A/N: Thank you for reading. For sticking with this story, with me. That's it really, my very real gratitude. Thanks. 3sq


Booth

Booth was almost sure she wasn't going to run. Almost.

Despite his best efforts to read her the rest of the day and figure out what happened next, Bones still managed to slip away from the lab that night without his knowing. It was the part of the case when they were working in parallel, with him at the Hoover and her at the lab, communicating by phone or email or one or the other of them dropping by. Which he did, late afternoon, stopping only briefly by Hodgins' station—no way he wanted to encourage the man to talk about his breakup with Angela—before heading up to Bones' office. He could tell long before he got there, though, that she was gone. Well, hell.

So. He wondered if she actively avoiding him. He didn't know, but he did know that all day, he found it impossible to think of anything other than her mouth under his, her body against his in the elevator, in the car. He had spent the day trying to control his body and maybe it was just as well she wasn't here at work because he wasn't sure how well he could disguise his reaction to her or how he could keep from taking more, given how responsive she had been. Shit, he got hot just thinking about it.

So he made his way home, thinking about whether he could call her, or go over to her place—what was he, a girl?—or whether he should get out of his apartment, drive over to the Dive Bar to see the game with some of the guys from the Hoover. His apartment was dark and unwelcoming, dusty from the week and a half he and Bones were in England. He almost almost allowed himself to slump onto the couch to watch sports scores without changing out of his suit, but that was pathetic, he told himself. He was too tired and jet lagged to run, but dammit, he could take a shower. And so he did. Showered and put on clean jeans and a faded old black tshirt. Stuffed his feet into sneakers—they always hurt when he went barefoot—and then slumped on to the couch with a beer to check the scores and consider dinner. Half a beer later, there was a knock on the door.

His heart lifted and suddenly full of energy, he went to the door. Sure enough, there she was.

"Bones!"

"Hello, Booth. You seem surprised to see me." She pushed past him into the apartment. Booth was reminded of several times where, sad and confused over something—usually some perceived difference between herself and the rest of humanity—she would come to his apartment and drink his good scotch. But now she didn't seem sad and confused, she just seemed normal. She put her bag on a chair near the door and hung her coat casually on one of Parker's hooks. He followed her in, still holding the half empty beer.

"Well, Bones, I stopped by the Hoover but you weren't—" But then he didn't have any more words, couldn't even remember what he was saying, because she had turned and pressed into him, tilting her head back and lifting up on her toes to reach his lips. Hers were cold from the outside and she tasted like Bones and their night together and the elevator and Christmas.

He thought he would have given her anything, everything, just to have her keep kissing him. But he was wrong, because when she stopped kissing him it was to slide cool hands under his tshirt and then she was pulling it off over his head. Her mouth went to his neck, open and hot and wet and sucking, hard, until he moaned and let his own hands do what they wanted as her lips pressed kisses up, up to kiss and nuzzle under his ear, something he loved and he moved his head again and again to keep her there.

"Booth," she demanded on a laugh, ready to move on from his neck, and the sweet sound of her voice went right through him. Something in him recognized that she held the key. Mate. The thought penetrated the haze of lust and yes, love. He was shocked at how passive he could be, how much he wanted to give in to her.

BRENNAN

Booth has proven himself to be an outstanding federal agent and partner over the years, and I know that I should be deliberating on the merits and challenges of a long term romantic association with him before proceeding. But I am not. As close as I get to rational analysis is wondering why I am not engaging in rational analysis. As close as I get to taking it slow, is waiting until he gets inside my apartment, the door shut behind him.

Maybe it is because he has not made any move to change our relationship in the context of work. I always know, after a night together, that at work tomorrow, we'll go back to normal. After a weekend together, I know the following one will include Parker and I will have time alone, apart. If I want. Which sometimes I don't, to my surprise, although it doesn't surprise me that I like spending time with Parker. None of our friends and coworkers know that we are together and that provides a little bit of freedom too.

Maybe it is because of Tony and Roxie. We haven't pretended to be our alter egos since England, and I for one, do not feel the urge. But maybe those times undercover, however unsanctioned and self-initiated, have allowed us to practice being together. I can see now I needed Booth during my father's trial, and that he needed me after being tortured by Gallagher. It is curious that whenever I think about that torture now, I feel even more protective of Booth, even more enraged by the violation, by his bruised and burnt body, than I did then. I am grateful that he let me help him then, and perhaps Tony and Roxie made it a little easier to help each other, made that possible.

Every day I resolve to set aside time at work to give our relationship rational thought and yet the alarm will go off on my phone and the pad of paper ready for my Gantt chart or even a basic pros/cons list will be blank. The hour will have passed in an unlikely and uncharacteristic haze of daydreams. The warmth in my belly and the smile on my lips are outward manifestations of the chemicals in my bloodstream. The waterfall of memory, the knowledge that I will see him tonight, carry me past any recriminations I might have at my lack of focus or productivity.

The details of our time together in the weeks we've been together are as indelibly imprinted, as easily called to mind, as the number and names of the bones in a human body.

Booth

Booth wasn't sure whether they were dating or not.

On the one hand, Bones didn't act like any woman he had ever dated. All the little token acts of possession and small messages of reassurance like holding his arm, taking bites of his food, greeting him with a kiss, calling for no reason, bringing him coffee, letting him give her a hand up a hill or a step...all these, she refused, steadfastly, and in a perfectly Bones-y way. She just...stepped up on her own, kept her hands to herself, didn't call. Comfortable and complete. Without them ever having talked about it, with him following her lead, whatever they were doing was absolutely not apparent to their colleagues and friends. Booth was sure of it, as sure as he was surprised that she could pull it off. She seemed to be doing just what she wanted to do, and that was working and reading and writing and being his partner just as she always did. Even Angela had no idea that they were anything more than partners, Booth was convinced.

On the other hand…

Being with her, and he had been with her as often as they possibly could at night and on the weekends, was surprisingly uncomplicated and fun. Well, as uncomplicated as Brennan ever was, but still, he was suddenly leading two lives. One where he had a passionate, sexy girlfriend and a new relationship to negotiate, and his other one, the regular one. Not that he was complaining, because in the new life, the one with the relationship, she was really holding her own, and while they hadn't made any major declarations, since the day they kissed in the elevator and then the car, she clearly assumed they were together. And for Booth, the declarations would wait. That she was letting him into her life—hell, her apartment was more than he had hoped for. He would wait for the rest.

He walked through his regular life in a daze, scenes of their nights and evenings and weekends together playing out in memory and warming him from the inside out. He felt invincible. Soppy and protective and manly and yes, horny most of the time. If anyone was giving away their relationship, he realized, it was him. Charlie definitely knew something was up, and more than one of his agents had said something about his frequent good moods.

He couldn't bring himself to care though. These weeks were worth remembering, and remember he did, at every opportunity.

Brennan

Booth had strained his intertransverse ligament going down a slide with Parker but he wouldn't let me fix it. This was not a surprise; Booth has strong feelings about what it is for him to be a man, and yet, he has always been respectful and open to working with women professionally. That was one thing that had never come between us. And yet, as we worked the Jared Addision case, he continued to limp and experience pangs in his back because he was unwilling to let me, his partner and now lover, help him. In the end, I think it was the fact that I let him help me that changed his mind.

"Bones, what are you doing?"

"Throwing out my book."

"It's still on your hard-drive, right?"

"Nope, not any more it's not."

"You erased it?!"

"Yeah."

"Woah. Woah, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, stop."

"But I don't want to be a writer any more."

"Oh, why? Because of what that publisher said? He was an idiot, did you see his glasses?"

"But I don't wanna be a sexy scientist."

"Well that's like me saying I don't want to be a sexy FBI agent. We can't change who we are."

His eyes were suddenly intent on mine, like he was trying to tell me something. I almost laughed. His charm smile never really works on me, but his goofiness, willingness to say things just because they might make me laugh, does. I felt myself soften and even now, in memory, I glance down at his mouth, want to slip into that warmth, taste him. He perceives this and a small movement in my peripheral vision indicates him flexing his hands. My body sways toward him but this is work, the lab. He has more control than I do right now and turns the movement of his hands into an opportunity to pick the pages of my book out of the trash. His voice is hoarse and gives him away.

"You see? How this works, huh? It's give and take. We're partners, huh?"

"Except you won't let me fix your back."

"Oh, come on, my back is fine, it's just-"

"Oh really?" But I'm done talking because here, here is a chance to touch him legitimately. I move to stand in front of him and slip my hand up to stroke the soft notch at the base of his throat. His head tips back a little and I run my hand over the firm plane of his stomach. The muscles flex, hard, under the white cotton dress shirt. Trailing my fingers around his waist, I move behind him, pressing close, the heat of my breasts making him arch back a little. He abruptly stops protesting. Looping my hands under his arms and pressing my hands to the back of his neck, I rotate and bend him the way I have been taught. With one last strategic push with my knee and a little pop, the tension leaves his back. He groans in relief and then groans again as he turns and finds himself just inches from my mouth. He doesn't kiss me then, but he makes it hard for me not to kiss him. Head tilted deliberately into position, his breath heavy against my lips, he leans in until the whisper of his voice in thanks is more like the stroke of his calloused finger on my lower lip than language.

Booth

"So, did you want to say something?"

"Well… I feel that this dog, Ripley, paid a price that was unfair."

"It's not my fault, Bones, why're you talking to me?"

"What? You're the only one here."

"Talk to the universe… or God or Ripley."

"Well, I don't believe in God."

"Well, God spelled backwards is 'dog'."

"And Ripley is dead. Plus he's a dog, with, you know… limited vocabulary skills."

"Bones, just… speak from your heart."

He loved that she wanted him here, with her. He hated that she was looking at him, speaking to him, like somehow it was his fault and he believed a little that it was his fault. Somehow he should have kept them from putting the damn dog down. And what was even more painful-even more painful than the thickness in the warp of her voice, the blue of her eyes swimming in repressed tears-even more painful was the clear hint of a midwestern twang in her words. She had never spoken of it, but had obviously worked so hard to eradicate all signs of her young life in her bearing, manner, language, accent.

"Ripley was a good dog. He didn't want to fight. But he did it to please his master. You know, he didn't want to attack a human being, but he did it to please his master. You know, it wasn't Ripley's fault that his master was cruel and selfish. Like all dogs, Ripley only saw the good in people. Dogs are like that. People should take a lesson."

Dogs are like that. People should take a lesson. So certain and so vulnerable. He hated that she was looking at him but at the same time, he wanted to grab her and pull her into his arms, hold her face, drown in her eyes, let her drown in his.

She took the tag out of her pocket and pressed it into the soil over the grave, and then she pressed the dirt down on the grave. Again and again.

"Is that enough?

He stepped into her, needed to stop this now. "Yeah. As much as any good dog…hey—" he reached for her shoulder, "—could hope for. Even with limited vocabulary skills, okay?"

When he saw her start to tear up, he wrapped his arm around her and she leaned into him, shaking a little. He gripped the handle of the shovel, hard, but kept his hand gentle on her back.

She always surprised him, this tenderness toward animals, toward children. Ah, god, he hated it when she hurt. He pushed the shovel away, letting it fall and cradled her, loving the slender form pressed so close to his. Leaning against him, curling against him, just like she looked at him, like he was the answer to all her prayers. The prayers she would never say. Like he could fix everything. He couldn't, but he made love to her that night like he had always wanted to, tried to tell her with his body how much he treasured her trust and her willingness to lean on him. And when she wept quietly into his chest, protesting that she didn't know why she was crying, he shushed her and pulled her even closer into the lee of his body, saying, "That's okay, Bones. I do." And that seemed to be the right thing because she stopped talking and crawled even further on top of him, pressing her face into his neck and sharing all her sadness. He would always treasure the memory of her body, pliant and heavy and relaxed in exhausted sleep on his, the welcome burden of his love and protection settling in his chest, keeping him awake to stroke her hair back from her flushed cheeks.

Brennan

At the skating rink, I am supposed to be helping him, keeping him awake, but instead he is teaching me to skate more adeptly. I am worried about his vision of Luke Robataille, and what it might mean, but it is hard to feel worried with my hand tucked warmly in his.

Later when we are tired of skating, instead of going home right away, we sit in the bleachers, like spectators, even though there is no one to see. It is soothing to sit in the glow of the disco ball, wrapped in Booth's jacket.

"Bones." His voice is low and has a rasp to it that I have already come to associate with sex.

I look up at him in question, but before I can say anything, he catches my mouth with his. His lips should be cool, but they aren't and the heat of them as they nip gently at my lower lip makes me shiver.

"Did you ever make out with a boy in the bleachers?" He must know the answer but I have to admit I like that he asks.

"No."

"Well, we should do something about that," he murmurs before his head dips down again.

It is two in the morning before we get back to his apartment and I make him stay up watching movies until dawn, and while we are home and alone, and while sex would definitely keep us occupied and awake for a while, his concussion makes that seem reckless somehow and we continue to play boyfriend and girlfriend, holding hands, snuggling into one another. At one point, close to 5am, Booth lays down in my lap and I stroke his hair. I engage him in the game we played as Tony and Roxie to keep him awake another hour.

We finally crawl into bed with more clothes on than any other time I have been in Booth's bed. Even in the short time we have been together, it has become established that I sleep tilted almost all the way on my stomach and take great pleasure in Booth's heavy arm across my lower back. Tonight however, he lays on his back and I rest my cheek on his chest, arm wrapped across his warm body, breathing in his scent. His hand strokes down my back and his palm moves in slow circles around my lower back before moving back up. When I feel the heaviness of sleep dragging me down, hear the slow rush of Booth's breath signalling his own sleep, I push at him, sneaking out from under his arm, pushing him onto his side so I can wrap myself around him, cradling and protecting him for once. And he lets me, sighing deeply and letting his own hand rest on top of mine possessively.

Booth

One of the nights he thought of often was one not long after they got back from England. While they were together a lot, he still wasn't sure yet, didn't want to assume anything. They hadn't told anyone they were together and had barely spoken about it themselves, but since that first night home when she sent him away, they had spent the night together. One night, when she went out with Angela, she came to his apartment when she was done. The taste of red wine on her lips, the faint hint of Angela's perfume mixed with hers, made his breath hitch and his body tense with lust. She had been somewhere else, with other people, and now she had come to him. She didn't protest when he pulled her dress up and over her head, pressing into her just inside the door of his apartment. Bones was also surprisingly good at being passive, at times.

A few nights later, he had hockey practice and drinks with his teammates. After one drink, Booth went home, showered and changed, all the while pretending that he was planning on watching the end of a game, or highlights, by himself on the couch with a beer. But he never even hesitated, after pulling on his jeans, to put on socks and shoes, slide his wallet into his back pocket, strap on the shoulder holster and gun, pack a small bag with clothes for tomorrow.

He parked, leaving the bag in the car, letting the illusion of not spending the night draw out a little longer. He took the stairs because he didn't feel like risking making small talk with her neighbors, not because he couldn't wait to see her. He knocked on the door, ready to pretend...what? That maybe she wanted to see a movie, in the interest of improving her knowledge of popular culture, or that they get something to eat since probably she hadn't eaten? Lame, maybe it would be better to say—

But then he heard the chain slip and slide and fall with a small clang, and the snick of the deadbolt drawing back, and the rattle of the antique glass door knob as she turned it and pulled and his heart was beating fast, much faster than it beat during the game tonight and he wondered if he should have shaved dammit why hadn't he shaved but again he was just in a hurry to get to her—

And his heart was still beating too fast, and his extremities felt a little numb, and a lump had lodged in his throat but he couldn't swallow couldn't even breathe because—

There she was, chin raised, tilted a little higher than necessary for her piercing blue eyes to meet his, showing the bravado that revealed her own nervousness. Otherwise she looked so calm and collected and...beautiful, radiant. Her eyes bright in her pale face, he couldn't wait to get inside the apartment and he reached out. He cupped her face, let his thumb pass in small circles over the skin of her cheek. So soft. And tried to memorize a part of her body he had rarely seen, her eyelids. Her eyes had slipped closed and for once she didn't say anything at all, just stood in the doorway, the cool air rushing in, and turned her face into his palm. He would remember that all the next day, the way she turned, like a plant to sunlight, into him. He had to swallow hard past the lump in his throat every time he thought of it.

A/N: One more chapter to come. One more glimpse of Tony and Roxie. Again, thank you for sticking with this story. M.