You Can't UnRing the Bell

Let's Get Something Straight

The third time Brennan heard him laugh at something she said, she didn't look at them. She had seen enough. And if they didn't want to work, she still had remains to identify. She aimed the light in a better angle and tried to bring her coworkers' attention on the depth difference between the two marks.

Booth, Dr. Bryar and Andrew were standing on the other side of the platform. Close enough to bother everyone, but far enough so she couldn't hear what they were saying. She really tried her best to focus on the task at hand, but when Andrew started laughing at her witty remarks too, she had to focus on staying calm instead. She's not that funny.

Gathered behind her, Wendell, Hodgins, Angela and Cam were trying not to talk too loudly. She could have pretended she thought they were respecting the quiet environment she needed to concentrate, but she knew they just didn't want anyone else to hear them.

"For a long time, I've considered becoming a marine biologist," Wendell said.

Angela crossed her arms over her chest.

"And it's been a long time since I've given up on having that perfect ass," she commented, raising her eyebrows.

Hodgins didn't wait to add on a whisper, "She looks ready to eat him alive!"

Cam instantly noticed Brennan clutching to the light a little too tightly and knew she probably wasn't looking at the remains anymore. And so she said,

"Is this observation day or can we get back to work?"

Instantly relieved, Brennan looked over her shoulder and saw her boss give her the slightest nod before leaving the platform. She then risked glancing one more time over at Booth, but quickly looked down again when she noticed he was coming her way.

"We're heading out to lunch, Bones. You coming?"

"No," she replied lightly. "I'd really like to finish this as soon as possible. But you go ahead."

"Alright then."

Brennan saw the way the marine biologist smiled at her partner, but what hit her most was the way he smiled back. When Booth turned to Andrew, she suddenly lost all interest in the bones that were in front of her.

"Assistant director Hacker, wanna join us?"

Brennan looked at him, holding her breath for his answer.

"No, I'm alright, thanks. You two enjoy your lunch."

Brennan opened her mouth, but realized she had nothing to say. So she watched Booth leave. With her. And quickly turned to Andrew again.

"Are you sure you don't want to go with them?"

"I'm sure. I don't particularly enjoy feeling like the third wheel," he said.

Brennan was pretty sure she didn't want to fully understand that statement. She pressed on.

"I think you should go with them. I mean, you have to eat, right?"

"Oh, I'll grab something at the cafeteria. Don't worry about me," he retorted with a grin.

Brennan knew her smile was stiff. She looked at the glass door where they had left a few seconds ago. And it dawned on her: this was going to be a very long case.


Angela had been very quiet around her all day. Normally, Brennan wouldn't have picked up on it, or she would have let it go without bringing it up, but today...

So when she brought her friend the skull to digitize, she hung around longer than necessary, sure that Angela would ask her if something was bothering her. But she didn't. She immediately sat at her desk and got to work.

Brennan was about to leave when she changed her mind.

"Ange..."

The artist looked up.

"Are you mad at me?" she asked hesitantly. "Because I find myself uncomfortable around you today and I can't figure out why."

She added a faint smile. Hopefully she was reading everything wrong again. But Angela sighed and put the pen she was holding down on her pad of paper.

"I'm not mad, no," she replied softly. She tilted her head, visibly worried she would choose the wrong words. "I'm just..."

Brennan waited anxiously.

"No, I should stay out of this," Angela changed her mind. "It's none of my business."

"That never stopped you before," Brennan pointed out.

"Right," Angela laughed. "Ok, honestly?..." She circled her desk, unable to say it.

"This is about Booth, right?" Brennan verified although she knew the answer. And she shifted on her feet as her friend broke eye contact.

"I wasn't going to say anything, because I know you're hurting too. But..." She stopped, already regretting what she hadn't said yet. Honesty was the best policy. But with Brennan, emotional honesty rarely went well. She jumped anyway. "You told him no, Brennan."

Angela watched her friend bit her lips and shut her eyes. She continued,

"So I think you should let him do whatever he feels like doing with... whomever he feels like doing it with."

Brennan tried to ignore the pressure in her chest.

"You're talking about sex?" she checked.

"I'm talking about all of it."

Angela refrained from reaching out to touch her arm.

"I think it's good that he's putting himself out there," she added.

Brennan quickly replied, "I never said the contrary! I barely even said a word to her. Why would you think I'm against this?"

"Sweetie, if a look could kill, you'd be in big trouble right now."

"I don't understand," the anthropologist frowned.

"I know. Look..." Angela explained. "You're my best friend and I love you more than you know, but... If I had to pick a side, I'd have to go with Booth on this one. I'm sorry."

Brennan's throat became tight. She didn't need Angela to tell her she had no right to be jealous. She knew that. That's what she was trying to say, right? And now what? She had pushed Booth away and her best friend too, at the same time? Ok. Maybe she did deserve that. But...

Her voice was very soft when she spoke again.

"I understand," she said. "Even I trouble explaining my reasoning. But... You should know, I'm siding with Booth, too."

She gave Angela a sad smile and turned around to leave.

The artist watched her friend go. Her heart broke for her. And yet there wasn't anything she could do to help.


She had always been strong. She had always avoided pain as much as humanly possible. She had always been able to cut herself from everything. And yet, there she was, at the Jeffersonian, upstairs, filling paperwork all by herself that night, looking at the uneaten half of Thai food on the table. She realized she had difficulty compartmentalizing. This wasn't supposed to be so hard. She couldn't wait until that morning when she'd wake up feeling like herself again.


She knew he was there, in her office, before she even saw him.

"Hey, Bones! They need us back to the aquarium again," he said, waiting by the doorway.

"Us, as in, you and me?" she checked.

Booth laughed.

"Of course! What other us is there?"

She held back a smile, suddenly feeling giddy, and grabbed her bag.

"Catherine said she'd meet us there," he dropped, walking past her.

Her bag suddenly felt heavier and it slowed down her pace. So, it's Catherine now?

"Ok," she said.

Booth picked up on her tone and looked at her.

"What?" he inquired, still walking.

"Nothing. I said 'ok'."

She reached the car before he did and waited for him to unlock the doors.

"Yeah, well, you're 'ok' didn't sound ok."

"Yeah, well, it was. Is that a new tie?"

"Yeah. Do you like it?" he asked, flattening it with his right hand, pushing out his chest.

"Not at all."

And she slammed the door of the SUV.

Wow. We're in for a great day!

He started the engine. To break the silence she was putting them in, he asked,

"We didn't get a chance to finish the paperwork. Maybe we could do that tonight?"

She looked out the window, turning away from him.

"I already did."

"All of it?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you wait for me?" he whined.

"If I waited for you every time I had to do something, things would never get done," she replied dryly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing."

He sighed.

"What's with you today?"

She took a second before opening her mouth. But he interrupted her.

"Let me guess! Nothing."

"Yup."

Booth turned on the radio. He kept a straight face, but... Ok. Fighting with her might not have been what he had expected to make him feel better, but it clearly did the trick. He hadn't felt that normal in weeks.

Brennan didn't dare to move. She kept her eyes on the window, not really looking at anything. Why did it feel so good to snap at him like that? She missed their incessant bickering. A wave of normalcy had washed over her. Her reasons for being snippy were all wrong, but at least they were out of that 'what now?' funk. Right?

And so she felt good until Dr. Bryar joined them along with her interminable legs, wearing a suit that perfectly matched Booth's. She rolled her eyes, hoping Booth wouldn't take this as a sign from Fate.


Brennan hadn't realized how much she needed to talk to him until she saw him arrive. It's not like she was seeking professional help. Well, professional might have been pushing it, but, no. Definitely not. She just knew how much he loved meddling in their partnership and figured he would jump on this opportunity to help her out, discreetly.

"Dr. Sweets," she called out to him, following him into his office. "Could I ask you something?"

"Anything!" he happily let out. "This case is really fascinating. You know I..."

She didn't wait for him to finish, because she simply didn't care.

"No, this isn't about the case."

"Oh?"

He sat down slowly and waited. Nah, he brushed off. She wouldn't...

"This is about Booth," she clarified.

Crap. Is this a test? Are they in on this together?

Sweets moved around in his chair, trying to get comfortable. Fat chance.

"Uhm... I don't think we should be discussing this without..."

"No, it will only take a second," she assured him.

He tried to find the right approach. He couldn't do this. As much as his nosy psychologist side wanted out, he would have to remain cold. Because... Well, yeah. He was a little scared. Booth had been very clear. Over the years, Lance hadn't even begun to find a way not to be intimidated by him. And, you know, open threats like I'll get your FBI privileges revoked and Good luck finding a job at McDonald's if you ever mess with us again could certainly do a great deal of scarring. Even more so if those threats have been issued in person merely a week before.

"I'm sorry, I can't..." he tried again.

But there she went anyway.

"I just need to know... Is this how he feels every time I go out with someone? Because..."

"Seriously, I can't..."

"...I feel like..."

"Dr. Brennan!" he almost had to shout.

She shut up, stunned, and finally looked at him directly.

"What?" she asked.

Sweets started to breathe again.

"I'll have to stay out of this one," he confessed on an even tone.

She really looked surprised. Of course, she was. She had just used the verb 'to feel' twice in a row and he was asking her not to.

"But you always want me to engage in this type of discussion. All of you. You're always all over me, giving me advice I don't want, and now that I'm actually asking for it, you just..." Her shoulders dropped. "I don't understand."

He felt bad. Really. He wanted to help her, especially since reaching out was completely not her thing. But he tried to find a way to let her down easy. A way that could make sense, if possible. Even if just on the surface.

"I think there's stuff that you need to figure out on your own," he said. Then he assessed the damage.

Typical disbelief? Check. Total confusion? Check. Deep embarrassment? Check. Slight anger?...

"So you won't help me," she realized.

He gulped.

"If it's not about the case, then I can't. I'm sorry."

"Booth was right. I don't know how you got this job," she mumbled.

Definite anger? Check.


"Angela! Angela! I need a favor."

Dr. Sweets, out of breath, finally caught up with the artist. He had run all over for her. She sighed, -sign that she had noticed him yelling on the corner of the street a minute ago- and turned around to face him.

"No, my dad can't play at your wedding. Daisy already asked."

"What? No! I don't want your dad at my wedding, believe me!"

"Oh!" Angela laughed, relieved. "Then, what can I do for you?"

"Ok. Uhm... You need to talk to Dr. Brennan."

She brushed her bangs out of her eyes.

"Why? Did something else happen?"

Something else? Ok. He had most definitely missed some important details. Dying to ask, he let it go.

"I don't know. But she came to my office, and, long story short, I told her I couldn't help, but I really think she wants to talk. And since you're her best friend, with a little encouragement, she could open up. And..."

"Whoa, what? You told her you couldn't help? Aren't you paid to help?"

I won't be paid for long if I do. Trust me.

"I know. But... you really need to talk to her. Or she needs to talk to you," he insisted.

Angela opened her mouth, but dropped her chin to her chest, before looking up again.

"I... She won't talk to me."

"No, no. I agree that normally, she's a very tightly closed person, but, really, she reached out and..."

"She reached out to me too," Angela let out. "I kind of burnt that bridge. I know her. She won't talk about it with me."

They both stayed silent for a moment while it dawned on them.

"So she's..."

"... all alone, yeah."

Ok, ok. Let's not panic.


They hadn't been alone at the diner like this for quite some time, he realized. For a few days now, things had been pretty good, he thought. Some bickering, less awkward pauses, even a real laugh or two. Things were improving, at least. Ever since he had met the marine biologist, in fact. Maybe Bones felt less... threatened, in some way. Maybe his concrete way of moving on would pay off. If he decided to go through with it.

"So!" he said, as she looked outside the window. He would not let her install silence again. "Interesting case, huh? I'm never bringing Parker to the aquarium again. Not that he ever liked it that much, really..."

Brennan had never been one for small talk. So it wasn't really unusual for her to feel annoyed at random mentions of random things like the aquarium. His voiced died when she looked at him in the eye.

"You're going to sleep with her," she spoke.

Booth would certainly have choked on his tongue if he hadn't seen the look in her eyes right before that statement. He had seen that look a few times now. He had no clue what it meant, but he knew it usually came after he mentioned certain fish related things. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to like it as much as he did. Because that look wasn't included in the rules of their 'getting back to normal' attempt.

He paused before he tried to joke, "Is that a direct order?"

"What? No! Of course not!" She ripped a napkin apart while she continued, very, very fast. Even for her. "It's merely an observation. When Andrew invited me to the play, I thought it was code for sex. But Dr. Bryar..." Stupid name. STOP IT. "She's made her interest very clear. With her giving you a tie to domesticate you and... I know. Sorry. Forget the tie. But she's much more forward and direct than Andrew is..."

"Whoa!" he couldn't help but breathe out. She was still talking.

"...Is it ok for us to talk like that?"

Well, you're mostly talking by yourself but...

"Honestly?" he said, almost wanting to laugh, "I don't know."

She nodded, like it was no big deal, and looked at his plate.

"Are you gonna eat that?" she asked, already picking on his fries.

"No," he quipped.

"Thanks."


Brennan thought she was doing a pretty good job at ignoring the unavoidable side-effect of a solid mixed-gender partnership: jealousy. Until now, anyway. She had kept comments that would seem unkind to a minimum; she hadn't pointed out how inappropriate flirting with a consultant while on the job was... Yes. Overall, she was doing ok. As long as they still had their quiet one-on-one moments after work, she would be fine.

Or at least, that's what she had told herself all week. Tonight, she felt slightly different. And she couldn't blame it on alcohol since she hadn't finished her first drink yet. She knew Booth had something on his mind. She couldn't bring herself to ask what it was. She couldn't help but wonder if it had anything to do with her. She had lost the right to ask when she had pushed him away for his own good. Right?

Playing with a coaster, she did her best not to look at him every other second. She was failing miserably. And the third time he looked at his watch, she got the message. He didn't want to be here.

Booth set his glass on the bar, sighing over-loudly. Yes, he was planning his exit. Not that he wanted to go. God, no. He wanted to stay. He wanted to stay here with her. But he wanted a lot of things that would never happen. And he had to keep this promise to himself. He just had to. So, he would not postpone this again. Not three nights in a row.

"Uhh," he let out, stretching his arms.

"You tired?" she asked, knowing exactly what he was doing.

And he knew she knew just by looking at her. But he kept his pretence for a second.

"Yeah..." he lied. "I should go."

He heard her faint smile.

"Ok."

He saw her look at her hands on the bar.

"Goodnight," she huffed, looking at him, unmistakably reading through him.

Yeah, ok. He was a horrible person. But the guilt of his lie got to him before he even went through with it. He sighed.

"I... have a date. With Catherine."

He tried to read her, but... couldn't.

"I shouldn't be late," he added.

She nodded. She felt relieved he hadn't lied. She felt sad he was going. She felt angry for being unable to rid her stomach of the knots that had formed at the mention of her first name.

"Sure," she said on a light note. "Have a nice time."

This was... Booth's gut twisted. She was looking at her hands again. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel like this. Although he had no idea what like this meant exactly. Because she wouldn't tell him even if he asked. He forced himself to get up from the stool. Looked at her again. So beautiful. So alone. He dragged his feet.

"I'm happy for you, you know?" she quickly said as soon as he reached the other side of her.

He stopped, on her left side, at the end of the bar. And he turned to her.

"Yeah?"

What kind of idiot are you, exactly?

She looked at him, head tilted to the side.

"Yeah," she confirmed.

It hit her at that moment that she was lying trough her teeth. But that she wanted it to be the absolute truth with everything she had.

"She's..." Brennan continued to prove her point. "...very beautiful. And everyone at the lab seemed to like her a lot."

Booth swallowed and played with his keys.

"What about you?" he asked. "You like her?"

She'd have to lie again. Or find a way around it.

"Well..." She shrugged. "I haven't exactly taken the time to talk to her. I mean... She's a scientist, but other than that, I don't see how our interests or personalities would intersect."

Booth held in a chuckled but couldn't hide a smile.

You'd be surprised.

Brennan noted his smile.

"I'm sure she can make you happy," she said.

She had tried to sound light and optimistic. But it came out rather cheerless and heart-rending. Booth took a step towards her. He put his forearm on the counter and met hers. She didn't pull away. He looked at their arms, touching.

"You make me happy too, you know?"

He didn't need to say that. Why would he say that? Booth mentally slapped himself. He had to get out of there now. He pushed his arm against hers.

A shiver passed on Brennan's back and tickled the back of her neck. Her arm felt warm, like his skin was radiating through his shirt. She held onto the sensation. Their eyes met, because of her. She blinked once, hoping he wouldn't still be looking into her when she looked again. But there he was, still. So very readable, yet impenetrable. For the longest second, they shared the only thing they could share.

Suddenly, heart pounding in his chest, he straightened his back.

"Well... Goodnight," he whispered.

He patted her hand with his. Just once. Ready to leave.

But she placed her other hand over it.

"Booth..." she called.

The warmth of her touch spread through him like fire. He let his eyes close for a moment before turning to her.

"Do you love her?"

Her words stung them both. Differently. She feared his answer, breath stuck in her throat. He was surprised and confused as to why she would ever think so.

"I haven't even really started dating her yet," he replied with a laugh.

She didn't really understand why he would think this was funny. She urged down the feeling of distress she sensed rising up. Booth and she had never been out on a date. They had never... If loving a person was impossible to him before dating them, then why would he have said...

"So... it wasn't love at first sight?" she said, wanting to sound sarcastic. Or... something.

"Not with her, no," he replied, serious and without a hint of hesitation.

Brennan breathed in deeply through her nose, aware.

"But I'm still hoping it could work out," he confessed. Still serious.

She broke eye contact before going along with it.

"Me too," she said softly.

At that moment, Booth felt the floor could open up under him. He steadied his weight with his hands on the counter. She was lying. Clear as day. She was lying. He tried not to. He desperately tried to shut up. He couldn't be doing this again.

"Bones... are you changing your mind about us?"

His voice wasn't hopeful. It wasn't anything, really. It was calm and steady. Low and husky.

Her heart stopped. He was moving on, right under her nose. He had even warned her beforehand. She never really thought he would do it so fast. But she was holding him back. She couldn't make him wait for her. Maybe if he was moving on so quickly...

"No," she murmured. She knew her eyes were shiny when she looked him in the eye with a smile that wasn't a smile at all. "But you are."

She had done the right thing that night, after their trip down memory lane. She had done the right thing.

Her eyes pierced through him. Did she really think that this is what it was about? Him changing his mind? His hand cupped the side of her face. His thumb brushed her rosy cheek. Her lips parted.

She couldn't look away. She couldn't move. She could only feel. Her heart beating its inner most desire, a breath escaped her lips. He was barely leaning in and whole body was already alert.

Softly, he pressed his lips against hers. He sensed her leaning in and pushed his mouth against hers. If he moved his lips, if he parted them to taste her just a little more, she would feel him tremble. He gently, slowly –way too slowly- began to pull away.

As soon as she felt him starting to break the kiss, she opened her mouth slightly, just long enough to capture his lower lip between hers. And she straightened her back, making herself taller. She breathed in his sent, his taste.

Caught off guard by her response, he let his hand reach the back of her neck and brought her closer. Her breath in his mouth sent a shock down his body. Imperceptibly, instinctively, he pushed his groined forward.

The quiet, intense moan they shared made them break the kiss at the same time. The sound of their lips parting suddenly instantly brought them back to reality.

They weren't looking at each other when Booth said,

"I didn't change my mind about us. About you. But I can't wait around forever anymore. I need... to be happy now. And I'm trying to be. You understand?" he spoke softly.

"And you deserve to be happy," she agreed. That was the very reason why she wasn't changing her mind. She licked her lips, aware he was looking at them. "I just wish you'd stop kissing me like this," she added on a lighter tone. "I don't think it's a proper thing to do right before a date with someone else."

"And I wish you would stop kissing me back," he retorted, taking a step back. "Since you're dating my boss and all..."

He tenderly brushed her hair from her shoulder and walked away.

Once outside, Booth felt free. He had said everything he could possibly say. The rest wasn't up to him anymore. And that felt damn good.


"So! Dr. Catherine Bryar, huh?" Cam laughed under her breath.

Booth winced and took a sip from the small glass in front of him.

"Come on," he said. "You don't really wanna talk about this, do you?"

Cam raised her eyebrows.

"Of course, I do!"

Booth didn't say anything back. He just turned to her, waiting for it.

"Don't get me wrong," she started. "I'm glad you're putting yourself out there and all, but... Come on, Seeley, what are you doing?"

"I'm... widening my horizons," he said with a laugh.

"Of course. Scientist, shiny brown hair, piercing blue eyes, last name starting with BR... Yes. Totally wide."

Booth rolled his eyes. Nonsense. Camille had no right to make him feel bad about this.

"Look," he started to explain, "Bones didn't want this. She said no. Twice, actually."

He took another sip, while Cam quickly replied,

"Well... Can you really blame her?"

Booth frowned.

"Wh.. Yes! Yes, I can! Ok?"

He saw the smile on his friend's face. A touch of pity? Please!

But Cam let it go. She smirked, though.

"Just so you know, Dr. Brennan really doesn't like it."

"Camille, stop. Don't," he warned her.

"What?" she interjected, offended.

"I'm not doing this to toy with her." Not only that. "I'm trying to do this for me."

Cam put a hand on his shoulder.

"I know," she said.

"So just... be happy for me."

"I am!" she asserted. But then she grew serious. "But I'd be really happy if you were really happy. That's all."

Really happy. Right.


Brennan wasn't thinking about their latest kiss anymore. Really. Which was a relief. Well, yes, she had just thought about it to note that she wasn't thinking about it, but his taste wasn't lingering in her mind anymore.

She was wearing a blue cotton pyjama bottom and a white tank top, getting ready to settle in the couch to try to read a book. It was still early, but she had nothing better to do. The case was over –finally-, she had no dissertations to review, no paperwork, no after-work drinks. Nothing.

It had been a long time, she noticed, since the last time she had had nothing to do and nobody to do nothing with. She remembered she used to like that. Time to herself. Time to think. Time to think. Like she needed more of that lately.

A knock at the door wasn't supposed to feel familiar. Wasn't supposed to be recognizable. And yet her stomach had flipped on the first one. And again on the second series of knocks. She put down the book she had planned on falling asleep on and flattened her hair before stopping herself. She opened the door after confirming the cause of her stomach twisting.

"Booth? What are you doing here?" she asked.

He came in even before the door was fully open.

"Case is closed," he shrugged like she was supposed to know he'd be there. "I brought beer!"

She shut the door, locked it as she always did, and followed him to her living room. She watched him put the beer on her coffee table, pick up her book, frown with disgust, set it back down. She watched him take his jacket off, throw it on the back of the couch. She watched how amazingly comfortable he looked around her stuff.

"What?" he asked after having caught her staring at him.

She walked up to the couch, but didn't sit down yet.

"I thought you would be going out with Dr. Bryar tonight," she explained.

"Nope. Tonight, it's you and me, Bones."

She felt a smile sneak up on her lips. She looked down. She noted how naked she felt in her white tank top and tried to compose herself.

"I bought the ice cream you like!" she said, remembering. "You want some?"

Booth smiled at her excitement. She looked so proud of herself.

"Sure," he laughed.

He watched her disappear in the kitchen and looked around him. This. Just this made him feel light. And that fact hit him like a ton of bricks.

She came back with the biggest bowl of ice cream he had ever seen.

"Here," she announced, proudly.

"Thanks," he said, taking it and setting it down on the table.

How could a fucking bowl of ice cream be the highlight of his day? How sad was his life, really?

Brennan noted a change in his disposition.

"You don't look so happy," she pointed out. And she added on a joking tone, "Is the sex that disappointing?"

She laughed. She did. Because it was supposed to be a joke. But Booth didn't take it like it.

"Bones, stop."

The sound of his voice brought her back to where they were, really. She quickly tried to correct her mistake.

"I'm sorry! I just thought I'd try to tease you, but I didn't take into account the awkwardness of the timing of everything. I really wasn't serious."

Though she was. She sat down next to him, and caught herself wondering if he had slept with her yet. Certainly, such a sexually-aggressive looking woman would not waste time. Not like she had.

He knew what she was trying to do. Lighten the mood. Rise above all this. And so...

"How's the sex with Hacker?"

That escaped his mouth before he even could think of stopping himself. He just wanted to show her how weird that kind of joke was. And now, there he was, actually terrified she would answer him.

Brennan froze, wide-eyed, beer cap in her hand, beer in the other.

"Whoa!" she gasped. They saw the look on each other's face and burst out in laughter.

"Yeah..." Booth started after his laughter died down. She was still chuckling, probably in shock. "I just thought I'd try that out." He opened his beer. "Doesn't really work for me."

They exchanged a smile. Brennan sat on her feet, careful not to touch him. She played with the sticker of her bottle.

"I could answer, though, if you want," she risked, glimpsing at him.

"No."

"No, really, I can."

He shut his eyes. "I know you can. I'm not sure I ca..."

"It's not happening," she said really fast.

He turned to her instantly.

"Huh?"

She shook her head 'no'.

"There's no sex," she clarified in a huff.

Booth took a sip. He knew he'd be relieved to know that. He just didn't know it would shake him so deeply, to the core.

"No sex, huh?" he repeated, surprised they were actually talking like this. Unsure they should be. "Why?" he asked, almost scared. Scared of disappointment? Maybe.

"Because of you."

She had said it without thinking. And now it was out. Slightly nervous, she glanced at him.

"Me?!" he choked. "Wha... because he's my boss?"

She shrugged and tried to re-stick the now unsticky sticker on the bottle.

"Why?" he asked again, so softly she wasn't even sure he had said it.

"Just doesn't feel right," she finally answered.

Booth had trouble wrapping his brain around this. He needed to understand, even if he knew he could never fully understand her.

"Ok. Let me get this straight," he said, turning to her on the couch. He cleared his throat. "You don't... wanna be with me, and yet you're not planning on being with anyone else."

She was watching him talk. And that was making him really nervous. Self-conscious.

"What, you're gonna spend the rest of your life alone?" he said on a joking tone.

"Why not?" she replied.

Was she serious?

"Many successful people spent their life alone. It's said to bring a certain level of enlightenment," she confirmed.

He laughed.

"What, are you Buddhist, all of a sudden?"

But she wasn't laughing. She looked very still. Resigned. Booth felt a twinge of panic. She couldn't go back so far.

"Aw, Bones, you don't wanna be alone."

"Maybe I do," she shrugged again, brushing it off so he would let it go.

"No, you don't," he insisted. When he saw she wasn't even listening to him, he grabbed their bottles of beer and put them away on the table. He put a hand on her knee. But took it off as soon as she looked at it. "You wanna lose yourself in someone, remember?" he asked.

Hearing her own words, words she had pronounced so long ago, it seemed... Her nose tickled again and she opened her mouth not to let any emotions flash on her face.

"It doesn't matter what I want," she whispered, unable to bring her voice to match her face. "It's what I can, that matters. And I can't..."

She stopped herself. Would she be able to say that to him again? Would he really understand this time around?

"You can't what?" he pressed on, putting his hand on her knee again, but leaving it there. Squeezing it so she would answer.

"I told you," she murmured. "I can't change." And she looked up at him, same tears. Same desperation. But she didn't hold his gaze for long.

"But you have changed," he said, insisting. "And I can't wait for you to see that."

She shook her head.

"I'm not asking you to wait," she explained.

"No. I mean... You will. You will see that. And I'll be here when you do."

A shot of hope passed through her veins. Before she could hold on to it, she had to make sure of what he was saying. She repeated,

"You'll be here?"

"Yeah."

Neither of them had any idea what had just been said.

Booth forced himself to sit back, to stop touching her.

"I'll be here," he repeated. He took his beer. "As a friend." He handed her hers. "Always there." And sank into the couch. "And I'll be happy for you."

She looked as he threw his head back on the back of the couch. She realized she was holding to the bottle a little too tightly. She released some tension in her fingers, feeling the coldness of the condensation on it, like seeping through her.

"Oh," she huffed. "Thank you."

He had moved on. And now she had to. She wondered if she still had to try to open up or if she should be giving up and shutting down for good. Because this was so hard... And that level of difficulty? She knew it would never be worth it for anyone else. Ever.

She looked at him again and took a sip.


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