Disclaimer: I own nothing; I profit from nothing.
Setting: The beginning of season 6. I played around a bit with the timing- in my world, everyone returned to D.C. in late July.
Warning: This is the only time I will issue this warning- this story will contain kidnapping, violence and sexual assault. Please avoid this story if you are underage, or if this kind of material could trigger a post-traumatic response.
Author's Note: Thanks to a few twitter pals-MaliBearsBuddy for reading over a few chapters, Biba79 for looking over the outline & for sharing a helpful video, and ProfeJMarie for a couple of instances of very timely advice. Most of all, I would like to thank Amilyn for both brainstorming and beta-reading this story. Her help has been invaluable, and without her encouragement, advice and insight, this story would not have been written.
Chapter 1: The Roads We Take.
Temperance Brennan twisted around in her stool at the diner's counter. She pasted a hint of a smile on her lips as she watched her partner and his new girlfriend, the woman who was just right, leave together. She tried not to think too hard about how she used to be the one whose place was beside him. She tried to tell herself that his happiness made her happy...that the twinge in her chest wasn't hurt, wasn't disappointment.
When had she started allowing herself to be confused by emotion? One more thing to get under control.
She forced her smile to become more than a hint. She was happy for him. She was happy for Hannah. She was happy for herself. She had chosen a path and would not allow herself to be anything other than content with its destination.
He tossed his suitcase on the bed and sighed. Looking around, he took in his temporary home. Neutral, safe...boring. He wouldn't expect anything less from the feds. He saw that they weren't bluffing when they said he'd have no means of communicating with the outside world. He wasn't worried. There were only two people he really cared about- one of them was on the other side of the globe, and the other would find a way to contact him if he needed to.
He wasn't really sure why he'd agreed to this. His past was his past, and he had never been one to look back. He'd never concerned himself with a need to atone. He didn't bother with regrets.
Still, here he was. Like a man with something to prove.
He growled and joined his suitcase on the bed. Might as well grab a nap.
"Oh my God, I'm in heaven," Angela groaned as she took a sip of her drink and turned her face up to the sunny D.C. sky.
Brennan chuckled and nudged her friend. "I've heard Dupont Circle described in many ways, but 'heaven' is not usually among them."
"Yes, well," Angela looped her arm through Brennan's, "that just tells me that you haven't been talking to anyone who has discovered the absolute perfection that is Teatime's caramel apple chai. Are you sure you won't try a sip?" Angela held out her cup, but Bren shook her head.
"No, thanks. I prefer my chai without caramel...or apples. Besides, if popular culture depictions of pregnant women are to be believed, it would be dangerous of me to attempt to come between you and the object of your craving. Of course, there is no biological evidence to suggest that..." She trailed off, reminding herself that long scientific ramblings were of no interest to most people. If she were going to develop stronger social connections, she needed to remember that there were many things best left unsaid. She smiled warmly at Angela. "I'm glad you are enjoying your drink."
Angela gave her arm a squeeze. "And I am glad that I was able to convince you to hop on the subway and come all the way to Dupont Circle for a mid-afternoon break. Is this what Maluku did to you, Bren? Put you on island time? Turned you into the kind of woman who's willing to run off on tea breaks with her best friend during a perfectly good work day?"
"As far as I know, there's no such thing as 'island time.' There are three time zones in Indonesia, and Maluku is part of the Asia Jayapura zone..." She caught herself again with a laugh. "Oh, you were joking- making a reference to what you feel is my relaxed work ethic." Brennan pursed her lips and shot her friend a look of faux offense. "I'll have you know that my willingness to abandon the office has nothing to do with islands and everything to do with my commitment to my duties as an honorary aunt."
Angela smiled as she placed a hand on her still-flat stomach. "I love that you're so excited about this."
Had Angela thought she wouldn't be excited? Brennan considered this for a moment, trying not to let her face fall. She wanted to be the kind of friend who could be counted on to be happy for her friends' happiness. She spoke as sincerely as she knew how, "Of course I'm excited. You and Hodgins will make excellent parents. Besides, it's serious business, being part of a child's support network. The lady at the baby supply store told me it was an aunt's job to spoil the child...so I thought I'd start today, with the caramel apple chai that you claimed the baby wanted."
"Baby supply store?"
"Yes, the one in Georgetown I visited over the weekend. It had all of the furniture and toys and...well, supplies that you need for a baby. Angela, it's a good thing Hodgins is wealthy, because all of that stuff is quite expensive. Although, I suppose you'll be getting quite a bit of what you need at the shower. The lady at the store said I should wait until the last trimester to host it, but I thought I'd check with you about that, because it doesn't really leave you with much time to acquire anything you might not get at the shower, and considering how large you'll be by then... What?" Angela had a funny look on her face that made Brennan nervous. Had she said the wrong thing?
Her eyes widened as she watched tears begin to slip down Angela's cheeks. "You're crying."
"I can't help it."
"Did I do something? Is it because I said you would be large? Because you will get bigger, but that's necessary for the baby to grow. You take excellent care of yourself, so there's no need to be concerned..."
"No, Bren," now Angela was laughing through her tears, "that's not it. I actually plan to enjoy the excuse to eat whatever I want. No, I just...I really love you."
Brennan bit her lip. "Oh. Well, I really love you too."
The two women continued their walk toward the Dupont Circle station, knowing they couldn't delay their return to the Jeffersonian much longer.
"So, speaking of you in Auntie Bren mode, how's Haley? Have you spoken to your dad?"
A shadow crossed Brennan's face at the mention of her step-niece. Complications from cystic fibrosis had resulted in the little girl being in and out of the hospital for several months. Her father had sent her a letter while she was in Maluku explaining the situation and saying that he was going to stay with Russ and help out until Haley got past this. Brennan tried not to consider the possibility that the bright little girl might not make it past this. She had the best medical care available. She would be fine. Haley would be fine, and Angela's baby would be fine. They had to be.
Brennan shook her head in response to Angela's question. "I haven't spoken to Dad, but I've talked to Russ, Haley, and Haley's doctors. Everyone is optimistic. I was going to go visit, but Russ thinks it would be better to wait until her condition has stabilized."
The look on Angela's face said she did not quite follow Russ's logic, but she appeared to decide against seeking clarification. "Is it weird not having your dad around?"
"My father wasn't around for fifteen years."
Angela accepted her answer without comment as they boarded the Metro. Brennan noticed a familiar glint in her best friend's eyes. "So, what do we think of Hannah?"
She kept her voice even. "While I cannot begin to guess what you think of Hannah, I think she's lovely. She seems...right...for Booth."
"Yeah," Angela drummed her nails on the seat in front of her, and her eyes narrowed mischievously, "but a little too right, right?"
"Angela," Brennan's tone was a warning.
The artist shrugged a shoulder. "I'm just saying that it wouldn't come as a total shock if her skin was made of scales under those perfectly tailored jeans."
Brennan considered another warning, but remembered who she was dealing with. She allowed a smile to play at the corners of her lips as she said, "Angela, you should know by now that one can't have both skin and scales. The two are mutually exclusive."
The women were laughing as they approached the entrance to the lab, but they fell silent as soon as they crossed the threshold. The tension in the room was nearly tangible.
Angela's eyes met her husband's in a silent question. Hodgins gave her a reassuring smile. "Looks like I'm taking a little trip."
Brennan was confused. "To where?"
"Virginia Beach." Brennan started at the sound of her partner's voice. "And he's not going alone. Grab your bag, Bones. Me, you, Cam and Hodgins? We're going on a road trip."