Change of Time
Disclaimer: This work is not for profit. No copyright infringement is intended. If you still find it necessary to sue me, you may now refer to the 0-2 column on the US military pay tables, however you will probably still laugh.
Sam's body had stopped swinging a while ago. Hours, though she didn't know how many exactly. Long enough that the blood had stopped dripping, the wide trail down his face ending in a single congealed drop, stuck to the very top of his pale little head.
It bothered her, that drop. How it had stretched down towards the bucket each time Sam had hit the middle of his diminishing parabola. Gravid as a pregnant belly, but never quite ripe enough to overcome its own surface tension.
The first thing she would do, if she were in charge, would be to shake Sam. One sharp jostle.
She stared steadily at her son's head and idly wondered if this was madness. The gibbering was still there (samsamsamnononosam), but now it had been muffled under a thick layer of calm. The future was short and inscribed. Why bother getting worked up?
He would come for her. She would do him as much damage as possible. Then she would die.
Simple as pumpkin pie. Sam loved pumpkin pie. She always let him have it with whipping cream. There were feet on the stairs.
The thing about the Atlantic Ocean was, it was made mostly out of water. Lots of water. Seventeen quadrillion gallons of heaving, corrosive, death water. Call me Ishmael, okay, fine. Whatever. Just don't call me stupid enough to get on a boat. Except he had. He had been that stupid, and now it was too late. He was going to die under tons of cruel green water.
Should he scream defiance at the wave blotting out the sky? It was fitting for Booth men to go down using their last breath to defy whatever was smiting them. Trouble was, caustic environments were hard on the vocal chords. Hoarse defiance sounded so much like terror.
Behind him, a woman whooped as the bow of the boat shot upwards, the propellers shrieking agony as they spun air. Then the blades caught water again, and someone gave a deep rebel yell as the bow fulcrumed back down with a spine shuddering smash.
Booth waited to see if his stomach would crawl back down or just stay up, and marveled at the imperviousness of female vocal chords to salt water corrosion (boat captain's throats were for sure immune). Then the pervasive thrum of the engines cut out abruptly, and he went face first into the rubberized nylon bladder of reserve fuel strapped across the bow.
He added being blow sky high to the list of really crappy ways this day could end.
"Booth!" His partner's hand plucked at his shoulder, "are you okay?"
"Yeah, Bones," he levered himself upright. "Never better, see?" A drop of water rolled off his nose. Bones looked at him with obvious concern, but the captain's smile was a little more knowing.
"Looks like your boy is feeling a little sea sick there, ma'am."
She gave him a look of evaluation. "Are you feeling nauseous, Booth? You should have ridden in the stern. There would have been less motion. The transverse center of rotation of a deep-vee planing hull is much closer to the back end."
Booth wanted to ask how she could even know that, then he caught how Ahab was smiling at her. Like she was the cutest damn thing he ever had seen. Which made the question pretty unnecessary.
"The doctor is right. Go aft, young man." Ahab's smile was entirely different when redirected to his fellow male.
"I'll be fine. I'm not sick. I just don't like bouncing around." Ahab snorted, but Bones gave him another long second of appraisal before turning away to ask Bligh the Younger why they had stopped. He pointed to a patch of ocean about half a mile away.
"See that line there, where the water goes from blue to really blue? That's the edge of the gulf stream. The water here is nearly 80 degrees. Hot," he said, his eyes bold and really goddamn unsubtle, "but not too hot for action. Just the way I like it."
Bones looked startled, then maybe something that came close to pleased. Booth clapped his hands together sharply. "Okay! Lets get started then. Those fish, they aren't going to catch themselves."
They both look at him like they might have forgotten he was there, but Captain Casanova did start pulling out fishing rods. "Sure. This time of year the edge of the Gulf Stream has some really nice variety. Those birds over there, frigatebirds, are pretty good indicators of false albies and bluefins. Might even be some dolphins."
"What? Whoa!" Booth threw his hands out in a double stop. "Dolphins! You want to catch Flipper?"
"No, Booth. Coryphaena hippurus, also called Mahi-Mahi," Bones reassured him. "They're fish, not mammals."
He dropped his hands, trying for a smile. "Right. I knew that. Just a joke, hey?"
Ahab looked at him with the teflon expression of a service industry veteran. Bones just rolled her eyes.
God, he hated boats. Hated fish. Hated everything about this stupid day.
He should've refused, way back when Bones had first handed him those tickets. Except the excitement on her face had been way too endearing to crush. The light in her eyes as she rambled through the tortuous details of finding him the perfect present. Something she'd been pretty good about ever since the Jared incident.
He had gotten lost in how good it felt to be one of the few she made an effort for, only tuning back in when she said, "...got two, so you can take Catherine."
"What?" he fumbled, obviously behind the ball. "I'm not taking Catherine. These birthday things, they're for you and me."
Something spasmed across her face, new since the night of Goddamn Sweets' little book review. Alarm that wasn't quite fear. "But, you should take her. Women often respond favorably to hunting prowess in their mates," she told him with a worried little frown.
"Bones," he snapped, loosing his cool just a little. "I don't need a wingman in order to seal the deal." Which not only confused her, it also pissed her off, which had the side effect of shutting her up. Which meant he won by concession. So now here they were. Fishing.
Except this wasn't the same 0400 awfulness he remembered as a kid. It was still plenty early, but no sticky warm pop and smooshed PBJ, no blood suckers this far off shore, and Bones had paid God only knew how much to guarantee he actually caught something.
So once his line was in the water, and his ass was parked in a padded deck chair, Booth actually started to feel pretty good. The sun was hot, and the breeze cool, and Bones had spent the last hour ignoring Cap't Ahab in favor of rocking drowsily against his shoulder. Which was, of course, when it all went to hell.
Doing this on a weekend was definitely a calculated risk. By afternoon the park would be uncomfortably crowded. This early though, the trails were still mostly free of humans. It should be okay, as long as he avoided the creek.
He walked briskly, craning to survey the heavy summer flora, and the fauna it housed. Inconspicuous in nylon shorts and a backpack. Fifteen minutes up the trail. Then a quick look at the compass, and another 10 minutes vectoring away. He smiled when he ended up no more than 20 feet from the hole. He had earned an orienteering badge, once, a long time ago.
He tossed a small white bundle into the bottom of the hole. Pre-dug nearly two weeks earlier. Neither Tyvek, nor stainless steel burned well. The creek would take the metal, but the suit would float. Burial was the best way to dispose of both pieces at once.
Six minutes of effort later he used the entrenching tool to pat down the mound of filled in dirt. He was just about to press the sod back down when the rattle of rock falling on rock registered. Someone was climbing.
His heart spurted into brutal speed, adrenaline snapping his head towards the cliff edge. Tree cover wouldn't be enough to hide him if he ran. Staying here would give him enough time to stow the miniature shovel, but his hands were dirty, and his knees dark from ground in soil. It would be unusual. Memorable. He couldn't afford that.
A quick sprint put him approximately where the climber's head would crest the bluff. It turned out to be a boy. Young and wiry, with the light brown skin and epicanthic fold of asiatic descent. He reached down and pushed against the boy's chest. For one terrible second the kid's fingers clung to the rock like they were grown there. Then he was falling.
He paused just long enough to push the sod down, pressing with more force than strictly necessary. Calculated risk didn't guarantee a good outcome. It was ridiculous to be annoyed with probability.
Once they got there, the scene outside 1802 Fairview Ave was so typical it felt almost cliched. Yellow crime scene tape and the urgent red-blue-red flashing of police cruisers blocking the driveway. The ambulance sat on the sidelines, silent and abandoned.
Cam was standing on the edge of the front stoop, her arms crossed over her chest as she looked at the sky. Booth felt an uncomfortable curl in his stomach. Neither blood nor body parts could make Camille Saroyan, former New York City coroner, flutter a single perfectly mascaraed eyelash.
"Seeley," she said, which turned into a quickly damped flare of surprise, "and Dr. Brennan. I'm sorry, I thought I made it clear your services weren't needed."
The two woman looked at each other for a beat too long, then Bones nodded. "Yes, Cam. You were clear, but Booth and I were already together. It was faster for me to just come along."
Cam darted him an archly questioning look, but she aimed her missile towards Bones. "Already together?"
"Yes. Don't worry," she reassured in that tooth grindingly annoying way of hers, "I'm perfectly content to wait for developments until after the autopsy."
Cam's eyebrows rose upwards, and Booth decided it was a great time for a redirect. "What's with all the cruisers, Cam?"
Her lips pressed to a thin line, and he felt that same twist in his guts. She didn't answer, just turned so he would follow, and at first he couldn't see what had shaken her.
It was just a basement. Nicely finished, with sun streaming in through casement windows and a scattering of toys. No sewer stink, or avant-guard paintings made from bodily fluids. Until he realized the thing hanging from an exposed beam was a person. A child.
He recoiled. Then felt ashamed, cop that he was. Then he felt ashamed for being ashamed. He pressed his own lips together, and told himself to get a grip.
Cam motioned him over. There were plenty of people occupying the room. Crime scene investigators fussing with powders and glues, but no one else was interested in the boy's body. They stood in a little oasis of calm.
"Samuel Michael Klemm," Cam announced, crouching down to be level with the boy's head. "Six-years old, 117 cm, 21 kgs. Cause of death: exsanguination."
She twisted the boy's chin, until a hole in the side of his neck opened in a gape of flesh. "There's a hole through the right carotid artery. That means lots of blood, very fast. Especially in the inverted position. He would have been unconscious in 2 to 5 minutes. Dead from hypovolemic shock a minute or two after."
Booth looked down at his feet. Suddenly realizing that they should have been standing in a big square of missing carpeting. Cut out and carted off by some crime scene wank. Except there the carpet was, undisturbed. Cam pointed at something a few feet away, "It's in there."
Booth looked at the little orange beach bucket, and suddenly it was completely absurd that the boy was dead. It was just stupid. His blood hadn't been carelessly leaked away. It was right there, waiting to be poured back in. Except the circulatory system of six-year-old boys didn't acknowledge the concept of almost.
For want of a nail, the boy died.
"This is one cold bastard, Booth," Cam told him, rising to stand at his shoulder. "A punctured artery will spray blood incredible distances, but the crime scene guys turned up maybe two tablespoons. He had to have stood here, holding the bucket up. At least until the heart stopped pumping."
He looked at her, and for a second he could see the glacial valleys parenthood had scoured into her. How the weight had increase the sum total of her depth.
"Two to five minutes, watching this kid die," he said slowly, and she nodded. It perfectly underscored that little click - more than a feeling, less than a sound. This was a case he was going to solve.
He stuck around long enough for the body to be cut down and loaded into the quiet ambulance, then booked it to the hospital to interview the presumed mother of the boy. Cam spared him a thankful glance when he snagged Bones on the way out.
Heroic feelings were good and all, but cases were solved by facts. Which he was pretty damn short of right now. The direct fault of Charlie, who wan't answering his phone. All he knew was what the responding officers could tell him.
An anonymous caller had tipped the police to something funny going on in the house. No one had answered the door, but a look-see around the side had given the two officers a great view of a woman handcuffed to some pipes, and a very dead kid.
They had called their Lieutenant, who had called the Federal SWAT, who destroyed the door in the process of discovering there was no hostage holder inside. By that time the schooling reporters had rilled up the DC Metro's Police Commissioner's peptic ulcer. He punted the ball right back to the FBI, who double played it to Cam, who drilled it right across home plate to tag Special Agent Seeley Booth.
He didn't even know the woman's name, thanks to Charlie and his background research withholding ways. The man had better be nearly dead of something.
Bones watched him from the passenger seat, finally saying, "You seem upset. You and Cam. More than usual."
"Course we're upset, Bones. A kid got killed." He glanced at her, steeling for some kind of lecture about assigning false sanctity to a child's life. Instead she nodded and stayed quite all the way to the hospital.
The woman turned out to be Alexis Klemm, and he didn't need the uniform cop loitering nearby to know it was her. Poker faces only got you so far, and this woman looked exactly like she'd just watched her kid get strung up and bled out.
Booth felt his stomach tighten.
He knew that look. Seen the heat of Iraq bake it into the faces there, both light and dark. Seen it in the mirror, too. It sure as hell didn't help that Alexis Klemm surged up when he and Bones rounded the corner. Some wild hope for a thirteenth-hour miracle wrenching her out of the arms wrapped around her.
Their eyes locked, and he had just enough time to register how startlingly green they were, before final knowledge filled them and she jerked away. Tumbled back like he'd pithed her.
She moaned, curling away from the woman sitting with her. Lost in this new world where evil men and dead children turned out to be more than a campfire story.
He hunkered down on the edge of a plastic chair. Looming men would not be helpful just now. Behind him, Bones was a peripheral blur of tightly coiled tension, head pivoting between all three of them. He didn't really have time to figure out her issue, though. He needed to get this rolling, before the woman went into a full on fugue state, or something.
"Ms. Klemm," he started softly. "I'm so very sorry," but she wanted the words as much as she'd wanted those arms. Twisting her head another fraction of an inch away, reminding him suddenly of Parker at age two. Wrapped in a towel to contain the kicks as he violently protested the gooey pink antibiotics Booth was forcing past his clamped lips.
Thank God the kid only got those couple ear infections. Because the only thing worse than having to nightly overpower your bucking, twisting (and eerily silent) toddler, was realizing how easy it was to hold him down.
Booth suppressed an unhappy sigh. That analogy didn't actually work. Being force fed medicine had, no matter how perturbing, been for Parker's own good. Being forced to re-live terror and helplessness . . . that wasn't really on par.
Except for the part where he felt like a monster. That matched entirely.
"But we need to ask - " he picked back up, but didn't get very far.
The second woman had suddenly found her voice. Using her rejected arms to hoist off the high bed, thumping down in a solidly muscled way. "Now?" her voice had a low quality to it, head ducked down in unconscious posturing. "You're really going to try and do this now?"
Booth leaned back, meeting her blazing eyes with totally unmanufactured agony. "I understand how you feel, but we need to ask questions. We need to understand what happened."
Her face twisted, and he saw her use raw rage to force it straight. The hairs on his arms tried to rise. "No! Lexi was handcuffed to that pipe for three hours. Three hours! You do not get to waltz in here now, thinking you can ask questions."
He could see heads starting to turn in the corridor. Like negative ions, just beginning to quiver at the restive charge in the earth. And him the lightening rod in the middle.
He'd just started to hunch his shoulders against the torrent when Bones moved past him. Translating all that twitching into an almost spastic forward motion, stopping just in front of the woman.
The room crackled, and Booth felt himself click over into that sharp sight. Where everything was clear, and hard, and registered so fast. Bones' fingers closing around the woman's arm. The disbelieving snap and stretch of her eyes. The flare of her nostrils. The blood pumping so fast and so smooth through his muscles. Ready.
"Ms. Hadley," she said softly, and Booth knew surprise was being stored away for later. How she had learned that name was not important right now. Not with her standing so close and looking so steadily.
Everything was a weapon, if you wanted it bad enough. And Ms. Hadley (how!) wanted.
"Bones," he hissed, and she did look back, but only to hold out her hand in a clear Stay Back warning. Typical. He didn't stand up, but he didn't relax either.
"I'm Dr. Brennan," she said, turning back towards the woman, moving slow and easy. Which at least proved she wasn't totally oblivious. "Temperance. I'm an anthropologist, working with the FBI. I was in your house this afternoon, and I saw - " she hesitated, darting a glance his way before starting a new tack. "I saw all of Sam's things - his trains, and the drawings you hung on the refrigerator. I know that read him Good Night Moon every single night for months at a time.
"You love him," she said, and the simplicity of the words darted between his own ribs, "but please, he deserves justice. We all deserve that."
She stopped. Hand still on the woman's arm, just watching her face. Like Daniel in front of the Lion.
Booth felt himself holding his breath as the moment stretched out, thinner and thinner, until it had to snap. She had to snap. Then a low voice said, "Toby", and he nearly gasped as the rippling tension simply vanished. Dissipating into ozone as the woman wrenched out of Bones' grasp and spun back towards the bed.
"Lexi," she whispered, relief and anguish all tangled together inside the syllables. Ms. Klemm drug her gaze up slowly.
"He had a suit," she said. "The protective kind with booties, and a hood."
No one spoke, and she looked around a little wildly, locking onto him. "That's what you want, right?" she spat fiercely. "You want all the details, so you can go out and find justice. That's what you said."
Booth nodded rapidly, scrabbling for his notebook. "Yeah," he said, keeping his eyes trained on her. Seeing how hard her resolution had set. "That's exactly what we said."
"So, he had a suit," she repeated. "With booties and a hood."
"What else?" Booth prompted, and she swallowed.
"A ski mask." Closed her eyes and sucked in air. "And latex gloves." Snapped her eyes back open like the dark was terrifying. "I looked up, and he was just standing there. In the kitchen."
"What time?" Booth asked, but she'd slid back into the past.
"I thought, just for a second I thought he was a contractor or something. Looking for one of the neighbors' houses. But then Sam screamed, and I knew." Slow tears tracked down her face, and Toby Hadley (who fit in how?) moved close enough to touch her knee. She looked at the hand like it was unknowable, and said, "Just after breakfast. Sam and I were cleaning up."
"What happened then?" He asked it softly, making her lean in. Forcing her to narrow her focus down to his even voice.
"He grabbed Sam. By the arm."
"Injected him with something."
"What were you doing?"
"I tried to hit him. With the cutting board."
"Yes, on the shoulder. He yelled and let go of Sam. But then he grabbed me. I tried to hit him again, but he grabbed my shirt. He pulled me down, and I don't remember . . . .
He reached for the next question, but she'd found her own momentum. "I woke up in the basement, handcuffed to the pipes. Sam was laying next to me and I thought . . . at first I thought he must be dead, but then I saw he was breathing."
She started to tremble. Her lips pressed against whatever was trying to rise up. Toby shuffled a few microns closer, and when she spoke the suppressed sobs were in her throat, thickening her voice. "I thought maybe he'd just left, but then I heard him on the steps. He came back down, and drug Sam away. Tied him to that beam.
"I tried . . . " She turned to the other woman, and Booth knew he'd lost her. It wasn't an interview anymore, it was a confession. "I told him he could have whatever he wanted. If he let Sam go I'd give him whatever he wanted. I wouldn't fight. But he just stared at me. I - I - I tried to pull out of the handcuffs, but h - h - he just pulled out a knife and it was too late. It was too late. He . . . Toby he . . . . "
"Shhh," Toby ran her hands down that agonally upturned face. Smoothing over the mucus and tears slicking it. Pressing their foreheads together. "Ssssh. I know. I know.
"You're done now," she told them in a deadly calm voice. Eyes closed as she rocked in time to the other woman's sobs. Booth stood and nodded, he and Bones leaving quietly.
"Something not quite right there," he told her as they walked back to the car.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know yet. But I'll find out."
She gave him a look for that one, obviously decided not to probe his idiosyncrasies. "We don't usually interview people who are so directly traumatized. You did very well."
He bumped her shoulder, giving her a sideways smile. "You didn't do so bad yourself there, Bones. How did you know that, anyways? About the book."
"Oh. Young children are notorious for demanding routine. One of the books in his bedroom showed a great deal more wear than the others. I - " she glanced at him quick, then away, "I made an assumption."
He played it nonchalant. "Hey, that's great. That's real investigative stuff. Parker was like that, you know. You have no idea how many times I've read Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie."
She looked at him carefully, to see if he was teasing, smiling when she decided he wasn't. Then she asked, "What now?", which reminded him of Rat Fink Charlie all over again. He glowered.
"Go to the Bureau, start pulling up backgrounds."
"You don't usually do that."
"Yeah well," he yanked his door open with more than necessary strength. "Times, they are a changing."
It seemed quiet in the car. Booth usually liked to chatter while they rode, filling the space up with his particular form of speculation and analysis. Or the upcoming Oriels vs. Nats game. Brennan found herself filling his tense silence by saying, "I'm sorry your fishing trip was interrupted."
He shrugged. "Nature of the beast, Bones. It's okay though, it was still a great birthday present."
"Yes," she agreed. "Still, maybe I could take you out to dinner? To make up for the deficit."
Finally, he smiled. Glancing over at her with a contentment she knew he was very bad at faking. "That's really nice, Bones, but you don't have to. My birthday is officially recognized."
"I know I don't have to. I want to," she told him. Didn't he know that?
"I'm going to dinner with Catherine." He blurted it out, like maybe it was embarrassing. Probably to him it was. He had a great many rules about what could and could not be talked about. Then there were the sub-rules that varied according to gender, religion, and probably other things she hadn't yet stumbled over.
She looked over at his closed off stance. Or maybe a dinner, a planned dinner, was too much like dating.
"Okay. Maybe some time later."
"Yeah. That'd be great," he said, looking punctiliously at the road, his hands at 10 and 2. The quiet came back, and when they pulled up to the lab entrance, she was relieved to get out.
"Hey, Bones," he called just before she had shut the door. She caught it, waiting for him.
"That really was something, what you did with Toby Hadley."
"Thanks, Booth," she said over the quiet whunk of the car door.
It was cool inside the lab, and quieter than on a weekday afternoon. Though the door to Autopsy was open, and she could hear activity from Hodgins' work area. She found Cam leaning over the downdraft table, still working on the external exam. She looked up when Brennan paused in the doorway.
"Dr. Brennan, hello. I'm afraid it's still going to be a little while."
"Are there some unusual particulates?" she asked, moving closer. The external part of an autopsy usually didn't take so long. Cam had already had over two hours with the body.
"Not that I've found. I just . . . I want to be thorough. Hodgins is over in bug land, sifting though what I collected. He'd know for sure, but it looked like regular body scrunge to me." She picked up a pair of calipers, thumbing the central screw with careful attention.
"Would you mind?" She jerked her chin towards the clipboard. "It keeps the papers from getting gooey."
Brennan picked up the clipboard, writing down the measurements Cam dictated. She let the white noise of the lab and the satisfying precision of three decimal places lull her. It was jarring when Cam replaced a string of numbers with: "What were you and Booth doing?"
"Oh," she stumbled, "I got Booth tickets to go deep-sea fishing for his birthday. We were out on the boat when he was called in."
Cam stopped measuring. "Fishing?"
"On the ocean?"
She wrinkled her brow, puzzled. "Yes. That's usually where deep-sea fishing happens."
"Booth hates fishing. Booth doesn't even like the ocean."
She gripped the pen tighter, like it could save her from feeling foolish. He had looked so pleased. "He didn't say that, when I gave him the tickets. He seemed to be having a good time." She didn't like the defensiveness creeping into her voice. It made Cam's eyes widen a little.
"Well, it's been awhile since he told me. I'm sure he's turned over a new leaf."
She didn't know what to say to that, which made Hodgins' arrival particularly timely.
"Hi, Dr. Brennan," he said, then shifted to Cam. "I sifted though all the crime scene particulates, and the stuff you found on the body. There was nothing unusual. Some gravel and pollen, and all the hairs match either the kid or the mom."
"What about the fingernail scrapings?"
He shook his head. "Dirt from the backyard. And wax. He had Sunset Orange Crayola crayon wax under his fingernails."
For a second, Cam just stood gripping the high lip of the table, head bent down and eyes clamped closed. "Damn it. I wanted it to be quick."
Brennan studied her, trying to think of what Booth would say in this sort of situation, when people needed bolstering. But nothing came, and then Hodgins said: "There'll be something. We'll catch him," and it was too late.
"When we interviewed her, Ms. Klemm said the man wore some kind of protective suit. With attached shoe coverings and a hood. We can surmise that's why there are no foreign particulates," she told them.
Cam nodded slowly. "I guess this isn't going to be one of those easy ones." Then she seemed to take herself in hand, picking up some swabs.
"These are from the wound on his neck. Why don't you go see if there's anything interesting."
Hodgins took them glumly. "Great. More Saturday afternoon particulates."
Cam gave his departing back a little head shake. "You can leave after that, Dr. Hodgins." He waved an acknowledging hand, and Cam looked back at her.
"He used to like being at the lab on Saturday. See how having extra-curricular activities makes you unhappy?"
Brennan was almost positive Cam was being ironic, but she could easily see how the statement was true. Plus, Angela's wedding was another thing she didn't really want to talk about. She put the clipboard down.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Saroyan. There's some paperwork I really should be attending to," but Cam cut her off before she could turn.
"Dr. Brennan, I'm sure Booth had a great time."
"He seemed to," she said, and made her escape. Her office felt familiar and soothing, and she let herself absorb it for a moment before opening a file.
After a while she heard Hodgins leaving, and vaguely remembered Cam poking her head around the door to say goodnight. Then it was just her, and the slowly setting lab.
"Hey, Bones!" His unexpected voice made her jump a little, and look at the clock. Five to ten.
Booth bounced enthusiastically through the door, and she let his presence, and all the ancillary implications about where he was not, sink into her.
"Look, I got you something." He held it out. She cocked her head at it's shine. Picked up it's little plastic weight and looked up at him.
"What's this for?"
"Because you did so well today. I figured you deserved an official FBI badge."
She looked it over. "It says Brandon."
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well. I had to improvise. The gift shop doesn't exactly have any that say Brennan. And all the girls' names were on friendship bracelets. Now, can we please go? I'm in major need of some ice cream."
She doubted it. He must have come from dinner with Catherine, or maybe from drinks afterwards. She studied the little silver shield in her hand. "Cam says you don't like to fish."
She hadn't exactly meant to say that. And now that she had, she had no desire to look up. There had already been too many awkward silences today.
"I like everything you give me, Bones," he told her, and when she did look, his face was filled with honesty. She stood.
"Okay, but I'd rather have a beer."
He smiled, pleased with her capitulation, and maybe with her consistency. "Yeah, Bones. I know. We'll go to the Founding Fathers, okay? So you can indulge your alcoholism, and I can have some damn ice cream."
Except when they got to the bar she had wine and he had beer. She played with the plastic badge as he told her about Parker's sudden and overwhelming need to learn karate.
He leaned in a little closer, like they were sharing a secret. "I think there might be a girl involved."
It felt good to be sitting next to him. Normal. How long had it been since things felt normal between them?
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" she said, and laughed at his comically exaggerated look of pride.
"Hell yeah. The boy's a chip off the old block."
She laughed again, shaking her head, and her contentment must have come through because his smile softened somehow, becoming more about her. He bumped her shoulder gently. Grinning.
"As long as he hasn't inherited your propensity for ending up in the hospital," she grudged.
"Amen to that," he said, holding his beer bottle up and looking more serious. Her wine glass made a ringing chime against it. "Hey, amen to that."
A/N: Okay folks, as you've probably realized, this is going to be a multi-chapter fic. Which means an update disclaimer is needed.
This story is fully outlined, and I'm halfway through the rough draft. It's a priority in my life, but like everyone, I have major obligations. Like work, and, uh, work. Updates will come as quickly as possible, but I can't promise a specific day. It will just end in disappointment. (Right? Because someone had to have made it though that monster chapter. Right?)
If you liked this, drop me a line. I'd love it. Plus, my only other entertainment is making the Loran-C say, "Help, I'm being held prisoner in a LORAN factory", which means you should pity me. It's kind to write to the pitiful.