Author's Note: Thank you all for your very kind reviews! I've never tackled a multi-chapter fic like this before and the feedback is incredibly helpful. Also, I know this chapter may seem a little slow, but I swear I have a plan, I just need to get the foundation down first!
Pelant had been in their house. Their home. His daughter's room.
If there had been any ounce of doubt in Booth's mind about Bones' decision to run with Christine, it was completely eradicated by 15 seconds of video.
Booth hadn't been home in a few days. The day after he watched his family drive off into the setting sun, Booth forced himself off Christine's sofa, dressed, and went back to work. He didn't see the point in staying home on unpaid suspension when there was no one left there to protect. But once he arrived at the Hoover, he found that he was unable to leave. The same dread of returning to a silent, empty house that had kept him cemented to the church steps that first night returned full force and this time won out. So for two nights Booth dozed fitfully on his office couch until finally Caroline and her booming voice proclaimed that he was stinking up the building and forced him home. He had to admit, even his FBI tail seemed grateful for the change of scenery.
And so it was that on night four Booth found himself once again pacing the halls of his dark and barren home. He still could not bring himself to sleep in their bed alone and even Christine's room held no comfort once the batteries in her mobile finally worn down after hours of continuous use. Finally growing weary of passing from one empty room to the next, he settled himself at the kitchen table, an opened but untouched beer sweating in front of him. He swore he could hear Bones' voice telling him to get up and get a damn coaster to protect their brand new cherry wood table as he absently picked at the damp label. He reached for Brennan's laptop, having been downloaded and abandoned by the FBI forensic team days earlier. Booth activated the video card, feeling foolish knowing that his daughter was not asleep in her crib at the other end of the camera's lens, but desperate to see her sleeping face one more time. He briefly thanked Bones' childcare paranoia which had made her install nanny-cam software to retain the last few days of footage on the computer's hard drive. The night-darkened image of his sleeping little girl flooded the screen and Booth let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. There she was, silently sucking her pacifier, blanket clutched tightly in her teeny right fist. For just a moment he allowed himself to imagine that it was real, that she was safe and home just one floor above him.
He fast forwarded through the footage, hoping to get a glimpse of Brennan as well to trick his mind into relaxing just a bit so he could sleep tonight. Instead he found Pelant.
Pelant was standing in his daughter's room, grinning directly at the camera. It was just a few seconds of footage and Booth scrambled to pause the video but he was too slow. Damning his own technological incompetence, he tried desperately to rewind and find the bastard again. But the software froze, giving off a series of beeps before crashing the computer completely. He jammed his finger at the power button, trying to get the image back but knew it was too late. Pelant knew what he was doing when he posed for that mug shot, taunting Booth and knowing full well he could ensure that the evidence would not survive long enough for anyone else to witness.
He muttered a curse under his breath before grabbing for his cell phone to call Angela. It was too late to call, but he had to try anyway. Even though he was sure Pelant had guaranteed the footage would be irretrievable he knew at the very least Angela would believe what he had witnessed, a minor comfort but a valuable one at a time when he was feeling so very alone. And if the FBI happened to overhear the conversation, gain a little motivation to resume tailing Pelant, so be it.
"Booth?" Her alert voice answering on the first ring indicated that she hadn't been anywhere near asleep either.
"He was here!" Booth could barely get the words out around his anger.
"Who? Who was where?"
"Pelant. He was in my house! In Christine's, in her bedroom." The last few words were exhaled through gritted teeth as he ascended the stairs to see the scene of the crime for himself.
"When? Now?" Angela was already tumbling out of bed and pulling her shoes on, trying to remember where she left her car keys. What she was going to do upon arriving at the house that a fully armed federal agent wasn't already capable of, she had no idea. But hearing the sound, the rage in his voice, she couldn't just sit idle in the safety of her own home.
"No, I don't know, a few days ago maybe, I couldn't… the video is gone. Of course. I have no proof. But he was there on the nanny-cam, in her room." He now stood in the center of the baby's room, mimicking Pelant's stance looking up and directly into the camera.
"Maybe it's not too late. I can try to retrieve the footage, maybe it was backed up somewhere."
"Angela…" he voice broke again, knowing his friend meant well, but suddenly so tired and unwilling to allow himself to hope.
"You wouldn't have called at three in the morning if you didn't want me to try, Booth. I'm on my way, FBI surveillance and Cam's rules be damned."
He gave a sarcastic laugh, "There's nothing for them to learn from us anyway, for us to be conspiring about, we have nothing."
"Booth, maybe now we have something. I'm getting pretty good at this hacking thing." She was now fully dressed and violently shaking Hodgins' shoulder to wake him to watch out for Michael. "Maybe, maybe you should come here. Bring Bren's laptop. Who knows what else he did while he was in the house." Now she was getting frantic as the multitude of possibilities for Pelant's visit ran through her mind. "He could have planted a bomb or something! Booth, get out!"
Booth had already reached a similar conclusion but instead of leaving began rapidly re-destroying Christine's room, pulling stuffed animals and books from the bookcase to locate anything that Pelant may have planted, any reason for him to be in the baby's room.
"The FBI already went through this whole place, after Pelant was here. You don't think they would have found an explosive if he planted one?"
"The FBI wasn't looking for bombs, Booth! They were looking for evidence, evidence of Bren's guilt. Get out of there now, or I'm coming over to drag you out. And if we both blow up, Brennan will never forgive you."
"Pelant's not an explosives guy, Ange. Too low tech." He had emptied the bookcase completely and began flipping over the shelves themselves.
Angela considered his argument for a moment, before shooting it down. "We don't know what Pelant is. We don't know what or who he wants, or what his motive is. We don't know anything for certain at this point."
Booth was rapidly losing speed in his search, the energy borne from fear and anger depleting as helplessness took over. His gut said that Angela was right though. Now that Pelant was truly free and had access to all his toys, who could say what he would do? And breaking into their house, overriding their private security system didn't exactly lend itself to positive motives.
"Booth?" Angela prompted and Booth knew he had been silent too long for her comfort.
"Yeah," he leaned back against the door jam and closed his eyes in defeat.
"Come sleep here tonight. We'll get our own security team to go through the house with a fine tooth comb first thing in the morning, I promise. Just please, get in your car and come stay here. Hodgins will bring you breakfast in bed tomorrow…" Angela tried to lighten the situation just for a moment, anything to convince him to get out of the house. She had no way of making sure that Brennan or Christine was safe tonight, but if she could keep at least Booth safe for just a few hours…
He gave a short, wry laugh. "Alright, you win. But, Bugman better be wearing pants."
Booth had to admit it was one of the better nights' sleep than he had had in recent days. Despite having lived alone the majority of his life, he had quickly become accustomed to the voices and creaks and people that usually filled his new home with Bones. Spending the night in Angela's and Hodgins' guest room, he could almost ignore the feeling of their foreign sheets against his skin and the strange smell of their laundry detergent flooding his nose if he instead concentrated on the sounds. He had allowed the creaking of their foundation settling, the just barely noticeable buzz of Michael's baby monitor to lull his sleepy mind into a false sense of being safe in his own home with his own family.
Of course, the comfort was short lived. Only shortly after eight Michael's cries brought him back to full consciousness. His sleep addled mind was slow to process that there was no monitor by his bedside to silence, and no Brennan to kick awake to debate whose turn it was to get Christine.
He finally stumbled to the kitchen to find Angela with Michael tucked under one arm, bouncing him into submission while simultaneously trying to hack Brennan's laptop which was propped up on the kitchen island.
"Morning," she greeted him apologetically, acknowledging that it was Michael who had awoken him. "There's coffee in the pot."
He nodded and turned to pour himself a mug, only then noting with surprise the time on the microwave. "I didn't realize it was so late."
"Well, we've all been burning the midnight oil, I didn't have the heart to wake you. Could have used a few more hours myself but little man was not on board with that plan."
"I'm sorry, I'm sure my melodramatic late night call didn't help anyone's sleep patterns."
"Don't. Don't apologize." Angela slammed the lid of the computer closed, startling both him and Michael. "She is my best friend, and you are both my family. But ever since she left we've all been operating like… like independent contractors! And we can't keep working like this if we're going to bring everyone home. Our little team only works when we work together. Cam was right to keep us apart in the beginning, but now, Bren's gone and we have no evidence even if we wanted to be her accomplices. The FBI can watch us all they want, record every conversation we have and all it will prove is that we are running this investigation by the book. So from now on we do this together."
Booth was too stunned to respond. He knew Angela wasn't having any easier of a time than himself with Brennan gone, and she was right, throwing his own words right back at him. Take any one of them out of the equation and what happens? Especially when they were already down one very central player. He lowered his eyes in submission before nodding in agreement.
"Good." She settled Michael into his high chair and returned to pulling the data from Brennan's computer. "Now, finish your coffee and go home. I gave Hodgins' the keys to your house and I take no responsibility for whatever damages he and his super secret security team are currently inflicting."