Author's Note: I am so excited to post this new multi-chapter Bones fic! Even better, it's completely finished, which means it will roll out on a regular posting schedule of M, W, F for the next several weeks. I don't own Bones, of course, but you all knew that already, right?
I have to thank a few people (you know how this goes) because without them, this story would NOT exist anywhere but in my head. So thanks to RositaLG, for her feedback and error catching, but mostly for her unwavering support. Thanks also to my Tweeps, because they were more helpful and encouraging than anyone could ever know. But special, Sweets style mega thanks to jadedrepartee. I ate her life with this fic, pretty much every single night (and some days) for MONTHS. She's been on this ride with me since I said "So, I have this idea..." and her support has never, ever, faltered. Thanks, Friend.
This one is for The Hamlet.
Here we go.
Brennan didn't care much for book signings, Booth even less so. While she wasn't a fan of all the public interaction and phony niceties, Booth's concern was one of safety. Although bookstores or her publicist would often hire a security guard or two, Booth tried, as often as he could, to go with her.
This particular book signing at a large local bookstore was no different than most. There were about 100 people, Booth estimated, all waiting patiently in line for his partner to sign their copy of her latest bestseller. He eyed the excitedly buzzing crowd, but saw no one suspicious so he diverted his gaze to his daughter sleeping in her stroller and his son, who was pushing the stroller up one aisle of books and down another.
"Hey Parks, you don't have to do that. She'll sleep even if you stop."
"I'm just upping my pedometer count, Dad."
"I don't think that's the point of the assignment."
"We're supposed to track our daily steps for two weeks. Mrs. Lafferty says if we have more than 100,000 steps we get extra credit." He zoomed around the corner of Self Help and came out near Psychology. "I'm just trying to get extra credit."
"How many steps a day are you supposed to have?"
"Between 8,000 and 10,000 for an ideal activity level." Parker parroted his teacher as he rounded another corner.
"You're an active kid; you'll probably make that without pushing your sister around the aisles of a bookstore. Come over here before you take someone's ankles out." Booth ordered as he watched a near stroller-to-customer collision.
"How much longer are we going to be here?" Parker plopped down in a chair next to where his father stood, once again surveying the crowd.
"Not long. She's more than halfway through and she's pretty fast at this now."
"Why'd we have to come? This is way boring."
"Well, normally, I wouldn't bring you or Hadley, but Angela got sick and your mom had a thing, so-"
"Was it a date?"
"She didn't say that, but the point is, that's why you're here."
"Ugh!" The twelve year old slumped further in his chair and Booth briefly regretted telling him to stop running in circles. At least he'd been entertained.
"You know, we're in a store full of books. Go read something."
"Can I go over there?" Parker pointed to a reading nook.
"Just stay where I can see you."
"I'm not a little kid anymore, Dad. You don't have to worry all the time."
"Yeah, well, learn to live with it, alright? Stay where I can see you."
"Fine." Parker shuffled off to find something to read, Hadley slept on and Booth turned his eyes to his partner.
He was always amazed when he watched her at interact with her fans. She was accommodating and kind, often not only signing books, but posing for pictures. She moved with grace, making eye contact with each fan, thanking them for coming, her hand penning each dedication with flourish. She smiled warmly for photos and he knew that only he could see that she was getting tired.
Hadley shifted restlessly in her stroller and Booth began to roll it back and forth, lulling her back to sleep as he craned his neck to see Parker. The curse of his line of work was never being able to relax about safety, especially when it came to the people he loved.
Once he was sure that Parker was happily (and safely) engrossed in a graphic novel, he scanned the bookstore again, looking, as always, for anything out of place or anyone who made his gut twinge. Seeing nothing and no one that gave him pause, he looked back to the table to discover she was signing her next to last book.
When she was finished, she thanked the stragglers who remained for coming and her publicist and a bookstore employee escorted her to a back room while the final fans cleared out.
Booth swung the stroller in Parker's direction. "You ready?"
"Excuse me?" Booth arched his eyebrows.
"I mean, yes. I'm ready."
"You watch your language."
Booth shook his head and walked on, silently wishing Parker could just have stayed little as his son straggled behind him.
They found the bookstore break room and Brennan's publicist, an all-business type woman named Celia, waved them in.
"Hey, Bones. You did great!" Booth greeted her.
"The reading did go rather well. They were a particularly receptive audience." She smiled at Parker. "Did you enjoy it Parker?"
"The reading part was cool. The rest of it was kind of boring." He answered honestly, but then brightened. "But I added hundreds of steps to my pedometer project pushing Hadley around!"
"Well it looks like you did a good job of getting her to sleep. It's well past her bedtime." She stood. "Shall we go?"
"Yeah, let me just do a last sweep."
"Agent Booth, I can assure you the security I hired has made sure there aren't any lurkers. It's perfectly safe." Celia was always offended that Booth didn't trust her security choices. And Booth never cared.
"Yeah, well, after that time in Maryland, I'll take a second look, thanks."
"You are being needlessly over protective." Brennan reprimanded him gently.
"Security didn't handle that nut in the parking lot in Baltimore, so I sure as hell don't trust them to do it now."
"He was just an over eager fan." Brennan rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, that time. What about next time?" Booth shook his head. "That's why I'm here; so there isn't a next time. Be right back."
He walked the perimeter of the bookstore, scanning for anyone left from the book signing. Seeing no one, he went outside to check the parking lot and the exterior of the building for lurkers. Satisfied, he went to retrieve his family.
"All clear." He announced cheerfully.
"You are so paranoid, Dad."
"Yeah, well, it's the nature of the job, Buddy. Who's ready to go home?"
"I am. We need to get Hadley in bed." Brennan collected her bag and Hadley's diaper bag, then took hold of the stroller, aiming it towards the exit.
They said goodbye to Celia and the bookstore manager and made their way out to their car.
Brennan popped Hadley's seat into its base in the backseat as Parker scrambled in on the other side, while Booth collapsed the stroller and stashed it in the trunk. Once everyone was settled and belted in and they were on their way, Booth started to relax.
Brennan watched as his shoulders loosened a little and his jaw began to unclench. She noticed when he stopped checking the rearview mirror.
"You worry too much."
"That's my job."
"As an FBI agent?"
"And as the guy who loves you."
She smiled indulgently. "That's very sweet, but unnecessary."
"Well, like I told Parker, you can learn to live with it."
"By and large, I have." Hadley let out a fussy cry from her car seat. "Is her cow in her bag?" She asked Booth.
"Yeah. I stuck it in there earlier."
"Is this it?" Parker held up a small animal he'd fished out of the diaper bag
"No," Booth looked at Parker in the rear view mirror. "Try the front pocket."
Parker dug around a moment longer before finding his sister's lovey. "Here you go, Hadley." He said sweetly as her tiny hands grasped her favorite toy.
Brennan smiled at the way Parker spoke to the baby. She was well aware of all the pitfalls that could come with half siblings and was always quite thankful that Parker and Hadley adored one another.
"Here, Bones. I think this is yours. It fell out when I was taking out the cow." Parker leaned forward and handed Brennan a scrap of paper, no bigger than an index card.
Booth caught Brennan's frown as she took the paper and read it. "What? What is it?"
"I…I don't know where this came from. I've never seen it before." Carefully, she moved her fingers so that she was only holding it by its most outward edges.
Booth pulled up to a light and looked over at the paper.
"You have 2 beautiful children, Temperance. The little 1 has your eyes."
And just like that, Booth's guard was up again.