I wasn't planning to start another fic right now but I couldn't resist weighing in on the season finale. I was, however, a bit apprehensive about posting after seeing all the Brennan-hate out there. Please rest assured that while this chapter is written exclusively from Booth's POV, this fic is by no means anti-Brennan (or anti-Booth or anti-anyone except Pelant). That said, I would appreciate it if people kept their character-bashing comments to a minimum. Unless of course you want to bash Pelant: in which case, bash away!
Booth glanced from the picture in his hand to the weathered beach cottage in front of him. He hoped this was the place. Three months' of searching and it all came down to this.
There were no signs of life inside or outside of the house. He got out of the car, and tucking the photo back inside the pocket of his leather jacket, began the steep descent down the grassy hill that concealed it from the main road.
Just as he would have expected, there was no car in the drive; no clothes on the clothesline; no toys or beach gear on the dilapidated porch. The drapes were tightly drawn over the windows. To anyone passing by, it would appear as if no one lived there. Maybe they didn't, but he needed to be sure.
He rapped softly on the door.
"Dad?" a woman's voice called from somewhere inside. "Did you forget your—?" The drapes shifted and he was met with the welcome sight of Brennan's stunned blue eyes staring back at him. Her lips formed the shape of his name and she staggered backwards as though she had just seen a ghost.
He felt as if he had. She was thinner than she had been the last time he saw her, having shed her remaining baby weight and then some, and her hair was longer – not to mention bottle blonde – but underneath it all she was still his Bones.
She vanished from the window, and seconds later he heard a series of clicks as she unlocked the door. "What are you doing here?" she demanded, her eyes darting up to the road to make sure that he was alone.
He didn't wait for her to invite him in, pushing past her into the house. "What am I doing here?" he countered, slamming it shut behind him. He wasn't sure if he wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her in his relief at seeing that she was safe, or lash out at her for making him worry about her safety in the first place. "Bones, skipping out on an arrest warrant is a serious crime."
"So you came to take me back?" she finished in a resigned tone, folding her arms over her chest as though she didn't know what else to do with them.
She was always so damn rational. Too rational. How could she even think that that was an option for him? That he could send the woman he loved – the mother of his child – to prison to rot even if she had been guilty of the things they were accusing her of?
"I came because being alone in the house we bought together is torture," he corrected her, taking a perverse kind of pleasure in the pain that flickered across her expression. How dare she decide what he was or wasn't capable of. She did that before and look how well it worked out for them. "Every morning I wake up and I go into Christine's room and I just stare at her empty crib, and all I can think is that she should be there. She should be at home, with her family. Her whole family."
Her expression softened, becoming sad. "If I go home, Booth…" She trailed off, unwilling or unable to finish.
He couldn't bear the thought of her in prison either. "I know," he agreed. "Your dad already explained. That's why I came to you."
"How did you even find us?" she asked him. If he knew her father, the one time criminal would have gone to great lengths to make sure that he couldn't.
"I remembered you and your dad talking about a vacation you took one summer before your parents disappeared. How you drove all the way from one coast to the other." Booth pulled the faded photograph out of his pocket and handed it to her. "I found this in a box in the attic."
In the picture, a little girl and preteen boy were building a sandcastle down the beach from a small blue and white New England-style cottage: the same cottage they were standing in now. Brennan turned it over. On the back, in her mother's neat hand, was the inscription 'Russ and Temperance, Maine, July '85'. "I haven't seen this in years."
"I wasn't sure you would be here but I figured it was worth a shot," Booth finished, pleased with himself for thinking like Max. He should have known he would never be able to keep Booth away. Not if he was determined to find them. "Turns out I was right. How's that for proof that sometimes it pays to go with your gut?"
Brennan set the picture down on the arm of the couch."Booth," she breathed, her voice coming out soft and urgent. "I missed you too but you can't be here. If the FBI finds out—"
Right now, he didn't care. "Screw the FBI." He caught her by the waist and kissed her, hard.
She tensed in his grip, and for a brief moment, he was afraid she was going to push him away, but then to his relief he felt her melt under his touch, becoming soft and pliant in his arms. How he had missed this. How he had missed her.
"You have to go home," she gasped when they finally broke for air, resting her forehead against his. "Please, Booth."
"You are my home," he told her, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "You and Christine." He wasn't leaving unless they were with him.
The mention of their daughter's name seemed to break the stalemate between them. "She should be awake soon," Brennan told him. "Would you like to see her?"
"Are you kidding?" he agreed, releasing his hold on her
Her grin matched his as she laced their fingers together, leading him up a narrow staircase to a tiny bedroom on the second floor. Beneath the attic window was a portable crib; inside, the now six-month-old baby lay quietly alert, sucking on her dainty toes.
Booth found himself holding back as Brennan walked over to the window and opened the drapes to let the sun in. Would his daughter even remember him? He had been absent for almost half of her life.
"Good afternoon, Christine," Brennan cooed, scooping the little girl up out of her crib. "Did you enjoy your nap?" She chuckled at the baby's answering gurgle, turning so that they were facing Booth. "Look who came to see you while you were asleep. Can you say 'dada'?"
A lump caught in Booth's throat when their daughter babbled something that sounded suspiciously like his name. "Hi, bugaboo," he murmured as Brennan transferred her carefully into his arms, kissing the top of her fuzzy auburn head. "Daddy missed you." He glanced from the baby to Brennan, who was watching them with tears rolling down her cheeks. "And Mommy, of course," he added, flashing her a watery smile before his gaze was drawn back down to their daughter. "She's gotten so big."
"She can support her own weight now if I sit her up," Brennan told him, wiping her eyes with the heel of her palm. "She can't crawl yet but she rolls."
Booth was so surprised by her description that he let out a loud spluttering laugh. "She rolls?" he repeated, staring down at the baby in amazement.
Brennan nodded, radiating pride at their daughter's ingenuity. "One time she almost made it to the kitchen before I figured out what she was doing."
"I wish I could've seen the look on your face when you realised you were outsmarted by your own daughter," Booth teased her, the words coming out more wistful than he intended. When he first learned that he was going to be a father again, he vowed that everything would be different the second time around, and yet here he was missing more milestones that he would never get back. It wasn't fair. None of it was.
Brennan's smile faded and she looked like she might start crying again. "You have every reason to hate me, Booth."
He had felt a lot of things towards her since she left him outside the church but that was never one of them. "What makes you think I hate you?"
"I did the one thing I promised I would never do to you. I took your child away from you."
It was so long since the three of them had been together like this; Booth was reluctant to ruin their reunion by bringing up the man who had destroyed all of their lives, but he couldn't let Brennan beat herself up for making what she believed was her only choice at the time. "Pelant was in our house."
Brennan sucked in a sharp breath. "When?"
He had been asking himself the same thing. "It must have been while we were getting Christine baptised."
"Did he take anything?"
"Not as far as I could tell."
"Then how do you know it was him?" she pressed.
Fury surged inside of Booth. Not a day went by where he didn't fantasise about beating that bastard's door down and snapping his weasely little neck. "He switched our alarm clock," he explained. "I sent the new one in to Explosives for testing and they said it was an IED. They also found a remote in our house but I'm guessing there's another one. Pelant's lawyer is claiming that you could've built it, as insurance in case the bureau sent agents out to arrest you."
The colour drained from Brennan's face as the implication behind this new accusation sunk in. "That doesn't make any sense. I could never hurt you or Christine."
"I know that, Bones," he assured her, wrapping his free arm around her and giving her shoulders a comforting squeeze. "So no, I don't hate you for leaving and taking our daughter, because there's no telling what that sick son of a bitch would have done to her if you hadn't gotten her out of there when you did." As hard as it was to be without the two women he loved most in the world, he thanked God every day that they were out of Pelant's reach.
Brennan shifted her gaze back down to Christine, fresh tears forming in her eyes. "He could have killed her, Booth," she whispered, placing a protective hand on the baby's back.
"He could have killed all of us." It was that thought that kept him awake most nights. He wasn't as smart as Pelant. He would never be able to beat him at his own game.
Brennan's head came to rest of his shoulder. "What are we going to do?" she asked, still watching their daughter.
"We're not gonna let him change us. Isn't that what we agreed?"
"He already has," she reminded him. "He split us up. That's never happened before. Not since Christine."
"And it's never happening again," he assured her. "He doesn't have to win this, Bones. There's still a way we can all be together."
She lifted her head to look at him. "No, Booth," she said, shaking it alarm. "You can't."
"Don't argue with me, Bones," he insisted. He was tired of people making decisions for him. It was time she listened to what he wanted. What he needed. "I get why you did what you did – if I was in your shoes, I probably would have done the same thing – but you and me, we're partners, okay? Wherever you go, I go. So from now on, if you're running, I'm running with you."
For the record, this is pure speculation. I have no idea what Pelant did to that alarm clock.