The doorbell rings. An irrational part of him hopes, as it does every time the phone rings or the post arrives or the house creaks that it'll be Brennan, standing on the doorstep holding Christine in her arms. As usual, it's not. Somewhat unusually, it's Rebecca. He can think of only a few times she visited him since they moved into the house, and that was only to drop Parker off or pick Parker up.
"Hey," she says with pity in her voice. He can't stand people pitying him, but there's no way he can avoid it and since he pities himself he can't really blame her for it.
Booth blinks, trying to regain a semblance of normal. "Rebecca. Come in," he says.
"I stopped by to give you this." She gestures to the casserole dish in her hands. "I guessed you weren't eating much and Parker told me you weren't doing so well."
Booth instantly feels guilty as he leads her into the sitting room. "Oh. I- I'm sorry, Rebecca. I didn't want this to affect him."
"Seeley. His step mom and little sister are missing-of course it's going to affect him." Hearing Rebecca refer to Brennan as Parker's step mom is a momentary shock, and in other circumstances Booth would have been amazed and grateful that Rebecca was so accepting of the situation. He distinctly remembers digging his heels in when Rebecca's boyfriends tried to get close to Parker in the past. But he just can't sum up the energy. Rebecca sits down in the chair opposite him. "How are you doing?"
Booth doesn't know how to explain his current situation; puttering around the too-large house waiting for something (anything) to happen. "I'm not used to feeling this… helpless," he murmurs dolefully, staring at his hands. "I'm not allowed to go to the Hoover, and Caroline told me to stay away from the Jeffersonian so the rest of the squints don't get taken off the case as well. They think I'll tamper with the evidence." He lets out a bitter laugh.
"Would you tamper with evidence?" Rebecca asks wonderingly.
Booth imagines the hypothetical: sneaking into Angela's office in the dead of night and burning the security tapes, and then calling in a favour off someone to give him a credible alibi. For someone who makes a career of upholding the law and prides himself on living his life by every letter of it, the idea is shockingly easy to envision. "Right now," he concedes. "There isn't much I wouldn't do to get Bones and Christine back."
"You will," she tells him reassuringly.
He will, he knows that. Pelant isn't God, he'll have made a mistake somewhere and the squints will find it. What worries him is how long it'll take-every time he sees a dark-haired woman with a pram on the street his heart jumps. What happens when the month passes, and there's still nothing solid to pin on Pelant? Or God forbid, when he has to spend what should have been their first Christmas as a family in this big empty house? The very thought is abhorrant. With two beautiful children and the woman he's loved for so long in love with him, he hasn't worried about the future much in the last few months but now it's all up in the air. It's terrifying.
"I'm gonna heat this up for you, and I'm staying to make sure you eat some of it," Rebecca tells him, standing up. "You'll need your strength to hold your baby girl when she and Temperance come home."
That mental image alone is enough to make him forget for a moment and he smiles properly for what feels like the first time in weeks.