A/N: This is the last chapter of this story, so it is now complete. Thank you to everyone who has read (and responded) to Paradise Redefined. I hope you enjoyed this little trip back in time.
For some reason, beer tasted better in Jamaica now that he knew he was going home. Two and half weeks after making his decision to return to D.C., the FBI, and his partner, Booth was ready to leave. Everything was packed. His second in command was happily ensconced in his own former position. And he had his job back just in time to head up the investigation into a very sensitive, decades spanning, personal case. It was high profile and high pressure, and he was of the opinion that the Bureau was throwing him into the fire right away to test him – to test his ability and his commitment after a year away from the job. If he failed, though, he wouldn't just lose a case; he'd lose Bones.
When he felt a second presence join him on the beach, he wasn't surprised. Though Bones had refused his offer of relaxation and recuperation in Alligator Pond while he packed up his life there, of course using her work load as her excuse, her life was suddenly too chaotic for her not to seek out any kind of stability she could find... even if that stability came from a former partner she wasn't quite sure she trusted yet. The fact that she had come to him, though, was a good sign.
By the time she sat down next to him on the beach, he was pulling the last dregs from his beer bottle. Although he had missed her, although he wanted nothing more than to talk to her, reassure her, and reassure himself, Booth knew better than to rush the woman beside him. So, instead of greeting her, instead of questioning her unannounced appearance, he merely sat in silence, patiently peeling back the label from his moist glass bottle. While he fidgeted with restlessness hardly concealed, Bones shifted uneasily as though she couldn't get comfortable – folding her legs and unfolding her legs, taking off her shoes, digging her toes in the sand repetitively, and running her fingers through the fine particles, aimlessly creating nonsense designs. He had never seen her so unhinged before.
Haltingly, she finally started to talk. "My father is not dead." When he didn't respond, simply crooked his head at an angle so as to see her better in the rapidly fading sunlight, she continued. "About six months ago, I discovered my mother's remains at The Jeffersonian. They had been there for years, just waiting to be identified, but I covered them up – lied, said the case was solved, and then sealed the records so that I could keep working on the case privately whenever I had the chance. It took me a long time to discover the murder weapon – a spring loaded captive bolt stunner. I was doing some research into pigs..."
"Why the hell were you looking up Babe," he interrupted her. Though he was certainly interested in the account she was providing him with, he had to know the answer to his question first.
"You know... the movie... about a cute, cuddly pig who could talk."
"Pigs can't talk, Booth."
He chuckled then. "Never mind, Bones. Just tell me why you were researching pigs."
"Well, I was thinking about getting a pet, and, contrary to popular belief, pigs are both very clean and very intelligent. Anyway," she returned their conversation back to its previous point. "While doing my research, I found information on pig slaughtering. There were pictures of what a spring loaded captive bolt stunner does to a pig's skull. Looking at them, I realized that the injury was nearly identical to that of my mother's. Once I had the murder weapon, it wasn't difficult to track down a criminal who had a known record of killing in a similar manner."
"But...," he encouraged her to continue.
"But as soon as I got close to solving the case, my father left me a message, telling me to back off."
"Knowing you the way I do, Bones," Booth surmised, "I'm pretty sure that only made you just that much more determined to figure out why your mother was killed. What happened next?"
"I contacted that ADA you had represent me in New Orleans and asked her for her help. Between the two of us, we had my mother's killer arrested. He wasn't in jail long enough for the case to go to court, though, because my father had him killed. Then, the next thing I know, Russ – that's my brother's name – comes to me, claiming that, because of me, because I didn't listen to our father, he's being followed, that I put us both in danger. Finally, just a few days ago, an ex-FBI agent was murdered, tied to a pole on top of a prominent D.C. building, and set on fire. We think it was my father."
"Sending another message."
Bones shrugged then, but the gesture was meant in agreement not dispute. Returning to her fidgeting, she released his gaze and clammed up. Once more, he waited until she was ready to talk to him. He didn't push her, and, eventually, his restraint paid off just as it had moments before. "I don't trust Agent Sullivan to handle this case," she finally revealed. Before he could respond, she continued, "it's not that he's incompetent, but he's easily distracted. Sometimes I wonder if he's truly focused upon his job or simply... working because he has no other option. You might have been annoying when we worked together, but at least you seemed dedicated... before you ran away."
"It wasn't running away, Bones," Booth protested vehemently.
He had to wait for her to finish glaring at him before he could hear her response. "My point is that I don't know what to do. Should I trust Sully, go to him with this, or should I just wait and see what the FBI decides to do?"
Tilting his head into a thoughtful pose, the newly reinstated agent considered her inquiry. "I think... I think you should write another book."
"What? Booth? That makes absolutely no sense. What does that have to do with my father's...?"
Interrupting her, he replied, "you need to be away from the situation. Even if you don't work the case yourself, you're still too close to it. You're a liability to the agent in charge, and another target that your father's going to feel the need to protect. But, if you weren't in D.C., if you weren't so easily accessible to whoever it is who is stalking your brother, then, not only will you be safe, but the case should be easier to solve. And while I know you're the best, Bones, for this one, Zack can handle all the lab stuff."
"Not that I am agreeing to anything, mind you, but, if not in D.C., just where exactly do you think I'll be?"
"Here," he revealed, spreading his arms out to encompass the beach and the small cottage behind them. "My lease is paid up until the end of the year, giving me – the FBI agent assigned to this case – plenty of time of find your father, figure out what he's up to, and make sure that it's safe for you to return. In the meantime, I know how much you hate being idle - I mean, a vacation is just an excuse for you to play with even older dead bodies, so you'll be able to focus on your next novel without the distraction of the lab or a murder investigation to solve.
He could already see her mouth opening, preparing to argue with him, so, before she could say one word, he pressed on. "If you won't do it for yourself, for me, or for your adoring fans all over the world..."
"I think you're laying it on a little slick there, Booth."
"It's thick, Bones," he corrected her. "And just let me finish. Anyway, if you won't do it for any of the reasons I've already presented to you, then do it for Parker."
Rolling his eyes, the agent asked, "do you know any other Parkers?"
"No, but you didn't know that until this moment. You should be more specific," she instructed him.
"I'll keep that in mind."
"So, why should I stay down here and hide when I'm needed back at home?"
"Well, other than your own safety, there's Parker's to consider." Knowing what Bones was going to ask before she even opened her mouth to form the first word of her question, he answered her without having to hear the inquiry. "I've already received the file on your father's case. It reeks of a conspiracy, and conspiracies usually mean an inside job and desperation. It wouldn't be a stretch to worry that, if I start getting close to the truth, whoever it is who is behind this whole mess will start to come after the people I love, too, especially if they can't find you or your brother. Besides," he added with what he hoped to be his most charming and most convincing grin, "I already promised Parker months ago that he could spend Christmas down here again. He loves this place, and he's going to miss coming here. I'd hate to go back on my promise, especially at Christmas time."
"You do realize that Christmas holds absolutely no sentimental value for me, don't you?"
"I'm not surprised," he admitted, sighing in impatience. "But I also know that you value a man's – or a woman's – word and that you'd never want me to disappoint my kid."
Glowering at him, his former and... if he had anything to say about it... future partner accused, "that's low, Booth – using your son against me."
"Look, I need you to protect and watch over Parker for me. If I'm going to do my job as well as I possibly can, I'm going to need to know that the people I love are safe."
Though his admission was wrapped in fatherly concern and ambiguity, Booth watched as her eyes widened in surprise and awe. Though Bones didn't confront his confession or say anything in return, the fact that he had put his feelings out there between them and she wasn't running away yet were enough... for the moment. It was a first step, and an important one, too. What came next, though, would have to wait until her father's case was resolved, and they were both back into their regularly scheduled routine.
"Three weeks," she finally said, staring at him meaningfully with unblinking eyes. "I'll give you three weeks."
Accepting her terms, he nodded, and then they both turned to face forward once more. For the rest of the night, they simply sat quietly out on his deserted, no longer lonely beach. Even after the sun fully set and they were left in a shroud of inky nothingness, they remained where they were. The silence wasn't awkward, though. Rather, it was peaceful. Right. It was like too old friends who knew each other better than they knew themselves communicating through the stillness, and, in that moment, Booth knew that he had finally been forgiven. And he smiled.
^ ! ^
He was in his old company car once more, on his way back to headquarters – to his old office, his old job, and the ever reliably bad FBI coffee when his phone buzzed in his pocket, alerting Booth to the fact that he had a text message. Flipping his cell open, he read the communication out loud. "I am hoping that Parker did not inherit your weak stomach?" Immediately, he dialed.
"What the hell did you do, Bones," he quizzed her as soon as she picked up.
"What? Me. Nothing!"
"Bones...," he warned her while, at the same time, encouraging her to answer his question.
"Honestly, Booth, I didn't do anything. I was just trying to be a conscientious caregiver, so, after breakfast, we went for a walk. I thought I'd share with Parker the history of the island, maybe point out some of the natural wildlife to him."
"You didn't use the scientific names, did you, Bones?"
"Of course," she responded affronted. "How else is he going to learn anything? If you coddle him, insist upon taking the short routes..."
"... then he will as well," she finished, ignoring his correction. "Really, Booth, it's Parenting 101."
"And you would know this how?"
"Well, to prepare for my three weeks with your son, I did some research into caregiving. It was actually rather fascinating."
"That's great," he dismissed. "Back to the weak stomach question. What? Did? You? Do?"
"Oh, right," she remembered. "So, like I was saying, we were taking a walk. Actually, I referred to it as our morning constitutional just to give it more of a..."
"Bones," he interjected, stopping her.
"We found a dead body."
"What," Booth exploded, nearly running a red light. "I just dropped Parker off with you last night. He's been in your care for less than twenty-four hours, and you've already exposed him to a corpse? Rebecca is going to have my balls for this."
"If it makes you feel any better, it looks like the murder took place many, many years ago. It's very unlikely that we're in any danger. In fact, the murderer is probably dead now as well."
"Murder," he bit out, barely restraining his concern.
She ignored him. "Because of the amount of decomposition, it'll be nearly impossible for the local authorities to solve the case, so I've offered them my expertise. I mean, since I'm already here, and Parker seems so interested..."
"Oh, he's fascinated with the body, and I thought that it would be an excellent learning experience for him. I could use it to teach him all about the skeletal system. But I wanted to check with you first, both to make sure that he wouldn't become sick like you do once I start disassembling the body and cleaning the bones and to get your permission as well."
He wasn't sure if he should be amused or dismayed. "You want to use a murder investigation as a spring board for a science lesson? Only you, Bones, could turn homicide into the worst summer camp pitch ever."
"Uh... it's December, Booth. Winter. Jamaica is in the Northern Hemisphere."
"Never mind," he insisted, chuckling. "Look, just don't traumatize my kid, alright? If Parker comes away from this experience with nightmares, it's going to be your ass I call at three in the morning to come over and sit with him while I go back to sleep." Pulling into his parking spot, he added, "I have to go now."
"But, Booth, you never answered my question. Is Parker squeamish?"
"I guess you're about to find out." Laughing, he hung up the phone.
He had a murder investigation to solve.