Disclaimer - Bones and all its lovely characters belong to someone else.
A/N - A new one-shot for this series, very different in tone... I seem to have introspective Booth on the brain. This story delves a little into his painful military past. (Came up with this when heading to visit my family yesterday and had a little window to type it up before I've got to start packing for my hols!)
Booth stood in the shadow of the doorway of his old room, watching his father's eyes flash and his fist crashing into his palm as he described another thrilling dogfight.
Parker's eyes were heavy, but Booth knew that his son was drinking in every word. Parker's hands clutched reflexively on the edge of his quilt as his grandfather exclaimed, "Bam! But I still had two more on my tail."
Booth shook his head slowly, then stepped into the light.
"You telling him war stories again, Pop?" He asked quietly.
The older man, whose heavy-set solidity and granite carved features hinted clearly at how his son would age, looked across the room, a difficult to pin down expression flashing briefly in his eyes.
Then he spoke softly, "Hey Seeley." The older man pulled the covers closer around the sleeping child and kissed him goodnight, "Just a bedtime story."
"Night Grandpa." Parker murmured as he drifted off.
Booth didn't reply but stood aside to let his father pass and move off down the hall. Then he leant against the door frame, arms folded, watching his sleeping son. He couldn't shake a feeling of disconnection, of being part of a scene so familiar, but this time as an observer.
How many nights had his father thrilled him with the same tales of derring-do and low altitude duels between knights of the sky? They were among the most vivid memories of his childhood. He'd learnt to read a clock so that he could vector imaginary enemy fighters.
For as long as he could remember he'd wanted to be just like his Dad.
A fighter jockey.
He closed his eyes.
Things hadn't exactly worked out that way.
He levered himself away from the door and sat at Parker's bedside, pushing the blonde curls from his son's eyes as he slept. He didn't want Parker to be drawn in by the same romantic ideas of combat.
He sat back in the chair with a sigh.
His family had a long tradition of service. Even when he'd left the army, there'd been no question of taking a job that didn't involve serving his country. He'd swear that it was in genes, as much as the story-telling.
He knew that he could make the scales drop from Parker's eyes.
Tell him the truth. As he had seen it.
The reality of conflict forty years on from when Parker's Grandfather was downing MIGs - but tarnishing the glory of war wasn't the only illusion he'd shatter telling those tales.
He knew one of the reasons that Parker loved to hear his Grandfather's stories was his own steadfast refusal to talk about his own time in the Army. The boy was curious - Booth gave a sour smile - he guessed he knew who Parker got that from.
Booth was proud that he'd served his country, but few people knew what it had cost him.
He wanted to shield Parker from that reality.
He shifted uncomfortably, perhaps he was just shielding himself from his son knowing the truth about him?
He sighed again and reached over to kiss the most precious gift God had given him and walked slowly from the room.
Later, he stood on the porch of his old family home, leaning on the railing watching the stars wheel across the sky.
He heard the door open and close quietly behind him and took a long pull from the bottle of beer he was holding in his left hand.
He listened to his father's familiar footsteps crossing the boards and he sensed him stop next to him.
Booth didn't turn to look, and neither spoke.
The two men stared silently into the night.
Finally Booth broke the spell when he brought the bottle to his lips again.
His father turned towards him, "Parker's a fine boy Seeley."
Booth grunted in acknowledgement.
"And he'll make his own choices." His father's tone was authoritative, but laced with another emotion Booth couldn't place, "And you can't protect him from them."
Booth continued to look forwards, but staring unseeingly now.
"And he'll be proud of you," His father paused and laid a heavy hand on Booth's shoulder, "Just as we are."
Booth turned slowly to face his father, somehow surprised to see that he looked old.
"I don't want my son trying to live up to some an unattainable image or being forced to make choices that have consequences he can barely live with." Booth's voice was quiet.
The grip on his shoulder tightened, "And I never wanted that for my son either." The shadows hid the bone deep regret on the older man's face.
"I've never even managed to make it into the air force." Booth's tone was uncharacteristically bitter, "Did you know that they can correct that eye problem now..." He trailed off as he tried to force down that ancient regret.
Booth's father was shaking his head slowly. Booth looked away, mistaking his intention of the gesture, but a sharp command jerked his head upright.
"Rangers lead the way." His father stated simply, "I couldn't be prouder of you, Seeley."
Booth's scepticism slowly faded under his father's fierce frown. As he allowed himself to believe, the tension in his body slowly eased. After a moment he reached across to grip his father's shoulder in turn.
The silent contact expressed truths and offered support in a way that neither man could have articulated; healing a rift that neither really knew had existed.