Casket4mytears prompt: Here's one, inspired by my introducing a friend to the show and rewatching DITP again for the bazillionth time: many fics have played the "what if?" game with the episode. What if Brennan was hit by the car? What if Booth doesn't make it? What if he takes her up on her request for a chance? Even I went there. But I don't believe anyone's done quite this take: what if, spurred on by worry over her mental state (say, after the incident in Booth's office where Brennan admits she hasn't slept in days), Booth wants her to know how she is different from Lauren Eames? Specifically, that she is loved even now, and would be missed by him in a heartbeat?

I don't own Bones, shocking I know.

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He'd watched her slowly fall apart and he'd become frightened for her. He'd tried to tell himself that she was tired. She'd been working too hard; but, he saw it in her face. The fear. God the fear.

He'd tried to talk to her; but, she'd told him she was just tired, she hadn't slept in days. He knew she hadn't heard him and he needed her to hear him. He was afraid for her and for him.

Entering her office, he quietly shut the door behind him and walked over towards her desk. Sitting down across from her, Booth tried to smile, failing miserably, "Bones, I was wondering if I could talk to you."

Looking up from her report, Brennan nodded her head, her face a picture of sadness, the dark circles under he eyes emphasizing a look that could only be described as defeat.

Booth, his chest feeling tight, trying to control the emotions that threatened to flood through his system, swallowed, "Bones, for some reason, you're associating too much with Lauren Eames. I don't know how; but, I'm afraid I know why. I need . . . You need to listen to me. Will you do that?"

Slowly nodding her head, Brennan leaned back in her chair and placed her hands on the arms of her chair.

Staring intently at Brennan, Booth stated emphatically, "You aren't Lauren Eames, Bones. You aren't. I see the . . . . You're worried that you're the same and you aren't. She was alone in this world, Bones. You are not alone. You have a lot of friends and we all love you. We see you Bones. We know you're here. Don't think for one minute that you could leave us and no one would notice because we would notice. God, I'd notice. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

Shaking her head, Brennan replied, "But I am alone. I had a chance once to accept someone in to my life; but, I refused to take that chance. You know that. I chose to be alone and now I understand what that means. It means that when I die, no one will notice. I'm here right now; but, in the end, what will it matter? No one will remember me when I'm gone. I've let my fears of letting other people get too close to me isolate me from everyone in this world. Now it's too late. You're with Hannah and . . . You're with Hannah."

Fighting to keep the tears in his eyes from falling, Booth shook his head, "No Bones. You've got that so wrong. You aren't alone. You aren't Lauren Eames. You have a father and a brother who love you. You have friends, Hodgins, Angela and Sweets. You've got me. You. . . You have me. I'm your best friend and you're scaring the hell out of me. You're fading away before my eyes and I'm afraid I can't stop it. Don't you see? Don't you understand? You are not Lauren Eames. You're so much more than her. A hell of a lot more."

Shaking her head, Brennan remarked, "She wouldn't allow herself to feel. She put up walls to keep out emotion and human entanglements. I do that you know. I have walls that are just as high as hers were. I keep myself from loving people because I'm afraid to get hurt and yet all I feel is pain. I'm so alone and it's all my fault. . . I could have said yes to you outside the Hoover. Just one word, one little word. All I had to do was say yes and I couldn't do it. I made you look for love from someone else because I couldn't allow myself to feel anything. I'm alone Booth. You're with Hannah and that part of my life is done."

Horrified at the deep depression he was hearing in his partner's voice, the defeated look in her eyes, Booth stood up and walked around the desk. Leaning over, Booth pulled Brennan up and placed his arms around her. "Bones, it's never too late. I love you. I loved you that night outside the Hoover and I love you now. It's not too late. I've made a mess of things by letting Hannah move in with me; but, I swear, I can fix that. I'm so afraid for you Bones. I don't know what's going on in that genius brain of yours; but, I need to . . . I need you to understand that you aren't alone. You aren't."

Shaking her head slowly, Brennan asked, "But you have Hannah and I am alone."

Frightened that he might not be getting through to her, Booth exclaimed, "Quit saying that. I know I told you I love Hannah and I do; but, not as much as I love you." Hugging her tightly against his chest, Booth started to feel his tears start to fall, "Bones, I love you so much and if anything were to ever happen to you, I'd die. Do you understand me? Do you? You can't just leave this world and expect me to accept that; so, don't even think that. I need you Bones. Alright? I need you and the thought of you just giving up and just leaving me would be too much. It would kill me if anything happened to you. It would."

Feeling the tears on Booth's face falling onto her face, Brennan pulled back a little and looked at the bleak look in her partners face. "

"Don't cry, Booth. I didn't mean to make you cry. I . . . Lately, I've been so alone. I see my life and think about what it would be like if I wasn't so afraid all of the time. I've been afraid since I was fifteen years old. Love walked away from me and I never . . . . I've been alone for twenty years, Booth. I've been alone since I was fifteen and in all that time I've been too afraid to allow anyone to get near me, to let them inside my walls. I've tried to keep everyone at arms length to protect myself from being hurt; but, I am hurt Booth. I hurt more than you know."

Booth swallowed, trying to regain control of his emotions, "Bones, you may not realize it; but, you have let others inside your walls. Angela loves you like a sister. I know Sweets loves you and Hodgins, that guy would do anything for you. They are all your friends and they love you so much. Someone as cold and unfeeling as you claim to be, you'd never have friends like that if that were true. You aren't . . . You feel, Bones. You feel and you tell yourself that you don't but I know you do. We all know you do. You're special Bones. You're one of those people who captures loyalty. Your friends aren't just your friends. They're more than that. They love you and consider you part of their family. They are so loyal to you and when you leave this world they're going to know that you're gone. They're going to mourn for you because they will miss you. And then there's me."

Watching Booth's face, Brennan saw a look of adoration cross his face, "Me, Bones, I couldn't live in a world that didn't have you in it. You mean more to me than almost anyone else in this world. Between you and Parker, I have everything Bones. If you and Parker were suddenly to leave me then I wouldn't have anything left. I need you Bones. I need you and I want you. Are you hearing what I'm saying to you? Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

Slowly nodding her head, Brennan stared intently at Booth, "I think I do. You know I'm here. You'd know it if I left."

Staring into her watery blue eyes, Booth pulled her against him and placed his forehead on her neck, "Bones, you have to promise me that you won't leave before me. You know what I'm trying to say. You have to stay here, in this world, in my world. You can't leave before I do; so, you have to be strong. You have to stay. . . . I'm going to talk to Hannah. I'm going to tell her that I can't be with her anymore. I never should have . . . I'm going to fix this mess and when I do, I'm going to show you just how important you are to me. I'm going to show you how much I want you, how much I need you. I don't want to hear you say ever again that if you disappear no one will notice because I'm going to prove to you just how wrong you are. Will you give me that chance, Bones? Will you let me inside your wall? Will you love me like I love you?"

Holding Booth tightly, afraid to release him, she felt a burden leave her soul, "I will give you a chance Booth. I will let you inside my wall. I do love you, Booth."

Sighing deeply, Booth murmured in Brennan's ear, "I love you Bones. I'm going to prove to you that I love you. From now on, you aren't going to doubt that for a minute. Not one minute."

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"i will show you fear in a handful of dust." t.s. eliot - "We don't actually fear death, we fear that no one will notice our absence, that we will disappear without a trace."

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I hope this is what you wanted. Let me know if you liked this story or not. Thanks.