perhaps I was too abrupt yesterday," she began cautiously, "but when I said 'not now,' you became angry."

He glared at her. "Bones, we're about to interrogate two murder suspects. Now is not the time."

"I don't want to argue, I just … I need to tell you that it wasn't you." Lifting her pleading gaze to his, her eyes begged him to understand.

He held himself stiffly, body posed frozen but his eyes moving over her face in silent inquiry.

"I had a flashback. I was remembering something that happened a long time ago, before I met you. You didn't hurt me."

Staring blindly down at his desk now, Booth nodded briefly. "Okay."

"I'm not afraid of you," she added. "I … I trust you. I know you would never hurt me."

He nodded again, his shoulders loosening slightly. "Thanks. For that."

"Booth…."

Striding around his desk, he brushed past her and opened the door. "They're waiting for us."

She thought he was going to leave. Her heart lifted into her throat and started to close over her larynx as he stepped away, his back showing. Tears squeezed out from the pressure and the pain and she wasn't sure she could endure the rejection without betraying how much it hurt.

But then, mercifully, he didn't leave. Instead, he turned and looked back with the hint of victory in his eyes. "I think I found something in their divorce file that I want you to see."

"What is it?" Was that her voice, sounding so relieved and breathless?

"I'm not sure. I need your brain because I can't understand half that legalese crap." His hand drifted to the small of her back as she walked out ahead of him, and Brennan finally felt confident that she had come home. She was close to crying again, for a vastly better reason. If they had been anywhere but the bull pen with a dozen agents watching, she would have turned and thrown herself into his arms.

~Q~

Melanie Carmichael laughed derisively. "Glue. You think Gavin killed Bartlett because of some glue?"

"Solvent, actually," Brennan corrected with her typical exactness. She had no patience for this couple, just as certain now as she had been yesterday that they were a duplicitous pair.

Aiming his analytical gaze straight for Melanie, the tougher nut to crack, Booth stepped in. "Right. Not just Gavin. You helped."

"Me. It was Gavin's glue you found." Her voice was cold, accusing.

"Thanks, Melanie," Gavin hissed.

"It's solvent," Brennan repeated impatiently. But her entire body went on alert, hearing that first fracture in their cover story. There it was, she'd known this all along. Was this how it worked for Booth? She felt a glowing sense of triumph, the scent of surety.

"Solvent, right. We got that," Booth interrupted Brennan with an annoyed dismissal of her pedantic insistence on proper nomenclature.

Sinking back, she gracefully accepted his suggestion that the solvent-vs-glue debate wasn't germane to this interrogation.

Booth had turned back to Melanie, his finger tapping the DNA analysis Cam had sent over with Brennan. "Okay, we found your DNA on the murder weapon—here."

Gavin looked blank. "What?"

Melanie raised a hand, completely unconcerned. "If you mean the pen, I cut myself on that when we signed the divorce agreement."

Brennan narrowed her gaze onto Melanie, watching their reunited 'marriage' and Melanie's innocent façade fall apart at the same time. Now she and Booth had the woman trapped, Melanie just didn't know it yet. Sharply, Brennan inquired, "How did you know which pen was used to stab Richard Bartlett?"

Because the DNA would not implicate her until they had Melanie's sample to compare it to. If she'd have been innocent, Melanie would have been shocked at the idea that her DNA would be found anywhere involved with Bartlett's death. And if she were guilty but smart, she would never have mentioned the pen before Booth or Brennan brought it up.

Melanie laughed confidently. "Obviously, it's the one with my fingernail in it."

"We should call a lawyer," Gavin suggested quietly.

Evidently he was the intelligent one, Brennan mused.

Melanie turned on him and snapped, "Suck it up, Gavin." The contempt oozed out, impossible to miss. "These are just tricks. Besides, we don't need a lawyer because I'm a lawyer."

Brennan and Booth exchanged glances. Do you believe me now, she wondered. And she could see that he did. The old familiar warmth rushed back to surround her, lifting her spirits and giving her more hope than she'd held in months. This was right. This was them, the way they'd always been.

Out of the side of her mouth, Brennan murmured, "They'll probably want their divorce back."

Booth nodded, his eyes betraying more than a trace of mirth. "Probably from a cheaper lawyer, too…."

It felt so normal, so right, that she relaxed. It's going to be okay.

Booth's gaze shifted to Gavin. "…Because you didn't pay your bill, pal."

Gavin waved that off. "Oh. The bill was a couple months past due. That's not a crime."

Booth shook his head, the trap was closing on them both. "Richard Bartlett is not a patient man; not at all. He nullified your divorce."

In the last hour, Booth had gone over the divorce papers very carefully and Brennan had sat with him as they read it together. He'd discovered discrepancies in the bill of divorcement, but it was Brennan who went over legal statutes and deciphered what it all meant. Brennan looked at Gavin, deciding he wasn't that smart after all. "Apparently, your middle name was missing, and your wife's maiden name. Bartlett used those mistakes to render the whole document null and void."

Booth's eyes gleamed at Melanie. "So you stabbed him in the neck with his own pen."

Gavin leaned forward. "I want to make a deal."

Melanie didn't even look at him, her contempt and disgust still coldly obvious. "Shut up. You weasely little coward."

"Now I really wanna make a deal." Gavin smirked. He leaned forward eagerly. "Melanie killed him. All I'm guilty of is helping her get rid of the body."

There was no honor among thieves, nor ex-spouses. Brennan and Booth traded triumphant grins, knowing their partnership had prevailed over the strain, over this crafty pair. There was hope.

"Moron," Melanie spat. "You're admitting to conspiracy."

Gavin turned, his revenge tasting sweeter. "Still not murder." To Booth, he added, "I'll testify. We have a deal?"

Not quite. Brennan had one more trump card to play. The soft, flat delivery of what she had to share with them sounded in crisp contrast to the impact it had on Melanie and Gavin's dynamic. "He wasn't dead when you tossed him down the construction chute."

"What?" Melanie asked faintly, her eyes gleaming.

"What?" Gavin sounded far less sure of his triumph now.

Melanie's sense of victory was increasing even as his slipped further away. "You mean, Gavin actually killed him?"

"Yes. If he tossed him down the garbage chute." Brennan made that perfectly clear, in case they doubted.

"Well, he did," Melanie crowed in delight.

Sputtering like an outraged four year old, Gavin bellowed, "You helped! She helped!"

Melanie sneered, "I'll be the one cutting the deal. All I did was jab him with a pen. You killed the bastard."

Gavin gaped at her in disbelief. "You told me he was dead. You checked for his pulse. We could have saved his life!"

Brennan and Booth looked from their suspects to each other, bemused. Neither of them had ever witnessed anything like this.

Scoffing, Melanie mocked him again. "Idiot. You just confessed twice to murder."

"Idiot?" he roared.

"Gavin was also the one who set him on fire."

Brennan and Booth again traded looks. Were these two people real?! Was that much spite even possible, that they'd turn on each other and both end up in prison if it meant they could each get revenge?

"And he liked it," Melanie gloated.

"Well, that's good to know," Booth muttered in amazement.

Gavin laughed, outing them further. "She lied about being pregnant. Can you imagine this bitch as a mother?"

This was what she had seen in the divorce papers. This. Brennan regarded the two with astonishment and revulsion. "I just don't understand how two people like you ever got married in the first place."

Brennan felt a chill as the essential question plagued her. Had Gavin and Melanie ever loved each other? Had they felt united, the way she and Booth did, when they first decided upon marriage? Despite all the pain of yesterday, and all the fear she still had to battle, Brennan knew she could never turn on Booth the way Melanie had turned against Gavin.

Booth was watching her, his uncertainty clear, but also a glimmer of respect because Brennan had been right about them. She met his eyes, feeling it, knowing by the warmth she saw there that he would never betray her this way either. Even if he did leave, they would never do this to each other.

I won't give up. She reached for his hand, squeezing it gently. He weakly squeezed back but then pulled his hand away. That's when she knew they still weren't okay. But they could be.

She shook her head, trying to quell the fear and doubt she'd sworn would not rule over her. Only a couple of hours ago, she'd felt Booth's love reach her from across the room; she'd looked up to see the him looking at her with the same expression he'd had in that moment of their first meeting. That had changed everything, when he'd asked if she believed in fate.

Trusting Booth meant trusting that he wouldn't give up on them. He believed in love, in fate, but she needed to believe it also. She needed to keep trying, and she needed help.

Who do I ask, Brennan pondered. Angela was always sympathetic and knew her history, but she wouldn't force Brennan to confront hard truths. Hodgins was exacting and would hold her to essential honesty, but he didn't know her history very well. She needed someone who combined their traits, and reluctantly acknowledged within a minute that she knew exactly who that was.

~Q~

We're getting close to the end now. I expect between 3-4 more chapters. Thanks for sticking with me so far, and I hope I can wrap this up satisfactorily just in time for Christmas. Fixing them is the hardest part and that's what I'm working on now. If there are any issues you want me to cover, let me know in a review! If there is something you didn't like, let me know. If there is something you do like, it's nice to hear that, too. :)