AN: A group of us had a bit of a trip down memory lane last night. There was wine and country music and photo albums, with more than a few tears and a lot of Kleenex while we all agreed that time needs to slow the fuck down. How is it possible that one moment you're changing diapers and the next day, you're handing over the keys to your car or taking a kid to college? It's just wrong.
(Alanna1231 told me that she gives a soundtrack to her favorite fanfics. If there's one for this story, it's Trace Adkins And Then They Do.)
The three of them struggled into the small room under the weight of a mountain of baggage.
"Did you pack everything you owned," Booth grumbled as he allowed the crate he held to drop with a thud, "or just the heaviest books you could find?"
Christine wiped sweat from her brow and laughed as she collapsed to the floor. "I think that one's just shoes, Dad."
"Shoes." Bent over, hands on his knees, he looked at his daughter and frowned. "Of course it's shoes," he muttered. "You and your mother and shoes." He shoved aside two suitcases and a backpack and sank down with a huff in the small space he'd managed to clear on the bed. "I've got five pair of shoes and I do fine."
Christine and Brennan shared a look filled with feminine amusement. "You have more than five pair of shoes, Booth," Brennan corrected him.
"The point is," he shot back, "I don't have enough shoes to fill a 100 lb box! Don't even say it!" He waved a finger at Brennan when she turned to appraise the container. "Anyway," he continued, obviously in the mood to be cantankerous, "What are you going to do with all of those shoes?" He waved a hand around the small dorm. "Where are you going to put 'em?"
Christine just shrugged. "I'll figure something out."
"I still don't know why you couldn't go to Georgetown and live at home, like Zach." Booth crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his baby girl. "Then all these shoes could have stayed in your room, where they belong."
"Because he's 14!" Christine retorted. "Dad!"
"Booth." Brennan laid a quiet hand on his shoulder. When he looked up at her, she saw in his brown eyes the same touch of pain and bittersweet pride that made her own breathing difficult.
"Well, she could have," he pouted briefly. "Okay." He swallowed over the lump in his throat and stood up. "One more trip ought to do it." Because he could and because he could already feel her absence breaking his heart, he put his arm around Christine and tugged her into his side. "I love you, baby," he whispered around the kiss he pressed into her hair.
She bumped him with her shoulder and kept her eyes on her feet. Her parents weren't the only ones feeling the emotional weight of the moment. "I love you, too, Dad."
They stepped out into the crowded hallway and were immediately distracted by the loud, noisy bustle of move-in day. Adults and teens alike clogged the space, laughing and grumbling and cursing as a semester's worth of absolute necessities were transferred from vehicles to rooms. Christine's eager, excited glance searched out every detail and more than once, she noticed a parent or student shrink away from them. It took a moment before she recognized the cause.
"Dad," she hissed, "do you have to have your weapons on you?" She was so used to seeing her father armed that she hadn't paid any attention to the shoulder holsters before that moment.
Booth's narrowed eyes pierced a young man leaning in a doorway who cast an appreciative eye over Christine as they passed by. The boy took one look at Booth and quickly ducked back inside his room.
"Yes, I do," he growled.
Christine rolled her eyes and stomped ahead of them. Brennan, wisely, said nothing.
One more trip and the car was empty and Christine's room looked as if a small department store had exploded inside. The bedding was located and fitted and as many clothes as would fit inside the small closet were hung in place but finally, there were no more excuses for her parents to stay. She knew it and they knew it but no one wanted to be the first to acknowledge it out loud.
Booth needed a moment alone to compose himself before saying goodbye and took advantage of a few seconds of silence to grab for it. "I'll just look through the car one more time," he said before he escaped. "Make sure we didn't miss anything."
Brennan and Christine were left alone.
"I have something for you." Her movements somewhat stiff and awkward, Brennan reached for her bag.
"For me?" Surprised, Christine smiled as her mother placed a small, square white box in her hand. "What . . ." She gasped in surprise at the familiar blue and white figure. "Mom - you're giving me Brainy Smurf?"
"Yes," Brennan nodded, her jaw tight with the effort to keep her emotions under control. "Your father . . ." She took a deep breath and began again. "Your father gave that to me once as . . . as a reminder to appreciate who I was, instead of wishing to be something else." She blinked rapidly and tried to remain calm. "I want you to have it, for the same reason."
"Mom . . ." Christine's face crumpled as she began to cry.
"I am very proud of you, Christine." Brennan's voice fractured. "You are very bright and I know," she sniffed, "I know that you will use your brain and make wise decisions." She swiped at her cheeks as her attempt to hold back tears failed. "But I also hope that . . ." She paused for a moment and struggled for the right words. "I hope that you will not be afraid to listen to your heart." She found it harder and harder to speak clearly. "It took me too long to learn that lesson and . . . and I don't want . . . I hope it doesn't take you . . . I hope it's easier for you . . ." Brennan shook her head and cried along with her daughter. "I'm sorry, I'm not doing this very well-"
"You're doing just fine," Christine wailed and threw herself, sobbing, into Brennan's arms. "I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too," Brennan whispered. Her hand was shaking as she brushed it over her child's dark hair and wet cheeks. "You are very special to me, Christine. When you were born," the smile she attempted was watery and lopsided, "your father and I, we weren't just two people anymore. You made us a family." Christine buried her face in her mother's shoulder. "We will always be here for you."
Booth's long arms surrounded their embrace as he rejoined them. "Always, sweetheart," he agreed, with a kiss on the top of his daughter's head. "Home is always waiting for you," he promised thickly. "Your mom and I, we're just a phone call away, day or night."
She released Brennan and clutched at Booth. "Daddy," she sobbed. "I love you."
He pushed her head back and cradled her face within his hands. "It's not too late, baby girl," he offered, only half-joking. "I can put everything back in the car - I bet you can still get into Georgetown." He smiled at Brennan with eyes as wet as hers. "Your mother can buy them a building or something."
Christine sniffed and laughed and shook her head. "Dad."
He pulled her to him and hugged her tight. "You'll be fine, honey, I know you will. Promise me, though," he added, holding her gaze intently. "Be smart. Be safe."
"I will," she nodded.
A tentative knock on the door had the three of them turning around together. A young blonde-haired girl stood just inside the room, smiling uncertainly.
"I'm sorry," she hesitated, "I don't mean to interrupt . . ." She came in a bit further. "I'm the RA for this floor . . ." She stuck her hand out first at Booth, then Brennan, then Christine. "I'm Temperance Carter," she introduced herself. "Tempe, I mean," she laughed self-consciously. "You can call me Tempe."
The Booth family exchanged an incredulous glance. "I'm sorry," Booth said first. "What did you say?"
The girl rolled her eyes and chuckled ruefully. "Yea, I get that a lot," she shrugged. "My mom named me after her favorite writer. It's unusual, I know, but . . ." She tossed a glance toward the open door, then leaned in closer and lowered her voice. "It could be worse," she whispered. "There's a sophomore on the 4th floor, her name is Renessmee." She pulled a face and shuddered.
"Anyway," she continued, "the RAs, we're taking the freshmen out for pizza, to the Green Pony, just off campus. It helps to stay busy the first night," she explained sympathetically to Christine. "If you want to come with us, you're welcome." She glanced briefly at Booth and Brennan. "After your folks leave, I mean."
"We were just about to get on the road," Booth obligingly spoke up and breathed over the fist that closed around his heart. "We've got a long drive ahead of us."
Brennan clutched at his hand. "Yes," she nodded, swallowing past the fresh bout of tears that threatened. "Yes, we were just preparing to leave."
"Okay," the RA said cheerfully. "Well, it was nice to meet you and I'll see you-" Her pause was deliberate.
Christine rushed to introduce herself. "Christine. I'm Christine Booth."
"Christine," the girl repeated. "I'll come get you when we're ready to go." She waved goodbye and left the room.
When they were alone again, she looked at her parents. "Well, that's just weird," she asserted.
Booth laughed. "It's fate." He pulled her in for another hug. "Call us, honey, anytime, if you need anything."
"I will, Dad," she nodded. He kissed her and passed her into Brennan's arms.
"I love you, Christine."
"I love you, Mom." They held each other for several minutes before Brennan forced herself to back away.
"Call us," she insisted.
"I will," Christine promised.
Knowing no one wanted to say goodbye, Booth deliberately tugged Brennan to the door. They stopped and looked back one last time at the little girl who had somehow managed to grow up in the blink of an eye.
She held up the tiny blue figure. "I love you guys," she whispered again.
"We love you," Booth said again. "Call," he ordered. When she nodded, he pulled Brennan out into the hallway.
They made their way to the car and once inside, sat for several more minutes. Somehow, driving away seemed so final.
Brennan broke the silence.
"'She'll be alright?" Her eyes were on the simple brick building in front of them.
Booth nodded. "She'll be fine."
She took a deep breath. "She will call, won't she?"
Booth's head dipped. "Yea." He reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Not as much as we want her to, though."
Brennan nodded and a few minutes later, the car backed out of the parking space.
He kept her hand in his, his thumb absently stroking her palm as they traveled for several miles without speaking. When Brennan released a heavy sigh, he looked over.
"I think so," she answered. "I'm sad," she hurried to add. "I'm going to miss her. I suddenly feel as if time passed by too quickly."
"It has a way of doing that," Booth laughed. "Weren't we just changing her diaper a few weeks ago?" he joked.
"I recognize the exaggeration but . . ." Her eyes filled again. "Yes," she sniffed. "I think we were."
The West Virginia countryside sped by. When Booth looked over again, Brennan's brow was furrowed.
"What?" he asked curiously.
She hesitated. "You're going to think I'm silly."
"Tell me anyway," he insisted gently. When she remained silent, his eyes sharpened. "You . . ." He coughed and shifted in his seat. "You don't want another baby, do you?"
"What?" Shocked, her head swiveled toward him. "No!" she insisted. "No, I wasn't . . . do you?" she asked uncertainly.
"No." Booth shook his head immediately. "No. I mean, Zach is still at home, right?" His gaze traveled between her and the road. "Besides, we're too old for that now."
"Well," Brennan responded, "I'm still menstruating so . . ." Her words trailed off at Booth's somewhat panicked gaze. "No," she reassured him again. "That's not . . . I wasn't thinking of having another child."
"Good." Another mile or so passed before he grinned at her. "We do make pretty babies."
"We have beautiful children," she agreed, meeting his smile with one of her own. When she reached for his hand, he brought her fingers to his lips.
"So what was the silly thought?" he asked.
"Oh." She looked away from him. "I'm . . . unhappy sharing my name with a stranger," she mumbled. When he chuckled, she grimaced. "I knew you would laugh."
"You know," he offered helpfully, his dark eyes teasing and playful, "there's only one Bones."
She considered his words thoughtfully. "That's true," she agreed.
Thank you for reading!