Tag for 6x09 - The Doctor in the Photo

All I want to do is get away from him, out of his SUV and into my apartment. I can keep myself together for that long. I have to. Fighting to control my tears, I face the side window, avoiding his constant glances in my direction. The streetlights we pass create a strobe effect, mesmerizing me, allowing me to escape the awkwardness that my confession has created. When he pulls up in front of my apartment building, I don't give him time to put the truck into park. I throw open the door, jump out and run into the building before he can stop me.

By the time I reach my apartment door, my vision is impaired by the tears once again streaming down my cheeks. I struggle to fit my key in the lock and begin to panic because it's taking too long, afraid that he has followed me. Finally! The key slips into the lock and in an instant, I'm locking the door behind me.

Too exhausted to move, I slide down the door until I'm sitting on the hardwood floor. I bury my head in my hands and cry, reliving the conversation in his truck over and over again. It isn't possible for a heart to break, but the pain radiating from my chest would say otherwise. This must be what it feels like to be heartbroken. I doubt that it will ever heal.

I'm also angry. Angry with myself for opening up to Booth. I should have kept my regrets to myself. I'm angry at Lauren Eames for shining a spotlight on my lonely life, making me doubt myself. And I'm so angry with Booth. He went from wanting thirty or forty or fifty years to moving on at what seems like the speed of light. Yes, I turned him down, but didn't he know I can't make snap decisions like that?

Stunned. There is no other word for it. I was stunned. Stunned by her admission. Stunned by the way she fled, yes, fled from my truck, leaving the door standing wide open. But, mostly stunned by how much she had changed when I wasn't looking. I know how much it cost her to open up like that. All I could do was tell her how much I love Hannah, how she's not a consolation prize. All I could do was watch as her heart broke.

"My whole world turned upside down. I can adjust."

"I did."

"Yes, you did."

As I drive around, avoiding my apartment and Hannah, those three words, "Yes, you did," sound like an indictment, festering like an open wound. "Yes, you did." I hadn't done anything wrong. When she turned me down, I told her I had to move on. "Yes, you did." I found Hannah and did just that, moved on. "Yes, you did." Why do I feel so guilty? I didn't do anything wrong. "Yes, you did."

Yes, I did. I pushed Bones when I knew better. I should have given her time to analyze or weigh the pros and cons or whatever it was that she needed to do. I shouldn't have said that I would move on five seconds after she turned me down. I should have had more faith in us.

As I drive around DC, my thoughts feel as though they are on a carousel, round and round, in an endless loop. I keep coming to the same conclusion. It's time for me to grab the brass ring and get off the damn carousel. It's time for me to correct the mistakes I've made so that I can move forward.

For the first time in hours, I look at my surroundings, wondering where I've ended up during my unintentional meandering. I'm very well acquainted with this city, but even I can get lost. Firing up the GPS, I touch the 'Home' icon on the screen and follow the verbal commands.

I wake up to knocking on my door. My head is pounding, eyes almost swollen shut. After checking my watch, I realize that I have been sleeping against the door for hours. The knocking becomes pounding and echoes in my head, but still I don't answer. In no mood to face anyone, I hope that whoever it is will give up and go away. I could get up and go to bed, but the effort that would require is more than I am capable of at the moment. So, I sit in silence, unmoving, against my door and wait.

"Bones, it's me."

The pounding has stopped, but it's Booth. He's not going to give up or go away. Even so, I remain still, hoping that he will think I'm not at home. The apartment is dark, the only light coming from a streetlight, filtering through the blinds.

"Bones, we need to talk. Please let me in."

I just want to scream at him to go away, leave me alone, go home to Hannah.

"I know you're in there. Bones, we need to talk. Please, let me in. Just hear me out and then, if you want me to leave, I will."

His voice is pleading and he sounds so sincere. I can't face him, though, no matter how much he pulls at my heartstrings. I need time to compartmentalize, to force my feelings back into the box they came out of. I'm trying, I've been trying since I returned from Maluku. I have discovered that the problem with letting emotions out is that they outgrow the space allotted them.

I know she is home. Her car is still parked in its space. I watched her windows when I dropped her off and her lights never came on. I can picture her sitting in the dark, maybe drinking a glass of wine, closing herself off again. She is not going to open the door. She will shut me out until she's re-erected the walls around her heart. I could use my key, let myself in, but I won't. It has to be her choice to let me in.

"I know you can hear me, Temperance. If you won't let me in, then I guess I'll just have to say what I need to from here."

I give her another minute or two to open the door, hoping that I won't have to do this standing in the hallway where her neighbors can hear. When the door doesn't open, I have no choice but to go on.

"Bones, I came to say what I should have said that night."

Neither of us needs me to explain which night. It's been a year and that night hasn't left me. I doubt it's left her, either.

I'm emotionally and physically exhausted as the stress of the night catches up to me. Resigned to a heartfelt discussion with her door, I slide down, sitting with my legs stretched across the hall and my head resting against the solid oak.

"I didn't say the one thing that I should have said. Maybe it would have made a difference. Maybe it wouldn't have. Either way, I should have said it. I love you, Temperance, just the way you are. I would never ask you to change."

I pause, willing her to open the door. I need to be able to see her, to read her, to know if I'm reaching her or if she's already too closed off. Nothing but silence comes from inside her apartment. I have to believe that she is listening, so I continue.

"I need to ask you a question. But before you answer, I want you to know that Hannah and I are done. Your answer won't change that. I've called Ange. I'm going to crash there tonight. Hannah will be gone tomorrow. For now I need to know, do you love me?"

I wait for an answer, a sign, anything at all. Still nothing from her, which changes nothing for me. She needs to hear this just as much as I need to say it.

"Because I thought about what you said tonight. I don't want any regrets, either. If Hannah and I are together, I'll have at least two - staying with her when she is not the person that I love completely, with my whole heart, and not being with you. That would be my biggest regret. I know I've hurt you, I've probably lost your trust. I need to earn that back and it will take some time. I know we can't just pick up like nothing has happened."

I turn toward the door, wishing I could touch her. Instead, I place my hand on it, imagining her on the other side, listening to me.

"But if you love me, if you don't want any regrets, if you want us to be together, then just know that's what I want too."

I scramble to my feet as I hear movement on the other side of the door. Holding my breath, I wait. Whether I'm waiting for the door to open or for the sound of her steps retreating toward her bedroom, I'm not sure. I just know that I'm not moving until she does, not until I have some kind of answer.

Brushing the tears from my cheeks, I realize that we want the same thing, a life together. It won't be easy. It might hurt at times. But it couldn't possibly be more painful that what I've been feeling.

After hours on the floor, my body is stiff as I slowly try to stand. I worry that he will leave before I can get to him. My hands fumble with the lock in my rush to open the door. Throwing it open, I hope that I'm not too late. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that he is still standing there. Watching as he steps through the door and closes it behind him, I fall into his open arms. I wrap myself around him, knowing that I'm finally where I belong.

"I love you," I whisper against his chest, not knowing if he can hear me. And again, a little louder, "I love you, too, Booth. I don't want any regrets. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, however long that might be."

My words have barely settled in the air when I feel his hands tangle in my hair. With a fierceness I have never felt from him, he brings his lips to mine, expressing everything that his words can't. The words will come later as we learn how to be together.

But for now, it's enough.

A/N - I'd love to know what you thought about this little 'fix.' Please, leave a review in the little box below. As always, thanks for reading! ~ craftyjhawk

One more thing - dgschneider just posted a fantastic story - "Paper Wishes and Falling Snow" - you really NEED to to read it. You'll thank me. :)