You Can't UnRing the Bell

Let's Fail All the Way

He had spent the past two hours struggling with himself. His bed was a mess, he had kicked his covers, put them back on, thrown his pillows. He had tried to understand what rage had pushed them both to unleash hell onto the other. He remembered what kind of ordeal they had undergone six years before; how their mutual desire for the other and its subsequent frustration had pushed them to look for a frontal shock at the slightest occasion. But this time he knew it was different. It was not just sex. It was what it meant. What it implicated. This time he had been the one refusing it because his vital need for her skin, her scent, was balanced by his primal fear that it would swallow him in the chaos of unfulfillable expectations.

The thought of the torn pieces of paper thrown in his garbage can came to haunt him again; another unfulfilled expectation. He realized he had been the architect of his own hell. He realized he should have taken what she offered instead of protecting what he would never have. She had offered herself body and soul and he had taken nothing of it. He had refused it.

He got up with a sigh. A throbbing headache reminding him that his lack for sleep would be accompanied by a solid hangover, last visible trace of a lost battle. He was his own casualty, the only soldier down and unlikely to recover.

When he reached his kitchen, he eyed the garbage can once, then endeavored to make himself some coffee. He eyed it twice, before searching for some aspirin. And again. Each time wondering how long this circus would last, already certain he would give in. But as any good soldier, he was ready to resist some more despite the suffering. Despite the inevitability of his fate. So he went showering. His third shower in a little more than 5 hours. Then he got dressed, shrugging as he saw the tie Catherine had offered to him a mere week before. If she knew what happened last night...

He realized he did not care. He had not been cheating on her, he had been cheating on Bones with her. That was the reality of this already failed pretence of a relationship. What would he do about it? He had no idea. He wondered if unfulfillable expectations were better than the phantom of a relationship. A ghost replacing another ghost.

When he returned to the kitchen, ready for work, he pressed his lips together, trying to resist some more and rolled his eyes at himself before opening the garbage can and reaching for the pieces of paper. He took a breath, placing both pieces on his coffee table, discerning the neat writing of his partner. He swallowed. It felt like touching the most intimate part of her... The most valuable too. Her heart. Fragile, broken. Crushed, as she would say.


I am sorry to write this to you. I am sorry to think that you won't find me in time. I know you are trying, I am trying too. But I guess sometimes trying is not enough. I am afraid. I traded with death my whole life (if I daresay) and now that the time has come for me I just don't want to. I cannot even ask you if it has an underlying meaning.I suppose it is normal for me to want to live, right? I just... There are so many things that I want to do. Silly things, when I come to think of it. You would laugh at me if you heard them. I want to sleep in late. I never did it. Or eat in my bed. I want to drive a supersonic plane. Just for the rush of noradrenalin. I want to read Little Women because it was my mother's favorite novel. I want to learn how to play guitar like Russ does. I want you. I want you to want me too. I always thought I would have time. I pushed things away because I thought there would be time. There is no more time. What do I do?You remember when you said, you and I, this was going somewhere? What did you mean? What does it mean today? I suppose it does not mean anything anymore. I hope it did. Not that it would change anything. But you should just know. I am sorry to have thought it meant nothing then.

I am sorry.

Your partner, Bones

When he finished reading, he shut his eyes tightly. He leaned back in his couch. So that was fate? That was the ironic path through life made of cross-roads and dead ends. Of mistakes and regrets. Of questions unanswered, questions never asked. He had never asked her. No more than she had asked him. They had assumed all along, that this was for the best. He had assumed all along that this was the only solution. He had accepted that she would belong to him in an incomplete, fragmented way and she had accepted to give that much of herself. He had protected her from herself while she had protected him from herself, too? What sense did that make?

He let out a bitter chuckle at the irony of it all.

Would they stop protecting each other from themselves at some point? Would it end? He had no idea. He had tried. It had not worked. She had tried. He had refused to see it. Where were they now? How many more times would they have to push each other before falling off the edge? He felt lost. Lost in a certainty that made no sense. He still wanted her. Despite the misunderstandings, the incomprehensible wait and their undeniable incompatibility. Precisely because of all these things, in reality. There was no being compatible with someone who completed him. There was no sparing himself the torture of wait when she represented his quest. There was no pleasure in the ease of understanding someone whose peculiarity fascinated him and surprised him every day. This letter was another proof of that fact.

He had waited six years for her. He had been incapable of discerning her expectations. He had never realized what a better man of him she had made. Now he wanted to try, more than ever before. Although he had no idea how. Although he knew they were already broken. They were at another cross-road, they were at cross-purpose. He wondered if their fates would finally meet somewhere in the middle of all this.

For the first time in over five years, Booth wasn't looking forward to going to work. He was dreading it, he realized, entering the Jeffersonian. He tried to forget about everything, but it was no use, as he quickly gathered. He knew everyone knew what he... what they had almost done –merely 7 hours ago- the instant they all laid eyes on him. His exit from her place last night was a blur. He vaguely remembered bumping into Sweets on his way to the front door and hearing something that sounded like, Whoa! What happened? But nothing more. Not really. Not about that anyway.

Everyone stopped talking the minute their eyes locked. Booth realized he had never quite grasped the full definition of the word 'awkward' until then, when he opened his mouth to say something irrelevant and she quickly averted his eyes to turn around and head to her office.

"I feel you, man," Hodgins told him, empathically, an open hand on his shoulder.

Booth shot him a look. "I'd rather you didn't." And Hodgins, wide-eyed, immediately took his hand off of him and turned to Cam.

"You ok, big guy?" Cam asked.

He didn't respond. Instead he bluntly asked, "Where are we on the... uhm..." He couldn't even remember what.

Cam, who knew him too well, cut him short to give him a break.

"The report is on my desk, I'll get it for you."

And she left with a knowing smile.

Booth was looking towards Brennan's office. Was she going to stay there all day? Was he supposed to reach out again? Was he supposed to... tell her he had read the letter? Tell her... Angela walked by and gave him a weird, cryptic look before going into her best friend's lair.

"Look, I know you hate to talk to me about anything, but... I saw you, man," Hodgins threw at him.

"What?" Booth turned to him, annoyed beyond reason.

"Last night. I saw you."

"You saw me wh..." Booth abruptly stopped talking. No way. He started panicking. There was no way this was happening.

"Yeah," Hodgins explained. "I was out getting a CD from my car, and I saw you get in yours."

No. No. No. No.

Booth was just standing there. He had never been more mortified in his entire life.

"Please, tell me you didn't drive home in that state."


Booth just frowned. What was he talking about?

"You got into your car, and I got my CD and I wanted to call you a cab, but I forgot once I went upstairs. Tell me you didn't drive off that drunk."

Booth started breathing again. So he hadn't seen. He let his shoulders relax.

"I called a cab myself," he reassured him.


Yeah... Good wasn't exactly the word Booth used to describe it. That moment, before the cab had taken him home? Not good.


Out of breath, he reached his car, sat and slammed the door. He buried his face into his hands. Shit. He had run out of there. He had run out on her. He took a deep breath and grabbed the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. He wasn't going to drive home. He just needed to hide for a while. And there was no way he would get into a cab with an erection as painful as this. He felt dizzy as flashes of so-very-recent memories came rushing in. Her open legs around him, her uninhibited wetness against him. His hand was caressing his thigh when he realized what he was about to do. What he had to do. He closed his eyes again, tried to slow his breathing. He thought of church, old people, oranges. He pushed away every single one of her sighs, sighs she had moaned sweetly into his ears, onto his neck, into his mouth.

He grabbed the wheel with both hands again. He didn't want to do this. Oh, he had done this a million times. He was a man, he wasn't ashamed of it, as long as it stayed private. But this now? It was so very wrong. He knew he had to do something, though. Because thoughts alone wouldn't help him relax this time.

His mind still very much blurred from alcohol, he found himself repeating what she had done, five long minutes ago. He parted the ends of his already undone belt, undid the button of his jeans and unzipped them. He couldn't undo what he had done. He didn't really want to. He just wanted to press pause and yell 'what the hell is happening here?!' He saw her eyes flutter open, letting him see her expectations. Expectations she would never verbalize. Expectations he would never be able to fulfill until she did. He saw her cheeks, flushed with exultation. And when he heard her sharp intake of breath, he brought both hands to his face. Make this stop.

He knew he couldn't physically stay in this state forever. He had to just... calm down. Force himself down. Calling saints didn't help. Neither did the deep breathing and the pinching himself in the arm. He tried picturing himself watching football, but she came in and stood in front of the TV.


... ...

Fine! He'd do it. He'd jerk off in his car parked in front of her apartment! Frustrated, ashamed, angry at himself. He decided to get it over with and tried to think of nothing. He tried his best. But every time he consciously tossed her image away, she came back with new moves. Moves that had actually happened. Her tongue, so very febrile. He bit his lower lip. Her throat, begging for his mouth with the deepest, the sweetest gasps. He stroked faster. Her breasts, so round, so full, asking for him in perfect harmony with her scattered voice whimpering his name. He thrust his hips upward. Her feverish, trembling fingers sliding down... His right hand stopped moving, his eyes flew open, he threw his head back.

Bones had been right. He was great at torture. He was hard evidence. He laughed at his pathetic self and, with a sigh, allowed his mind to go back to her. And she released him.

Brennan gathered all the files they had gone over for Caroline. She would need them for court today, and she didn't intend on being lectured again on proper trial prep. I'm not a child!

Sighing again, she blamed Booth –only for a second and a half- for coming in early. She had thought they'd all meet in court today. She didn't need another confrontation. She didn't need to know if he had read the letter or not. She didn't need to know what he thought about it. She didn't need him to remind her of what had happened in her bathroom merely –she looked at her watch- 7 hours ago. It felt like years ago. Felt like 5 minutes ago. It felt, that's it.

Started, she jumped as Angela discreetly walked in.

"Hey, sweetie..."

"No," Brennan interrupted her.

A little stunned, but not completely taken aback, Angela tried again.

"You've got to tell me wha..."

"I don't have to do anything," she spat out a little too abruptly, maybe. "Not now. I want to be ready for court."

Angela crossed her arms over her chest and nodded, keeping her eyes on her.

"I understand," she said, softly. "Ok. Well..." Right before she turned around to leave, she added, "I'll be here for you, when you're done pushing me away." And she left.

Like the preceding day, she avoided eye contact with him, lost in thoughts as she stared out of the window while they crossed the busy streets of D.C., on their way to court. But this time he knew he was the one responsible for her silence. There was no threatening a journalist over the phone to make up for that uncomfortable, laden weighted silence. There was no asking her how was her day, much less if she had a hangover or if she had made her way home safely in her slippers after having stormed out of his place at dawn. This was too much. And yet this was nothing. He had promised himself when he had read the letter that he would not let cross-purposes and cross-roads make him feel lost and look for the right direction. He had decided that he would move forward, blindly, advancing fearlessly and take what was to be taken. But there seemed to be nothing left to take. Maybe she already had given it all.

Maybe she was afraid he had read the words and thought nothing of them. More questions, less answers. Reading into her soul had not been that helpful, thus. It had simply helped him realize there was no escaping her. Because there was no better than her. He was stuck. But at least he knew it was pointless to struggle with it. He had called Catherine to apologize for his behavior and his double cancellation. Then he had explained, laconically, that this was not the right time for him. That it would be unfair to make her lose her time and energy on something that would lead nowhere. She did not ask anything. She gracefully accepted her fate, and that was it.

He was back in that no-place, waiting for these unfulfillable expectations to be fulfilled. Waiting for her to see something he could not show. Something he could not word. Something that was hanging out there, waiting to be taken. His pathetically inalienable, irrevocable, undying love for her.

He glanced at her rapidly, before turning on the radio. He needed this silence to be filled. News, debates, talk and talk. He frowned, searching for some music. He did not want to think. If Bones heard him she would probably tell him this would not change him much.

He recognized a tune from the 90s and decided to settle for it. The Pretenders, right? Right.

So if you're mad, get mad, don't hold it all inside, come on and talk to me now...

He glanced at her again, wondering if she had picked up on the words, but she was still staring out of the window absently.

...When you're standing at the crossroads, and don't know which path to choose, let me come along, 'cause even if you're wrong, I'll stand by you...He nervously switched the station, cursing God silently. More talk, news, weather. Music. What was that? Elton John? Whatever. It seemed neutral.

...You're all I've ever needed, baby you're the one...

Or not neutral. He switched again, wondering if he would have to settle for Gangsta rap to avoid any type of bad surprise. But Elvis was faster than him.

...For I can't help falling in love with you. He frowned, quite certain his sensation of persecution was perfectly justified. Or that any cheesy love song could apply to his pathetic situation. When he reached for the radio once more, he heard Bones sigh.

"Will you make up your mind already?" she asked, clearly annoyed.

Taken aback, he settled for the next station, feeling like a chastised child. The irony of her comment adding to the improbable pressure he thought fate was exercising on him at that instant. He did not even like the song that was now playing. What was that? George Michael? It was much too 1980s...

She had ignored his restlessness at first, then she had gotten annoyed, certain he was trying to gain her attention. She did not want to talk. What would she say anyway? How is your day so far? Do you have a hangover? How bad was your erection when you left me naked in my bathroom? Did you read the letter I threw in your face? She had pushed too far already to add to it. And for her to be aware of her limits meant she had most likely been over the top. It did not mean she did not want to know. She had questions; so many of them. But she would not ask. The lyrics of the song she wasn't even listening to made their way to her.

...I knew you were waiting, I knew you were waiting for me!

She frowned, wishing she actually knew that. Wishing he was still waiting. Wishing she had known he had been waiting all along. Stupid radio. She turned it off. Without a glance his way, she looked outside the window again.

It had been a week since the trial. When they had gotten the call that morning, she knew she wouldn't be working at her full potential. And she had been right. She had been distracted the whole time he had gone through the crime scene and she had examined the remains.

Ok, yes. She had blurted it out. She had told him about the important dig opportunity in the Maluku Islands. She had no idea what she expected from him. More, that's for sure.

She poured herself a cup of coffee.

It wasn't like she had wanted to threaten him or anything, but yes. Maybe she had expected some kind of reaction. Which he had not given her.

She grabbed the sugar.

Had she expected him to laugh it off, like he did when he was nervous about something, and say, "Why are you even talking about this, Bones? You know you're not going anywhere!"? She didn't know.

She grabbed the spoon.

He had mentioned something about a sniper instructor position being shoved down his throat by the Rangers. But after saying how they were trying to guilt him into 'doing his duty for his country', he had gotten angry and stopped talking about it. So she had no idea what any of that meant.


Brennan jumped slightly and turned to her friend who had appeared out of nowhere. She smiled. It felt forced, but probably didn't show.

"Something wrong?" Angela pressed on, walking towards her.

"Why would you think that?"

Brennan stirred her beverage. Booth had been weird all day, too.

"You put 5 sugars in there."

She looked down at her cup, content still swirling around.

"Is this how they drink their coffee in Indonesia?" Angela continued.

"Indonesia is currently the fourth largest coffee producer in the world."

"Oh. Ok. Yes. That's a great reason to go there for a year."

Brennan frowned. And left.

Brennan followed Booth into the Founding Fathers. Anxiety followed her. This had always been a place where she was at ease. But, right now, they weren't sitting at their usual table, and it didn't feel right. With what was hanging over their heads... She knew they weren't going to mention that either. Or she hoped they wouldn't. Yet another thing she didn't want to think about.

She had taken three sips of beer already. She was holding the bottle so much that it was now warmer than cool. Her eyes settled on their usual table, a few feet away from them. It was empty. The thick blanket of silence tightened around them. Until she couldn't stand it anymore. Why did he insist on coming here with her if all they did was sit and sulk?

"What do you want to talk about?" she asked, light and detached.

"I don't know... things. As we normally do. We never lacked for conversation topics." Before.

Normally. That was a strange word to them now. She wracked her brain trying to find something. Something normal. Something that wouldn't push them further apart. She could barely reach out to him as it was.

Somewhere in the bar, a glass fell to the floor and shattered noisily to pieces. People started applauding. Brennan frowned and tried to see what other people were seeing.

"I didn't know there was a spectacle here, tonight."

Booth snorted.

"Someone broke a glass, Bones. That's all."

"If it was an accident, why are they all clapping?" she contradicted him with a smile, head tilted, eyebrows up, certain that she was right.

"It's ironic. It's what people do. You make a fool out of yourself, everyone cheers, and you look like an even bigger idiot."

"It's mean," she stated.

"Yeah, well... Humans are mean, Bones."

She looked at him, all dark and gloomy, wondering if he would ever be happy again. She missed him more than words could say.

"I wonder what it's like to own a bar like this one," she blurted out, content with her choice of neutral topic.

He instantly thought about his coma dream, "I think I know the feeling..." He smiled.

She bit her lips. Ok, so that wasn't so neutral. Nothing was neutral anymore, she realized.

They really had never talked about how weird it was that her book had somehow seeped through his brain during those four excruciatingly long days.

"I remember," he said pensively, "that it was really cool... We rocked..."

She smiled shyly. "We did."

In that book, she had been complete. She had been able to rid herself of everything that was pulling her apart right now. She had written a version of herself, THE only version of herself that could ever have made Booth happy. She didn't want to go there. But she did.

"Maybe... what you said, maybe it's because of that dream."

He frowned, "What I said?" When he understood when she meant, he swallowed. No. She would not say that. She could not. "No, Bones. I..."

"It's possible!" she insisted.

The door was now wide open. And he was going to walk blindly through it again.

"It doesn't matter how in love with you I was in that dream. I felt this way with you before that; long before. I can even tell you when and how. It has nothing to do with it."

His words hit her straight to the core. She knew this conversation had to happen. She knew it was the only way to go, now. But she was still surprised at how swiftly it had come up again. She shook her head. She didn't want to cry again. Every time she thought about his confession, she felt lost. Pressured. Deeply stuck. Unable to move or breathe.

"Do you know why?" she asked, her voice cracking even though she was whispering.

He took a breath. "You wanna know why? I'll have to explain how and when too."

She shook her head again, more slowly and averted his eyes. "Maybe we shouldn't," she muffled.

"Maybe," he said disappointed. If she knew exactly what motivated his love, maybe then she would accept it

Why was she upset? She wanted him to drop it. She didn't want him to explain. No, she did. She wanted him to explain. She just didn't want to have to ask. Awkwardly. Insisting.

"But if you want to talk about it..." she offered, unsure it was the right thing to do.

"I do," he answered, earnest, "But do you wanna hear it?" Then he sighed and massaged his forehead. "We've been there before."

His stare went through her. She felt naked. "You're right," she dropped.

He knew he should never have given a mild offer. Mild offers had led him there. So he reiterated, afraid, as usual, to scare her.

"No, I'm not. You need to know. I want you to know."

So grateful he had not taken her word for it, this time, she bit her lower lip and nodded.

"I want to know," she confirmed, brutally honest with herself.

He nodded in return. "Alright." He took a breath.

She put a hand on his arm.

"Booth, wait."

She quickly broken contact.

"What if I still..." She sat up straighter. "What if I still have the same answer for you? You shouldn't ask me again, because... what if..." She looked up at him. "I don't want to hurt you again. Not like that. Not ever."

"I don't care. You need to know." Of course he cared, but he hoped... He hoped that maybe it would still change despite her warnings. "When I say I love you... It's not out of the blue or out of a misconception born from that coma."

It was the first time he had used those words. Not that words really mattered at this point. Or maybe it was all that mattered. Her heart was aching in her chest.

"Then... where is it coming from?" she insisted on understanding. "I... You know me." Like, somehow, that should have been enough to stop him from loving her.

He frowned at her lack of self esteem, "Precisely, Bones... I know you." He paused, trying to find the right words. "It's instants, details... Like, the first time I saw you. The second I entered that classroom, I knew..." He paused again, not wanting to create any misunderstanding by using that word again. "Or at Cleo Heller's funerals, when you told me you wanted to help me. Or, that evening after the beauty pageant investigation... So many other moments. So many things that made you indispensable to me."

She didn't know what to respond to that. Because those moments between them, like the ones he had enumerated, they were the exact reason why he was that important to her too. The reason why she couldn't do this to them. Should she be saying this out loud?

"I remember those moments, too," she whispered. "They are special to me too. You're... you're my partner," she said, insisting on that last word. "You're everything I have." Her voice got high pitched again. "I can't lose that. I can't do this to us. I love us. More than I like myself." There. She couldn't say any more.

He took a shaky breath, once more. He couldn't seem to find the right words to make her understand that being her partner meant loving her, to him. Always had.

"Booth, if you've always felt this way... why now? Why do you want to change everything now?"

He took her beauty in. He dried his palms on the fabric of his jeans before he could continue to explain. His voice was steady. Sure. Yet calm and soft. "The night I knew there was no... not loving you, it was that evening of the beauty pageant. We were eating those stale doughnuts. You were so... beautiful, and..." He smiled to the memory. "I realized then that nothing mattered more to me than being with you. Just, eating doughnuts or take outs and filling out paperwork. This was all I wanted to do. Because you were there, beautiful, intelligent, you. And you were mine. I wanted you to be mine. But I knew in a certain way you already were." He waited again for the words to sink in. "But at some point... After that coma dream... I knew that I wanted more. I had had more."

Fury gathered in her stomach. Hadn't he read her letter?

"Why didn't you say anything back then? Why did you draw a line, then? I was... I would have." She sighed. "But now you mean too much to me."

"I know," he chuckled bitterly. "I was afraid to scare you off. So I waited... As I said, you were mine, in a certain way. That was enough. I wanted you to trust me. To rely on me. And I got trapped in my own game, I guess."

"So, you manipulated me," she stated between her teeth. Angry.

"You think I manipulated you?" he frowns, "I tried to protect you!"

"All this time, you knew. And you knew I felt this way too, and you manipulated me so I couldn't... That's not fair, Booth."

"But I didn't know!" he exclaims suddenly. He had known from the start this would not end well, he had just hoped... "I didn't know you felt anything! I wanted you to feel something! So I tried! Again and again, to make you trust me!"

"And I DID! And now you want to destroy everything!" She couldn't let go of the anger now. It was the only thing keeping her grounded. "And WHY would you date Catherine so quickly?! WHY? To manipulate me again?"

Touché, he thought, suddenly calming down.

"I'm not seeing her anymore," he confessed. "Now, if I wanted to manipulate you, I'd have told you that before."

"Why didn't you?"

The truth was... He didn't know. What he knew was that this 'relationship' had somehow put a wall between him and her, a protection shield, keeping them from having this conversation again.

"Why didn't you tell me you weren't seeing Hacker anymore?" he averted, putting the focus back on her.

Her breath got stuck. It had been so very easy to let Hacker out of her life. Right when Booth's lips had grazed hers in her bathroom... In that moment when she had so desperately needed him to take her, she knew she was being ridiculous to ever consider keeping this sham. Nothing, no one could ever protect her from Booth. Only she could. But she couldn't tell him that. Because even though it had everything to do with him, it really didn't. She had let Hacker go for her own sake. To be true to herself for once.

She pursed her lips, still raging. Why was he doing this now? Why not years ago, when she didn't know she would care so much. When she didn't know what she could lose.

His heart squeezed painfully in his chest as he saw her eyes were starting to shine with tears.

"I waited Bones, for years before telling you. Because I knew how it would end, and it ended the way I thought it would. But you cannot blame me."

Like hell I can't.

"I thought you were ready to hear it," he confessed. "You weren't. You aren't."

She bit down on her lips. Hard. Shaking her head, furious.

He started to get up, leaving a 20 dollar bill on the table.

She could feel the now too familiar sting of tears in her nose.

"You're gonna leave, just like that? You're just gonna give up on me again?!"

He pressed his lips together, his gaze intense. His voice should have sounded mad. But all that came across was exhaustion. Resignation. "What do you want me to do, Bones? Tell me, and I'll do it. I'll do anything. I would do anything if you would just let me in."

She brought her chin down. "I don't know. I don't know how." She was repeating herself.

He sighed.

"I hate you right now," she confessed. "I hate you for doing this to us." She looked at him again. "I wanted this, Booth! Six, or three, or even two years ago. I would have given it a shot. But now..." She shook her head.

"That's the thing! I couldn't go there with you before, because we weren't solid enough!"

"But we're TOO SOLID now. It's too important to just..." She got up too. She wasn't going to do this anymore. Not in front of all those strangers. She dropped money on the table and grabbed her coat. She headed outside.

He followed her, and as soon as they reached the sidewalk, he got in her way.

"You think it's less important to me?" he urged her. Desperately. "You think you aren't the most important thing in my damned life?"

"I don't know! I don't know anything!" she almost yelled. "What do you expect me to say?! I TOLD you I couldn't do this. I TOLD you I loved you. I TOLD you I'm not good for you. I don't want to lose you and you keep pushing me. I can't anymore. I just can't." Her shoulders dropped. "I'll see you tomo... I'll see you."

"No! Dammit! Stop running away!" He planted himself in front of her again and grabbed both her upper arms. "I'll tell you something, and you can hate me all you want for it. But we never were just partners, Bones. Ever. I have loved you from day one."

"I have, too!" she let out. She let the tears she was holding back stream down her face.

It's like he wasn't even listening. She sniffled, bringing her fingers under her nose.

"Nothing that you consider to be important to us as partners means anything more than me loving you."

"You don't understand," she practically begged, shaking her head.

"Yes, I do!"

"No. You don't!"

"You think you'll lose us," he answered instantly.

"Well, if you understand then, why won't you let it go?"

"Because you don't understand, Bones! You think you'll lose me as your partner? As a reliable, stable surrogate? I'm not a fucking surrogate!"

She felt like she had been hit by a bullet and reacted with a hint of desperation. She knew where this was going. And she was heading straight for it.

"I never said you were! You're the most important person in my life! I can't let you..." She grabbed his shoulders. He needed to understand. "I LOVE you. And when you get tired of me, of all this, of me being cold and calculated and emotionally distant, you'll leave. And I won't have anything left. I won't have anyone." And I don't want to be alone. Not anymore.

He took a breath, he knew her fears, but she was so imprisoned within it all that she wouldn't hear him.

"I never left. It's been 6 years. I'm your partner, and you don't want that to change. But what's the difference?! What's the difference in me loving you? I already did. I always did. Why are you so scared it'll ruin us if I tell you I have always loved you?"

"Because you don't know me!" she explained with everything she had. Her voice was total panic. "You don't know that side of me! I'm not good with intimacy. I'm not good at sharing things. They all leave because I push them away. And I don't want to end up watching you go. THAT'S the difference." Out of breath, she tried to calm her voice and repeated, "That's the difference."

"You think I don't know you? No one knows you better than me. No one on this fucking planet! I know every detail of you. And I love every detail. I know what you shared with me: you shared everything. I have been there every minute of your life for the past 5 years, and there is nothing I ignore. Nothing that could make me stop loving you either. Nothing."

There. It had finally happened. She was out of arguments. She had nothing left to refute. She had hit rock bottom. Part of her was so very grateful to him for having cornered her like this, away from her comfortable solutions of avoidance and rejection. Part of her was pissed as hell that he wouldn't let it go for their sake. She was doing this for them. For him. For her. Mostly for her. Because if he chose to leave after he changed her for good, she would never be able to go back.

She breathed him in. "I'll think about it," she gave.

"No," he refused, grabbing her quickly. "There's no thinking about it. I want you to KNOW." His eyes were shimmering again. "I want you to stop doubting me. Stop doubting yourself!"

"I said, I'll think about it. PLEASE."

He wanted her to choose now. He couldn't stay in limbo like this.

She couldn't make a rash decision.

"Booth, I just need time to think," she practically begged.

"What's there to think about?!" He really was fed up. "You either want me or you don't. It doesn't take your three doctorates to figure that out."

"Then I can't," she blurted out. She took a step back. "I said I was willing to think about it, that's all I can do. But no. You want more and more, and I... It's not my fault anymore," she sighed, slightly relieved. "It's all on you now."

That was it. She had shut him up. After a month of going around in circle, he finally understood.

"I guess we've spun and twisted this around as much as humanly possible. There's nothing left to say. You're not going to change your mind."

"No," she affirmed. Her voice was convincing. Her eyes weren't. He didn't look at her eyes.

"And I'm not either."

For a moment, she saw hope. Hope that she'd be able to think about it still. He had just said his feelings weren't going to change. But...

"So... I think you should take the position on the team going to Indonesia."


"And I'll take that offer with the Rangers."

Her heart wasn't beating anymore. She was sure of it.

"But you said before that we could still work together," she insisted, in a tiny, dying voice, reminding him, twisting her freezing cold hands together before rapidly putting them back by her sides. "You agreed."

"I can't." He was done pretending. "I have to get away. This is... not good."

It was good until you ruined it.

"Booth, no!" she huffed in a breath. She held on to his jacket with her fingers. He had just said he hadn't left in 6 years and that he never would. Hadn't she just heard that? "Our partnership, that's the reason I said no!"

"Then say YES!" he bellowed.


No words.

No sound.

No breath.

Just emptiness.

She closed her mouth.

He watched her.

She looked down.

He turned around and left.

Maybe she was slipping back into denial, as Angela would say, but Booth and she seemed to be working well together on this case. Yes, they still avoided any mention of anything that wasn't case-related, but she could work with that. At least they weren't silent. At least he was being silly at times again. At least he was smiling. At least she could pretend she didn't know he was trying so hard. Yes, the investigation was going slowly. They weren't really progressing; they hadn't any real leads about anything, but at least she was able to not think about what he had told her the night before. That they should go their separate ways for a while. No. She wasn't going to think about that. Because if she did, she'd think about how she didn't want him to be right. About how he was the one being ridiculous here. She'd think about... how she had said 'maybe', which was a big deal to her and which was all he had asked of her at first. About how 'maybe' didn't cut it anymore. About how she didn't understand why. She didn't understand. So she would not think about any of that.

Yeah, right.

She sighed and sank in her chair. She looked at it for at least 47 seconds before she picked it up. She read the words again. 'Opportunity' didn't seem like the right terminology for this. She set the sheet on her desk and put her hands over it. Maybe if she didn't look at it... Her eyes looked around her office. She loved that office. It was hers. It was her. Everything in here meant something to her. And yet, it didn't mean anything if he... She stopped her mind from going there and picked up the piece of paper again.


A year.

"Knock, knock!" his voice sounded cheerful. So fake. Still better than silence.

She smiled instantly. "Oh! I know that one! Who's there?"

"No, Bones, it's me."

"No-Bones- It's-Me who?"

"Me. Booth. I was just making knocking sounds with my mouth." Now he sounded annoyed.

"Why would you do that?"

Wow. The one time he wasn't making a joke, she decided not to be literal. We're so in sync, he chuckled sadly to himself. He walked up to her desk and his eyes caught a glimpse of what she was holding between her fingers.

Brennan quickly put it in her desk drawer before brushing a piece of hair from her face, and she looked up at him. Hoping. Please don't talk about it. Please. Not now.

"It'll be good for us," he said despite her silent prayer to him.

Us. What's that mean anymore? She dug deep into his eyes with hers. And she saw it. She would never be able to say how, but she knew. He was still thinking about their fight, too. About his conclusion. He had walked away from her twice now. She knew the signs. And yet, she couldn't let it go. She couldn't let them go.

"Booth, I don't..."

"No. It's a good thing. This is a great opportunity for you."

That word again. She looked down, eyes drifting to the drawer.

"It'll give us... perspective. Like a new beginning."

She bit her lips before looking up at him again. She liked their old beginning just fine. She didn't need a new one. What she needed was a new... now.

He really, with all his heart, wanted to be able to work with her like before. But the way things were, the way it hurt every time the subject of them came up even just in his mind... He couldn't do it anymore. He needed to save himself now. Maybe Sweets was right about him being a hoarder, like their victim. It was time to get rid of some of the unnecessary weight he was carrying; time to run before everything that was falling apart, falling on his head, ended up killing him. Before he ended up stuck there for good, before he starved to death.

"We'll be back in a year," he shrugged. "It's nothing! We've been apart for a year before. It's just... a break. A hiatus." Who are you trying to convince here?

She kept silent.

"Say something," he pleaded, almost wincing. "Anything." He shifted on his feet and buried his hands in his pockets. "Even something anthropologically annoying."

"We'd be back in a year," she echoed his words.

"Yeah," he breathed out.

She looked at the drawer again.

"We... uhm... Sweets said he got something psychologically uninteresting for us. That's why I'm here."

"Great," she mumbled.

She walked passed him. He stayed behind. She turned around to see what his problem was, but he seemed lost, looking all around her office.

"You looking for something?" she asked.

Not anymore.

He followed her out.

"You know what your problem is?" Sweets asked bluntly as soon as they sat down.

Which one?

"You know why you can't seem to close this case properly?" he clarified.

"Yes!" Bones said quickly. "Because Caroline is being unreasonable."

"No. Because you're purposely avoiding closing it."

Booth snorted. She echoed him.

"That doesn't make any sense," he laughed off.

"Why would we sabotage this case?" she added.

"To delay the inevitable," Sweet dropped. "Which is the end of your partnership."

Even the word 'silence' was too loud, here. Booth wiped something off his shoe. Brennan crossed her arms over her chest. She refuted the psychologist, because Booth didn't. But she might have talked 7 seconds too late. Seven seconds of dreading emptiness too late.

"We've said repeatedly that we'd be back in a year."

Sweets nodded. He looked sad. Or was he offering pity?

"Yeah," the young doctor huffed. "So you've said."

Brennan risked a look at Booth. Scrubbing his shoe was still more important to him than arguing with the boy. So she concentrated on her own shoe.

"We did it," she murmured, looking at the handcuffed murderer being taken into custody. Out of their hands.

"Yeah..." he lingered. "It's done."

Stillness. All around. The underlying meaning of all this flashing in front of their eyes.

She tried and he tried, but they didn't know what to say. Words weren't enough. Words were too much. Time was up.

"Do you wanna..." he started out of habit, so he had to finish, "... grab a beer?"

"Not really," she confessed after some hesitation.

But they had to do something, right? This couldn't be it.

"Do you maybe want to go to the diner?" she suggested.

"I'm not really in the mood," he stated.

"Yeah, me neither."

Thai food?

Take outs?

"Well... goodnight," she cut the tension short.

"Goodbye, Bones."

She stared at him. Goodbye, Bones?! He stared back.

"Bye," she whispered, abruptly turning around to enter the elevator. She didn't look at him as the door closed. She couldn't let him how he got to her. Not anymore.

Brennan hadn't realized she had gone back to the Jeffersonian until she actually set foot in the lab. Like she had been on autopilot. She stopped walking, wondering what the hell she was doing there. There was nothing for her to do here. She turned around to leave.

"Dr. Brennan! I'm glad I caught you," Cam said, walking towards her, all dressed up and ready to go.

Brennan wasn't really listening. Her heart was still hammering in her chest, with no indication it would eventually calm down. Her mind replayed his goodbye as a looped distraction to everything else surrounding her.

"Miss Julian just called. It looks like the case is air tight. You don't have to worry," Cam continued, obviously too concerned about the fact that she was late to notice the anthropologist looked like she was about to faint. She looked down at her watch, cursed something about how typical it was for her to be tardy for a date when she really liked the guy. And before Brennan even noticed her boss was speaking to her, she was gone.

Alone in the now empty hall, Brennan looked around for a sign that someone else was there. But she didn't find any. Her heels clicked loudly on the floor as she walked for no reason towards Angela's office. She knew what she would find. Nothing. It was dark and the door was closed. She had already gone home.

Brennan tightened her grip around her keys. There was nothing for her to do at home.

She knocked only once. Angela was laughing when she opened the door, but her happy predisposition quickly vanished when she saw her best friend's expression.

"Honey, what's wrong?" she instantly let out.

Brennan opened her mouth to say she was fine, but the lie stayed wedged in her tightening throat. She tried to clear it, but it made it worse.

"Come in," Angela whispered.

But Brennan had just noticed Hodgins in the background. Her gut twisted sorely. She tried to smile, but it couldn't reach her eyes which were already glossy with salted nonsense.

"I forgot about you two," she managed to say, pointing behind Angela.

The artist looked behind her, but rapidly put her attention back on the one who needed it.

"You're here to talk, I'm kicking him out," she whispered, in all seriousness.

Brennan shook her head. Who was she to barge in someone else's happiness? Her eyes were stinging now, but it didn't bother her as much as her chest, compressing, in need of air. She breathed in a shaky, obstructive breath.

"No," she gasped. "You keep him close." Her voice cracked. She stood up straight and tried to breathe again. There. Ok. A single tear escaped and ran down her cheek. Shit. She wiped it off, irritated by herself.

"Bren..." Angela reached for her, but Brennan was already halfway down the stairs.

She slammed the door of her car as if it could actually keep the pain outside. She gasped for air again. Her chest was aching. Her throat tightened even more. Burning. She started the engine, blinking away the tears that kept forming against her will to see where she was going. She wrapped her fingers around the steering wheel tightly until they hurt. She had no idea where she was. She looked at her GPS. Car, could you please get us there a little faster? she heard him say in that teasing voice. Her foot slammed on the break. She tried to swallow one last time, until her lungs screamed out of air. She inhaled loudly for what seemed like eternity. Pressing her hand over her mouth, she shut her eyes. Her shoulders shook up and down, as she struggled to contain sharp wailings. She sobbed loudly, unable to breathe in or out. Her hands violently struck the wheel. Another mute scream stabbed her throat as she brought both her hands over her mouth.

It was late. Too late to be there. Way too late. Nothing was clear. She had no more answers nor less questions than she had before. Things were the same, really. Stagnant. Done. Still, she had walked up the stairs and, strangely enough, she didn't truly hesitate. Until she was standing in front of the door. She listened, almost pressing her ear against it. She had not processed this. She didn't want to. She didn't care. She was a mess, inside and out. She didn't care. She would not be able to give answers to questions that would no longer be asked. She didn't care. All she cared about was behind that door. No longer waiting for her.

Her hand turned the handle. It wasn't locked. She didn't take it as a sign. She just accepted it. The familiar scent of this too familiar place greeted her into the dimmed entrance. She shut the door behind her in silence. Her eyes grazed the tranquil, vacant living room. She kept on making her way through the apartment. A noise came from the end of the room. Her heart started pounding more strongly, as a warning, perhaps. She walked towards it anyway. She reached the doorway of his bedroom. She stood still. Unsteadily.

He hadn't been expecting her, but she didn't startle him. He stepped away from his closet and dropped the clothes he had just taken from it into his opened suitcase on the floor.

"Bones?" he said out loud. He didn't sound surprised. Merely softly curious.

Her eyes darted to the half-filled suitcase on the floor. She ignored the now usual twinge of pain that came with it. She settled her eyes back on him. She was not going to let him win this time.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, taking a step towards her before he stopped himself. He wasn't going to let her do this again.

She didn't respond. She just blinked once and entered his bedroom.

His heart would give out any second now, he could just feel it.

"Are you ok?" he huffed, thinking of how pathetic he actually sounded.

If she hadn't been totally drained and focused on not taking no for an answer, she would have laughed in his face. Did she look ok? She kept quiet, but shook her head no. As if he actually needed an answer to that question.

His throat tightened slightly. He bit the insides of his cheek, but didn't look away.

She kept approaching. Slowly. Her mind was wavering, undecided, but her steps were secure. She wouldn't let him tell her that this wasn't enough. She took a final step before she was finally right in front of him. He wanted to leave? Fine. She was going to take what she could first.

"Look, if you want to talk, I..." his voice died when he felt her leaning in. Her lips, already parted, about to close in on his. "Bones..."

She kissed him once. She was nervous, her lips were trembling. She didn't mind. She felt his palms on her hips. She knew he was about to stop her. Her hands went up and grabbed the neck of his T-Shirt. She locked eyes with him as a warning. But the softness she saw in them, the raw pain she probably had caused, lingering in the dark shade of brown softened her.

"Please," she only whispered, still holding tightly to his shirt.

He didn't move. His mind was racing and yet he felt a certain calmness. Maybe that was giving up. Giving up on holding back. Giving up on letting go. Maybe, instead of asking for what he couldn't have, he could take what he could. His hands stayed on her hips, his thumbs brushed her shirt up ever so slowly he wasn't even sure they were moving.

She tentatively brought her lips to his again, stopping just before as she felt his hands tense up on her. Eyes closed, she whispered again, more insistently. "Please, Booth."

Their lips met at the same time, timidly, as to not scare the moment away. When he pulled her slightly closer and closed his mouth on her bottom lip, she relaxed and loosened her grip on his shirt. She opened and closed her mouth again, tasting him more deeply. Her hands traveled down his pectoral muscles until they reached his lower back, and she pulled him against her, completely. Wanting to feel every inch of him, she pressed her whole body against his, making him take a step back to regain his balance. She grabbed the back of his neck and darted her tongue out, meeting his instantly.

He caressed her arched back, lost his fingers into her hair, his thumbs brushing her cheekbones. He let a sigh into her mouth and she swallowed it with a soft moan. Warm. Their breathing grew louder as she slid her hands under the cotton fabric to graze the skin of his chest with her unsteady fingers. She broke the kiss and abandoned his tongue long enough to slide his T-Shirt off. He watched her as she studied his shoulders, his arms, his chest, his stomach, his nipples, thoroughly concentrated, nibbling on her bottom lip. Then, he reached for her lower back and brought her close again. He took his time with her blouse, caressing the skin he was revealing with every button he undid. He cupped her face again to kiss her, standing tall in front of her. He let his hands part the blouse and pushed it over her shoulders. She quivered. It fell to the floor.

Trembling even more than before, her fingers went to his stomach and hooked behind the waistband of his jeans. She undid the button, brought the zipper down. Her hands circled his waist to his back, and she slid her hands inside his pants and pulled on his ass, purposely bringing his groin to hers. She didn't move, getting lost in his rapid breathing as he undid the zipper on the back of her skirt, kissing the sensitive skin between her neck and her shoulder. Her skirt fell to the ground. His pants followed. They took a step back at the same time, to look at what they had respectively uncovered. Standing in their underwear, breathing somewhat erratically, in front of each other. There was no more touching. Yet they were taking everything they could from each other. Their eyes locked for the first time. Recognizing each other. He was still her partner, she wanted to believe. She touched him first, putting both her hands flat against his heaving chest. His own hands, flat against her back, then down to her waist. His heart was screaming, yelling out, warning him to stop. And for once, he didn't want to listen. She was there. All there. She was his to take. But something broke inside of him. He almost heard it crack. And he saw as she felt the same shock go through her. She breathed in and held her breath, trying to look strong. Trying to hold on. And she reached for his shoulders, pulling him against her. He held her tightly as she hid her face in the crook of his neck. He held her even closer, as he buried his face in the scent of her hair. She clutched, tightening her arms around him, digging her fingers into his skin. Painfully. Desperately. I wish you wouldn't keep letting me hug you when I get scared. He sighed and wrapped around her like he knew how to. The only thing he never failed at. His eyes shut tightly as his stomach twisted sorely. Hey, I get scared and I'll hug you. We'll call it even.

She kissed his neck once. And twice. She felt his erection pressing on her stomach. She grazed her teeth onto his skin, bringing herself over him, instinctively close. He dug the tip of his finger into her thighs, parting them to feel her moist underwear through his. He undid the clasp of her bra and took it off as he took her mouth again, fever intensifying. Blinding. Tongues swirling, caressing. No teasing. The sounds of their lips, parting and meeting. Their breath mixing and encouraging each other.

Her breasts against him, he sighed into her ear, on the verge of losing himself, as he shoved his hands underneath her panties and pulled on her ass, crushing her against him. She finally moaned out loud, gasping, still clutching to him. He took off her underwear.

Completely naked, she roamed his whole body with her hands, exploring. Taking every detail in. Every time her most sensitive spot brushed against his hardness, she ached to have him inside her. She pulled him onto the mattress. Kneeling on the bed, face to face. Their eyes locked again, but not for long, as their painful yearning for each other prevented them from wanting to focus on the sadness in their eyes. Their hands met on their sides. Their fingers intertwined. They kissed again, still slow. Still learning. Still meant to do so. She leaned back, bringing him on top of her, and took his boxers off in one swift move. The sound of their hands grasping onto each other. She hooked her legs around him, digging her heels onto him to pull him as close as she could. Her wetness called out to him as he brushed against her, almost. He took one of her breasts into his palm and brought his mouth to it. Tasting. Provoking the intimate reaction he seeked as she wriggled under him, squirming for more. Losing herself. Their eyes locked and didn't let go while their hands met on his hard impatience. Her ass rose from the bed in expectation. They put his tip on her and her hips drew rapid circles. She breathed out a wordless plea, her head jerking backwards into the pillow. Her took her need and turned it into pleasure with his thumb until she brought her hands to his back, gripping and pulling. He entered her completely. They watched each other hold their breath. Clench their teeth to prevent more cries. And with the utmost quiet honesty, they held onto each other until they both fell apart.

Eyes still closed, she listened to their silence for a while, finding herself in his heavy, sleeping embrace. As softly as possible, she opened her eyelids and turned her head on the pillow and she watched him. His eyes were closed. She felt like smiling, but she didn't have the strength. Her heart swelled and almost burst as his hand let go of her skin. Entropy is a natural force that pulls everything apart at a subatomic level. Everything changes. Even in his sleep, he was letting go of her. Not everything, Bones. She stared at the ceiling for quite some time before turning to rest on her side, her back turned to him. Her eyes dropped to the suitcase on the floor. Are you going to betray me? It hit her for the millionth time. No. And it killed her all over again. Nonetheless, I shall be vigilant.

She got up, careful not to wake him, and got dressed in the most unbearable solitude. She looked at him again, lost in the wrecked, wrinkled sheets of his own bed. She held onto his dresser to put on her shoes. And she saw it. Those pieces of paper, awkwardly taped together as a vain rescue attempt. Her letter. He had read it.

She turned to him again. Her heart skipped a beat, low, dull. His eyes were fixed on her. She wasn't running. He was. Her eyes shut briefly. There was no more time. They had gone somewhere. She still didn't know what it meant. But she had tried. She had taken what she could. She had loved.

She left as she had arrived. Without answers.

As an anthropologist, she had been trained to observe without disrupting, to embrace the meaning of things without intervening, to experience without conquering. She had been trained to be an outsider. Had she ever really needed training? It had seemed to fall within her range of natural abilities, simply. She had chosen what would prevent her from investing herself in the uninterrupted flow of existence. Until him. He had taken her hand, years before and led her through a tortuous path made of raw emotions she could not identify. He had given her a role, a place, an identity. He had carefully built their world so that she would know where she belonged, so that she could belong. She had not asked for it. She had not asked to trade the security of her position with the unpredictable succession of sentiments he offered.

She was not used to feel. She did not know how. She had not lied to him. This was not within her range of natural abilities. She could categorize, analyze, determine and dismiss. She could not feel. It was too painful... She chuckled at this paradox. Tonight, she had decided to shelter herself in the passivity of her initial function. An observer, smiling at the teeming activity of this hour-glass that was life. Foreign to it.

She sighed. She was not foreign to any of it. They were her friends, twirling in the softness of a joy they were courageous enough to welcome in their hearts, conscious that it might soon become pain. It had become pain in the past already. Hodgins and Angela were the best example of it. This unpredictable succession of sentiments had pulled them apart, reunited them, torn them, saved them. Tonight they were here, celebrating their courage. She envied them.

She had hesitated before going to this reception, her sense of responsibility towards her friends stronger than her lingering jealousy. She could not feel? She felt too much. That was the heart of the matter, so to speak. She had felt too much the preceding night, in the arms of that man who had awakened her to the completeness of sorrow and ecstasy, all at the same time.

He had enveloped her in the warmth of his presence, slowly but surely claiming every inch of her self, leaving what he had called himself a metaphorical mark on her being. Now he was deserting her in a freezing, paralyzing loneliness. She knew she had pushed him away. She knew he had begged to be her refuge. But she could not help hating him for it. He had made her feel. This was not within the range of her natural abilities. He had made her change.

He had made her change. This was what she was trying to resist, change. She was clinging to who she thought to be. Unsure this was really her now.

She took a sip of champagne, trying to swallow that difficult truth. Maybe she had ruined everything, maybe she had ruined herself. It was too late anyway. It was too complicated, inextricable, inexplicable. She was amazingly apt at complicating things. She had been trained to do this too. Or was it within the range of her natural abilities too?

She saw Angela wave her hand at someone, inviting that person to join their tightly knit group, immersed in a seemingly intense conversation. Bones felt transparent. Angela had not waved at her. She sighed, no... She had asked her to join them a dozen times, to no avail. She was the one eternally rejecting life, preferring her position of outsider. Thinking she did. The truth was that she hated it. She was hating it.

When she saw who Angela had been waving to, her heart stopped altogether. It was him. His natural presence overwhelmed her. The vivid images of the preceding night blurring her vision. Maybe it was not too late. Maybe she could... Her hopes waned when she realized he had spotted her, but had preferred to ignore her presence to join their friends. She swallowed, clenching her teeth to fight the merciless invasion of familiar tears.

He had searched for her the instant he had stepped into the room. You know what ever happened to seeing someone across a crowded room, eyes meeting, that old black magic gets you in its spell? It was still true, five years later. Six years later. Despite the incomprehensible hell they had built for themselves. It was true each time he saw her and remembered this infinitesimal moment when he had decided she was the one for him. But she had decided otherwise. He could not forget that. It did not matter how he felt drawn to her, she would not let him close anyway. It was useless. So he chose to accept the silent invitation made by Angela.

He had hesitated before going to this reception, but his sense of responsibility towards his friends had been stronger than his intense weariness. He did not know if he wanted to know. If that made any sense. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. A part of him was determined to understand what had motivated her. What had pushed her to accept him at her innermost core to escape afterward. But another part of him knew there would be no answer to it. Just another excuse. Just another attempt to cling to the woman she thought to be. The woman he knew she was not. He could not fight her demons with her anymore. He had lost patience. Hope, too.

She ached for him. Suddenly the security of her remoteness became unbearable. She could not observe anymore. If you keep living trying to protect yourself, nothing is ever gonna touch you. She wanted to get inside the hour-glass, it did not matter if she drowned.

She got up, searching for something that might get his attention, their attention. She did not want to be transparent, she wanted to exist, be part of the world he had built for them. She stepped towards the center of the room. Clearing her throat before raising her half emptied glass.

"Excuse me, I'd like to make a toast please," she exclaimed loudly.

The room suddenly fell silent. She panicked. She had no idea of what to say.

"To love," she let out awkwardly. When she saw him frown at her words, she bit her lips, fighting yet another invasion of tears. "Love..." she added faintly, her voice breaking. "...Love is..."

Love is what? A plague?

Angela took a step to rescue her friend, but Booth was faster. He grabbed Bones' arm and whisked her away, giving an uncomfortable smile to the awaiting crowd.

"What are you doing?" he shot harshly, once they were isolated in the hall.

She wiped her tears violently, "I don't know! I wanted... I wanted you to see me!"

"You did that for me?" he asked, disbelieving.

"You deliberately ignored me!"

"So you decided to make a spectacle of yourself?"

He regretted his words the instant he had uttered them. But it was too late. She was hurt.

"Go to hell!" she shouted, heading for the exit.

"I'm already in hell!" he shouted after her.

She froze. He saw her shoulders suddenly weighted down by guilt.

"I didn't expect it to be more difficult," she whispered, without turning around to face him. "After what happened last night."

He frowned, disbelieving. "Really? What did you expect exactly?"

She took a breath, she needed to sit down. She headed for the nearest wall, and let herself slide against it until she reached the floor, staring into nothingness.

"I don't know," she said honestly. "I wanted to feel. I guess."

He nodded pensively, sitting beside her.

"I wanted to feel you," she continued, shaking her head at the insanity of her attempt. "I know it doesn't make any sense..."

You all want to lose yourself in another person. You believe that love is transcendent and eternal. I want to believe that, too."It makes sense," he said, taking her hand.

They remained motionless for an instant, sitting side by side on the cold floor of this anonymous hall, observed by strangers. She was within the hour-glass now, she was alive. Pain was irrelevant, it would be as long as he would hold her hand and continue to show her the way. For how long now?

"I don't want you to leave," she blurted out.

He sighed, "I don't want me to leave either."

"It's my fault. I want to fix it," she said, determined.

He chuckled.


"It's not something that can be fixed, Bones." he said with a paternalizing tone, playing with their entwined fingers.

She felt her throat tighten at his apparent certitude.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Me too..."

Silence settled an instant. Heavy with meaning, pressingly reminding them of what little time left together they had, unable to make anything of it but wait for the inevitable.

"You think we missed our moment?" she asked, searching for his gaze.

She remembered what Rebecca had told her years before about missing her moment with Booth. At that time, she had considered the concept to be ludicrous. Nothing in this universe happens just once. Nothing. Infinity goes in both directions. There is no unique event, no singular moment. This was what she told Angela when she had asked the same question. But today she did not know if she would get another chance. She had ruined too many of them already.

"I don't know if it's about moments," he reflected quietly, "Not between you and me."

"Then what is it?" she frowned, afraid.

"It's inevitable," he smiled tenderly. "We've been apart before, we missed chances before. But we're here today. We'll be here tomorrow."

"You leave tomorrow," she reminded him, earnestly. "In seventeen hours and fourteen minutes."

"But I'll come back. I'll always come back. I can't help myself."

She nodded, desperate to believe him, but unable to. Complicating the complicated.

"What if this time you don't?"

Weariness seized him again.

"I can't keep trying to convince you, you know." Suddenly it hit him. "Is this why you made love with me? Because you thought I wasn't coming back?"

Maybe. "I did it to make this real," she replied.

"It's always been real!"

"No!" she refuted. "It was theoretical. But now... Now it's real." And it hurts.

He considered her, an instant. The same, eternal, sempiternal doubt. And the same lack for evidence, just... words. Again. There was no way out of this mess. He had thought there could be, but... No, there was a way. He was a gambler. He was willing to take the risk.

"You'll just have to trust me," he said, his gaze intense.

He was a gambler. She wanted actions, words were not enough. He would show her. He would come back. He would risk to lose her for good, simply because he knew. It was inevitable. There were no missed chances. He let go of her hand before getting up.

She took it back, squeezed it. She hid her face into his neck, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Remembered him. All of him. And she finally let go.

"I'll see you, then," she whispered.

And he left.

You know, being a sniper I took, a lot of lives, What I'd like to do before I'm done is try and catch at least that many murderers.

His cosmic balance sheet wasn't complete. She still wanted to help him with that.

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