Disclaimer: No infringement of copyright is intended. All characters originated with Fox TV.

A/N: This is my first try at a "Bones" fanfic, but this scene got into my head and would not leave me alone. Please leave me a comment if you enjoyed it, or if you think I got it all terribly wrong. I happily respond to all reviews.

"Nobody knew where the shot came from but, you know, they knew why it came. They said I saved over a hundred people, but, you know, that little boy? Who didn't know who his father was, who just loved him? He saw him die, fall to the ground, right in front of him. That little boy, covered in his daddy's blood. Just changed forever. It's never just the one person who dies, Bones, never. Never."

(Brennan gently puts her hand on his forearm. He looks at it gratefully and puts his hand on hers)

"We all die a little bit, Bones. With each shot, we all die a little bit."

The Soldier on the Grave Season 1 Ep 21 from tv dot com site

Dying a Little Bit

"Daddy, Daddy! You have to come! We're having a clown and a pony and I'm going to be a cowboy and Nana and Gramps are going to be there…." The little boy's voice faltered as he looked into his daddy's eyes and saw them go dark and cold.

"Daddy? Are you mad at me?"

"What? No, Parker. No, buddy, I'm not mad," Booth shook his head, trying to drive the sound of a tinkling piano and happy voices singing out of his head.

"So won't you come to my birthday party? Please, Daddy?" Blond curls, winsome smile, wheedling voice, each one a bullet straight to the heart.

"We'll see. I'm not promising, buddy, okay? I'll try. I really will." Weakly, Booth lied, desperate to put the joy back in his son's eyes.

"Okay, Daddy. I know you'll be there. After all, it's my sixth birthday. I'm having a dinosaur cake – Mommy said so. And there is going to be a clown." Parker held out this enticement, eyes round with wonder and glee, and danced away to grab his backpack and the fifteen action figures that presently had to travel with him everywhere he went.

Booth winced.

"Honestly, Booth. Surely work could wait for just two hours. He's your son, after all. He'll be so disappointed." The look of barely controlled impatience on Rebecca's face had been blessedly absent for months now. It killed Booth to see it re-surface.

"I'm sorry, Rebecca. I will try, honestly. But this case is big. There is some talk of us having to go to New York this weekend to meet with some egg-head foundation that has been funneling money to groups linked with terrorist activity. The second we can get the Agency to sign off on it, we have to be on a plane. I don't want to lie to him – get his hopes up."

Rebecca turned slightly and said with a casualness Booth had long ago learned to distrust, "Would you be going with Dr. Brennan?"

Booth sighed, "Rebecca …"

She looked at him over her shoulder, mischief gleaming in her smile, "I'm just saying … New York in the autumn, the fall colours, the nightlife … you should spend a day or two."

"What about my son? What about his disappointment?" Honestly, Booth thought, if he lived to be a thousand years old, he would never understand what went through a woman's head.

Rebecca shrugged, "If you are going to miss anyway, you might as well get something out of it other than a buffing of your already over-developed conscience. You really need to get out more, Booth."

"Mommy, aren't we going yet?" Parker tugged on her hand, as eager to be gone as he had been to come two days ago.

Booth looked down at his son – his nearly six-years-old son – and his over-developed conscience hit him in the gut. He kneeled down and put his hand out to Parker.

"Don't I get a hug?"

Parker complied whole-heartedly, as he did most everything, and Booth hugged him a little harder and a little longer than necessary.

"Daddy?" Two little hands on either side of his face, two earnest eyes boring into his with the honesty that only a child dare show. "After-school. On Wednesday. You don't have to bring me a present if you don't want to."

Booth blinked and hugged Parker again briefly, rubbing damp eyes on the child's hoodie so no one would notice.

"You could bring Dr. Brennan. I bet she'd like to come. It could be 'thropoligicly intr'sting." That sweet wheedling voice again.

One more bull's eye, Booth thought. "I'll call you Wednesday, okay, champ?" This time he stood up, pushing his sunglasses on as he walked Parker to the car where Rebecca was waiting. He buckled him into his car seat and dropped one last kiss on the boy's head, slamming the door briskly and tapping the top of the car as a signal to Rebecca that he was done.

The car took off down the street, and Booth could hear music playing in his head as Parker waved and smiled from behind the window.

"Booth? What is it? Do we have a case?" Although woken out of a deep sleep, Tempe Brennan remained focused. The ring tone had told her it was Booth even in her dreams.

There was no answer on the other end of the line, and blinking, she looked over at the clock beside her bed. "Booth? It's five after 3. What is it? Why are you calling?"

She sat up, pulling the covers up to her shoulders and yawning. It was one thing to wake up easily. It was another thing altogether to be happy about it.

She listened for a minute. She couldn't hear breathing, but in the distance she thought she might hear music playing: accordion, guitar? Something breezy and light-hearted with voices singing in the background.

"Booth? Are you all right?" She tumbled out of bed, finding clothes by feel in the dark. "Booth. Are you hurt? Has something happened?"

She was running through the apartment, grabbing her wallet and keys, pulling on sneakers so old she could slip into them without stopping to tie the laces.

"I am coming over. Booth? I'll be there in a few minutes. Talk to me. Please, Booth, talk to me."

The music grew louder, as if the phone were closer to the source now, but still no one answered her increasingly frantic questions.

By the time she had pulled the car into Booth's driveway, she was pulling her too-large gun out of her coat pocket, heart beating fast. She had not hung up the phone, but all sound had disappeared a few minutes before she made it to Booth's quiet neighbourhood.

"Booth?" She rapped lightly on the door. She was not averse to making some noise if she had to, but a quiet approach would keep his neighbours from getting involved.

There was no answer, and when she tried the door, it was solidly locked. She shut up the useless phone and stared at the barrier in front of her.

Briefly, she thought about simply blowing a hole through the door and gaining entrance that way, but thinking an alternate approach might work, she decided to leave that as a secondary option and check out the back of the building first.

Remembering a few summer evenings watching Booth assert his mastery over the barbeque, she walked quietly through the trees which surrounded the old brick building. It was solid, she thought, like Booth. A little weathered, with strong foundations, and confident enough to simply make the environment adapt to it. She felt a certain, unexpected fondness for it.

She pushed through the final small hedge of trimmed box tree, the smell of damp fallen leaves rising up and filling her nostrils. Booth and Parker had cleared things away for winter only a few weekends ago, tidying up the garden, putting away the summer toys and shutting down the barbeque. She had watched with anthropological interest as the alpha-male of his small troupe trained and mentored the young heir to the throne. She had studied a man teaching his son how to be a steward of the land they were attached to.

As a woman, she had been fascinated, as Booth had laughed and teased and patiently shown his son's small hands how to accomplish what needed to be done. And if her heart beat a tiny bit faster every time he had glanced her way, what of it? Biological urges were a strong component of anthropological theorizing, too.

Her eyes adjusted to the gloom of the early morning, and she saw a flickering light coming from the balcony a floor above her head. Shielding her eyes with a hand, she stared up, calling softly, "Booth. Booth? Let me in. I need to talk to you."

A soft undertone floated down to her, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? 
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. 
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
who is already sick and pale with grief
 that thou, her maid, art far more fair than she."

Brennan smiled, her worries only partially alleviated, "Wrong way around, I think, Booth. Isn't Juliet supposed to be on the balcony?"

She heard the sigh, "Trust you to upset the dominant gender roles, Bones. What are you doing here? It's late. I mean," the light flickered again and Brennan realized it was a lighter flame she had seen earlier, "It's early."

"You phoned me. Don't you remember?" She was still squinting up, trying to see his features and failing.

He was perfectly still for a moment, then he said quietly, "I'll let you in. Come to the side door."

Brennan pushed her way through the flowering shrubs on the other side of the building, mentally giving each its Latin tag, but still reached the door before Booth did. She waited, her hands jammed into her coat pockets, carefully avoiding the gun once again pulling her pocket down.

When he opened the door to her, she stared at him, concerned. His face was in shadow, but he slumped heavily against the doorframe. His hand shook as he reached to draw her into the house.

"I'm sorry, Bones. I didn't mean to wake you up. I don't remember phoning you."

Brennan walked ahead of him, turning to look at him once they reached the kitchen. Without a word, she flicked on the light on the back of the stove, and in a moment its soft light filled the room. She stepped towards Booth, her hands gripping his arms tightly.

"You look like hell."

"I've been drinking." He tried to move away from her, shrugging a little impatiently.

She had seen him giggling-and-sweet drunk; she had seen him angry-and-argumentative drunk. She had seen him falling-asleep drunk and falling-on-his-face drunk. She had seen him drink beer, 12-year-old Scotch, chilled vodka, and even wormy tequila.

She had never seen him look like this. His red-rimmed and blackened eyes were burned into his drawn face. He looked as if he hadn't slept in days, and even thought she had seen him just that morning, worked with him on a case for six hours, he looked shrunken, as if he had lost weight.

He pushed away from her firmly, and leaned against the kitchen island, arms wrapped around himself.

"Are you drunk?" she asked it almost sharply, fear lancing through her.

He shrugged again. "Drink enough, it's like you go right through to the other side and you're sober again."

She looked up at him, gnawing on her lip. "I don't know what you mean."

He grinned tiredly. "I'm sober now."

She threw her hands out helplessly, "I don't know what to do, Booth. I need you to tell me. Help me help you."

He rubbed a hand over his face, trying to focus, guiltily turning his eyes from her. "Why did you say you were here?'

She hissed in frustration. "You phoned me. Your ring tone, Booth. Your phone." She looked around the kitchen, searching for the phone, but could not find it. With a mutter, she hit speed dial and began casting around the apartment. She moved restlessly through the living room, into his bedroom, making a triumphant sound as she reached under a cushion and grabbed his phone.

When she stood up, all sense of victory was quickly dashed. The bedclothes were turned upside down, and all the bedroom lights were blazing in the otherwise dark house, as if the sleeper had been torn out of sleep through something so terrible it could not be faced in the dark. Worse, much worse, the room stank of fear: the fear of the pursued, the haunted, the trapped.

Brennan sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, overwhelmed by the sense of despair that hung in the corners of the room. She shuddered once, then stood up determinedly. Whatever had driven Booth to this state was not going to beat them. She might not believe in the techniques or theories of psychology, but she had learned one thing from Booth and Angela: talking about something, naming something, took away some of its power.

She walked back into the living room, where Booth had collapsed onto the couch, and was lying with his knees up and one arm over his eyes. She thought for a moment of turning on the light, but refrained. She planned to peel enough control away from Booth; let him have the comfort of the dark if he needed a place to hide.

She sat on the couch and pulled his feet into her lap. He glanced at her cautiously, but as she began to soothingly massage his surprisingly elegant feet, he relaxed slightly, some of the strain leaving his face and shoulders.

She waited until his breathing had evened out, then said meditatively, "What has been going on, Booth? You were fine on Sunday. We took Parker to the museum, and then you took him home. By Monday morning, you were getting quiet. And you snapped at Zach. Usually you don't talk to him at all. Was there a problem with Rebecca?"

He shook his head, but Brennan felt his feet tense under her hands. "But it does have something to do with Parker?"

He nodded slowly, his arm back over his eyes.

"Can you tell me?" She waited a few minutes, but he stubbornly refused to say anything.

"Oh Booth, are you going to force me to make acceptable intuitive leaps here?"

The grin, though a pale shadow of its usual glory, warmed Brennan like nothing else could have had that moment, and encouraged her to say softly, "Tell me. I'm your partner. You have to be able to tell someone."

She was startled when he sucked in a breath at her words, as if she had stabbed him. She flashed on the time he had said those words to her, and stared at a large picture of Parker on the top of the tv as she struggled to remember everything he had said then.

Parker's gap-toothed face smiled up at her, a goofy hat on his head, a birthday cake covered in candles on the table in front of him. She could feel her heart bleed as she put all the evidence together.

"Oh, Booth," she breathed. "Parker's birthday. His sixth birthday."

"I keep hearing the music." Finally, a voice came from the man lying on the couch, his face hidden from her, but his heart as open as the sky. It was not a voice she recognized, but in the husky and broken tones she could hear all the things he could never say.

"The music that was playing when …" Even Temperance Brennan knew not to finish that statement.

"When I murdered a little boy's father on his birthday. When I destroyed a family. When I had a hand in creating who knows what kind of monster." That voice, full of anger and self-disgust, she did recognize, but her head was already shaking.

"When you killed a man who had already killed more than two hundred women and children. When you killed a man who had destroyed two villages full of innocent people. When you killed a man who was going to do it again." She had turned to face him, straining to see his face, to impress her conviction on him.

"I know it was hard – what you did, Seeley. I can't pretend to know what it was like, or how difficult it is for you to live with it. But you are a good person. And you are not a murderer."

She stopped on a sob. She didn't know what else to tell him. How to force him out of the darkness of this place he had gone to. Furiously, she cursed the Catholic Church, which she held responsible for his habit of accepting guilt. Surely there was some sort of pardon they were supposed to give. What is the point, she thought angrily, of a system of forgiveness that left the forgiven carrying the burden of guilt into the after-life?

Blinded by the tears that had filled her eyes, she did not see him move until his hands were on her face, his thumbs wiping away the dampness from her cheeks.

"Tears, Temperance? For me?" His voice was husky again, but this time she shivered at the longing she heard.

She didn't think. She couldn't think, not with his arms around her, not with his breath warming her mouth. She moved the last few millimeters to touch his lips with hers. And in that moment they were both lost.

They were both found.

"Daddy! Daddy! Dr. B!" The little boy was incandescent with joy when the SVU doors slammed shut and Booth held out a hand to Brennan, helping her out of the car before turning to catch Parker, who had launched himself from the top step into his father's arms. He hugged the warm wriggling little body a little harder and longer than strictly necessary, and thanked God for the fact of this small person in his life.

He swung around and looked at Bones, who was standing observing a dozen small children in various stages of party psychosis: some manically running around the back-yard or playing on the swing set; a few indulging in what Brennan could only think of as hallucinations, seeing as they appeared to believe the small toys in their hands were alive and talking in various voices. One little girl was crying miserably in the corner, and another was sitting on the stairs exhibiting all the classic symptoms of catatonia.

Booth watched her analysing the scene in front of her, and held back a snort. Neither she nor Parker would understand the laughter which was bubbling up in him. He felt uplifted, euphoric.

He felt, he realized with a shock, absolved.

"Come on, buddy! Are we in time for cake?" He rubbed noses with Parker, grinning widely.

"Even better, Daddy! You are just in time for ..." Parker's voice dropped dramatically, and his eyes danced with wild excitement, "For Bubbles."

Booth looked over his son's head with a hint of puzzlement. "Who is Bubbles?" He mouthed the words at her.

"Youknow, Daddy! Bubbles is the …"

A bicycle horn went off a few inches from Booth's head, and it was only the child in his arms that kept him from grabbing for his gun.

Three voices spoke in perfect unison: Parker with a squeal of excitement; Brennan with a rueful, laughing glance at Booth; Booth with a resigned roll of his eyes and a slight flinch, swiftly repressed.

"Bubbles the Clown."