AN: Several amazing writers have tackled a recent prompt on Bonesology regular by SarahInPrint. My initial idea was quickly written by delia84 (Go read it - it's in her Glimpses collection). My second idea is a little rule-bendy but I decided that it was too fitting to not be written when it comes to these characters and canon.

The prompt: "Booth proposes to Brennan. Rules: 1. Less than 2,000 words 2. No mention of Pelant 3. Christine is not physically in the story (she can be mentioned, but she is not present) 4. A unique ring is involved."

I've bent one of the rules a fair bit, but I think I can win the debate on a technicality. So there.

Tag To: 9X1

It's a heavy burden she bears.

He sees it, although she certainly does her best to keep it from him. Cam confesses the true state of things behind his back, admissions over their weekly lunches. Everyone has a theory, it seems: cold feet; an affair; gun-shy fear after the rejection of his proposals; a 'threatened male psyche'. No one comes close to the truth, aside from perhaps Hodgins. The bug guy and confessed romantic is standing beside him one day when he suddenly leans over and pats his arm.

"I know you love her. I know you want to marry her."

Booth glances at him suspiciously. "What is this about?"

Hodgins shrugs. "I know a lovesick man when I see one. I may not know why you've pulled back from Dr. B., but I do know that love is there. She's more content lately, too. If she believes in you, so do I."

Booth's voice is hoarse as he thanks him. Hodgins nods, leaning closer.

"But the day she tells me that you have betrayed her? You'll have Angela and me to contend with."


Angela... She tries to be civil. Tries to keep the peace, at the request of everyone else. But the barbs are there, each and every case. Little jabs. Death by a thousand paper cuts to his heart. The only reason he tolerates it is his admiration of her devotion. This is, after all, the woman who went to jail to avoid testifying against Max. She spent three months communicating with a fugitive, refusing to even clue him in.

If anything happens to him, Angela will be there for Bones. And he needs to know that she won't ever be alone again.

He watches her now in the Bone Room, studying the femur carefully. She nods slightly and places it anatomically, reaching next for the fragments of ribs. Angela comes in, holding the skull. She shoots a scathing look at Booth over her shoulder.

"I'm running the reconstruction through the missing persons database now," Angela says.

"Let me know if there's a match," he calls out.

"She can let you know," Angela snipes.

"Angela, enough!" Bones protests.

Her friend shakes her head angrily. "He shouldn't be getting off this easy, no matter what you say."

Angela departs, leaving a visibly stung anthropologist in her wake. She glances across the room, meeting his gaze.

"Angela is not as good with faith as I am," she tells him, almost sheepishly.

"It doesn't matter," he reassures her. "She's just being a good friend."

"Friends should... respect their friends' choices. I am highly intelligent. I can make choices for myself that are wise."

Booth nods. "I know. I should get back to the office, see if I can dig anything up."

"Okay. I'll call if there's a match in the system."

He pulls her against his chest, holding her tightly. Her every breath ripples through him, such is their proximity. She's sworn that she will trust him, that she will wait, but life has a way of being cruel. Each embrace is treated as the potential last. He inhales the scent of her, sighing happily.

"I love you," he tells her.

"I love you too."

It's reflexive now: his hand slides to palm her scar, his eyes drifting to the floor where he found her months ago in a sticky puddle of her own blood. Too close. That was far, far too close. In answer, her palm presses to his scar from six years prior.

"I'll be fine," she tells him.

"So will I. For you."

It seems like it will never end. But then, it does.

He comes after Angela this time, a preemptive strike of sorts. She's on the verge of learning what his attacks indirectly reveal: that he has bugged The Mighty Hut. Their home is not their own. The bastard has been enjoying a front row seat for their misery and strain and later, their renewed love and trust. He's heard them make love, heard their daughter's newest words, heard every private discussion.

But this time, he's picked the wrong damn person and with her help, there is a very big hole in his scheming forehead and a fire that destroys most of his smirk. He's witness to the end, but it's not enough this time. It's not enough to see. Appearances deceive. He has to know.

They all need to know.

Her former colleague from American University is brought in to examine the remains - transparency, Cam tells them all - and the FBI supervises the affair. Identity is confirmed but again, it's not enough. His partner is escorted into the room to look for herself.

It's a long forty minutes. But he understands. They all do. Each and every intern waits, some coming in on a day off, because this is the devastation he has left in his wake. Each of them fears the Boogeyman now. And so he paces, fidgeting fingers and throbbing temples, the sound of the gunshot echoing in his mind.

He is sickened by how satisfying that sound is. It is forgotten soon enough.

"It's him."

The entire group orients to the sound of her voice, Booth included. "Are you certain, Bones?"

"Yes. There is damage to the skull consistent with the bullet that struck him during his flight from you, Booth. There are also significant signs of osteoarthritis consistent with his childhood obesity. Dr. Samuels has compared multiple physical dental films to the skeleton and affirmed it."

"So he's dead? Really, really, dead?" Hodgins asks.

"Yes," she answers with a small smile.

"Well, ding dong! The house finally fell on the Wicked Witch!" Angela crows.

"Yes, rather literally," Bones muses. "The fire destroyed the support beams - "

"They get it, Bones," Booth interrupts with a smile.

He crosses the room slowly and already, he can feel it: the weight is falling away from his shoulders. The house of cards between them tumbles to the ground and in its place is that wonderful and terrifying vulnerability. She tilts her head slightly as he pulls her close, their noses barely touching.


"I made a promise to you, Bones," he murmurs. "Do you remember?"

"Which one?"

She knows, but is afraid of being wrong. There are so many eyes watching, intently now. Confusion reverberates, a palpable wave of energy around him.

"As soon as I can, I will," he recites from memory. "And now I can."

The small black felt bag - the one that he's kept in his pocket with his poker chip - is in his outstretched palm now. Behind him, Angela gasps in recognition. After all, she'd helped him find the perfect designer.

"It took me five years to figure out what I'd instinctively known the moment I first met you: that you were unlike any woman on this Earth, and the only woman for me. You have challenged me to be a better cop and a better man. You've saved my life both figuratively and literally. But above all else, you have believed in me, loving me as I am, loving me in spite of my mistakes. And in that love, I've been able to find a way out of the guilt and darkness haunting me. You stood by me when pretty much everyone in the room had given up on me, without knowing why you should, aside from faith."

His left hand lifts to caress her cheek and she leans into his touch, smiling. "Booth..."

"I don't have any kale handy to top your jerky," he jokes lightly, "I hope this will be enough on its own."

He drops to one knee and removes the ring from the bag carefully. A full month before she'd proposed, he'd decided to buy a ring in anticipation of a day he prayed would come. A visit to a jewelery store had made it clear that nothing from a store display would be right for her. Most stones stuck out, a snag waiting to happen. Plenty of the technicians from the FBI complained about gloves and large rings. A diamond, too, was not quite right for her. With Angela's help, a ring was custom-made: a platinum band housed a sapphire of the deepest blue in a tension setting. Embedded in the band are two small diamonds, one on each side, centered perfectly within the tiny -

"Phalanges," she whispers

"A ring as unique as the woman I love," Booth replies, taking her hand. "Temperance Brennan, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?"

Her eyes are welling with tears as she nods furiously. "Yes. Yes, Booth!"

The Jeffersonian erupts in applause and cheers as she pulls him to his feet with a playful look. He slides the ring onto her finger carefully and kisses her hard, full of passion and joy, but also gratitude. She's stayed by him, loving him. She still doesn't know the entire story, although she will. She's saying yes anyway and he simply can't get close enough to her, can't hold her tight enough to convey just how complete she's made his life from the moment he met her.

"I find I want to go home now," she murmurs.

"Mmm, I'm pretty sure this group's going to insist on a celebratory drink, Bones."

"Okay, but only one," she concedes.

Overhead, several cameras record the hugs and handshakes of congratulations exchanged between friends. For the first time in four months, Booth doesn't notice them.

Drabble-ish for me, but it was either keep it here or blow the word count with a huge party. Just picture the entire team very drunk and finally understanding what made no sense to them in Secret In The Siege.

Please hunt around for the other submissions and do leave me a note. Booth is a romantic sort of guy and he does keep his promises. And if you'd like to see a ring that has a similar look of band, a quick Google of "bones ring designs" will help you out.