7.5x11: Out Came The Sun ~ Written by Squinttoyou and Rynogeny
Sweets absently took a bite of toast and turned the page of the Washington Post. There was comfort in the morning ritual of reading the paper while eating breakfast, perhaps especially when life was overshadowed by the darkness, as it was now, with Booth still missing. The fact that he couldn't remember what he'd just read was beside the point.
He sipped his coffee, turned another page, his thoughts moving from Booth to Paisley. She'd run through the entire team, now. Was Booth to be some special capstone on her project? If he did reappear, essentially unharmed, as they all expected, would Paisley simply go on with her life? Or would she, having accomplished her goal in its entirety, find a new goal? Target someone else, some other unsuspecting group of people?
He'd not said so to anyone, but he was afraid the answer might be yes. Given her short attention span, maybe she'd find something else to distract her or maybe she wouldn't. But wouldn't she find the thought of continuing to make people – strong, intelligent people – dance to her tune irresistible? His thoughts had been dancing like this for days, for weeks, for months.
The next bite of toast lodged in his throat as he froze, then quickly turned back to the previous page as the words written there finally registered. Swallowing hurriedly, he re-read the article, an announcement of a fundraising gala to be held at the Baltimore Aquarium.
"Claude!" He took a fast sip of coffee, cleared his throat, and shouted again. "Claudia!"
"What?" She rushed into the kitchen, her blouse barely buttoned. "What is it?"
In his excitement, he'd stood, nearly knocking the toast to the floor. He grabbed it, then stabbed a finger on the paper. "There's a fundraiser tonight in Baltimore Aquarium, to raise money for a new angel shark exhibit." He looked down, read the paragraph aloud. "A new exhibit dedicated to education about the species, and to further its protection." He looked up, noted her confused expression. "Claud, this will be irresistible to Paisley. It says a number of socially prominent people will be there, including some from the UK, where the shark's already a protected species. And when Dr. Goodman and I were in her house when she had Brennan, there was a figurine of one of this species of shark next to her chair. She'll be at this thing, Claude. I'm certain of it. This is our chance."
She looked at him for a beat, her expression moving from thoughtful to proud, and then nodded. "I'm meeting Clarkson first thing this morning. I'll bounce it past him."
Booth was on the move. The night had been short and he knew enough to get moving at first light. You didn't sit still if you were being tracked. You didn't sleep either. He had dozed, but never slept the entire night, his back braced against a tree for protection and his eyes and mind focused on the darkness around him. He had jolted to alert with every sound in the night after seeing his stalker.
He was lucky, really, that it was a young cat. Its inexperience had made it impatient and it had revealed itself to him while he was still awake. Weariness made his steps shaky and he stopped to splash water from the creek onto his face. The cold and wet helped rid him of the fatigue and he pushed on still thinking about the incident last night.
He had been stopped for the night, bedding down after finishing the fish he had roasted. He had been stoking the fire and as he turned away from its light he had caught the gleam of two eyes. He had immediately stilled, making no sudden moves as he tried to determine what was out there. His initial concern had been that it was a bear. He had seen tracks and scat and knew he was in active bear country. But, the eyes weren't right and when he heard a low growl he knew he was looking at the eyes of a mountain lion instead.
Moving slowly he had turned back to the fire and grasped one of the burning limbs he had just laid down. Then, still moving slowly he had stood tall and turned back to face the cat. Raising the stick over his head made him appear even taller and he watched the yellow eyes follow the flame up into the air. The cat had hissed, confused by the suddenly towering enemy and Booth had hurled the burning limb. The ploy worked and the cat had bolted leaving no sign despite an hour long search. Still, he had settled against the tree and sleep had not come.
Force of will kept Turner's face neutral. She didn't know Clarkson well, but past experience – and common sense – told her it wouldn't win any points for her side if she let him see her frustration.
She couldn't decide if it made it worse or better that the older agent was obviously frustrated, too. "Turner, we're in the middle of a major op here. We're chasing down leads as fast as we can. I don't have time to send people to a fancy party in Baltimore."
Digging deep for patience, she said, "It's not just a party. It's a fundraiser, for a cause Tenant is interested in. She'll be there – a similar fundraiser is how this all started. She crashed it to-"
"-meet the Jeffersonian team. I read the report," he snapped. "That doesn't mean she'll be at this one. She's in the middle of an op herself right now, remember? Kidnapped federal agent? She's not going to hare off to Baltimore and leave him alone."
God, she missed Booth. He would at least listen when someone else had an idea. "She left both Dr. Hodgins and Dr. Saroyan for several hours during their tasks," she noted.
"Do you have a single piece of hard evidence for this? An invitation addressed to Tenant? A schedule of events from the Aquarium?"
"No, sir. But Dr. Sweets-"
"Your boyfriend would be more useful looking at the list of properties we've found in Tenant or her husband's name. That's what I need people focused on. She's not gone back to the house in McClean, so she's got another bolt hole somewhere. We find it, we find her, we find Agent Booth.
He was so smug. She nearly pointed out that it hadn't worked that way when they found the house in McClean while Brennan was missing, but she held back.
"Or the money," he continued. "I've got others tracking down credit cards and bank accounts in Tenant's name, as well as looking for cell phone accounts. That's how we'll find her." His expression softened, just a bit. "Look, Turner. Sweets seems to be a good kid. Psych has its place in the courtroom, especially explaining to juries that perps shouldn't get off murder charges because their mommies spanked them too hard. And I know both of you want to find Agent Booth. But I'm not taking people off legit inquiries for a wild goose chase."
"Yes, sir." The man was a moron. Unable to say anything else, Turner spun and marched from Clarkson's office. Indignation carried her past the elevator to the stairs so she could keep moving. How could someone Dr. Saroyan apparently respected – and had said Booth did, as well – be so stupid about modern investigative techniques?
She was still muttering when she reached Lance's office. He looked up, his expression shifting from one of welcome to concerned. "Claude?"
"Come with me," she said.
It was a measure of their relationship that he stood, grabbed his keys off his desk. "Where are we going?"
"To Baltimore, to prove shrinks aren't useless."
It was good to see him grin.
"Dr. Brennan?" Molly repeated.
"I'm sorry, Miss McDaniels," Brennan said shaking herself from her thoughts. "What did you ask?"
"I was wondering if the post-lateral striations were indication of the short bayonet."
Brennan's eyes dropped to the remains of the World War I soldier between them. Her practiced eye quickly dismissed her student's suggestion and she corrected her. "The depth of the mark is more congruent with the fascine knife."
Molly nodded as she noted the difference. "The larger fascine was used for machine gun emplacements, wasn't it?" When Brennan didn't answer she looked up again. A sad light filled her eyes and she swallowed the lump she felt forming in her throat. This was the fourth time her mentor had become lost in her own thoughts. She was obviously very worried. "Would you like to take a break, Dr. Brennan?"
That question got an immediate reaction and Brennan's eyes snapped to the concerned face of her intern. "I do not require a break," she said coolly.
"Of course not," Molly agreed with a blush.
"Dr. Brennan," Wendell called as she entered the Limbo exam room. "I've completed the calibrations you requested."
As he spoke he gestured over his shoulder in the direction he had been working and the movement made him grimace. Molly gave him a look of sympathy. "Are you ok?"
"Fine," Wendell answered dismissively, overacting as he tried to prove he felt no pain. "I had hockey practice last night and since we were shorthanded I played center." He was half way through his explanation when he realized the implication. They were shorthanded because of Booth's absence. He looked to Brennan and his eyes widened as he saw tears in her eyes. "Aw, geez, Dr. Brennan, I'm sorry."
"Mr. Bray, would you assist Miss McDaniels in the review of these remains," Brennan asked, her voice shaking, as she controlled her tears. "I seem to be experiencing an unexpected emotional imbalance."
"Sorry!" Wendell called again as Brennan quickly left the room. He felt like kicking himself, but as he turned his attention to the girl still in the room he felt something completely different. Ignoring it, he stepped to the table. "Guess you should tell me where you left off," he said trying to sound like an expert.
Molly's hand shook slightly as she reached out to indicate the work she and Brennan had completed, and her cheeks were flushed an adorable pink beneath her freckles. "We began at the sternum and were working our way outward." Her gesture brought her arm in contact with his and she gasped softly.
A delighted smile touched Wendell's lips and he leaned over as if looking at the small marks on the bone. The move also brought him very close to her and he looked into her eyes with a smile-induced twinkle. "Good place to start."
It lay at the bottom of hill, stretching out like a brown ribbon of hope. The logging road wasn't well used, but he didn't care. He'd walk another forty miles as long as he had a sign of civilization to follow. Without wasting another moment he began to move down the hill. Gravity suggested he move faster and his excitement agreed, unable to fight his elation he began to run. Bounding over fallen branches, scurrying over rocks, he descended the hill at breakneck speed. A loud whoop of excitement burst from him and he cheered his success as he ran.
As his foot touched the graveled shoulder of the road the now familiar voice of his captor spoke. "Hi, Booth! How's it going? I bet you've seen some great wildlife. I'm a fan of animals, they are far more enjoyable than most people." Her cheerful monolog continued and Booth walked along the road listening, letting every word she spoke fill his mind. "You are on day three now, so I just wanted to drop you a line to say 'keep up the good work'. Have fun."
As Paisley's message went silent Booth continued to walk and the gravel road crunched beneath his feet. He listened to the rhythmic sound for a few moments, letting the familiar beat of boots on the ground fill him with purpose. "Hope you had fun, bitch," he said to Paisley's lingering presence. "Because this road leads straight to you and I'm coming."
The tempo of his steps increased and he broke into a run.
Sweets stood next to Claudia at the entrance to the aquarium atrium where the fundraiser was being held. The lights were low, drawing attention to the monitors strategically placed along the walls that were playing videos of various subspecies of angel sharks. He'd been to some fancy parties in DC, but this was particularly slick.
"It was good of Dr. Brennan to call ahead for us," Claudia murmured.
Since it wasn't a sanctioned bureau op, they'd decided on a softer approach. Both wore evening clothes, and Dr. Brennan, who knew someone on the board of directors, had arranged their admission to the event. "If she doesn't have contacts through the Jeffersonian, she will through the publishing industry," Sweets replied, his attention shifting from the setup to the guests already mingling on the floor. Paisley had to be here. She simply had to.
And then he saw her, and a fierce satisfaction went through him. He wasn't perfect, but damn Clarkson for doubting he'd get this one right. Not when he'd done the psych eval as a hostage. He reached for Claudia's hand, squeezed. "There," he said. "Over by the bar." He'd wondered if he'd immediately identify her out of the context of his memories – and nightmares. But recognition had been immediate.
She was wearing a long dress – impossible to tell the color from here, but he'd bet it was blue, to match her eyes. Her hair was piled on top of her head, but the way she cocked her head, studying the woman she was chatting with…he'd never forget that pose. Did the woman she was talking to feel like a bug under a microscope? Or was that only for those who realized that's what they were?
"Lance?" Claudia's voice was soft, and he glanced at her, realized he was gripping her hand hard enough to leave bruises.
He immediately relaxed, rubbed the abused fingers in apology. "I'm fine," he said.
"Do you see Adam?"
"No." He glanced around the rest of the room again. "He may not be here. He doesn't attend all of these sorts of things with her."
"Will he act out when we take her and harm Booth in retaliation when we arrest her, do you think?" Her voice was steady, but he heard the underlying tension.
His gaze still focused on the woman across the room, he considered the question. "No. He only does what she tells him to do, and it wouldn't have occurred to her to have that contingency plan in place. She's too sure of herself." He gave her a brief glance. "How should we play this?"
Claudia studied the room. "I'll go that way, come up from behind her. That way, if she bolts toward either set of exits, we've got her covered."
"Sounds like a plan. I'll wait for you to get into position."
He watched her begin to work her way around the opposite side of the room from where Paisley was, then started toward their quarry. He wasn't nervous, he realized. Not now. They'd beaten her. And they would force her to tell them where Booth was.
She was just turning from her previous conversation when he stepped up beside her, and he had the immense satisfaction of seeing her go pale. "Hello, Ms. Tenant."
Her recovery was quick, he'd give her that - not that he really expected otherwise. "Why, Dr. Sweets! What a pleasure." She gave him a sunny smile. "I knew you'd all catch up with me sooner or later. I'm not at all surprised it's you." She stepped closer, touched his arm. "You understand me better than the others, you see how significant it is that I didn't harm anyone with my game. In fact, I'd say I did something special for you, for all of you, by proving to everyone just how superior you are."
"I understand you quite well," he agreed. "Unfortunately for you, you don't understand me at all. But she does." Sweets motioned to Turner, "Amelia Tenant, Agent Claudia Turner, FBI."
Tenant started to turn toward her, the smile she wore when she was sizing up someone's usefulness already in place. Before she could speak, though, Claudia stepped behind her, pulled her wrists back, and said, "You're under arrest."
They were quite possibly the sweetest words Lance Sweets had ever heard.
Dusk was just falling as he reached the edge of town. 'Town' wasn't the correct term, village would be more appropriate, he thought. But, whatever it was, he was happy to see it. It might be only a few dozen houses and a single commercial street, but it was civilization. A diner showed the only signs of life and he stepped inside eager to see someone, anyone, after days of solitude.
The waitress behind the counter was a large-bosomed woman with a hairstyle right out of the 80s. She gave Booth a surprised look and then smiled invitingly. "Hey there, handsome. Normally hikers look and smell awful after a few days out there, but you look good enough to eat. Have a seat, I recommend the Trailblazer Special. It's usually the pick of folks coming off the AT."
Booth took a seat at the counter. "The AT; the Appalachian Trail?"
She arched and eyebrow and laughed. "You have to ask?"
"Where am I?"
"Shirley, Maine. Where did you think you were?"
Booth ignored her question. "I'm a federal agent. I need a phone."
She didn't look as if she believed him, but when his fierce expression didn't change she pointed to a phone on the wall. "No cell reception out here, sexy." She fished in her pocket and withdrew a quarter. "But, I'll spot you a quarter. You can owe me."
The attempt at innuendo fell flat and she frowned as Booth snatched up the quarter and hurried to the phone. It took a few moments but he eventually had a connection to the right number. A smile touched his lips and his body sagged against the wall in relief as his call was answered. "Hey, Bones," he said in a soft voice full of his love.
"Aw, shoot," he heard the waitress mutter behind him.
Agent Clarkson leaned back in his chair, tipping it on two legs, and rubbed a hand across his weary eyes. Cam's office chair was the most comfortable seat he had enjoyed in days. "That's all I've got. It's not much of a progress report. I swear, Saroyan," he complained over a sigh. "I've tried every trick I know."
"I warned you it would be frustrating," Cam noted. She tipped her head and gave her friend a sympathetic look. "When is the last time you slept?"
"What day is it?"
Cam snorted gently. "I was really hoping you would have better luck. Guess that luck of yours has finally run out, but don't give up we might still have some."
"It's not luck," he immediately objected to what was clearly an old point of playful contention. Before he could argue further his phone rang and he dropped his chair to the ground as he answered. The information he received caused his eyebrows to rise in shocked surprise. "You are kidding." He listened further before asking a few questions and then disconnected. "You won't believe it."
Cam felt a sudden sense of certainty and she smiled. "Turner and Sweets found Paisley."
"How did you know?"
"That luck I was just talking about? We were due. Plus, I told you Turner knows her stuff; and Sweets is pretty good too."
"How could they have possibly gotten that right? It was a hunch!"
"Did you not just hear me say they are good?"
The smirk on her face irritated Clarkson, but his retort was cut off by Brennan's sudden interest.
"I had a call from Booth. He's in Shirley, Maine."
That short burst of information was all Brennan gave before turning on her heel. Cam knew without a doubt that the anthropologist intended to jump into her car and drive to Maine that very moment. "Dr. Brennan," she called quickly. "I believe Agent Clarkson could arrange to have Booth flown home."
Brennan's face revealed no hint of chagrin as she turned back around. "Of course," she said looking expectantly at Clarkson.
"I'm on it," Clarkson said. He pulled his phone back out and walked toward the door. "I'll keep you informed," he said to both women as he walked away.
"Thank you for the transportation, Agent Clarkson," Brennan politely called.
"My pleasure," the frustrated agent muttered. "Apparently, it's the most I can do."
"This is stupid. I'm fine."
"Booth, don't be ridiculous. You need to be examined by a physician."
"I was," Booth answered, sliding off the exam table and reaching for his pants. "So, let's go. Paisley is waiting in a holding cell and I have a few questions for her."
"You have been examined," Brennan said as she calmly took his pants from his hands. "But, you have not received the results of that examination." She pushed him back to the table. "We aren't done here and Paisley isn't going anywhere."
"Aw, Bones," he complained even as he retook his seat.
"Stop being a baby. You made me get examined."
"Because you are pregnant," he argued. "I'm not pregnant. And a few days in the woods has never hurt me. I'm fine."
Brennan had been manipulating her phone and she spoke as she handed it to him. "You have a more important interview to complete before Paisley's."
Booth took her ringing phone and checked the display. "Tricky, Bones," he complained with a smile. "You aren't playing fair." The ringing stopped and he quickly lifted the phone. "Hey, Parks!" he said in greeting. Parker's enthusiastic greeting made him smile and Booth felt his impatience fading away. He reached for Brennan's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze as he answered his son's first question. "Yep, I'm home and safe, buddy. As soon as they let me out of this hospital and I do all the paperwork I have to, I'm coming to see you."
The concern Parker felt was clear in his voice and Booth filled the next few minutes calmly banishing those fears from his son's young mind. Ever resilient, Parker was soon sounding less anxious and began to press for details on Booth's adventure.
"Hey, Park, I'll tell you all about it tonight, ok? But, right now I have to go," Booth said as the doctor returned to his exam room. Shoving the phone back into Brennan's hands Booth reached again for his pants. "Give it to me, Doc," he ordered as he pulled them on.
"Aside from a little dehydration and a couple of blisters everything looks great."
Booth was slipping on the shoes Brennan had brought for him and he nodded. "Told ya," he said to Brennan.
"I would recommend a good meal and some sleep," the doctor continued.
"Got it!" Booth cried as he bolted for the door.
"Booth, wait up!" Brennan called as she hurried after him. "I have the keys!"
Booth's anger and impatience were barely in check when they reached the Hoover building. He stalked through the halls intent on pulling answers from Paisley any way necessary. As he neared the interrogation room Sweets stepped from an observation room and into his path. "Is she in there?" Booth growled as he sidestepped the psychologist.
"No, it's the husband."
Booth turned around, his displeasure evident. "I want her in a room now, or I'll go to holding and get my answers there."
Sweets couldn't stop the flash of insecurity he felt. Booth's more intense reactions always left him feeling vulnerable. It wasn't that he feared the agent; Booth would never hurt him, or anyone undeserving. But, those flashes of dark intensity reminded Sweets of just how much damage the agent could do to those who were in need of punishment. He needed to help Booth refocus that passion. "We will get more information if we start with Darrell."
"I thought you said he was a dope, a flunky?"
Sweets bobbed his head to acknowledge his prior assessment. "He is, but that's our advantage. Paisley, I mean Tennant, isn't going to talk. She's a complete psychopath, she doesn't think her actions are wrong and she won't help us convict her. She's too smart and too confident in her superiority to cooperate."
"But the idiot sidekick might let something slip?" Booth asked with understanding.
"Exactly; call it the Gilligan interrogation technique."
Booth's expression appeared both amused and frustrated and he ran a hand through his hair as he tried to adjust his thinking. He looked at his partner without turning his head. "What do you think, Bones?"
"I..." She stumbled to a halt and looked to Sweets with annoyance. "I think in this situation we should trust Dr. Sweets' clinical opinion."
"Score one for soft science," Sweets muttered in a gloat.
Booth sighed. "I'm still going to grill her," he vowed his eyes still holding every ounce of the anger he had been constraining.
"I'm looking forward to it," Sweets agreed with a hint of the same cold anticipation.
Booth moved to the interrogation room door as Sweets stepped back into the observation room, but Brennan's hand on his arm stalled his entry. When his dark eyes met hers she spoke gently. "Are you ok?"
"They are going to pay for all of it, Bones," he promised. "What they did to Sweets, the squints," his voice grew cold and he looked down at her belly as he continued, "taking you, endangering our baby."
"I recognize the list of transgressions, that's not what I asked you."
Booth's smile was weak, but he took true pleasure in seeing her make such a distinction. His hand covered hers where it lay against his arm. "Those three days I spent out there weren't easy, Bones. There were a couple of times I thought I might not make it out. Those seconds when I was clinging to a cliff or staring into the eyes of a hungry mountain lion didn't last long, but they were long enough for me to think I might lose you, that I might never see my baby girl. They were the longest seconds of my life and I'm going to make her pay for that."
Brennan squeezed his arm. She understood exactly how he felt. "Remain rational," she lectured. "We need to hold every advantage."
"Logic is a tactical advantage?" he joked gently.
She sniffed disdainfully. "Of course it is."
Booth felt better. It shouldn't surprise him that Brennan knew exactly what to say, but sometimes the changes in her caught him off guard. "Come on Turner," he ordered the young agent who had just joined them. He stepped into the room and heard Brennan close the door to the observation room at the same time.
Darrell sat at the table and he smiled stupidly at Booth as the two agents took their seats. "Hey there!" he greeted them like old friends.
"Do you care to make a statement before we process you, Mr. Collins?" Booth asked.
Darrell cocked his head. "Huh?"
Turner leaned back casually. "You are in a world of hurt, Darrel. I heard a rumor about a minimum of fifteen charges being leveled against you. A statement offered in cooperation would be a good idea."
"You mean like crimes?"
Booth rolled his eyes. "Yeah, like jail."
Darrell shook his head and smiled. "No, you guys are all mixed up. We didn't do anything illegal."
"You might want to look up the definition of illegal," Turner drawled in answer.
Darrell's head shook again. "You better talk with Amelia. She's smart like you guys, so maybe she can explain it better than I can. But, she said the game wouldn't get us in trouble. It was fun, right?"
Booth's reaction had been uttered in a low growl and Darrell's eyes widened in shock. Brennan's voice echoed in his head reminding him to keep control and Booth leaned across the table. "No, Darrell; it wasn't fun."
It was hours later before Booth finally had the chance to look his enemy in the eye. When he did, she wore a shocked expression. "Booth!" Paisley couldn't help but gasp.
"Agent Booth," he corrected as he dropped into a chair. "I think you remember agent Turner."
"Of course I know Agent Turner," she said giving the other young woman a lukewarm smile. "Lance and I chatted about you a great deal, Claudia. I feel like we are old friends."
"Games' over, Amelia," Booth openly gloated. "We win."
"I don't know what you are talking about."
"Wow, are you sure you want to go with that defense?" Turner mocked.
Paisley's glare at Turner held hate. She did not react well to being ridiculed. "I didn't hurt anyone. I've done nothing wrong."
"You've done plenty wrong," Booth corrected. "And we can prove it. All six of us can identify you."
"Your word against mine."
"Angela's already working to verify it's your voice on the recorder." Booth felt the satisfied smirk that touched his lips and he didn't hide it. It was irritating the hell out of her. "Thought you had that one figured out, didn't you? Sorry, that little Mission Impossible trick didn't work. Your messages won't be erased."
Paisley's lips were drawn in a flat straight line and her eye gave a slight twitch of irritation as she spoke. "You are back early."
"He's very good," Turner assured her. "And you miscalculated. Booth's early emergence from the wilderness means Angela was able to abort the destructive command in your last message. While you were careful to leave no fingerprints you can't alter the frequency of your voice. We will have no trouble convicting you."
"So what? I didn't hurt anyone."
"You are still going away, Darrell gave us enough to make that certain."
The blonde's eyes widened in shock. "He can't be compelled to testify against me. That's the whole reason I married that buffoon!"
"That's a terrible reason to marry someone," Turner scolded.
The door behind Booth opened and Caroline sauntered into the room. Booth cocked an eyebrow in surprise. "We're trying to conduct an interrogation here, Caroline," he noted.
"She's confused," Caroline growled obviously irritated by what she'd seen from the observation room. "I'm here to make it crystal clear." She stood over the table, glaring down at the woman seated there and Paisley seemed to shrink in fear. "Your ass is mine, Chere," she advised.
With a satisfied expression she began to list the charges she had drawn up against the duo. "Six counts of felony kidnapping for taking all team members against their will. Six counts of assault for the administration of drugs. Also, there is one count of conspiracy to kidnap a hunky federal agent," she gestured to Booth, "and one count of assault on that same special agent. One count of attempted murder for the poisoning of Angela Montenegro-Hodgins, one count of fetal abduction and one count of fetal assault for taking Dr. Brennan and giving her drugs that might harm what is sure to be a beautiful baby girl. And let's not forget theft of a corpse and abuse of a corpse for that poor man you stole and forced Dr. Saroyan to examine."
Paisley no longer looked sure of herself and Caroline's voice rang like a clanging jail cell door. "That's nineteen charges that I can make stick like glue. I guarantee you won't ever be attending another social function. Ever."
Paisley coolly assessed the woman standing over her and then turned her eyes to the mirrored glass where she obviously expected someone was watching. She remained silent as her gaze returned to Booth and Turner and gave them a smile that would have appeared genuine to anyone unaware of her mental condition. To an untrained eye she appeared a warm, beautiful girl with a sweet smile. "I think they should have included her in the documentary," she complimented Caroline.
"So you could have taken her too?" Booth sneered.
"Because she is worthy," Paisley corrected. "I should really complain to the filmmakers though, they simply didn't do you justice."
Five Weeks Later
Jack swung the car door shut as he shouldered the bag. "Be careful," he said as he hurried after Angela, "there's a puddle there." His hands touched her back and he applied gentle pressure to guide her around the obstacle. "It's kind of windy, do we need another blanket?"
He was rummaging in the bag before Angela could answer. "Jack, it's two more feet to the door. We don't need a blanket."
"Right," Hodgins agreed. Abandoning his search for another layer of blanket he jumped toward the door. "I'll get it."
Angela's chuckle was light and filled with happiness. "Thank you, Honey."
"Watch her head!" Jack warned as Angela cleared the threshold without coming anywhere near the frame or door.
"Do you want to carry her?" Angela asked.
"Yeah, maybe I should," he quickly agreed. Dropping the bag he gently removed the baby from his wife's arms. His nervous energy immediately evaporated and he stared down at the baby's sleeping face with an amazed smile. "She's so little."
"You've said that every day since we first met her," Angela chuckled as she scooped up the diaper bag.
"It's true." He followed her into the elevator. "She's beautiful too," he added before pressing a kiss to the little head nestled on his arm.
Angela leaned against him as she also stared at the little girl. "She is, isn't she?"
"How many more do you want?" Jack asked. "Because we can have as many as you want."
"Lots." The doors parted on their floor and they stepped out. "How about we get a half dozen or so and I'll let you know."
The door to their apartment opened before they could enter and loud applause from inside greeted them. "Welcome home," Brennan said as she stepped aside for them to enter.
The newly expanded Hodgins family was welcomed by the entire team, including Brennan's squinterns, and was quickly surrounded. Jack's protectiveness once again kicked into overdrive and he clutched the baby to his chest. "Everyone needs to back up," he ordered.
"Jack, she won't break," Angela scolded as she took the baby from him. "Everyone, we'd like for you to meet Elyssa Grace Hodgins."
The child in her arms opened her eyes and Angela held her up. Two sparkling blue eyes surveyed the smiling faces around her. One tiny hand reached for Angela, clutching at the safety of someone she was learning to trust. Angela soothed her. "It's ok," she cooed. "This is your family."
"Angela, she is even more beautiful than the pictures you sent," Cam said as she hitched up her hold on a squirming Macon, who was trying to reach the little girl.
"She's very small for eighteen months," Brennan noted. Her tone held only a hint of her usual clinical assessment of fact and she smiled as she continued. "But, she is adorable."
"I know," Angela agreed, clearly in love with the tiny child she held.
"How was the trip?" Booth asked after giving Hodgins his congratulations.
"Russian bureaucracy is a nightmare," Jack answered. "But, once we were on the plane everything went smoothly. Ellie is a champ at traveling," he added looking with pride at the little girl who had suddenly become the center of his world.
The questions continued until every detail of the weeks of their trip was shared. Ellie was soon comfortable, sensing the love and warmth that filled the room, and she squirmed. Angela set her on her feet and Cam did the same with an eager Macon. While the little girl was approximately the same age as Cam's son she was quite a bit smaller and Macon approached her slowly.
"Baby," he said looking to Cam as he patted Ellie's arm.
"That's Ellie," Cam reminded him. "She's going to be your new friend."
That seemed to be all the information he required and Macon turned to toddle over to the toys his mother had brought along for his entertainment. There were smiles all around as Ellie followed.
"Congratulations, Dr. Hodgins," Vincent said as he and Finn neared.
"You are gonna have to be careful now, Thurston," Finn asked with a sly grin. "Bein' a daddy an all, you probably need to let me an' ol' Vincent here do most of the experiments for Dr. Brennan."
"Opie, you wouldn't know how to conduct a good experiment without me," Jack immediately shot back.
"Are we doing an experiment?" Wendell asked eagerly as he joined them. "It's been a boring month. I'm ready to blow something up."
"Boring, huh?" Jack asked. "So things didn't work out with Molly?"
Wendell actually blushed a little and Jack chuckled. "No, things there are just fine," Wendell assured him.
Vincent turned to look at the newest addition to the intern staff as she listened to Angela's description of the adoption process. "I have often found the quiet ones hold the best surprises," he said.
Wendell punched him for looking. "You have no idea," he happily confirmed.
Claudia slanted a glance at Lance. He appeared focused on the road ahead of them, skillfully navigating the traffic home from the Hodgins' condo, but she was pretty sure his mind was a million miles away. He'd been quieter than usual the last day or so. It didn't seem like a bad quiet, necessarily, but he was distracted by something. When she'd asked, though, he'd only smiled.
She knew her guy. He'd tell her when he was ready. "That little girl's going to be a handful."
"Hmm? Oh, Elyssa?" He smiled. "Yeah, she's going to keep Angela and Hodgins busy."
They resumed their companionable silence, Claudia still thinking about the Hodgins' little girl. Things had changed so much for the team since she'd joined them, especially on the baby front. Dr. Saroyan with Macon, now Elyssa and then the baby Dr. Brennan would be giving birth to before long…Claudia had never really thought about kids. She'd been too busy with school, getting her career started and becoming the best possible agent. Still plenty of time there, she mused. Certainly no hurry on the motherhood front. But watching three women she respected – and their partners – manage relationships, parenthood, and demanding careers would be interesting, and educational, to watch.
Lance was still quiet as they arrived at their place and parked. But his hand was a reassuring weight at her lower back as they started up the walk, and he smiled at her as she unlocked the door.
They settled into their cozy apartment for the evening, Claudia more content than she could ever remember being before. Their friends were happy; Amelia Tenant was no longer a factor in their lives, and Lance… She watched him come into the living room, aware that as much as the rest of it mattered, he was the best part of all that was right in her life.
He settled next to her on the couch. "Claude…"
Ah. He was going to tell her what was going on in that busy head of his. She smiled. "What's up, Dr. Sweets?"
His expression was thoughtful, intense, as he took her hand. "You have been my trusted right arm," he began. "You have kept my course true and steady. You have been my guide and my conscience. You have helped me recognize the better parts of myself. You are my family."
Her heart had started to pound in a hard, jumpy rhythm. "Are you reciting Captain Picard's wedding toast from Riker and Troi's wedding in Star Trek: Nemesis?"
His gaze was steady. "Because it's true. Marry me, Claude."
She'd thought nothing could improve on her contentment, and she'd been wrong. He was all those things for her, too, and there would be nothing more perfect than telling him so in front of all their friends and family.
As a little girl, she'd often wondered what it would be like, what it would feel like, to have the man she loved proposing to her. It turned out to be the most amazing thing in the world. She entwined their fingers. "Make it so."
His grin split his face when he leaned over to kiss her.
"Son of a..." Booth swore and promptly shoved his knuckle into his mouth to sooth away the sting. He checked the injury, but despite feeling as if his hide had been ripped off there was no visible damage. That seemed unfair, if he had to endure the pain there ought to at least be blood. "It has to fit," he grumbled as he glared accusingly at the wooden frame he was constructing.
"Do you need help?" Brennan asked solicitously.
Booth scowled at the mobile that was quickly taking shape as she fit the pieces together. "No." He turned his back on her and again picked up the piece he was trying to attach to the crib. He barked a quick "ha!" as it slid into place, but when the next piece did not do the same he cursed again.
"Booth, are you certain you would not like some assistance?"
"It's a crib, Bones. It's a one-man job. Last I checked, I was the man."
"You are definitely the man," she agreed. "But I do not believe there is a gender requirement for assembly of that furniture."
"I've got it."
"Your cursing would imply otherwise," she noted factually. "Trading tasks would alleviate the impasse you are experiencing with the crib assembly."
"Bones, what part of 'I got it' do you not understand? Plus," he added. "I'm not putting together that ugly mobile."
"The patterns are designed for cognitive development, Booth. The one you liked, with cute monkeys, did nothing for her mental acuity."
"Monkeys are supposed to be cute. You know what, Bones? You just stick to the picture mobile and I'll handle the bed."
Brennan didn't understand why this was so important to him, but he obviously associated the assembly of this particular piece of furniture with his personal virility, and she loved him enough to accept that. Her attention returned to her own work and in only a few minutes she was done. She held up the mobile to admire it, and was about to call Booth's attention to her accomplishment when he cursed again. Deciding now was not the time to display her success she set the mobile down and relaxed into her chair.
There was a peacefulness in this room, and happiness. The yellow walls were cheerful and the soft peach and white decor was very soothing. She watched Booth's back as he worked, his shoulders flexing and his biceps bulging beneath his t-shirt as he worked. Her gaze traveled around the room, taking in all the preparations they had made for this room, for their baby. This was their house, their life, and she could not believe how perfect it felt. The baby moved and she lay her hand on her abdomen enjoying the sensation of the baby's stretch against the increasingly confining space. Brennan had learned that she had little control over her mental state during pregnancy, but the wave of emotion that caught her was completely unexpected. The moment seemed perfect, special and yet completely ordinary and she was unable to process how lucky she felt. How happy this all made her.
Booth sensed something, or maybe he was only turning to tell her he finally had the crib figured out, and he immediately moved to her. "Hey, Bones, what's wrong?" he asked as he knelt next to her chair.
"Nothing is wrong," she promised as she wiped her eyes. She laughed softly at her foolishness and reached for his hand. "I'm crying because I'm happy."
Booth moved closer offering her a hug and she gladly leaned into him. "I'm very happy, Booth," she promised as he held her tight.
"Me too, Bones."
They were quiet for a moment and when Brennan lifted her head and surveyed the room he followed her gaze. Tears still brimming, but contained in her eyes, Brennan smiled at the man she loved. "We are ready for her."
"I can't wait," Booth answered and then dropped a kiss to her nose. "I can't wait."
The Bonesology Writers Collective
Brainysmrfs (Mary) – Executive Producer/Writer
ValiumSofa (Julie) – Executive Producer/Writer Wrangler/Proofreader
NatesMama (Jen) – Executive Producer/Writer
Squinttoyou (Sara) – Executive Producer/Writer
Rynogeny (Cindee) – Writer
Stayuff (Stephanie) – Writer
Thnx4thegum (Heather) – Writer
GCatsPjs (Colleen) – Writer
Laffers (Kirsty) – Special Consultant
The Bonesology Collective would like to thank all of you who read and reviewed this last season. Your comments and enthusiasm for our project helped immensely as we worked on producing each episode.
I personally would like to thank my writers for telling these stories I dreamt up in a way that far surpassed my original ideas. Week after week, I was blown away by your work – you are among the best I've read in fanfiction and I am so proud and honored that you chose to work on this project.
On a more personal note, I would like to thank my fellow producers. It is so rare in this world to find one person you can connect with let alone three of them and each of you ladies have brought something special and amazing to my life. I am humbled by your talent, your patience and your wisdom. Thank you for teaching me what I was too old not to know but not too young to appreciate and that was what real, true friendship is.