Chasing Shadows

Author's note: What were the months like between the broken engagement and the death of Pelant? Here be a little angst, some drama and a reason why Angela might accuse Booth of seeking that one last fling before settling down.

For past readers of my stories, you might be pleased to know that the majority of this story is already written. Unbelievable, right? I still have to re-work parts of it, but consider this a December present for those of you who aren't part of some Secret Santa exchange.

Disclaimer: While I might have started out with more, I'm down to 206 bones. That's it. Hart Hanson, Kathy Reichs, and Fox have claim on the TV show and the novels. I have claim on this story and my paltry 206 bones. Neither is making me rich.

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"Booth, are you happy?"

His answer stunned him. Stunned them both from the expression on her face.

She, however, seemed to recover first. "I don't understand why you would say that."

Everything beyond the awards and the banquet had been planned that night to reassure him. Reassure them. The stop at the dining room, drinks, the baby being cared for overnight, the room card key on the table, the clothes already upstairs in their suite. She'd made the plans to show that she really was fine with not getting married. But he could only sit across from her, silent, shocked as much by her question as by his answer.

"You should be happy, Booth." He'd seen her like this before, uncertain, wavering. But there was nothing uncertain in her next words. "You deserve to be happy."

And what about him? Speechless beyond. . . beyond what? She sat waiting on the opposite side of the table, sitting as they'd sat across from one another hundreds of times over the years, he certain he wanted marriage and family and she certain she wanted him and a shared life and somehow they had compromised to be a couple with a child and a house and while it was unconventional, it worked for them. Mostly.

Then the universe had shifted and she had been the one proposing marriage and he was the one rejecting it and nothing was as it should be.

"Bones," he began, but he could only close his eyes, convinced this was some kind of cosmic nightmare. When he opened them again, she was still across from him, still sitting there expectant and hurt as if he had just slapped her. He'd become so paranoid about electronic snooping by one Christopher Pelant that the woman at the next table just staring at the screen of her iPhone must certainly have a direct line to that bastard.

"We don't need to get married," he finally said, repeating the words that had taken them onto this road. "What we have is enough."

"Are you sure, Booth?"

Somehow he had argued her down to take turns between their apartments, to move in together, to buy a house—to maintain the trappings of being a committed couple until they could be more—and now?

"Yeah," he said as he tried to push down the rage at Pelant, "I am."

If his answer before had stunned her, this was the knock-out blow. She stood and slid the card key closer to him. "I'm going to go pick up Christine," she said. Her wide eyes seemed dark in the subdued lighting of the restaurant. "I'll be at the house."

He made no move for the card, no move to stand. The amber liquid in his glass caught the reflection of lights overhead and twinkled mockingly.

The woman who was so unerringly honest with him, brutally sometimes, was just as direct with him now.

"You should be with someone who will make you happy."