It was late. Too late, really. Dawn would come early and with it the demands of a new day. They should go to bed. But there was something she needed to do first.
"He doesn't know," Sweets had said.
"He does, too! I told him!"
"Correction." Sweets had been patient, unruffled by her vehemence. "Words, Dr. Brennan. He knows you missed him, but he doesn't know it."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"You're pragmatic, Dr. Brennan. And rational. You rarely allow emotion to cloud your judgment. Agent Booth is all about emotion. You know that." It was a discussion they'd had many times before.
"I don't see your point."
"He needs you to show him how hard those months apart were for you."
"I told him we didn't have much money and that I worked as a fry cook and that once Christine and I slept under a bridge and …" She trailed off. Sweets was shaking his head. She hated when he did that. It meant she'd gotten something wrong. Again.
"That isn't the kind of hard I mean," he said.
She stared at him, at a loss as to what else he could possibly mean and half convinced that she'd been right all along about psychology's uselessness.
"What other kind of hard is there?" She folded her arms and lifted her chin, silently daring him to prove her wrong.
"What did missing him feel like?" Sweets had asked quietly, refusing to rise to her bait.
She hadn't answered, but she'd thought about that question all the way home, was still thinking about it when she walked in the front door and saw Booth with the bottle of Scotch and the empty glass. And when his eyes had brightened at her suggestion that they take Christine to the carousel, she'd known her decision was the right one.
"I have something I want you to see," she said. "Wait here."
She hurried upstairs and returned a few minutes later with the small, tattered box and cheap notebook. He was sitting on the couch waiting for her. She handed him the notebook.
"I kept records," she said. "About Christine. I thought –" She wasn't sure this was what Sweets had meant. After all, the notebook was just a collection of data. But she offered it anyway, not quite ready, yet, to share the contents of the box. "As her father, you should be informed of the physiological changes she underwent while we were away."
The corners of Booth's mouth quirked, but his hands swept over the notebook as if it were precious. "Physiological changes, Bones?"
She didn't understand his apparent amusement. "It was difficult to weigh her as often as I would've liked, but I measured her height once a week, as well as her feet, hands, and the circumference of her skull." She reached for the notebook, flipped it open to a random page, and pointed. "I made tracings as well. Visual data can be an excellent supplement to numerical statistics."
He smiled a little as he ran the tip of one finger over a penciled drawing of Christine's hand. "So tiny."
Something about the look in his eyes made her swallow her warning about smudges. Instead she merely nodded.
She'd kept meticulous notes. Each entry began with date, time, and Christine's precise age in months, days, weeks, and hours. Following that she'd listed measurements and developmental data, taking particular note of milestones. Grasping, rolling over, and sitting up were the major ones, but she'd noted others as well.
She watched Booth's face as he read, noted the way his expression softened and his eyes warmed as he took in the information. His reaction, while satisfying, puzzled her. The notebook was merely an aggregation of the kind of scientific data that normally made his eyes glaze over, and she'd given it to him half expecting him to roll his eyes. But he wasn't doing that at all. Instead he appeared fascinated. Then he frowned.
"She got sick," he said, keeping his place in the notebook with one finger as he looked up at her.
He sounded angry, but what reason could there be for anger over an incident that had happened weeks ago?
"A simple ear infection," she said. "They're quite common."
"You couldn't take her to the doctor."
"Dad got her some antibiotics." She didn't understand the strange undercurrents in the room. "There was no lasting damage." She didn't tell him that the drugs had come in miniscule quantities from a dozen different pet stores, or that she'd had to calculate dosages on the back of a napkin before mixing the meds with water in a little plastic cup and pouring them, drop by drop, down Christine's reluctant throat. None of that mattered. What mattered was that their daughter had made a full recovery. Booth's voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Her fever hit a hundred and five?"
Christine had been listless, her skin dry and papery, her cries weak. Brennan had been terrified, even though she'd known what to do. Shaking her head, she locked down the memory. It was over. Christine was fine.
"Babies can handle higher temperatures than adults can because—"
"I don't care."
She blinked as he leapt up to pace, leaving the notebook lying on the couch.
When he reached the far side of the room he spun to look at her, hands on his hips. "I should've been there." There was no anger in his voice, only sadness. "I should've been there to help."
"There wasn't anything you could've done."
He studied her. Eyes narrowed. "Baby Tylenol, right?"
"And lukewarm baths, yes."
"I bet she didn't sleep very much."
"She was very uncomfortable," Brennan agreed. What was he getting at?
"So you, what, walked the floor with her? Sang to her? Told her everything would be okay?" He returned to the couch and dropped down beside her. "I bet you did that all night, didn't you. You held her and talked to her and soothed her in some shabby hotel room. Alone. You couldn't call a doctor. You couldn't take her to the emergency room. You got through that all by yourself."
His expression was completely unreadable. Frustrated, she could only nod. "Yes."
He sighed and reached out to take her hand. His thumb brushed over her knuckles as his eyes found hers. "I'm sorry, Bones."
She blinked, nonplussed. "For what?"
"For being selfish."
"I don't understand."
"I've been so angry since you got back." He shook his head. "I never stopped to think about what it must've been like for you."
"It wasn't that bad. Really. I had Dad, and Christine's a very well-behaved—"
"The point is, you shouldn't have had to go through it," he interrupted. "And I'm sorry. Sorry you had to give up your work and your home, sorry you had to live that life, sorry—" He shrugged. "Hell, I'm just sorry."
"It's okay." She wanted the misery in his eyes to go away. It hadn't been easy, no. But she'd survived, just like she always had. Hoping to change the subject, she reached for the tattered box.
"Sweets said I should give you this," she said. "I don't know why, since I'm home now, but he said you'd want to see them anyway."
Booth lifted the lid of the battered cigar box, clearly curious. She watched him sift through the collection of post cards, then pick one up at random. The image on the front brought her back to the quiet village with its simple people and disconcerting aura of existing, somehow, outside the stream of ordinary time.
"Booth," he read aloud, his voice quiet in the shadowed room. "Today I took Christine for a walk in the woods. We sat on a log and dangled our feet in a stream. I showed her some water striders. She liked them very much. I wish you were here."
Brennan remembered the heat of sunshine on her shoulders, the sparkle of it on water, the brilliance of it in Christine's laughing eyes. She'd wanted desperately to share that moment with Booth.
"Dad didn't like me writing the postcards. He was afraid I'd leave them behind and somebody would connect them to me."
"But you wrote them anyway."
"Well, I couldn't talk to you," she said matter-of-factly. "And Christine is too young to understand. Besides, I felt it important to chronicle our life on the run."
"Why?" His voice was low, his eyes intense as they locked on hers. "Why was it important?"
His question wasn't entirely unexpected, but she still didn't have an answer. Why had it mattered so much? And why hadn't she felt similar compulsions when she'd been in Maluku or Guatemala or any of a dozen other places that had taken her away from him? She didn't know, and her lack of understanding had her resorting to a self-conscious shrug as her gaze slid away from his.
"I missed you," she said simply.
There was a brief moment's silence before she felt his finger under her chin. When she looked at him the pressure eased, the gentle light in his eyes telling her that he understood what she did not. Instead of resenting that fact as she once might have she was grateful for it.
His thumb swept across her cheek. Once. Twice. The depth of tenderness in his expression overwhelmed her, and she let her eyes drift closed. An instant later the brush of his lips against hers sent her heart into an unexpected skitter and skip.
"We're going to get Pelant," he said quietly as he drew back and laced his fingers with hers. "Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, or even next month or next year. But we'll get him."
He sat back, and she followed, letting her head come to rest on his shoulder as he drew her in close against his side. His arm tightened around her, and she felt the flex of his jaw against the top of her head as his voice rumbled in her ear.
"One way or another, he'll pay for what he did to our family."
She wanted justice, but sometimes Booth took risks when it came to her and Christine, risks that could get him hurt. The thought sent a shiver of fear racing through her.
"We will get him." She angled her head to look up at him. "Pelant made a mistake, and we caught him. He'll make another one." She freed her hand from his to lay it on his chest. "You taught me that," she said. "Every criminal, even highly intelligent ones like Pelant, makes a mistake sooner or later." She let a faint, predatory smile curve her lips at the thought. "And when he does, we'll be waiting."
Booth laid his hand over hers against his chest. "We."
"Yes." There were few things she was willing to take a definitive stand on when it came to the future. This was one. "I'm not leaving again, Booth."
His hand tightened on hers.
"Promise?" His voice was oddly childlike. Hopeful.
She lowered her head back to his shoulder and pressed deeper into his protective embrace. "I promise."
"Oh," he said. "Well, then." There was a smile in his voice. "I guess that's okay."
"Yes," she agreed, feeling an answering smile curve her own lips. "Definitely okay."
The notebook and postcards were on the coffee table now. He didn't reach for them immediately, but Brennan knew he would read every word. He would ask questions, and she would do her best to answer them. Some of the things she'd written might upset him, but that was okay. They would work through it.
Everything was going to be okay.