Well, here we are. It's been... a long time since I last updated. Some of you might want to... reread? Does anyone even remember what this story is about anymore? (I had to reread the whole thing, multiple times, before I was sure I knew enough to continue it)
I can't apologize enough for how long this has taken me. Writer's block mixed with procrastination have led to a good five months or so of nothing as far as this story goes. Hey, I did attempt. A few times, I made the effort to start this chapter, but it never really... clicked. I just couldn't get in the mood to finish it outright.
And yes, this is finished. This is the epilogue. All I can hope from this is that it will satisfy all of you, and maybe even make up for my terrible updating.
So please, read on. And, if you can't forgive me for leaving you all for such a long time, at least leave me a review to complain about the horrible service. ;)
Really, this has been a great journey, and I'm rather proud of this story. Thanks to each and every one of you who has taken the time to review, some of you right from the start, and some of you later on. Each one has meant so much to me, and especially those of you who noticed my lack of updating and made the effort to wake me up about this story and get me back on track. Obviously, it worked!
Anyways, I'm rambling. Please, read!
Booth was making pizza. The smell wafted from the kitchen to where she sat calmly in the main room, seated in her favorite chair next to the window that looked out onto the back yard. Evening was falling. The sunset was visible, light trickling like water droplets through little gaps in the trees. She watched as it faded, her eyes straying absently back to the page in front of her as she picked up where she left off.
She was reviewing her manuscript, and the chapter she had arrived at appeared to be a bit choppy and thrown together. The evidence didn't mesh well with the character interaction, and the random sex scene seemed just a bit... desperate.
He'd been away the week that she had written it, she remembered. A father-son bonding trip to the mountains with Parker to go camping. She had been invited, but she had politely turned him down. It had been something special between the two of them, a tradition she couldn't impose on.
All the same, it had been rather unpleasant to spend so much time in the silence of their home, making food for herself and resisting the urge to order Thai. It would serve as a reminder of him, and if there was something she had learned over the past few years, it was that when they were apart she needed to adjust and come to terms with it. Not mourn as though things would never be the same. She knew he would be back soon enough... and when he had come in, tired and alone—Parker had been dropped back at Rebecca's, and had apparently fallen asleep on the ride home anyways—the Thai food had been waiting. A welcome-back-together gift to the both of them.
Pizza, however, was a nice change.
Booth could be a chef when he wanted to be, she had discovered. He liked to experiment, and often she joined in, tossing in extra ingredients, and laughing as he flicked his flour-covered hands at her and initiated a full-out food-war.
The kitchen often looked like a bomb had gone off, but the clean up turned out to be just as enjoyable as the rest of the experience. And as it always was, they made it a joint effort every time. She washed the pans while he swept the counters and the floors clean of the remnants, and together they reorganized the cabinets and got all the ingredients back where they belonged. Booth would probably be more willing to put them wherever, but she wasn't going to budge on the matter. Order was one of the few things she demanded from him outright. For the most part, he willingly agreed.
She did always end up picking his ties and socks up off the floor, but it was sort of an endearing thing, and she always smiled at the patterns on them as she neatly folded them later, when they were fresh and crisply washed, dried, and even ironed.
The lab was still her sanctuary, but not the only one anymore.
Her apartment was a world far away, one that they had gotten on a rocket ship and flown off of ages ago. Money was not an issue. They had bought a cozy little home only another ten minutes from their workplaces, and had worked together to paint it and decorate it to their liking.
"We are not putting skulls in the kitchen, Bones. Nuh uh."
"They're decorative, and they were gifts, Booth. Given specially to me by the-"
"Right, right. I know. You've told me a thousand times. Just... flowers, maybe? Please?"
A brilliant Georgia O'Keeffe painting of a reddish-orange poppy hung on the wall that lacked a window, just above their glass table with the high barstools, where they retired for home-cooked meals when they didn't have the press of paperwork weighing down on them. Two smaller paintings of daffodils, both by Angela, hung neatly on either side, emphasizing the poppy but at the same time drawing their own attention in their brilliant yellow splendor. She loved them dearly, and each time she saw the paintings she was reminded of a memory. They were often out of order, and each time different, but she remembered something, and she smiled sadly to herself and hurried on with whatever it is she was in the middle of. If she didn't, she might end up standing there for hours, and she just couldn't handle that.
Angela had moved away approximately three months prior. It was only temporary, she knew, but at the same time she felt the sorrow of loss far too often in her everyday life. The lab was not quite the same.
Hodgins was still there, but he seemed to be... smaller. The conspiracy theories that seemed to have melted away after Zach's arrest had come back in a flurry over the past year, but they had disappeared once more, and he seemed at a loss. Finally.
She had absolute faith that the two of them were on the path to realizing what they were missing. The moment Angela got back from her extended vacation, they would be right back to where they had been all that time ago. And if not, then she was going to get to be the interfering friend that took charge and made things happen.
It was two years, practically to the day, since she had fled from DC, believing that she could move on without her family and friends, and start anew. Things had changed far more than she ever could have believed. At points it was... surreal. Some mornings she woke up, felt a warm arm around her, and just stiffened in shock until she gradually realized where she was, and who she was with.
The routine was one she had easily adjusted to, though. Some mornings they made breakfast themselves, others they rushed off before they had the chance, but almost always he gave her a ride to the lab, and would later come back to pick her up and bring her somewhere for lunch. The Diner was a common location for their midday escape from responsibility and murder, but they always ended up talking about it anyways. Sometimes he dragged her off to someplace fancy, though, and he always found ways to entertain her so they could talk for hours about any topic they wished, murders and horror completely washed from their minds.
A blissful escape that only he could provide.
"You at a good stopping point?" Booth called from the kitchen. She heard the sound of the oven being opened, and smiled softly to herself. The small pleasures of living with someone else... the warm and delicious scent of melted cheese, perfectly crisped crust, and bubbling toppings hit her senses.
"I'll just bookmark where I left off," she called back. "Is it all set? I'm starving."
"Yup, all ready."
Eyes bright, she set aside the manuscript and walked around the corner, almost immediately being swept into his arms as he pulled her into a dance, laughing. His lips were just roving down her neck when they both froze at the sudden sound of the doorbell.
She gave an irritable groan, and he made a similar sound from the back of his throat, pulling away regretfully. "Get settled, Bones, and I'll be right back to cut it up... you didn't ask your dad over, did you?"
"No. And I can cut the pizza, Booth. I'm perfectly capable with knives."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I know. It concerns me sometimes."
She watched his back as he disappeared back out into the main room, and then busied herself dividing the pizza into eight perfectly divided sections, and selecting one covered in vegetables and delectable pineapple for herself, setting a rather meaty looking one on Booth's plate.
Two male voices reached her ears—one was Booth's, and the other one she didn't recognize, but it was definitely young. Something about it seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place it.
"Bones!" he called, and she frowned in interest and made her way around to see exactly who had come to their door. Had Angela sent something, and her signature was needed to accept it?
She froze as soon as she saw the young man standing just inside the doorway, though. His eyes were locked on hers. An exact shade of blue. Dark auburn hair hung across his face, short but still side swept in a way that she was certain was considered stylish.
He watched her in silence for a moment, clearly apprehensive, and when she stayed stiffly where she was, her mind racing through a million things at once, he glanced nervously towards Booth. "Sorry," he said swiftly. He turned back to her, "I'm sorry. I'll just... I shouldn't have even..."
"No!" she practically shouted as he turned to make an escape. He stopped short, turning back with eyes widened in surprise. Hers were filling rapidly with tears, something they hadn't done in a very long time.
She had stepped forward on reflex, but was now stuck where she had landed, hesitating. She had no idea how to handle this situation. Not a clue in the world. All she knew was that she couldn't let him leave. She had to make him... understand.
Booth was reading her expression; she could feel his eyes on her the whole time. Suddenly he put a hand on the young man's shoulder and gave him a push slightly in her direction. "Go on, kid, give your mom a hug," he said, smiling reassuringly.
Relieved by Booth's small intervention, she closed the distance and easily wrapped her arms around her son as he opened his to embrace her just as warmly.
"Travis," she murmured softly, her eyes closed and her grip not loosening in the slightest. "I... you're really here. I didn't... I wasn't sure if I'd ever actually get to meet you."
Finally she pulled back, still holding him by the shoulders, feeling like he might vanish in a second, terrified that he might hate her no matter what she told him to explain.
"You know my name?" he asked hesitantly, and she immediately nodded, fighting back a slight sob at the implication.
"Of course," she whispered. "Of course I do... I- Travis, I never wanted... I didn't..." She trailed off there, just shaking her head and staring at him in wonder. He was really and truly here. "You found me," she said suddenly in an awed whisper. "You... you wanted to... find me."
He offered a lopsided smile, but looked nervous as he shrugged and muttered, "I wanted to... know. Y'know... if you... if you even knew about me. I mean, obviously you would, uh... know, but I just wanted to... to see..."
"I understand," she said with a hurried nod. "I... come and... and sit down. We were just about to eat... I mean, you probably... you probably like pizza, right?" she was stumbling for words, and it wasn't a sensation she was used to. Over the past few years, everything had come easily, between her usual efficiency at work and her relationship and understanding with Booth. She hadn't felt this out of her element in ages.
"Yeah. Yeah, I like pizza. I wouldn't want to, like... intrude or something, though..." he glanced at Booth, and she remembered his presence in the room with them in a sudden flash.
"Oh! Oh, I'm sorry... This is... this is my sort of husband, Seeley Booth." At the raised eyebrow she got in return, she offered a weak smile, and made a brief attempt to explain. "We're together, and we aren't exactly... dating so much as having decided to spend our lives together, but we don't plan to get married."
He just nodded, clearly trying not to look confused, and she hurried onwards.
"He helped me find you, a few years ago. I mean... I already followed your birthdays... but I didn't want to... to interfere. I had to know you were... happy, though. And... I saw that you were."
"But you didn't speak to me," he said. It wasn't a question so much as a statement to fill the blanks in. She looked away and nodded as they took their seats at the table. Booth grabbed an extra plate for him and gestured to the pizza, letting him grab his own meat covered slice. He didn't eat it, though, keeping his eyes locked on her and completely ignoring the food. She didn't blame him, and she didn't touch her own food either.
"I'm sorry," she whispered softly.
For the first time, Booth shifted uncomfortably, as if he wanted to remove himself from the private conversation. She offered him one quick look, and emotion passed between their gazes before he nodded, offered a smile, and took his plate into the other room. She wouldn't have minded him there... but this was a conversation for mother and son, and clearly he didn't feel like he belonged in the middle of such an... intimate talk. She would tell him about it later, though, she knew, and he would listen with rapt attention to every word... because that was what Booth did.
"I didn't give you up," she said the moment they were alone, and Travis's eyes widened in surprise. "I didn't make the choice. I didn't have any say at all... in any of it, actually," she added sadly. She wasn't sure whether or not she should even tell him this... and for a moment she wished Booth was still sitting next to her to relegate the conversation and make sure she kept things on safe territory. But it wasn't like she could go back now.
"You were in foster care," he said rather bluntly.
She just nodded, her eyes betraying the deep sorrow that she felt over those few simple words.
"My... my father..?"
She shook her head, eyes darkening. "I'm sorry," she whispered again, but this time the words were lined with a bit more than just sadness. They were lined with pain and deep regret for something she couldn't have changed.
He fell back in the seat, his hands resting on the edge of the table still, and he stared up at the ceiling, shaking his head, lost in thought.
"He forced you?" he finally said, and he didn't look at her as he said it. She could tell it took a great deal of effort to get those three words out.
"Yes," she managed to say through the lump that had risen in her throat.
His eyes hardened, and his fists clenched. She saw a nerve in his neck pulse, and he shook his head as he glared at the middle of the table. He might have been much younger than Booth, but he reminded her a great deal of him. At once, her brain made the helpless wish that he belonged to the both of them, that things were simple. It just wasn't fair. To her, to Travis... to anyone.
"Who was he?" the question, and the clear anger behind it, caught her off-guard. Watching his reaction, she had begun to believe that maybe he might be able to hate her for this truth... but apparently she had been wrong. The way that Booth always got dark and silent, seemed so threatening, was just like this. Fury directed at someone else, who had hurt her.
"My foster father," she said, fighting to keep her voice strong. She wasn't going to burst into tears in front of her only child on their first encounter. She needed him to see who she was, and she needed, more than anything, for him to accept that. She needed him to love her, because she loved him. "It isn't important, Travis. Who he was, it's not important. He's in jail, for a list of crimes I don't even want to think about. I checked... believe me, I checked. What is important is who you are. Who I am. Because we make our own choices now. And..." she paused, trying to read his expressionless face, "...And I would like very much to be a part of your life."
The anger had fizzled out of his expression by now, and she saw surprise color his face. "I... you would?"
She nodded, "Yes, I would. You... Travis, you're my son. All these years... I have thought of you, and I have... I have missed you, even though I didn't know you. And all I want now is to... to get to know you."
"You want me?"
The age old fear of hers. The terror of being cast out, the constant nagging feeling in the back of her mind that it was all fake and that it would all disappear. The worry, all the time, that no one cared. That no one wanted her for who she was, but for other things about her. Her looks, her intelligence... it was never about who she was on the inside. Not until she met Booth.
Still, it had plagued her through her whole life. Her parents had vanished, and the fact that they had been alive and well two years after they had disappeared, and had not come for her, had done nothing to help her fears that no one would ever want her. Her brother, leaving before her own eyes. Her father and brother, together, driving away as she hunched over chained to a bench. Sully, sailing away. Even Booth, not calling her to tell her that he was alive... Sweets and him, everyone, agreeing that she had the mental capacity to process his death, because apparently she didn't care when she lost people she loved.
Her whole life had consisted of people leaving her... people not caring about her at all. Foster parents tossing her out because she didn't meet their expectations, or they wanted their own children, or they just didn't like her at all. What must Travis have thought of her, when he found out that he was adopted? Had he believed she had abandoned him, the way her parents had abandoned her? Had he thought she didn't want him? Had he thought those same thoughts she had spent countless nights chasing around her head, wondering what she had done wrong, to make this happen?
"Of course I want you," she whispered through the sudden onslaught of tears. And suddenly it didn't matter that she was breaking down in front of her son. His eyes were glazed over as well, but more than that, he was looking at her with an expression filled with something that could only be described as desire for exactly what she wanted just as much... love.
He was her son. She could give him what had been taken from her... and in the process, maybe she might be able to close that small hole in her own heart, and take away all the rest of the fears. Because he was the missing puzzle piece, the one thing that her life had been lacking, and now...
They stood at once, both of them without hesitation, and she pulled him fiercely back into her arms.
Now she was complete.