AN: Here's my entry into the May CBPC. I didn't use an established fairytale, and I truly hope this story works. Let me know what you think.
"Booth should be back tomorrow morning," Temperance Brennan said to her best friend, Angela Montenegro as they entered the Jeffersonian after lunch.
"So how is our agent enjoying Hawaii?"
"I didn't ask. Besides, he isn't there for pleasure. He's working on a case."
"Doesn't mean he didn't get leied while he was there."
"Angela!" The anthropologist looked at her friend, not sure if she wanted to laugh or not.
"Hey, everyone gets at least one lei when they go there. It's part of what makes Hawaii so relaxing," Angela laughed as they made their way into the lab section of the Jeffersonian. They were met with a grim-faced Cam.
"Ladies, I think there's something you need to see." The pathologist walked away toward the lounge, and curious, Angela and Brennan followed her. They instantly wished they hadn't. On a large screen television was an image of a burning building.
"What's going on," Brennan asked as she moved a little closer to the screen as the reporter came on.
"Again, the blaze is believed to have been caused by a burst gas main. The initial report stating that the FBI building was targeted as a terrorist hit has been laid to rest at this time. Firefighters are working to put out the blaze as we speak, and while most of the staff have been accounted for, several are still missing including DC's own Agent Seeley Booth." The crew of the medico legal lab looked on in shock as the building collapsed in on itself. Temperance sat down, unable to pull her eyes away from the horrible images.
"Sweetie, I'm sure he wasn't in there. We'll call him, okay? He'll answer and you'll know he's okay." Brennan nodded, but still couldn't speak. The image of the building collapsing played again. The reporter was still talking, but she didn't hear anything. She turned to face her friend, who was on her cell phone. As the amount of time Angela was waiting lengthened, Brennan felt herself having trouble breathing. He couldn't have been in there. Booth was her family, he was her friend, and he couldn't be trapped in a burning inferno. "Booth, hi, it's Angela. Please give us a call and let us know you're doing okay. Please." The artist flicked her cell phone shut and glanced at Temperance. The forensic anthropologist had gone white.
"Dr. Brennan, go home. I'm sure he'll call, but right now, you need to be out of the lab." Cam looked at her in concern.
"No, I can't. I need to be here."
"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. Go home. If we hear from Seeley, we'll let you know. Angela, can you take her?"
"Sure. Come on sweetie." Angela took Brennan's arm and the anthropologist allowed herself to be led from the lounge. After one last look at the screen, Brennan left passively behind Angela.
She was at home a short time later, and was all by herself. There was no television, so she couldn't watch the news. Instead, she turned on the radio, changing the station as 'Hot Blooded' blared. Soon, she had a news station on and sat down, listening for the updates on the burning FBI building. Her stomach turned as she thought about what burning could do to the human body, and she couldn't stop the retching. She raced to the bathroom and purged the contents of her stomach as she began to cry. If Booth was okay, he would have answered the phone. He always did. Again, her stomach turned. After throwing up once again, she took some deep breaths to calm herself and began to clean herself up. She'd call Booth herself to confirm that he was okay. If he saw her call, then he'd be sure to pick up.
Resolutely, she stood, went back to her living room and picked up her phone. She dialed Booth's number and waited. No pickup. When his voicemail came on, she felt she couldn't breathe again.
"Booth, it's me. Please call and let me know that you've received this message." She hung up and closed her eyes. She was not going to think the worst. He would call her back. He would. She moved over to her couch and sat down, waiting for the call. As her radio droned on, she slowly slipped into troubled sleep.
Night had fallen long before her phone rang. Temperance sat bolt upright on the couch and scrambled to grab her phone. She looked at the caller id, but it was a number that she didn't recognize.
"Brennan," she answered, her voice shaky.
"Dr. Brennan, this is Rebecca. I hope I didn't disturb you." Booth's ex sounded distraught, her voice as wavering as Brennan's.
"No, it's okay. I was just listening to the radio. What can I do for you?"
"It's Parker. He keeps wanting to call his father, but I just don't know how to tell him about what happened."
"Well, just be honest with him. Children have a better capacity at understanding than we realize." She rubbed her eyes, becoming more awake at each second.
"I was actually wondering if you could help me with this."
"Why do you want me to help?"
"I know it's presumptuous of me, but since you've had personal experience with loss, I was wondering if you could talk to him."
"Please. I know how much Seeley means to you, and it would mean so much to Parker to hear this from someone he's so fond of." Brennan sighed. She didn't want to do this, and Rebecca needed to stop trying to pass off the responsibility to other people.
"Fine, I'll be over shortly," the forensic anthropologist conceded. This would be something that would have meant the world to Booth, and she couldn't just disregard the little boy.
"Thank you so much Dr. Brennan, really." Brennan flicked shut her phone and stood slowly. She picked up her keys and purse, closing her apartment door behind her. As she made her way to the elevator, she stopped and had to lean against a wall. If Rebecca was going to tell Parker that Booth had died, she must have been contacted by the FBI. She looked up at the ceiling and smiled, a trick she'd picked up long before. You couldn't cry and grin at the same time. Soon, with deep breaths, she was able to control the urge to cry. It would do no good if she lost it in front of Parker.
The trip to Rebecca's took only a few minutes, but Brennan sat in her car for another twenty, trying to figure out what she wanted to say to Parker. What would she have wanted to hear? She would have wanted the truth, but then again, she was fifteen at the time, and Parker, he was just six. Since children did have an amazing capacity to understand, then maybe she could be more metaphoric and he would still understand the message. With a deep breath, she left the car and made what felt like a long march to the front door.
Rebecca opened it before she had a chance to knock. She must have been watching me, Temperance thought as she looked at the distraught woman.
"Thank you again for helping with this Dr. Brennan. I honestly don't know what to tell him."
"Did you hear the news from the FBI," Temperance asked as she followed Rebecca inside.
"No. The only thing I've heard is what they've been saying on the news. I've left several messages with Seeley, but I haven't heard from him. It's not like him to ignore calls." Brennan's heart swelled briefly at the thought that he could still be alive, but if he was caught in that burning building, she didn't want to think about what condition he'd be in if he were to survive.
"Now I understand why you're at a loss. Let me go see Parker, and maybe I can come up with something." She offered Booth's ex a tight smile, and followed her up the stairs. Each step felt like an eternity as the little boy's room loomed closer and closer. If she told Parker that his father was dead, but Booth came out of this alive, what would that do to him? Would he always have false hope in the future if something happened?
"Parker, sweetie, there's a guest here to see you." Rebecca moved aside to allow Temperance in the room. The little boy's face lit up when he saw her.
"Dr. Brennan, are you here with my daddy?" He looked past her anxiously, which made Brennan's chest constrict. Why, oh why had she agreed to do this?
"No Parker. Your mother asked me to come and tell you a story, so that's what I'm going to do." Rebecca looked at her questioningly, but Temperance only nodded, indicating that everything would be fine. With a quick nod, the other woman left them alone in the room.
"What kind of story? Are you going to read from a book?"
"Nope. This is a story about a brave knight."
"He's not gonna kiss anyone is he?"
"No, there's no kissing, but there is a lot of sword and fist fighting. I'll bet you like that, huh."
"Yep, that's the best part of fairy tales."
"Okay, so how to start this…"
"They always begin with 'Once upon a time'."
"You're absolutely right Parker, they do. Once upon a time, there lived a brave knight. He was born to a barber and a troubadour…"
"Someone who makes up songs. That's the word that was used almost a thousand years ago. When he grew up and was no longer a boy, he was sent away to learn how to be a knight. He trained hard, day in and day out, and soon, he was one of the king's favorites because of his bravery and skill. But soon he discovered that he no longer wanted to serve the king, he wanted to help out the people of the kingdom.
"There was evil in the kingdom then, so the brave knight had to work hard to help out the peasants there. One day, a young princess found out what he was doing and wanted to help him out. The handsome prince didn't want her help at first, and they fought about the needs of the people."
"That doesn't seem very smart, to fight if you want the same thing," Parker frowned. Brennan offered him a small smile, hoping he didn't see right through the expression. The boy was turning out to be as perceptive as his father.
"I know, but sometimes people don't do the smart thing. Sometimes they fight and get angry, but if they are good friends, like the knight and the princess, then it doesn't matter because they'll always apologize." From downstairs, Temperance could hear the sound of a knock at the door. Her chest seized again. That had to be a representative of the FBI here to be the bearer of bad news. She'd been on many of those outings with Booth, and hated them every time. Being told at fifteen that your loved ones were missing was hard, but being told they'd died was entirely different. She took a breath and moved on as she listened to the muffled cry from downstairs.
"Is that why daddy always says that you should say you're sorry?"
"Yes, it is. If you were angry at someone and then they disappeared, you would always remember that you were mad at them, or that you had hurt them."
"Then I'm glad I always say sorry." The little boy smiled at her, and she could see that he was proud of the things that Booth taught him. She could feel tears welling again and took a deep breath before continuing on.
"Well, the knight and the princess became the best of friends, and were always there for each other. One day, however, the brave knight learned that a far away kingdom in the middle of the ocean was in trouble. He knew that the princess and her helpers could handle anything that came up in their home, so he decided to save the far away land.
"When he got there, he found that an evil sorcerer had put the land under a spell. He fought hard and finally beat the evil wizard. But in doing so, he got trapped inside of a castle that had been set on fire."
"Did the knight get out of the castle?" Brennan looked at Parker and thought for a moment. Logically, Parker would share the same beliefs as his father, which meant that the little boy probably believed in heaven.
"An angel appeared and saved him just before the building burned to the ground. Because the knight had done so much good before he was trapped, he was made a prince and taken to a Kingdom in the sky to live for the rest of time."
"But what about the princess? Does he ever see his friend again?" Temperance had to think about that. How would she explain that the princess didn't believe in the kingdom in the sky, and that she would never get to see the brave knight again? The answer came for her as someone spoke in the doorway of the room.
"Of course he will, bub. The brave knight would never leave the people he loves."
"Daddy!" The little boy launched himself from bed and into his father's arms. Booth held the little boy tightly, almost as though he never expected to see him again. Brennan couldn't take her eyes off of her partner. He was here, unharmed. As Booth let go of his son, he raised his eyes to meet hers.
"Parker, I want you to thank Dr. Brennan for telling such a great bedtime story, and now, you need to get to sleep." He tucked in his son and smiled at the little boy.
"Thank you for the story Dr. Brennan."
"You're welcome Parker." She offered him a grin of her own and swiftly followed Booth from the room. Once the door was closed, she couldn't stop herself. She launched herself onto him and hugged him tightly. Booth held her just as tight, hoping not to ever let go of her. Finally, much more in control of her emotions, she looked up at him. "Why didn't you call? We've been so worried."
"I wanted to surprise you by showing up early, so I didn't call. I would have if I'd heard of the explosion, but I didn't come across a television the entire time, and I had my phone off because I couldn't use it on the plane."
"If you ever do that again…"
"I won't. I'll make sure to tell you when I leave early."
"You'd better. Now there's just one other thing that needs to be cleared up."
"And what's that?"
"Did you mean it?"
"That you'll always come back to the people you love?"
"Of course I did, why?" He got his answer as she pressed her lips to his. Smiling into the kiss, he broke it off and looked at her. "Does this mean that the prince and princess live happily ever after?"
"I don't know about happily," she said and pulled him in for another kiss. As long as they had the ever after, they'd be fine.