AN: All good things come to an end. I hope this has been a good thing for you. I know I've certainly enjoyed writing it.

Thank you to each and every one of you that's taken the time to review the story, share it with others and recommend it. You all brighten my day with your kind words and encouragement. Stay tuned to the end notes, and cue up the music for our goodbye to our shuffled world.

I don't own Bones or Shuffle. Consider me disclaimed. Dialogue borrowed from episodes is strictly for context and continuity; no infringement intended.

"Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid, I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

And all along, I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more..."

A Thousand Years - Christina Perri

He waits patiently as the fluttering begins beneath her eyelids. Soon. Soon, he'll know for certain that she'll be okay. He'll know as soon as he sees -

Those blue eyes. They exchange a half-smile, a language all their own. I've been lost in those blues of her for years. She makes a move to sit up and his hand flies out, a gesture of warning. There's only so much one human body can take, and she took that one surgery ago.

"Oh, easy! Don't move," he orders her as the pain shoots across her features. "Bones, easy."

She allows herself to relax into the pillows without much of a fight, to his relief. "What happened?" she asks.

"Blood matched," he tells her, pride swelling within. "Batuhan was arrested for murder and attempted murder."

Because of you. They never get away with it when you're on the case, Bones. She nods and smiles, an 'I knew it' gesture and he can't help but return the look. You got him. You got the bastard.

"I think I'll go and tell them, uh... tell them that you're okay," Max announces suddenly, rising to his feet. "They're all here, you know."

The poor guy looks uncomfortable and Booth is only half sorry. They've been told before, by Angela mostly, that they have a way of blocking out the world in shared silence. It's so sexy, but so awkward, Angela explained, toasting them at their housewarming. They must be doing it again, although he's never noticed it. She calls out to her father before he can slip away, drawing him back.

"Hey, Dad?"


"Mom..." She hesitates, as if choosing her words carefully, perhaps choosing to speak them at all. "Mom knew that the first gift you ever gave her? She always knew that you stole it."

Max's eyes dart up at him, the weight of her statement heavy in the air. Is she admitting that she truly saw her Mom? The veracity of the statement is in Max's expression and the way he tries to stay casual as he answers her.

"Nobody knew that... Except me. Nobody..." He walks away, clearly speechless at this information.

"Good to see the ol' rhino can still be surprised," Booth muses, noticing her troubled face. He settles down beside her, mindful of her injuries.

"I saw her..."

"She talk to you?"

"It's crazy to think that it's true..."

He has felt what she's clearly feeling, and his heart aches for her. She's shaken by the notion that there is something beyond this world, something science can't truly explain. The evidence isn't supporting her hypothesis. His own faith has been shaken on this journey, his belief that good people are rewarded with good things - love, family, a life shared - shattered in the ethers of a world without his partner.

"You know what, Bones? It's okay to be a little crazy, right?" I love you. You can believe anything you want. I'll believe it with you... out loud, anyway.

She chuckles softly as he leans forward, fumbling for the bed controls. The head of the bed begins to lift and she cries out, her hand pushing against his chest.

"Oh! Are you okay? Sorry - "

"I'm joking," she admits with a laugh and grin.

It's at that moment that he knows unequivocally that she's going to be perfectly fine. No more heart stopping. No more surgery. Just the two of them, sharing their lives. He nudges the bed downward as their lips finally meet and it's as if the world itself shifts back into alignment. A soft murmur rises in her throat as her hand reaches to hold his head. My strong woman, he thinks happily. Mine.

A throat clears, jarring Booth from the not-so-appropriate thoughts of homecoming he's constructing. "Should we come back later?"

"Angela!" Bones cries out happily. "And Hodgins."

"I'd say you're looking a lot better, Dr. B." He approaches the bed first, to Booth's surprise, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "Queen of the Lab."

"Definitely," Booth agrees.

"How are you feeling, sweetie?" Angela asks, handing a bouquet of daisies to Booth and leaning down for a careful hug.

"A bit sore, but I'm fine."

"No more heart-stopping action, alright? This ain't a Jason Statham movie," Angela quips.

"I don't know what that means."

"Well Bones, you're going to need to rest for a while, so I'm sure you can learn exactly what that means," Booth announces playfully.

"Booth, I'm perfectly capable of working during my recuperation. I have several papers to grade and three journal submissions to peer review. I also have the outline for my novel - "

"Bren, you were shot. No way. I'm with Booth on this one," Angela tells her firmly.

Hodgins nods, clearly in Brother Mode. "Getting shot is an instant 'Get Out Of Work Free' card. Just enjoy being alive for a while. The work can wait."

His partner pouts, sighing quietly. "I suppose I can take the rest of the weekend off."

"It's a start," Booth agrees. "We'll negotiate the weekdays, alright?"

"Remember the time she kept working in New Orleans after breaking her arm?" Angela asks.

"I didn't have enough pull then to stop her," Booth replies. "I do now."

A lump rises in his throat as he remembers the call, how small and scared she'd sounded in spite of herself. How his stomach lurched at the words 'sexual assault' even as she'd been declared as showing no signs of it. If he'd doubted for a moment that he was falling for her, falling hard, that case had been the first wake-up call. He'd wanted desperately to hold her, but it wasn't professional to do so, so he'd fought it with every fibre of his being.

"Well, this is the woman who worked until she was literally in labour," Hodgins teases.

"I felt fine!" Brennan protests. "And my labour was unusually accelerated for a first delivery. I had every reason to believe we'd have at least four hours to return home."

Booth chuckles, shaking his head. "Our daughter takes after her mother."

"What does that mean?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

Hodgins and Angela are laughing as he smoothly replies, "Only that she doesn't like to waste time on - on ceremony. She wants to get things done."

"Nice save," Angela teases.

"I'll allow him to have it," Bones playfully notes. "Only because he saves me so often."

"Bones..." His voice is hoarse as she stares at him intently, lovingly. Does she know somehow? Does she sense it?

"Babe, I suggest we let others come say hi so Dr. B. can rest," Hodgins announces. "It's so good to see you up and alert," he adds with a warm smile.

"Thank you, Hodgins, Angela. For everything."

Angela leans over, kissing her forehead. "Don't you ever think of dying on me again, Bren," she mutters.

"I'll do my best," she promises.

Booth watches as the couple slips away, hand in hand and quietly adds, "I'm holding you to that, too."

"Then I'm holding you to it as well," she replies softly.

"I can live with that."

Another kiss, gentler, delicate. Caution is the undercurrent. Both of them know far too intimately how fragile the human body can be. Both have faced the potential of loss of the other.

"We wasted so much time," he blurts out unwittingly. "I really knew, from the start. I denied it, but I knew you were the woman I'd waited for my entire life."

"We were together," she replies. "As much as we were both ready for. I wouldn't give up a single moment of it."

"Not even getting shot at repeatedly?"

Her hand finds his, fingers interlacing as she nods. "No. If time allowed us to evolve, to be together, then each sequence of events was necessary. Take one step away from the process and perhaps it alters the course of history."

In his head, he can hear Vincent's voice: "The butterfly effect, as science refers to it, made applicable to our life decisions. Each one creates a ripple that stirs us up, alters who we will become."

"So you'd still slug a gang leader," he prompts.

"Absolutely," she replies without hesitation. "Would you still shoot a clown on top of an ice cream truck?"

Booth chuckles. "Well, yeah. Clowns suck. Plus, we met Gordon-Gordon."

"And without him, we wouldn't have gone to Sweets that night... "

Booth shakes his head sadly. "You reopened some serious wounds that night. I'm not sure I'd want to re-do that, not with us not together. I couldn't hold you. I couldn't fix it."

"But it was important for me," she insists, her eyes darting to the door. "But Cam is here." She smiles warmly at her colleague and intern. "Hello Arastoo."

Booth draws a deep breath to steady himself. "Hey, she's up, thanks to you." He moves to hug Cam tightly in gratitude.

"Anything for my friends," she replies warmly. "Are you feeling sore at all, Dr. Brennan?"

She shakes her head. "I do not require any sort of narcotic at this time. The discomfort is mild. Thank you for coming into the operating room with me again. I understand what a challenge it must have been."

Of course she does. I made her come with me, Booth remembers.

"I was happy to, although I'm not keen to join either of you in such a setting again. You both seem determined to scare the crap out of people. Flatlines, comas... you're quite the pair."

He glances at Bones, who looks almost sheepish as she says, "We thrive on adversity, I suppose."

The visits continue fast and furious: Sweets and Christine; Clark and Wendell; Fisher and Finn. Pops and Max round out the visits, the latter promising to deliver the former back to the retirement home safely and "probably sober". Booth shrugs and laughs. Let the old guys have their fun. Max needs it more than Pops; he's aged ten years in the last few days, or so it seems.

It's an hour of hugs and well wishes before he can finally ask her: "What did you mean before about it being important for you to remember the trunk?"

Her head rolls towards him sleepily. "I trusted you implicitly already, but I was still afraid of letting you see certain aspects of me. Weaknesses, I suppose. I was afraid of anyone knowing them, because in the system, weaknesses must be suppressed."

"Never let them see you cry," he muses.

She nods slightly. "But when I shared that with you, you looked at me with so much compassion, I knew that I could trust you with the ugliest of truths. You would never wield them against me. And when you shared your own metaphorical scar despite your reluctance, I was honoured... You trusted me with your ugliest truths as well."

"I trust you with my entire life, Temperance," he whispers.

"I may not have been ready to believe in my heart's potential to be as open as yours, but I never would have reached that belief without that moment," she continues. "Necessary steps in an evolutionary chain."

"So what step was this?" Booth asks her.

"This? Me being shot?"

"Yeah, Bones. Why did this happen?"

She contemplates this for a long moment, licking her lips to moisten them. "I'm not certain. But I do know that it makes me very grateful to still be alive."

"Maybe that's enough then," he tells her, bringing his hand to his lips. "I'm grateful too."

It is dark outside her window as her bare feet touch the tiles.

The young woman crosses the hall with caution, studying the doctor. He seems captivated by another patient and the man she assumes is her husband. Theirs is an intimate bond, one that should be afforded privacy. The doctor sighs happily, nodding to himself.

"Excuse me? Doctor?"

He turns around, his blue eyes piercing hers. "I'm sorry. I'm not a doctor."

His British accent catches her off guard. "Oh. But the coat..."

"A souvenir of sorts. In Japan, souvenirs are categorized by whether they are mementos of a region or an edible or consumable item, such as a candle." He pauses and glances behind her. "I'm sorry."

She follows his gaze, stumbling as she watches herself seize beneath the large paddles. Her mother and father are pressed into the corner of the room, weeping. There is hopelessness in the room.

"Am I dead?"

The British not-doctor nods. "I'm afraid so. I remember watching the paramedics checking my vitals and thinking that they weren't trying hard enough. It wasn't until one of them walked through me that I understood."

"I'm only twenty-three," she whispers, clutching a hand to her chest. "It's... I don't understand..."

"I still don't understand fully," he tells her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "But at least I have them."

She glances back at the couple, still fast asleep - she in bed, he in the chair beside her. "Are they your parents?"

"Oh no! No, she was my thesis supervisor and a mentor. A friend," he adds, smiling wistfully. "He's her partner, in all ways now. You could say my death was the final push that brought them together."

"Calling it," the doctor across the hall stated, as the young woman's mother began to howl in agony.

"Do I... Is there heaven?" she asks nervously. "Are you an angel?"

"Do you believe in a heaven?" he asks.


"Then there is one," he replies. "And while I'm not an angel, I do know my way around the afterlife. I can help you find the way."

The young woman moves to her room and hesitates. "Can I say goodbye?"

"They won't hear you aloud, but they'll know. Go ahead."

Her hands rise and fall through her parents, the loss of tactile bonds devastating. How her life had gone from parties and studying and volleyball to... to nothing? Something? Her farewells are brief, although her mother seems to glance up for a moment, questioning...

The young British non-doctor is still watching the couple when she joins him at his side. "I'm Lucy," she tells him.

"Vincent. Are you... well, ready seems a poor choice of words, but I suppose it's what will have to do."

She nods anxiously. "Does it hurt?"

"Not physically. Missing people is hard."

She gestures to the room. "They're very in love... It's sweet."

Vincent smiles. "Yes. It really is beautiful, isn't it?"

His hand reaches for hers and she takes it gratefully. At least I'm not alone. As they pass down the corridors, the faint sound of a radio catches her attention.

"Oh, 'Coconut'! I love that song," she gushes.

Vincent pauses mid-stride, glancing at her. "Me too!"

"Did you know that Alice Cooper once covered it with his original band? I'm almost afraid to hear that version." Lucy chuckles softly.

"I didn't know that," Vincent tells her, seemingly baffled. "Tell me something else I don't know..."

The young couple makes their way across the hospital parking lot, unseen in the shadows of early dawn. Overhead, the last star of night twinkles brightly, all-seeing. A breeze shifts; the flowers stir and one tugs free of its well-manicured planter and drifts into the man's hand. With a flush in his cheek, he tucks it in the young woman's hair. As the sun rises and yawns to swallow them into its light, a mother smiles to herself, reminded of an old saying: "He that does good for good's sake seeks neither paradise nor reward, but he is sure of both in the end."

"Thank you for helping my Tempe," Ruth whispers to everything and no one in particularly.

They fall asleep at some point - Booth in the chair beside her bed, to her protest - but it's barely light outside when he awakens. Her face is peaceful with just a hint of a smirk. He wonders what she dreams of at night, sometimes. She never speaks of dreams, not since The Gravedigger and the restless nights that followed. A nurse passes by, nodding to him and his rumpled suit and he returns the gesture as he rises and stretches. Coffee. There's no sleeping anymore with the crick in his neck; might as well greet the day.

He returns to find her awake and far too alert for quarter to six in the morning. "Bones, you okay? You need some painkillers?"

"No, I just... You weren't here. I was confused."

He smiles warmly, bending to kiss her cheek. "Just went to get coffee. Get some more sleep."

She shakes her head, fumbling for the controls beside her. "I'm tired of sleeping. When can I go home?"

"Maybe tomorrow," he hedges. "You sleep okay?"

"Better than you must have. Booth, your back - "

"Is fine. Neck's a different story, not gonna lie to you." He sips his coffee, wincing at the bitterness. "You'd think this stuff would eventually improve."

"We have excellent coffee at home," she remarks pointedly.

"And I'll drink it with you, once you're home."

She gives him that look of hers when she clearly thinks he needs a smack in the head and he flashes a grin, easily winning the face-off. She's in a weakened state. As he strips off his rumpled suit jacket, she chuckles to herself.

"What's so funny?"

"What you said yesterday about wasting time..."

"Yeah, Bones?"

"It's funny, but while I was asleep, I had this dream. It made no sense at all, but I was back in college and for some reason, you were there."

Booth's mouth goes dry as he forces himself to keep a straight face. "Really? At Northwestern?"

"No, Pennsylvania U. And Cam was there too. I presume I melded our respective post-secondary experiences into a single lucid experience, but a part of me wondered if we had met sooner, would I have been more open to a relationship? Would the... well, walls have been as high?" She looks to him then, seeking clarity on what is seemingly a very real concern for her.

I could tell her, he realizes. I could tell her that I've lived that life, that we made love and parted ways all the same. That she chose her career. That I was madly in love with her, no matter what day we met. But what good would it do her to hear it - if she even believed him?

"I was pretty immature in college," he tells her. "I was so unsure of what I wanted, of the man I would be, that I don't think I would have known how to fight for you, how to be patient. I think I would have blown it and let you slip away. Or maybe I would have been afraid of getting in the way of your dreams." He reaches out to cup her cheek, running his thumb along the side of her nose. "Like you said, evolution."

Satisfied with this, she seems to relax into the bed. "I believe that's a valid assessment. Although I now have the urge to visit a carnival. We went to the Pier in my dream."

"I think we should do that," he agrees, still stunned by her words.

"Booth? Remember the time you made a horse?"

He smirks, remembering the way the clay hit her. "Bit random, but yeah."

"Sweets brought it up the other day while lamenting his love life. It was rather amusing. I did like the Fish Girl in spite of her delusions about the spirituality of aquatic life. And it really was a lovely specimen of a horse."

"Thank you. Your pot was awesome."

"Until you broke it," she reminds him.

Booth laughs. "Hey, I didn't start that fight! It was an accident until you hurled intentional clay."

"Funny how Sweets never forced us on an outing again," she muses coyly.

"Probably because of the blue balls," Booth quipped, sipping his coffee.

She eyes the styrofoam cup longingly. "I want some of that."

"It tastes like crap."

"So does hospital food, which I've been subjected to, although Dad was kind enough to bring ice cream for me." He hands her the cup and she gulps it, shuddering slightly. "I'm pretty sure this is coffee brewed from raw sewage. Let's go to the diner."

"Nice try, Bones."

She smiles coyly. "But they have bacon. You enjoy bacon."

"You can't leave until the doctor says you can," Booth insists, leaning back in his chair.

"One might argue that being as you seldom heed a doctor's advice regarding your own health that I should be given the same freedom," she counters.

"I'm not that bad..."

"Oh? Get blown up? Come after a killer."

"To protect you," Booth protests.

"Broken metacarpals? No big deal. Take off a cast and play hockey," she fires back.

"To catch a killer!"

"You outright refused a hospital after Taffet took you. You barely saw a doctor when I shot you!"

Booth rolls his eyes. "Alright, I'm a lousy patient and we both know it. Your point?"

She folds her arms over her chest and stares him down. "I want to go home today. I'll stay in bed. I'll ignore the pile of work on my desk. But I want to be home with my family."

His heart swells as her lower lip trembles ever so slightly. How can he refuse her, when it's the very thing he wants as well?

"Please, Booth?"

"It's not up to me, but I will help you push for it, on two conditions."

"Name your terms."

"We get a nurse to check you every day until the doctor says, and during that time, there will be no work, no strenuous activity, no kidding." Booth meets her determined stare with his own. "I'm not taking any chances with you. I can't lose you."

"You won't lose me." It's scarcely a whisper above the beeping of the monitors.

"I almost did. We came so close. Too close..."

Her hand closes tightly around his. "We've come close before, but we always make it through. Even on the floor, realizing I was too weak to get up or call for help, I just... assumed that it would be okay. I thought of the car, of the rain and the headlights and then, you were there. It was impossible, but you were there when I needed you. And you always are, Booth." She glances up at him with such love that a part of him thinks he should pinch himself. "Not just for the literal life-or-death moments, but there when I need support. I have the evidence; it's irrefutable."

"Evidence, huh?" he manages.

"Yes. My only fear.. I was afraid I'd pushed you to where you'd no longer wish to... that I'd angered you too much..."

"No, you listen to me," he tells her, holding her face in his hands. "I will always come for you. I don't care how angry I am. I will never stop protecting you. And whether that means flying to New Orleans or taking out an idiot in a clown outfit or grabbing your stubborn yet beautiful ankles when you decide to throw yourself down a cement chute looking for evidence... I'm going to be there for you. We're meant to be. I understand that now, more than ever before."

He thinks of Vincent's words as he kisses her perhaps harder than he ought to, pouring every bit of the love and awe he feels into that connection. What they've endured extends far beyond the typical risks of law enforcement to the realm of 'really shitty luck' but they've endured it all and emerged better for it. Strengthened by adversity.

"I still don't believe in fate," she murmurs as they break apart. "But I believe you will incriminate me on the stand to save my father."

"Or bring Chinese food when I know you're not sleeping," Booth replies softly.

"Buy me Smurfs and toy pigs to cheer me up?"

"No different than you helping me lug stadium chairs to my apartment for sentimental reasons."

"Helping my emotional development by encouraging me to 'dine and run'?" she prompts with a smile.

"Using pudding to prove the Kennedy conspiracy is just that?"

She grins sheepishly. "Asking to learn plumbing for your good."

He eyes her curiously, finally understanding. "Asking you to come watch my re-certification because I couldn't let you down."

"Asking you to father a child because I couldn't ask you to take a chance on me," she confesses.

"Asking you to spend the night after Vincent passed because if Broadsky was going to kill me, I was going to spend my last night with you, keeping you safe."

A tear slides down her cheek as she answers, "Agreeing to stay for the same reason."

Hushed declarations of love exchange between gentle kisses and Booth sliding into bed beside her, cradling her to his chest like that fateful night where finally, finally, it had all come together. This moment, this truth of the two of them and the lengths each had always gone for the other - this was what Vincent had helped him fight for.

I understand. I won't forget. Let Pelant resurface, as he surely would. Let life throw its best curve ball. There was nothing on this earth or beyond that could ever break them apart.

I promised, a long time ago during the darkest chapters, that we'd have our happy ending. I believe I've delivered for everyone.

Shuffle is an awesome movie and I do insist you all check it out if you've enjoyed my little homage to it. Have tissues handy, because TJ Thyne is wonderful.

Let me know what you think down below, and make sure you're subscribed to The Ring In The Reflecting Pool (which will now start to update regularly) as well as The Mixed Tape (which will also be updating more often soon). If you missed my take on the Bonesology proposal prompt, I've posted it as a stand-alone one-shot: As Soon As I Can, I Will.

Remember dear readers: live every day to the fullest. Vincent is a wise man.