Author's Note: Thanks so much for all the great support for this story, everyone! I hope you enjoy the epilogue. I wanted to situate this story in between the Season 3 finale and Yanks in the U.K., because to me there was a large gap between the mood at the end of the season and how playful they were in London. Thank you all for reading.
Also, on a personal note, if any of you are into the "win a chance to be on Bones" contest, I'm voting for my friend R-Brunhart, who is being awesome by entering this contest after having major surgery. She is a huge fan of Bones and a great supporter of fanfic. Thanks, Ria (and your sister)!
Dr. Saroyan went up to the lounge area of her lab for a much needed cup of coffee. She was surprised to find Angela there. The lab had been pretty much deserted all week, since everyone had taken the personal time she'd offered in the wake of everything that had happened with Zack.
Angela looked sort of… lost. And uncharacteristically worn for the normally upbeat woman. She knew Angela had been very fond of Zack; he was almost like a weird little brother to her, and Angela felt things more acutely than the rest of them did, not having years of practice at desensitizing herself from the horrors of the world.
"Angela, what are you doing here?" Cam asked gently, startling the woman, who had been staring into a cup of tea like she was reading the leaves… which Cam then thought was a definite possibility with Angela.
"Nothing," Angela said, smiling at her tiredly. "Jack was… Hodgins was going a little nuts. At home. He needed to come look at some dirt. He's in his lab."
Cam nodded as she poured herself some coffee and joined Angela at the table. "I know it must be harder for him than any of us, because he was Zack's best friend. Which means it must be harder for you by extension too. If you need more time…"
"I think we need to be back at work," Angela said firmly. "We need a distraction. That's another reason why I'm here. Bren should be back soon. Their plane landed on time; I just checked online. When I talked to her she said Booth was going to drop her off here before he takes Parker back to Rebecca."
"I wonder how Dr. Brennan did all week with a small child on vacation," Cam mused.
Angela smiled, a real smile this time. "Parker is different, to her. I mean, even before Andy, she just sort of always accepted Parker's presence as perfectly normal. And he likes her because she talks to him like he's an adult."
"Interesting. Well, I hope they all had a wonderful time, because I have spent the last two days working my ass off for those two."
"What are you talking about?" Angela asked.
Before Cam answered that, she asked, "And when exactly did you talk to Dr. Brennan? Because I have been trying to reach both of them for days."
"A couple of days ago. Late in the evening, was the last time. Maybe her phone died, or she quit checking it because she wasn't expecting me to call her again," Angela suggested. "What's going on that's had you so busy?"
Cam rolled her eyes. "Dr. Brennan was scheduled to go to London next April, to guest lecture at Oxford."
"Yeah, she mentioned something about that to me."
"Right, well, apparently there's some sort of tacit understanding between Cullen and Booth that when she does stuff like that, he's going."
"Well, she's had some problems with overly-enthusiastic fans in the past," Angela tried to explain. "Booth worries. We all do."
"Yes. Well, I learned about that 'tacit understanding' when Cullen called to inform me that Scotland Yard needed to move Booth's scheduled guest lecture up to next week. They want their incoming class of recruits there to hear it first thing, and there's something happening in April that will have a lot of them out of town, or something. So, to make a long story short, Cullen called me, I called the anthropologist in Oxford, and he was more than happy to have Dr. Brennan come this semester instead of next… actually, he hinted strongly he'd be thrilled to have her come both times if she was still available. Anyway, getting last-minute itineraries coordinated for both of them when they couldn't be reached was… interesting. Cullen and I have been functioning more like their secretaries than bosses this week."
Angela laughed. "Well, Cullen feels very indebted to both of them, Bren especially, because of his daughter. You know about that, right?"
Cam nodded. "Yes, he told me to tell you that she's doing well and asks about you often."
"I'll give her a call when I get the chance," Angela said, out loud mainly to remind herself. "But if I know Bren, she's going to be a little annoyed about her schedule being rearranged for her. She doesn't like surprises very much."
"Well, then I guess we'd better batten down the hatches for a storm, because Cullen strongly hinted that he was fairly certain she doesn't know about the tacit understanding he has with Booth."
"He hasn't told her he's planning to go with her to London?" Angela asked. That didn't sound like Booth…
"I don't know. I'm sure he was going to, but remember, this trip was originally scheduled for April. I'm sure with everything that's been going on here lately, he didn't see the need to tell her about it right away."
"Wow. Them coming home could be an even better show than I was anticipating," Angela said, perking up a bit at the possibility of such an entertaining distraction from thoughts of Zack.
Cam smiled politely but was about to ask what exactly she meant by that when the lab doors opened and Booth, Brennan, and Parker entered.
"They're back!" Angela squealed loudly, her voice echoing all over the mostly empty lab. She jumped to her feet and ran down the stairs to meet them, Cam following at a slower pace.
Angela took in their collective appearance at once, filing every bit of information away for later. Booth and Parker looked well-tanned, Brennan looked like she'd been as meticulous as ever about the sunscreen, but she looked relaxed and happier than Angela remembered seeing her in a really, really, really long time. The Booth boys were both wearing festive Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts and looked like they were still on vacation. Parker was carrying a stuffed penguin wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Booth was carrying a lot of bags, which he set down in the middle of the lab.
Angela hugged her best friend enthusiastically, nearly knocking her over. "Sweetie! You look great! The beach did wonders for you! Or something did," she added, smirking at Booth suggestively.
"Angela!" Booth said, putting his hands over Parker's ears.
Parker swatted his dad's hands away and said, "I don't know what that means anyway, Daddy."
"Ohhhh, she did it! He's a squint, he uttered the magic six-word phrase!" Hodgins said as he reached them, having been drawn out of his office by Angela's initial squeal. "Dr. Brennan converts another one!"
Booth rolled his eyes. "Hey everybody, nice to see you all too."
"How was your trip?" Hodgins asked, shaking his hand.
"It was the bestest trip ever in the whole world!" Parker exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Well, now, why don't you come with me and tell me all about it, sweetie," Angela suggested.
"Angela," Brennan warned.
"What?" Angela asked innocently.
"You know what."
Parker, oblivious to whatever was going on between Angela and Brennan, launched into a loud and enthusiastic account of their week. Of course, Brennan soon realized there wasn't really anything to worry about from this. The things Parker had found the most entertaining and worthy of reporting were not things Angela could squeal about… those things would take wheedling and strategic questioning, and Parker was talking too quickly for anyone to get a question in.
Cam caught Brennan and Booth's attention as Parker chattered to Angela and Hodgins, telling them about being stung by a jellyfish, and gestured them to move away from the group. They exchanged confused looks and followed her three feet away, where they could talk without Parker overhearing or interrupting them.
"Dr. Brennan, I've been trying to call you for two days."
"I'm sorry, my phone must have died after I talked to Angela. Is something wrong?"
"Well, let's just say I hope you two don't have jet lag already," Cam said.
"Why?" Brennan asked.
"Because you're going to London tomorrow morning to do your lectures instead of in April. Director Cullen and I have been playing secretary for you both for the past two days. Your flight leaves at eight tomorrow morning."
Both of them stared at her, clearly taken aback at the unexpected end to their vacation.
"Wait a second," Brennan said suddenly, turning to Booth. "Booth, you're coming to London?"
"Well, yeah, I… thought I might," he said, looking scared. Cam didn't blame him. "Look, I was going to talk to you about it, but I thought there was plenty of time, I mean, we weren't supposed to go until April… I'm going to do a thing at Scotland Yard while you're with the squints-in-training at Oxford."
"Oh," she said, smiling and relaxing instantly. "This should be fun then."
Booth looked a bit surprised, but mainly just relieved, that she hadn't gone off on him for horning in on her trip without her permission. It was nothing to how stunned Cam was.
Parker ran over to them and grabbed Brennan's hand, pulling her down so he could whisper something to her. She laughed and said, "I'll show you where it is," before leading him off to the hallway where the bathrooms were.
"Did she sustain a massive head injury on your vacation, by any chance?" Cam asked Booth.
"No!" Booth said, a bit defensively. "She's fine, Cam, just… leave her alone. She just spent half a day getting mentally prepared to come back to work here and you just flipped all of that upside down."
"I had nothing to do with it, Seeley, I'm just the messenger."
"Yeah. How's everyone doing here?" Booth asked, nodding towards Hodgins and Angela, who kind of seemed not to know what to do at the moment, after Parker's abrupt departure.
"As good as can be expected, I think. Angela's way better than Hodgins."
Booth nodded, expecting that. "I better check in with Cullen real quick." He pulled out his phone, then said to the whole group of them, loudly, "Nobody disappear though, we have presents."
He went up to the platform to make his phone call.
Cam made her way back over to Angela and Hodgins, and Brennan soon came back with Parker clinging to her hand. "What's Daddy doing?" Parker asked her as they rejoined the group and he saw his dad up on the platform, on his phone with his back to them.
"He's probably talking to his boss at the FBI," Brennan explained.
"Why?" Parker asked.
"Because we just found out we have to go somewhere else tomorrow."
"London?" he squealed excitedly. "Are you gonna meet Harry Potter?"
She laughed, and so did Angela. "I don't think so, Parker."
"Oh." He thought for a minute, then said, "You're leaving tomorrow?"
"When?" he pressed.
"Early. Eight in the morning."
To her surprise, Parker wailed, "You CAN'T leave tomorrow, Tempe! You CAN'T go to London, you CAN'T!" and threw his arms around her waist, hiding his face in her stomach.
She wrapped an arm around his shoulders and put a hand at the back of his head, confused. "Parker, what's the matter?"
"You promised to share all your pictures with me for show and tell when I go back to school! You promised to help me get all my pictures ready! This is going to ruin everything!"
"Parker, we can still do that," she tried to explain. He was crying too much to hear her. Cam looked really alarmed at the sudden racket in the otherwise silent lab. Angela was clutching her heart sympathetically. Even Hodgins looked alarmed, and he was tough to surprise and had been wearing a robotic mask-like expression most of the time they'd been gone from work.
"Okay, come on, we'll go do it right now," Brennan said, thinking Parker was far more likely to calm down and listen if he didn't have an audience of adults staring at him. She picked him up because he wasn't letting go of her, and picked up her carry-on bag too, sliding the strap onto her shoulder. He was crying hard into her shoulder, too upset to listen to her.
"I needed it for my first day of school!" Parker managed between sobs. "I wanted to show the pictures of the dolphins, and my jellyfish stings, and everything!"
"Ange, I need your office," Brennan said firmly.
"Sure, sweetie, I'll let you in," Angela said, wanting to help any way she could.
Brennan carried him to Angela's office, rubbing his back and talking quietly to him, trying to comfort him and hoping he would calm down enough to hear what she was saying. She suspected part of the extreme reaction was due to being over-tired from the long vacation, and sad that it was over. "Look, Parker," she said when they were in Angela's office, sitting down at the chair at Angela's desk with him. "We'll do all the pictures right now," Brennan promised.
"Pictures?" Angela mouthed. Brennan nodded, so Angela went over to her professional quality printer and started making all the selections for paper type and ink type and the like.
"Thanks, Ange. Parker, look." She shifted him in her lap and brushed his bangs off his forehead, pushing his head back gently in the process so she could look him in the face. "We can print off all the pictures for you right now. Are you going to help me?"
He nodded and rubbed his eyes, taking a deep breath.
"Good." She pulled her camera out of her bag and popped out the memory stick. "Here, put this in that slot right there," she showed him, pointing to the right spot on the side of Angela's monitor.
Interested, he complied, still breathing hard but wanting to be part of the process. Brennan pulled up all the pictures from her camera, which were mainly pictures she'd taken for Booth of him and Parker playing together all week, pictures from the boat rides, their parasailing pictures, and the underwater pictures from her dive. "Ready, Angela?" she called.
"Yeah, ready, sweetie."
"Here, now we just send them all to the printer, see? We'll do these first, then we'll get the discs from the trip yesterday and the parasailing…" she rummaged in her bag and pulled out the discs, putting the first one in.
Angela came over to them once she saw that the printer was working properly. "So, what is this big art project you're doing, Parker? Do you need help?"
"Could you?" Parker asked eagerly. "I want to bring my pictures for show and tell my first day of school, because we always have a really long show and tell of what you did in the summer, and this was the bestest summer EVER, I have LOTS to tell."
"I can imagine. Would you like me to help you put together a scrapbook?" Angela asked hopefully.
"Tempe, can I?" Parker squealed.
Brennan sighed. She knew this was not a good idea. Angela would have plenty to say about some of these pictures, particularly the ones she had just sent to the printer that Mary had taken. But Parker wasn't likely to want to put all of those in his scrapbook… and she had been alarmed at how haunted Angela had looked when she'd thought no one was watching. Angela needed a distraction.
And Parker needed to be cheered, or Brennan knew he would be crying when Booth dropped him off at Rebecca's – Booth had once told her that Parker had been four and a half before Booth had ever dropped him off without leaving the little boy in tears. And she had been able to tell, even then, that it had ripped off another little piece of Booth's heart every time he'd had to leave the boy crying.
The simple truth was that the best way she could help the two of them now was to hand Angela a full arsenal of ammunition for her ongoing campaign to get her and Booth together.
"That would be great, if you wouldn't mind helping him, Angela," Brennan said, knowing she'd made the right decision as they both beamed happily at her. "But you'll have to do it right now, and do it quickly, because Parker's supposed to be at Rebecca's in a couple of hours."
"We will," Parker said eagerly.
"He has his own film to develop too, Ange," Brennan added, pulling Parker's three disposable cameras out of her back and handing them to her.
"Great!" Angela said excitedly. "I'll go develop these while you finish printing all those off. Two of each, Bren."
"I'm going to make you a photo album too!" Angela said excitedly, hurrying off with the disposable cameras with a spring in her step.
When Parker had screamed, Booth had turned towards the sound, but relaxed when he saw his partner already comforting Parker. He didn't know what was upsetting his son, but trusted that she'd come and interrupt his phone call with Cullen if she needed help. When he saw her take Parker away with Angela, he turned his attention back to his boss, who was giving him a hard time about having to be his "secretary" while he was "off playing Beach Blanket Bingo with his partner."
Booth knew that the older man just wanted to let off some steam, and that he wasn't actually in trouble. Still, the courteous thing would be for him to let the man get it all out of his system.
When he got off the phone with Cullen, he went over to Cam and Hodgins, who were looking towards Angela's office in concern.
"What happened?" Booth asked.
"We're not sure," Hodgins said.
"Parker heard Dr. Brennan was going to London tomorrow morning and started throwing a fit," Cam explained.
"He was really upset," Hodgins added.
"Oh. He uh, grew pretty attached to her this week," Booth tried to explain.
"Literally," Hodgins added. "He was stuck to her like a barnacle when she took him to Angela's office."
"Hey, don't call my kid a barnacle, Hodgins. And Angela's office? Why didn't she take her to hers?"
"I don't know," Cam said, while Hodgins just shrugged and offered, "Something about pictures."
Angela came out, wiping her eyes discreetly, but looked full of purpose and much more energetic than she had in a long time.
"Angela?" Booth demanded.
"He's fine," Angela called, heading off down a corridor Booth had never inspected. "Can't talk, I'm on a mission!"
"Looks like Dr. Brennan fixed both of them," Hodgins observed.
"Good for her," Cam said, looking impressed. She turned to Booth, looking even more impressed. "So does that mean you fixed Dr. Brennan?"
Booth shrugged and said, "Parker did it, really. I mainly just assisted."
"Right," Hodgins added.
An hour later, Booth and Brennan, having been shooed out of Angela's office as soon as the pictures were finished, went in to check on Parker, only to find that Hodgins and Cam had already found their way in there too. Cam was leaning on the edge of Angela's desk, arms crossed loosely. Hodgins had wheeled her office chair around too.
Parker and Angela were sitting on the floor, with a ton of pictures spread around the floor in front of them. Parker had construction paper, markers, glue, and stickers all around him, and was assembling a scrapbook Angela must have just had lying around – or maybe she'd just hastily assembled it for Parker.
She was putting pictures in a photo album too, giving herself the easier task so she could help Parker. She was also interrogating him as she went.
"Then what happened?" Angela prompted Parker gently, not noticing as Booth and Brennan entered the room quietly.
"Then Daddy asked if Tempe had some regrets about the night before, and she said no," Parker reported absently, drawing a bunch of waves on the page around the picture he had just glued down. "Then we had breakfast – Tempe made me cheesy eggs and they were the best ever! Then…"
"Angela, you can't interrogate a minor without a lawyer – or his father – present," Booth said, making Cam laugh quietly towards the floor.
Angela gave a guilty little jump of surprise and looked at them hopefully.
Brennan sighed. "You know you're not going to get anything reliable out of him anyway, because he has nothing to tell that would legitimately please you. It's all going to be out of context, like that remark right there that had you so excited."
"I'm reliable!" Parker insisted. "I always tell the truth! But don't worry, Daddy, I won't tell about any of the things I'm not supposed to talk about, especially about Tempe's…"
Brennan hurried over to him quickly and clapped a hand over his mouth, sure he was about to bring up the tattoo. That would just lead to all sorts of questions, from the two in the room who didn't know about it, and then from Angela wanting to know how Booth and his son had ended up seeing it…
"Oops," Parker giggled when she removed her hand and gave him a look. "Sorry. I know! I'll talk about snorkeling some more."
Angela held up a picture to Parker – taken by Mary, it was right after the dolphins had left, when they'd all been hugging excitedly, Parker in his dad's arms. In the picture, Brennan was pressed into her partner's side, hugging him tightly, and kissing him on the cheek, and his arm was curled around her bare waist. "Was this taken the day you were snorkeling?" Angela asked innocently.
Parker glanced at the picture and nodded, turning his attention back to his task. "Yup. That's after the dolphins. We saw sooooooo many dolphins, Miss Angela! It was the best thing ever!"
"I see; there are a ton of awesome dolphin pictures here," Angela said, trying to redirect the conversation. Redirecting Parker was even harder than Brennan – although once she steered him towards the topic, Parker was much more open than Brennan, of course. "So, Parker, did you wake up before your daddy every single day?"
"Almost," Parker said. "Oh, one time they were sleeping on the couch when I got up so I made my own breakfast, all by myself, I got a picture, see?" he rummaged through the photos for the picture he was looking for, while Angela waited eagerly.
Booth groaned. Parker had taken a picture of them sleeping on the couch?
Angela groaned in disappointment when Parker passed her a picture – it was a picture of his breakfast that day, the cold hot dog… not exactly what she'd been hoping for. Still, she did have plenty of great pictures from their boat trip and when they'd all been on the beach together, even if you had to weed through a lot of pictures of Parker's feet, sand castles, the fort he'd made in his room, and almost an entire roll of pictures of his stuffed penguin in funny and amusing poses to find the juicy ones.
And the sweet ones, because really, there were a whole lot of sweet ones in there too. Angela had been a little surprised at the number of pictures of just Booth and Parker, and asked him about it early in the project. "Tempe took them," Parker had explained with a shrug. "For Daddy."
Booth and Brennan had moved to the couch behind Angela and Parker so they could see what pictures Angela was looking at. Booth laughed in relief as Parker showed her a picture of a cold hot dog on the counter top.
"Buddy, we have to leave in one hour at the most, and that's going to be cutting it close," he told Parker, to get him moving faster.
"Why?" Parker asked.
"Because now after I drop you off at your mom's I have to go home, unpack, and repack for our trip, because I have to leave at five to get Bones and go to the airport again."
"Tempe, aren't you coming to drop me off?" Parker asked.
"No, sweetie, I need to go home and pack, remember?"
"But I want to show you something at my house!"
"Surprise. Please? I know, you can come with us, then Daddy can take you to your house to pack your bag for London, then you can go to his house and he can pack, and then you can spend the night there and then you won't have to get up so early in the morning to go to the airport!" he said, proud of himself for thinking of that plan.
Angela raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like a good idea to me, sweetie."
Brennan rolled her eyes and, to get them all to stop, said, "I'll go with you to drop you off, Parker, okay? Let's just leave it at that."
"Get back to work, bub," Booth said, pointing to the mess on the floor.
Angela let him work for a few minutes, then asked, "So, Parker, how many times do you think you saw your dad and Bren kissing?"
Parker shrugged and asked, "On the cheek or the mouth?"
As Brennan exclaimed, "Angela!" Booth yelled, "Parker!"
Parker hadn't quite finished his scrapbooking project, but Angela had put the half-finished book and all of the loose pictures and supplies left into a big shopping bag for him to take home with him, to finish up the project on his own. He had given her a very shy hug when he thanked her as they hurried him out the door.
Booth knew Rebecca was going to be annoyed that they were late, and bid a hasty goodbye to all of the squints as he rushed his son and partner out the door and back to his SUV after they'd given the squints their souvenirs.
"That could have been worse," his partner admitted quietly once they were underway.
"True," Booth agreed. "Angela was keeping things G-rated for Parker."
She groaned as she realized it was true. "I think it's a good thing there will be an ocean between Angela and me for the next week. Maybe she'll have cooled down by then."
"Yeah, but that's giving her an extra week to go nuts with the album she's making for you," Booth pointed out.
"I like Miss Angela," Parker contributed from the backseat.
"So do I, Parker," Brennan assured him.
"She's funny… but she's a little too girly for me. You're more fun, Tempe."
"Well, thanks, Parker," she said with a laugh, pretty sure that he was the only person on earth who'd ever said she was more fun than Angela.
When they got to Rebecca's, Parker ran to the door excitedly, eager to tell his mom about the trip, taking only his penguin, leaving Booth to get his suitcase. Brennan took his backpack and the bag of scrapbook supplies, lagging behind with Booth. Parker was banging on the door, and Rebecca opened it, smiling hugely at her son and hugging him.
"Hi, sweetheart! Oh, you look like you've grown! I missed you!"
He hugged her back. "Hi mom!"
"Did you have fun?" she asked, as Brennan and Booth approached. "Hi Seeley. Hi Dr. Brennan," she added a bit formally.
"Mom, it was the best vacation ever in the world! And they said we can go back every year! That's okay, right?" Parker asked, knowing his mom was less likely to say no to his dad if Parker asked himself, right in front of him.
"Well, that sounds fine," Rebecca said, masking her surprise. "We'll have to see about that, Parker."
"Moooom…" Parker started.
"Hey," Booth interrupted, not wanting Rebecca to think he was encouraging the boy to be difficult with her. "Didn't you have something to show Bones?"
"Yeah! It's in my room, come on!" Parker said, grabbing her hand and pulling her inside.
Booth came in after them and put the little boy's suitcase down inside the door.
"Sounds like he had a great time," Rebecca said. "Do you want some coffee?"
"No thanks, we have to go. We just found out we have to be on a plane to London at eight in the morning," he explained, then told her briefly about the trip.
"How long are you going to be gone – will you still be able to pick Parker up on his second day of school?"
"Yeah, that shouldn't be a problem. We'll only be there a week. I'll call you if we have to stay longer for any reason."
"Okay. Thank you. Well, I'm glad he had a good time…"
"Yeah. Listen, Rebecca, I need to tell you about one thing."
"What?" she asked nervously. "Did he walk in on something?"
"What?" Booth repeated, confused. Then he got it. "No! Rebecca! It's not like that at all, okay. Why, has he ever walked in on you?"
"Seeley, this isn't really the time for that."
"So that's a yes. Fine, we'll table that discussion for another time, because we really do have to go. But what I was going to tell you was that he got stung by a jellyfish – he had some welts on his leg and his underarm."
"Oh, no! The poor baby… what happened?"
"He and I were playing on the beach, he was in knee-deep water, and it just… happened. I'm really sorry, Rebecca. Bones knew exactly what to do, she took care of him immediately, and he was just fine."
Rebecca still looked troubled, but he knew she'd be okay once the news sank in and she quizzed Parker about the incident once they were alone.
"Well, I better go say goodbye to Parker. We really need to go," Booth said quickly, heading to Parker's room. Rebecca followed him, wanting to talk to Parker as soon as they were alone.
Brennan was standing in the middle of Parker's room. He was orbiting her, pointing to nearly everything in there. "…This is my bookshelf, those are my books, that's my hockey poster, that's a picture of me and Daddy when I was a baby, those are my favorite shoes…"
"Parks, we have to go, buddy," Booth interrupted gently from the doorway.
He sighed. "Okay. Are you going to bring me something neat from London?" he asked them hopefully.
"Parker," Rebecca chided.
"We will," Booth promised. "Come on, give me a hug for the road, because I'm going to miss you when I'm in England."
Parker ran over to him and hugged him tightly, resting his cheek on Booth's shoulder and refusing to let go. Booth stood up holding him and nodded for his partner to follow him out of Parker's room. They made their way back to the front door. Booth kissed the back of his head and set him down. "I love you, buddy. I'll see you soon, okay?"
Parker nodded, his chin trembling a little bit as he tried hard not to cry. "I love you too, Daddy. Thanks for bringing me to the beach. It was the best vacation ever!"
"I'm glad." Booth ruffled his hair and stood up.
Parker hugged Brennan next, and she bent down to hug him back. "Bye, Parker. Thanks for letting me come with you. It was a lot of fun."
"Thank you for the vacation. And for saving me from the jellyfish, and making my bunk beds safe for me, and everything. I love you."
"I love you too."
He kissed her on the cheek and let go of her reluctantly, waving at both of them. As Booth ushered his partner out the door and back towards the car, she glanced back over her shoulder to see Parker still waving in the doorway. He was crying quietly, trying very hard not to.
Booth's hand went to the small of her back to get her moving faster, and she looked at him in surprise. His jaw was clinched firmly. "Looking back makes it worse," he muttered to her as he opened her door. "For everyone."
She felt so sorry for him that she didn't snap at him for the chivalrous act. She waited until he had pulled into traffic and then said sincerely, "That was very difficult, even for me. I can't imagine what it must be like for you, Booth. I'm sorry you always have to drop him off like that, and leave." She didn't think there was anything else she could say that would be good enough.
Booth nodded, eyes firmly on the road. "It's easier now than it used to be. He hardly ever cries anymore. But you're right. It's terrible. But there's nothing else that can be done. I'm not going to not see my kid because I hate saying goodbye at the end."
She nodded, understanding. She didn't think there would be much she could do for him to make him less sad about saying goodbye to Parker after such a wonderful trip, but maybe she could help a little.
"I don't understand why he wanted to show me every possession in his room," she stated truthfully.
Booth chuckled. "You fell for the oldest trick in the book, Bones."
"What do you mean?"
"He just wanted you to come with us, Bones."
"Oh. Well, that was sweet. Although he could have just asked."
"He likes to think he's getting away with things, sometimes."
"I actually thought he had a pretty good idea, although I suggest we reverse it a bit."
"It would be much easier if we went to your place, got your things, and you spent the night at my apartment. It's closer to the airport and we won't have to leave as early that way."
"Oh. Are you sure?" he asked, liking the idea but not wanting her to feel obligated to spend time with him just because he was missing his son.
"Yes. Besides, you said there was a movie you wanted me to see."
"That's true. I'll be sure to pick it up at my apartment."
They drove in comfortable silence for a few minutes, before Booth said, "Hey, Bones?"
"Next year when we go to the beach, I think you should let Angela do all of your packing."
She punched him on the arm, hard, but they were both laughing.
Booth groaned as he pocketed his cell phone, flopped down onto the foot of his partner's bed, and wondered how much longer she was going to be.
Brennan came out of the bathroom of her hotel room, looking at him curiously. "I'm ready, let's go meet Inspector Pritchard. What's wrong?"
"I just checked my messages."
She knew this was Parker's first day of school. "Parker didn't have a good day?" she guessed, wrinkling her nose.
"No. Parker had a great day. His teacher didn't."
"You're coming with me, just so you know. This is all your fault," he informed her evenly.
"What did I do? Booth! What. Happened."
"Parent-Teacher Conference, next Wednesday morning at ten is what happened. You can explain to his teacher why he used show and tell time to give a very detailed lesson about dolphins to his new classmates."
"So what if he did?" she demanded defensively. "There's nothing wrong with…"
"Anatomy lesson, Bones," Booth explained.
"Oh," she said quietly. She still didn't see what the big deal was, although she supposed that some children might be more immature than Parker and the teacher might have trouble controlling the classroom if they all acted very juvenile about the subject matter.
"Yeah. 'Oh.' Bones, he drew pictures on the chalk board!" Booth exclaimed exasperatedly. It was obvious to him that his partner did not understand what the big deal was, and was really only sympathizing with him to humor him. Fine. She could explain everything to the teacher then.
He scowled at her on the way to the elevator – he refused to call it a lift. Her shoulders were shaking in a futile effort to control her laughter. His hand slid, completely by itself (he would vehemently insist, if she called him on it, which so far she hadn't done the four other times it had happened), from its usual spot at the small of her back around to her waist, two fingers resting over the spot where he now knew her to have a tattoo.
He lowered his voice, because the elevator was very crowded, and muttered, "You and your dolphins."