After pausing to admire the heavy blanket of snow that covered all she could see, Brennan carried the two glasses of wine she had just poured to their living room.
"Christine brought home the order form for her graduation announcements today."
"I thought we had already ordered those."
She handed one glass to her husband before setting the other down on the glass coffee table. "We ordered her cap and gown several months ago. I don't understand why the announcements are ordered at a later date, but Christine informed me 'that's how it's done.'"
"I had forgotten how expensive it was to have a kid graduate. I think it's more expensive now that it was when Parker graduated."
"It does seem to be." She leaned down to give him a quick peck on the cheek. "I'll be back in a moment."
"Where are you going?" He reached out and grabbed her hand, preventing her from leaving the room.
"I'm just getting something from the office."
"Hurry back." He said with a smile as he released her hand.
Entering the office, walking toward the box, she realized it hadn't gotten any easier to lift the lid and reach her hand in. In the months since she had first opened it, she had gone through this routine several times – wait for the kids to go to bed, pour a glass of wine and pick a random scrap of paper. This time, however, she decided to tweak the process just a bit. Instead of taking a piece from near the top, she plunged her hand deep into the box, near the bottom, and withdrew a spiral notebook. Without hesitation, she turned and walked back to the living room, settling on the couch next to him.
"One of the notebooks? Are you sure, Bones? There's some really dark stuff in there. You sure you want to tackle that tonight?"
"All of this," she patted the notebook, "helped to form who you are now. I can't be afraid of it."
"Okay, then. Whenever you're ready…"
Thumbing through the notebook, she stopped on a page that seemed heavier than the others. Flipping to the back side of the page, she saw an envelope taped there. Unsure of the significance, she turn back to the front of the page and began reading.
Today was my Skype day with Parker. Talking to him is always the best part of my week. It grounds me, reminds me why I'm here and that I have a reason to go home.
I missed my last two talks with him, thanks to a mission. The big wigs here have decided that it would be a waste not to use my particular skill set while I'm here. It goes way beyond the scope of training men and not what I signed up for. I have no choice but to follow orders.
Back to Parker - he was so excited today, hyped up over his last hockey game. I wish I had a picture of the look of pride on his face when he told me he scored a goal. I wish I could be there to see him play. Rebecca has promised to record them, so I can watch them when I get home. Parker said I should be expecting a letter from Rebecca with his hockey pictures. I think he feels like a NHL player. Instead of the usual pictures, Rebecca let him get trading cards, complete with his stats on the back. I can't wait to get that letter. I need a new picture of him. The one I carry with me is more than a little crumpled.
Five months down, seven to go
"You told me your job was purely administrative."
"I didn't want you to worry."
"You had returned from Afghanistan. It was after the fact. Why would I have worried?"
With a sly smile, he bumped her shoulder with his own. "I don't know, maybe because you loved me."
"You didn't know that then."
"I know and I'm sorry. I don't want to talk about that now." He wrapped his arm around her, pulled her in closer. "Remember when I said that Pops, Parker and you helped me to survive Afghanistan? Talking to Parker, Skyping with him, that was as close as I got to something that was pure and good and innocent while I was there. I needed that contact with him as much as I needed air, food and water. It was my survival."
"I'm grateful you were able to talk to him like that. I know that I -"
With a finger lightly touching her lips, he silenced her. "Shh. We're not talking about that tonight. This is about Parker, right?" She nodded. He jutted his chin toward the page. "You should keep reading. The next entry is connected to the first one."
She nodded, he removed his finger. She read on.
Rebecca's letter arrived today. I didn't even read it at first, I couldn't pull myself away from Parker's pictures. He's grown so much since I left. He's starting to look less like a little boy and more like a teen.
When I had memorized his picture and his stats, I starting reading Rebecca's letter. I understand now why she wrote me instead of having Parker do it. She wants to take my son and move him to London! Like hell I'm going to let her do that! She said they might be gone before I get home. I don't why she thinks she can make a decision like that without talking to me about it, but I intend to fight her. I'm hoping to trade some phone time with one of the guys, because this can't be settled through letters and emails and I'm not going to waste my Skype time on her. That's for Parker.
Six months down, six to go
"I know this story."
"No, you know parts of this story. I never told you why I didn't fight harder to keep Parker in DC."
"No, you never did. I never realized that." She paused, wondering why she had never pursued that with him. "What exactly did Rebecca's letter say?"
"You can read it. It's in the envelope taped to that page, or I can tell you."
"This is your story. I want to hear it in your words, not Rebecca's."
"Okay. Basically, her firm had been invited to submit a design for a big project in London, the Hargrove Tower. The partners picked Rebecca the lead architect on the project. It would be her design they submitted. For once, Rebecca was right. It was too big of an opportunity for her to turn down."
"That is a big honor. A project of that importance would normally be undertaken by a senior partner, I would think."
"Usually, yeah. The clients insisted on a 'fresh eye' for this project. The partners picked her. Anyway, Rebecca had laid out a timeline in her letter – four months to design and prepare the bid, two months for the clients to make a decision. If her design was picked, she would have to move to London immediately to oversee the project."
Brennan looked at the entry she had just read. "When you received Rebecca's letter, you had six months remaining in Afghanistan. Her timeline allowed for six months."
"Exactly. That's what I thought, too. They would be leaving just as I was arriving. Look at the first entry you read."
"Oh, one month had already elapsed by the time you received her letter. They would be gone before you were back in DC. Something must have changed. Parker was here when you returned."
"That's the next part of the story. In the most convoluted trade ever, I was able to get phone time the next day. I called Rebecca fuming, ready to rip her to shreds. She remained calm, kept asking me to be quiet so that she could explain. After a minute of screaming at the top of my lungs, I finally heard her and stopped. She had known I would be upset. She spent three weeks talking to the partners, trying to reach a compromise in case her design was picked. She did it. She got them to agree. If her design was picked, they would allow her to stay in DC for an additional three months. She assured them she could do all of the preliminary work from here. She agreed to travel to London once or twice a month, if necessary. She and Parker would still be in DC when I returned and we would talk then about where he would live."
"So, when you returned a month later instead of six months, Rebecca had, what, seven months before she would have to move to London."
"Yeah. When Rebecca's design was picked, we should have talked about who Parker was going to live with, but we didn't. I was still with Hannah at the time." He winced, wishing that Hannah didn't have to be part of this conversation. "Parker had gone from hating Hannah, to thinking she was cool, to hating her again. Because it was so difficult for the two of them to be together, I would only have Parker on weekends when she was gone. I should have put him first. Instead, I'm ashamed to say, that I let her drive a wedge between us. She resented the time I spent with him. I started skipping weekends with Parker altogether. In addition to hating Hannah, he was pretty angry with me."
"I remember asking you once how Parker was doing in school and you changed the subject. That's why, isn't it?"
"I probably didn't know the answer." He sighed. "By the time Rebecca was supposed to move to London, Hannah and I had split up. I was in a bad place, you know that. Parker was still mad at me. I thought that maybe he would be better off in London, away from me. I didn't fight to keep him here. I still regret that decision. None of us had any idea how long she would be in London."
"She did let him visit as often as his school schedule allowed. I know it's not the same, but…"
"There's something else I didn't tell you. When she moved back here for Parker's senior year? It wasn't because Parker asked. He never did, just assumed she would say no."
"Booth, what did you do?"
"Parker called me, told me he wanted to come home. Home. London was never home for him. It was just where his mom worked. Anyway, I called Rebecca and asked her to send him to us. She could stay in London. It wouldn't affect her career. Of course, she said no. She couldn't be away from her baby. I hinted that I could fly over, get Parker and bring him home, in effect, kidnap him. I might have told her that I could keep her in court until his eighteenth birthday, when he could decide for himself. She must have taken me seriously, because a week later, she called. The partners agreed to move her to DC for a year." He paused as he considered what he would say next. "It just might be the most selfless thing she ever did for him. I'll always be grateful to her for that."
"She did return to London after that year. Her career appears to be undamaged. I suppose now that she has been made a partner, she won't return from London."
"Probably not. Parker will always know that his mom chose her career over him. I hate that for him."
"He has you, Booth. You can't make up for Rebecca's faults, but you have proven that he is a priority with you, that you will always support him in his choices."
He chuckled. "Yeah, even when he decided to move across the country."
"You know that the research position at Cal Tech was a unique opportunity for him."
"I know and I'm proud of him. He knows that."
"I'm going to return this notebook to the box and then go to bed. Are you ready to go up?"
"Nah, not yet. I think I'll call Parker first. It's still early in California." He squeezed her tightly before she stood. "Thanks, Bones, you always know just what to say. You're amazing."
She laughed softly. "I am quite remarkable." She leaned over, kissing him tenderly on the lips, before leaving the room.
Picking up his cell phone, he dialed Parker's number and waited to hear his son's voice.
"Hey, Parker, it's Dad. How are things there? … We're all fine, I just wanted to hear your voice. What's new in sunny California? …"
A/N - Hello, readers! I hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. I always checking in with Parker. Just as a warning or clarification, chapters won't be chronological in this story. I'll try to be clear if they are fifteen, twenty or thirty years in the future or somewhere in between. As always, thanks for reading! ~ craftyjhawk