Tag for The Verdict in the Story

Many of you might know that my birthday was last month. You probably know that because my wonderful friend, dgschneider, wrote me the birthday fic to top all other birthday fics - Seven Days: An Experiment in Making Love. (If you haven't read it, you really should!) Well, today is her birthday and I am so happy to be able to write a fic for her. It doesn't come close to what she did for me, but I think it's what she wanted, which was a look at what would have happened if Booth and Brennan had stepped over that line instead of backing away from it. This is the result, or at least part of it. More on that later.

To dgschneider - happy birthday, my dear friend. I hope it's a wonderful one and I hope this story makes you smile.

Booth - Bones, just take the brain, okay, and put it in neutral. Take the heart and pop in into overdrive.

Booth - That's a lot of heart, Bones.

"Booth, I'm sorry." She wouldn't look at him as she ran her finger around the rim of her wineglass. "I'm sorry that I put you in that position."

"Bones, hey, look at me." He reached out and stilled her hand, waiting for her eyes to meet his. "I understand. You do things for family. You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't perjure yourself. I didn't perjure myself. You just told an alternate story. It was up to the jury to accept it or not."

They had gathered with their friends at Founding Fathers to celebrate Max's not guilty verdict. After several rounds of drinks and toasts, the party had broken up and everyone had gone their separate ways. That is everyone except the partners, who had relocated to a table in a quiet corner of the bar.

Booth could sense her vulnerability. She thought she had fooled everyone, but he had noticed the way she nursed the same glass of wine all night and that her smiles never quite reached her eyes. As happy as she was that her father would not be going to prison, she was waging a war with herself, trying to gain control of her emotions. From where he sat, it was a losing battle.

"I know it's wrong. If my father is guilty, he should be in prison. I just… I just couldn't lose him again. I feel like I just got him back." She turned her head as she tried to blink away the tears gathering in her blue eyes, but one or two escaped to run down her cheeks. He gently turned her face back toward him and wiped her tears with his thumbs. Crooking his finger under her chin to keep her gaze anchored on him, he waited for her to continue.

"I took your advice, Booth. I put my brain in neutral and my heart in overdrive. Now, I find that I don't know how to reverse the process. I don't like being this emotional."

Booth pulled some cash out of his wallet and tossed it on the table. Taking her hand, wrapping it in his own, he pulled her from her seat and led her out of the bar.

"Let's go for a walk, okay, Bones?" At her nod, he put his arm around her shoulders and led her down the block with no destination in mind.

Booth was content to just be with her while her emotional storm raged within. He knew that when she was ready, she would talk to him. When they reached the small neighborhood park and garden, he led them to a wooden bench which sat beneath a huge weeping willow tree, within the circle of its low hanging branches. He parted the branches with one arm, allowing her to walk through before following her. Those same branches gave the illusion of privacy once they were seated.

He reclaimed possession of her hand. She still wasn't talking, so he tried to draw her out. "Maybe it will help if you talk about it. You know, talk through those emotions you're feeling. Maybe if you acknowledge them, it will be easier to shove them back in their little boxes. Metaphorically speaking."

"I don't like psychology." She couldn't stop her kneejerk reaction to the mention of discussing her feelings. The sideways glance she shot him was full of doubt. She couldn't foresee an occasion when discussing her emotions would be beneficial. However, she knew Booth better than she knew anyone else. She knew he wouldn't let this go until he felt that he had helped her in some way.

"I know you don't, Bones, but, it might help. You won't know until you try." He gave her hand a squeeze, making sure he had her full attention. "Look, it's just you and me here. No one is around, especially not Sweets. You can stop at any time."

She took a deep breath and blew it out through her mouth. "Fine. But, I don't know where to start."

Flashing his smile, he scooted a little closer to her. He knew this was something he could help with. "Why don't you tell me how you feel about Max?"

"I'm happy that he isn't going to prison. I'm happy that he is in DC, although I'm worried that he could leave at any moment. It could be another fifteen years before I see him again, especially if he is forced to go on the run again." She knew that the probability was high that Max would commit another crime in the name of protecting her. That left an uncertainty to their relationship. She felt he could be gone at any time.

"That's good, Bones. Anything else about him?"

Brennan found that once she had opened the floodgates on her emotions, there was no holding them back. She wanted to get up and pace, but Booth kept her anchored to the bench by her hand. "I'm mad! If he hadn't killed Kirby, none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have been faced with the possibility of him going to prison or worse. I wouldn't have felt it necessary to try to prevent that. I feel guilty. I didn't overtly lie, but I did mislead the jury."

"Look, you gave the jury an alternate scenario. They had to decide whether or not it created doubt regarding Max. You know, if he hadn't killed Kirby, he might not have been in DC long enough for you to spend time with him. You might not have had the chance to try to build a relationship with him."

"Perhaps, but I don't like being less than honest. Just like I know you are always honest." She turned toward him with sorrowful eyes. She knew what she had asked of him when he was testifying. "I know you didn't lie, but you were forced to admit that there was a possibility that I could have killed Kirby. I know it's your instinct to protect me and that went against it. It hurt you to do that. I'm sorry, Booth."

"Aw, Bones, come here." He let go of her hand to wrap her in a two-armed hug. She laid her head on his shoulder as he continued. "I know why you did it and I understand. You don't need to apologize because there's nothing to forgive. But, I didn't do it just because we're partners."

"I know. You were under oath and you had to tell the truth."

"That's not it. It's because I care about you and I know how much it would have hurt you for your father to go to prison."

She pulled away and he could see that she was once again fighting back tears. He kept an arm around her and rubbed her back while she once again fought for control.

"Any other emotions going on in there? Anything else you want to talk about?"

She bit her lip and turned her head away, obviously avoiding his gaze. He knew there was something else, but wasn't sure how to get her to tell him.

Deciding that patience was the name of the game, he sat back on the bench, pulling her with him. With her head on his shoulder, he leaned his head against hers as they sat and listened to the noises of the city at night. Distant sirens and loud music began to fade into the background. Brennan was lost in her thoughts while Booth was lost in her – the sound of her breathing, the scent of her shampoo, the silkiness of her hair against his cheek. He could almost hear her internal monologue a she wrestled with just how much she should reveal to him. Rushing her to reach a conclusion would solve nothing, so he waited while she wrestled and he reveled in the rightness of having her so close. He hoped that this wouldn't be the last time he'd hold her like this. He knew she was dealing with something big. He hoped it wouldn't send her running away from him again, either physically or emotionally. It wouldn't be the first time if it did.

Temperance Brennan never backed down from a problem or a fight. She stood, head held high, defenses in place, ready to face down whatever came at her. But, this wasn't a problem and it wasn't a fight. It was her feelings for her partner that she had to face and that scared her more than almost anything she could think of. She couldn't face those feelings and him at the same time, so she kept her head on his shoulder as she began to open up to him once more.

"Booth, you know that I care about you as more than a partner, right?" She almost sounded hesitant. "You're my best friend, well, you and Angela, but in different ways."

"Thanks, Bones. You're my best friend, too." She could feel his smile against her hair.

"Being my best friend doesn't explain what I'm feeling about you, though. I recognize that the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin in my brain explains this feeling, but what if it's something more?"

He sensed that she was trying to rationalize something that wasn't rational. "Uh, Bones, you want to say that in English for me? That's enough of the squint-speak. What's going on in that head of yours?"

"I don't think it's my head, Booth. I think it's my heart." She whispered as if saying it too loudly would confirm her fears.

Booth felt like the air had been sucked out of their hideaway under the willow at the mention of her feelings for him in connection with her heart. He had known since that first tequila-tinged kiss outside a seedy pool hall that there could be something real between the two of them. He was ready at that moment to give it a chance, to see what it could be. But, she didn't take risks or chances with her emotional well-being, her physical well-being – sure. He had seen her run headlong into an abandoned warehouse, leaving the gun, otherwise known as him, in the dust and sprinting to catch up, to protect her. In this instance however, he was way ahead of her. He had known for so long how he felt about her and he had been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for her to catch up.

"What do you mean, Bones?" He hoped he knew, but he wasn't about to put words in her mouth. If she wanted to talk about this, she was going to have to say the words, or at least meet him halfway. It wasn't time for him to guess based on his feelings and hopes.

"I've been attracted to you since you walked in to that lecture hall at American University. That attraction hasn't lessened, it's only grown stronger." She knew that was the easy part to admit to. Attraction was easy to deal with – you either gave into it or, in their case, you ignored it and went on with your life. Admitting that she felt more than attraction was the hard part. Admitting that what she felt went beyond chemicals seemed impossible.

"I've felt the same, since the first time I saw you. It hasn't changed in nearly four years." His heart began to pound as it seemed like his wildest dreams might be close to coming true.

His admission gave her the courage to continue. "Beyond attraction, I also feel an attachment to you. I trust you, rely on you, worry about you. I miss you when we're apart. I'm happy when you call or you come to see me. My heart beats faster when I look at you and find you're already looking at me. I can't imagine a time when I won't want you to be part of my life."

"If you were to put a name to those feelings, what would it be?"

"I don't know. It's so confusing."

"Temperance, look at me." He waited long enough to think she wouldn't turn toward him until, finally, she did. "I think you know. What name would you put to these feelings?"

"But, it can't be that." She couldn't believe that it might be true. "Love is just a set of chemical reactions in our brain. With time, it fades. That's what I believe. What I feel for you, however, hasn't faded. It's only gotten stronger."

"So, are you trying to tell me that you're in love with me?" He was dying to rub her back or pull her into his arms, but he sat very still, not wanting to break the spell that they seemed to be under beneath that willow tree.

"That's the only conclusion I can reach. I think I'm in love with you and it scares me." Her voice waivered and her eyes filled with tears, but she had done the impossible – admitted her feelings for him. Her fears grew exponentially while she waited for him to say something, anything.

He smiled at her in the way only he could. "It's okay to be afraid, but you don't need to be. One thing you don't have to wonder about or be afraid of is how I feel about you." He caressed her cheek, before his hand reached around to tangle in her hair. "Temperance Brennan, I'm in love with you. I have been for so long that I'm not sure when it happened. I believe we could have something wonderful, if you are willing to try."

She only had to look in his to see he was telling the truth. She saw love and desire in those warm eyes, giving her the courage to answer the only way she could, with a nod, because her throat was tight with emotion.

He leaned into her until his lips just brushed hers. That light kiss gave way to a deeper one that lasted until their need for air overruled all other needs.

With their foreheads touching, eyes locked on each other while they caught their breath, he had one more question for her.

"If I ask you out on a date, will you say yes?"

A/N - There are so many times that B&B came close to crossing that line. I couldn't pick just one. Check back tomorrow to see another time when we were all screaming at the TV in vain and how I try to fix it.

Thanks for reading! If you are on twitter, take a minute to wish my friend a happy birthday. Her handle is dg_schneider. ~ craftyjhawk