One evening out on the road
Half a world away from home
I thought she was sleeping
When the call came through
I said, Darling, it's late, is everything okay?
Silence took over the room
'Til she said...
I, I just love you
I don't know why, I just do
When are you comin' home?
I'm coming home soon
And I, I just love you too...
- I Just Love You, Five for Fighting
Booth struggled to keep his eyes open, the taillights of the car in front of him on the freeway sliding in and out of focus. He had been sitting on that patch of road for what felt like hours—somewhere a few miles up the road there had been an ugly accident, judging from the number of squad and emergency vehicles that had rushed the scene around five. Since then they had been sitting in gridiron traffic that alternated between a creeping shuffle and complete stillness. Several times he had cut off the engine completely, just watching the sun set. He wasn't going anywhere.
He blew out a frustrated sigh—he just wanted to be home already. He had spent four days at an FBI "training retreat" that all special agents had to attend at some point during a designated six month span. Basically it was a way for the bureau to cover their own asses and make sure all their agents could still aim and fire a gun, perform routine interrogations, etc. After an incident the year previous in which an officer had accidentally fired on a bystander because his aim was so poor, everyone was under scrutiny to make sure it didn't happen again.
So for four days and three nights Booth had stomped across the Adirondacks, demonstrating his proficiency with a gun and wanting very much to be home instead. It was the kids' spring break from school, and for once there was a lull at work—the nation's murderers must have been on break too, because Brennan had spent the past week in Limbo identifying remains from having nothing else to do. They might have actually been able to spend a few days together as a family if he hadn't been called off to Camp Triggerhappy.
Booth smiled—his family. Even as he bragged about them to fellow agents at the camp, he felt like he was making it up; it was too good, too perfect, to be somebody's real life. Certainly not his. When he pulled the picture out of his wallet in the dining hall to show them off, he felt that he had to prove their authenticity beyond a shadow of a doubt, because surely no one could believe this was his life. Not his.
But they were. See, he would say, pointing to the not-so-little boy who had turned twelve just a few months before last year's Christmas picture was taken. He looked more and more like Booth with each passing year, though with many of Rebecca's expressions, and came up to Booth's shoulder now. That's my son Parker. Then his finger would slide across the photograph to the little girl seated in his lap, with her mother's eyes and her father's charming grin. And that's my daughter Ruth, she's four. They would undoubtedly note that she was a spitting image of her mother, seated at Booth's side in the photograph, bump barely visible in December but much more so now.
He would agree and add that they were more than twins in their looks, but their personalities as well. He would tell the stories about Ruth sitting in her booster seat at dinner with her arms crossed, vehemently refusing to take a bite of her hamburger one night. When she found out it was a cow, Booth explained, she wouldn't touch it. Now I have both of them on my case whenever I make a sandwich. Stubborn, strong-willed, convicted. If Ruth thought you were doing something wrong she'd call you out on it, just like her mother, and even at four she was a master detector of hypocrisy.
"Daddy," she called out one day from the back seat as they drove home from after-school.
"Yeah?" he asked, carefully maneuvering his way through the late-afternoon traffic.
"You said breaking rules is bad," she stated in a plain and almost accusatory way.
"It is," Booth said, confused.
"Then why didn't you stop when the sign said stop?" she asked, small arms crossed and eyebrows cocked in her mother's supremely obnoxious way. Unable to answer, Booth shook his head and thought he might have a newfound respect for Max Keenan, having survived raising Brennan through her precocious childhood.
Suddenly the phone rang, snapping him from a month ago back to the present. He picked it up without looking at the caller ID, knowing there was only one number that would be dialing him at eleven o'clock at night on a Thursday.
"Hey dad," Parker's voice greeted across the line.
"Hey buddy," Booth said, furrowing his brows. "It's late, why aren't you in bed?"
"Mom said I could stay up until you got back," he said. "Why aren't you home?"
"Traffic," he said. "And it'll be at least another hour or two before I get there; you should go on to bed." He heard his son groan on the other end of the line.
"Dad, come on."
"Parker, you have school tomorrow."
"No I don't," Parker corrected. "It's spring break, remember?"
"Oh," Booth said. "Right. Huh… well, I guess that's okay then."
"Sweet," Parker said. "Hey, mom wants to talk to you, okay?"
"Alright," Booth said. "I'll see you in a little while."
"Okay dad, see you then." He heard the phone bobble as it was passed on to Brennan.
"Hey," she said. "Where are you?"
"Traffic," he repeated. "I'm in Virginia now, finally, but it'll be a while before I get home. You guys don't have to wait up for me."
"We want—" Brennan interrupted herself with a wide yawn, and Booth smiled.
"Tired?" he asked.
"A little," she admitted. "Being a single parent while you've been gone has been an exhausting experience, and being pregnant only exacerbated my fatigue."
"I'm sorry," he said. "You know if I could've gotten out of it I would have. Biggest waste of time ever."
"Don't be," she said. "You couldn't help it, and besides, we were fine. Parker was a big help, I'm glad Rebecca agreed to let him stay the week."
"That's good to hear," Booth said, proud that his son had been a help and not a hindrance. Since he had passed into pre-adolescence, Parker had become less of the sweet, agreeable little boy Booth was used to and more of a surly, obnoxious teenager. Booth had known it was bound to happen—it happened to everyone—but he still found himself feeling personally hurt when his son acted out, especially because he knew better. This too shall pass, he and Brennan found themselves reminding each other.
"Yeah, he—Ruth, honey, why are you up?" Booth smiled when he heard Brennan address their daughter, who he assumed must have just come out of her bedroom.
"Is that daddy?" he heard her ask. Brennan must have nodded, because he then heard her say, "I want to talk to daddy."
"Honey, it's late," Brennan said. "You'll see him in the morning."
"But I want to talk to him," Ruth whined.
"Ruth," Brennan said, and the edge in her voice told Booth that it had already been a long night with the stubborn child.
"Mommy," Ruth stated in precisely the same tone. "I want to talk to daddy, just real quick."
"Fine," Brennan caved, and Booth heard her shift as she lifted the child onto her hip. "But just for a minute, then you have to go back to bed." The phone changed hands again, and Booth couldn't help but beam when he heard his little girl's voice on the phone.
"Hey sweet pea," he said. He hadn't had any opportunity to talk to his kids on the phone over the past four days—the single conversation he'd had time for was one with Brennan the day after he arrived, a quick exchange of information before he had been forced to hang up. He never knew four days could be so long until he spent that many without hearing his daughter's voice.
"Daddy, I miss you," she said. He felt himself turn into a puddle in his seat.
"I miss you too, honey," he said.
"When you comin' home?" she asked hesitantly.
"I'm on my way," Booth assured. "When you wake up in the morning, I'll be there."
"Promise," he said.
"Cross your heart, no changies, no take-backs?" she asked. He laughed.
"Cross my heart, no changies, no take-backs," he said.
"Okay," she said, sounding satisfied.
"You should go to bed now, okay? It's late."
"But I wanna talk to you," the little girl said.
"But the sooner you go to bed, the sooner you wake up," Booth reasoned. "And the sooner you wake up, the sooner I'll be there." She seemed to consider this for a moment, then huffed.
"Okay," she said, seeing the logic in his argument.
"Good," Booth said. "I'll see you in the morning."
"I love you." Booth smiled, cradling the phone against his shoulder as the traffic picked up, allowing his car to roll forward. That much closer to home.
"I love you too," he said. The phone changed hands again and Brennan returned to the line.
"I have to go put her to bed," she sighed.
"Okay," he said, feeling lonely on the road and wishing she could keep talking to him for a little bit longer. "We're finally moving now, so it shouldn't be a lot longer."
"See you when you get home," she said.
"See you then."
"I love you." Booth smiled and looked out on the sparsely lit Virginia hills beyond him, the freeway cutting a path through them. Along it the dotted lights of cars moved slowly, but surely, and eventually disappeared over the last rise. The dark sky glowed along the horizon just beyond it, and he knew on the other side of that glow—the glow of the city—she would be waiting. That, he decided, would keep him company until he could bridge the gap between them.
"I love you too."
A/N: Another oneshot inspired by an incredibly beautiful song. I love Five for Fighting, and this song of theirs just touches my heart. I know I say this a lot, but if you've never heard the song, you should really give it a listen. You won't regret it. :) This piece is fluffier than what I usually write, and is in fact the first fic I have ever written about B/B's future life/marriage/children/etc. How about a review to let me know what you think about my foray into cotton-candy land? I'd appreciate it!