A/N: If you have already read The Foster Child in the Forensic Anthropologist, then you will find this concept comfortably familiar (I hope). Ever since the big reveal that Booth's father was an abusive alcoholic, I have been wanting to write a chaptered fic about his childhood experiences, and how they made him the person he is today. I wrote a one-shot about it called Swallowing Stars, but that didn't quench my thirst. The basic idea of portraying Booth's childhood evolved into something more... and that's when this idea sprang up. :) It will be a little like Foster Child in that it will catalog the experiences of Booth's childhood and how that shaped the Seeley Booth we know and love... but it will be a lot more actively involved in the present than Foster Child was. I think it will be more clear what I mean at the end of this chapter.
Okay, enough babbling... enjoy!
Today is gonna be the day
that they're gonna throw it back to you
By now you should've somehow
realized what you gotta do...
- Wonderwall, Oasis
Booth hit the "lock all" button on the driver's side door as they rolled through the ghetto, causing all the doors to secure themselves with a loud click. Brennan looked up at him, and he shrugged.
"Hey, it's a rough neighborhood," he said, gesturing out to their surroundings. Dilapidated Hardie board houses were crammed into dirty, grass-bare lots surrounded by slumping chain link fences. In many of the yards, dogs tethered on chains snapped into the air, daring the agent and his partner to come closer. Everything looked old and defeated; everything looked Poor. The houses, the cars, the people—they were covered in a grimy layer of Poorness that haunted them like a shadow, everywhere they went.
"Booth, the likelihood of someone attempting to harm us is extremely low," Brennan stated. Booth snorted.
"And why is that?" he asked.
"Because we're Caucasian," she replied. He let out a bark-like laugh, shaking his head.
"Bones, that might be the most racist thing I've ever heard you say," he said. She shook her head.
"It's not racist, it's a matter of fact," she replied. "Crime is almost exclusively intraracial. In the past thirty years, eighty-six percent of Caucasians who were murdered were murdered by another Caucasian. For African Americans it is even higher—ninety-four percent were killed by another African American person. You're more likely to find your potential murderer in Sheridan-Kalorama than here."
"I'm more likely to find my potential murderer in the most affluent neighborhood in the D.C. metro? What are they going to do, beat me to death with their wads of cash?" Booth asked, chuckling to himself.
"I'm only saying that so-called 'white-on-white crime' is much more prevalent than interracial crime. The fear upper class Caucasians have of poor African Americans is extremely unfounded."
"Well, thanks for that, Bones," Booth said, reading the numbers on the houses as they turned down the proper street. "But I'll keep my doors locked, just in case that fifteen percent shows up." She smiled and shook her head, and he put the SUV in park in front of a filthy duplex with a slanting wrap-around porch and barred windows. As they approached the porch, Booth leaned his foot gingerly on the step, unsure of whether it would support their combined weight or not. It squealed but did not fall through, and he took the stairs lightly, rapping on the right-hand door.
"Yeah?" a skinny black boy asked after he opened the door, standing before them in boxers and a hoodie. He wasn't really black—more like coffee brown, with extra creamer. He might have even been able to pass the "paper bag test" if he had been born in the Jim Crow south.
"Special Agent Seeley Booth, FBI," Booth said, flashing the boy his badge.
"You the po-lees?" the boy asked.
"Kind of, is your dad—?" Booth began to ask, but before he could finish the boy stepped inside, closing the door fast. Booth stuck his foot in the door before it shut, and it bounced back into the boy's hand.
"Hey now," Booth said, pushing the door all the way open with his hand. "I just want to talk to your dad, is he around?" Booth asked. The boy shook his head.
"No suh," he said, spreading himself as far across the entrance as he could, imagining himself bigger than the scrawny thing he was. "He gone, I dunno when he be back." Booth did not hear the boy, however, as something else had caught his attention—the pungent odor of the duplex.
"Do you have cats?" Booth asked the boy, who hesitated before shaking his head. "Bones, do you smell ammonia?" Brennan made a sour face as she smelled the air, nodding. Booth's eyes narrowed, and he brushed the boy aside as he stormed down the initial hallway into the main living area.
Inside, he saw just what he had suspected—fold-out tables littered with glass tubes and beakers, long tubes reaching down into five-gallon buckets. Empty containers of Toluene, Freon, starter fluid, and Drano littered the dirty carpet, as well as innumerable beer bottles.
"What is this?" Brennan asked, looking around with mild disgust.
"A meth lab," Booth said, his voice dark. "That's what the smell is, it's the chemicals they use. Let's get out of here." Booth turned and grabbed the small boy by the upper arm, as he looked tempted to flee. "You too, come on."
"Man, lemme go!" the boy shouted, trying in vain to pull his small arm out of Booth's grip. Booth pulled him over to the SUV and 'helped' him into the back seat, shutting him in. The boy yanked on the door handle, but to no avail—the child lock, or 'criminal lock' as was often the more correct term, prevented anyone from opening the door from the inside. Once they were all in the car and the doors were secured, Booth turned around in his seat to face the boy, whose arms were crossed defiantly.
"What's your name?" he asked the boy.
"Jamal," he replied sourly.
"Jamal, how old are you?" Booth asked.
"Ten," he replied shortly.
"You go to school?" Booth asked.
"Yes," he replied.
"Today's a school day, it's only one in the afternoon—you should be in class right now. Why aren't you?"
"I'm sick," Jamal replied. Booth gave him an incredulous look and the boy faked a cough, still glaring at the agent.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he was sick, Booth," Brennan said. "Children raised in methamphetamine labs are highly susceptible to a variety of health concerns, particularly regarding the upper-respiratory tract."
"He's not sick, his dad probably made him stay home to keep an eye on things while he was out," Booth said. "When's your dad coming home?"
"I 'onno," Jamal said, shrugging. "Didn't say."
"Well, we're going to wait here for him until he gets back," Booth said, leaning back into his seat and setting his jaw. And they did, for several hours, until it was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon. The thumping of the car's bass announced his arrival long before the car's shadow on the pavement did. As soon as Jamal's father stepped out of his battered blue El Camino, Booth swung the SUV door open, crossing the yard in a few long strides and grabbing the man by the arm. The man jerked his arm away and attempted to swing at Booth, but Booth had the element of surprise—he pinned the man up against the El Camino, wrenching his thick arms behind his back and feeling on his belt for his cuffs.
"Sir, is this your residence?" he asked loudly into the man's ear.
"This my house," he yelled back. "Get offa me! Jamal!"
"Booth," Brennan called out. Booth turned around and saw the boy scrambling out of the back seat, over the centerpiece, and exiting through the driver's side door. In his moment of surprise the man wrenched free of Booth's grasp, and ran across the yard to meet the boy. He brought his fist back and knocked the child to the ground in one fell swoop. The boy cried out, and Booth caught fire.
"Hey!" he yelled out. The man turned around, and was promptly rendered unconscious by Booth's solid fist. Then everything went fuzzy. After a while, Booth became conscious of the fact that he was repeatedly kicking the man in the back and yelling something incomprehensible. Brennan was attempting to put herself between Booth and the unconscious perp, beseeching him with muted words. Suddenly he could hear them.
"…hurting him, Booth, stop!" she said in a strained voice, grabbing his balled up fists with her soft hands and pushing him away from the man. He took two steps back and breathed heavily, feeling the sweat bead up on his brow. He looked around—several faces in nearby windows watched him with wide eyes, and Jamal sat in a trembling, crumpled heap in the middle of the yard, trying to stem the flow of blood from his nose with his jacket sleeve.
Within ten minutes local police, the DEA, an EMT, and Sam Cullen had arrived on scene. Jamal's father had been deemed in need of an x-ray to assess whether any severe damage had been done to his kidneys or spleen, and handcuffed to his stretcher. Booth leaned against the hood of his car, still seething with rage, as Cullen paced back and forth before him. If Booth was mad, Cullen was mad to the power of eight.
"Attacking suspects, sending them to the hospital!" Cullen burst out, rubbing a hand over his bald head in sheer incredulity.
"He hit that—" Booth started, but Cullen rounded on him before he could finish.
"I don't care who he hit, Booth, you assaulted a suspect while carrying your badge and gun! Two things, by the way, that I want from you immediately."
"He hit that kid, Cullen," Booth hissed, jerking a thumb towards the second ambulance, where an EMT was packing Jamal's nose with gauze. "He knocked the shit out of him. I couldn't just—"
"He hit that kid, he's a dirt bag, I get it!" Cullen raged. "But you assaulted him, Booth. You kicked the shit out of him! I can't have my agents kicking the shit out of people who make them angry!"
"Alright Cherie, what did you get yourself into this time?" Caroline Julian asked, her voice louder than the combined racket of the police and DEA officers as they turned the house upside down.
"You called Caroline?" Booth asked Brennan, who had been standing by his side while Cullen chewed him out. She shrugged.
"You called her when I got in trouble in New Orleans," she said. "I thought it would be a good idea."
"You were facing murder charges," he pointed out.
"And you're gonna be facing charges of police brutality," Caroline said, pointing her finger at Booth.
"Caroline," Cullen greeted with a head nod.
"Sam," she returned. "So where's the boy?" Booth motioned over to the ambulance, where Jamal was holding a pack of ice against his swelling face. She tutted audibly.
"Hittin' a child, I don't know how anyone can do it," she said sadly. "I understand your anger, Cherie, I really do. Your action, now that was just plain stupid… but your anger I understand."
"Is he going to press charges?" Brennan asked.
"Yes," Cullen answered. "He was asking for a lawyer between screams when they loaded him into the ambulance."
"I think if we offer him a decreased sentence on the drug charges, he'd be willing to drop the police brutality charge," Caroline said.
"But the kid!" Booth started, but Caroline put up a hand.
"I didn't say he would get off on the child abuse charges," she said. "This man's a multiple offender. Operating a meth lab, illegal drug possession, illegal drug sales, child neglect, child endangerment, child abuse, aggravated assault, assault of an officer—"
"I wouldn't call what he did assault," Booth interjected, but Caroline cleared her throat loudly.
"He swung at you, didn't he?" she asked. Booth nodded. "Then it was assault. This man's going away for a long time—him getting a few years knocked off of the drug charges to clear you isn't gonna affect anything."
"You think he'll be cleared?" Brennan asked Caroline. She nodded.
"I think so," Caroline said. "I've seen this before. Police get a little too… what's the word… overzealous when dealing with child abusers. Happens more than you think; it just never makes it to court. Just like when one of 'em turns up dead in prison with a home-made shiv stickin' outta his back… people just don't ask questions about that, Cherie. They don't care. It's just one less sicko in the world."
"Good," Cullen said, turning to Booth. "For now, you're suspended. If all this clears up and the board approves, I don't mind reinstating you. I'm not saying the guy didn't deserve to get the shit kicked out of him… you just don't need to be the one doing the kicking. Got it?" Booth nodded, and Cullen bid them farewell.
"So what happens to Jamal?" Booth asked, suddenly remembering the reason for the fiasco. Caroline shrugged.
"From what I can tell, that was his last little bit of family you were kickin' into the ground there. He'll go into the system." Booth felt his stomach bottom out—the foster care system would turn a kid like Jamal into a class-A criminal, no doubt. He looked to Brennan, who eyed him cautiously.
"Bones," he began, though as soon as he had opened his mouth she had started shaking her head.
"Booth, I can't raise a ten year old," Brennan said. "I don't know anything about boys."
"Bones, the system will turn him into a criminal," Booth pleaded. "He needs you."
"How do you know I won't turn him into a criminal?" she asked. Her question was sincere but to Booth it was deadpan humor. He smiled, but his eyes implored her to her depths.
"Please, Temperance." He dragged the first name out of the arsenal, causing her to tilt her head slightly, biting her bottom lip. "This kid can't handle the system, he needs guidance. He needs someone to help him get through this."
"I can't handle a ten year old boy," she said. "You're the one with a son."
"I'll help," he promised. "I'll help, I'll be there, I'll do anything. But you're the registered foster parent, not me. He needs you. I need you." She sighed heavily, and Booth thought she might bite through her lip. She shut her eyes for a moment, then nodded.
"Okay," she said in defeat. "Okay. We'll try it."
"Oh Lord in Heaven," Caroline uttered, throwing her hands up in the air. "Dr. Brennan and a hood rat, this is gonna be ugly."
"Caroline!" Booth exclaimed. "Bones will be a great foster mom. You'll be a great foster mom," he assured, turning his attention back to her. "You'll be the best parent Jamal ever had."
"You think so?" Brennan asked, looking past Booth warily at the boy, who was chewing on the clean sleeve of his jacket and staring out into the street, engrossed in thought.
"Definitely," Booth said. "Now, let's get down to social services before you change your mind."
A/N: Sometime in the next chapter or two we'll get into Booth's past, but for now we've got some more pressing matters in the present to deal with. What are your thoughts on the first chapter? Love it? Hate it? Have any feeling about it whatsoever? Leave me a review and let me know! :)
Oh, and from a legal standpoint, I have no idea if they could orchestrate a "trade off" to get Booth off of police brutality charges... I just kind of made that up, since I couldn't find any laws pertaining to it. If you know for a fact that I'm wrong, please let me know! I love accuracy.