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Growing Upside Down - Chapter 9

"They sent you to prison?" Booth sputtered, his voice trembling with rage and hurt and sorrow for her. "For not fitting in?"

"It wasn't fair. I know that now… But then—back then, I was powerless to stop it." She dropped her gaze away from the pain in his eyes and stood suddenly, reaching for the empty glasses on the table. Booth's hand shot out and rested on her forearm gently and she looked from his hand to his eyes. They were still warm, brown, and filled with hurt for her.

But his eyes held another emotion too. It was an expression that told her she needed to finish telling the story. She knew, and she understood, and the corners of her lips turned upward in a small smile.

"I'll sit back down in a minute, Booth," she told him, gently pulling free of his touch. "I'm just going to use the restroom. Feel free to besiege the refrigerator if you're hungry." Booth laughed, standing and stretching.

"Raid, Bones, not besiege. And thanks, I am hungry. Want me to make you something?"

"No, thanks." She said, turning and heading down the hall into her bathroom, stretching the tension from her neck and shoulders. She returned to the kitchen minutes later to find Booth leaning against the counter, cell phone in hand.

"Did you get a call?" She asked. "Because if you need to go, I understand. It's late and I've been talking for quite some time. " He smiled at her, setting his phone back down on the counter.

"Nope, I'm staying here tonight, remember? And I told you I was hungry, but all you have is tofurkey and granola. I ordered us a pizza. Don't worry—" he said when she began to open her mouth. "I ordered half with the veggies you like. "

"Thank you, Booth. Didn't I put chili in the freezer for you?"

"I ate it on Tuesday while we were working on the Durway case. "

He stood against the counter, taking one step toward her, eyes fixed on her crystal ones. He was searching them, she knew. She blinked and looked at her hand where it rested on the countertop. Very gently, he covered her hand with his.

"You okay, Bones?" She nodded.

"Yeah, I'm okay, just a little tired." He nodded, understanding.

"I'll understand if you want to get some sleep. You can finish the story another time."

"No, I find it's best to take your advice about personal matters, and you said that this is like ripping off a bandage. Quickly and all at once. That's what I'm doing." Booth grinned at her, and she tilted her head to the side. "What?"

"You're taking my advice. "

"Yes, well, you've proven to me time and again that it's beneficial to go with your judgment on issues of a personal nature. " She smiled at him, slipping her hand out from under his and sitting on the barstool at the kitchen counter. He followed suit, and she took a breath.

"Brennan, let's go," Ricardo commanded, shaking his large ring of keys at her. It was his favorite threat, shaking the keys. Effective, too. Temperance could imagine that it would hurt if she were hit with them. Grateful for the excuse to leave the filthy 8x8 cell, she slid from her cot and hurried out behind the guard as he slammed the bars back in place with a clattering of metal. There were groans and angry threats elicited by the noise from the others in surrounding cells

Juvenile hall was easily one of the worst places she had ever been. Five days she'd been here, and she would rather be back with Derek and Heidi. The rules were different here, the system took careful planning and navigation. She had learned that the hard way on her first day here. She accidentally made eye contact with one of the others during shower time and now had a shining purple eye and a cracked rib or two that hurt when she breathed too deep, but the nurses at the center were less than accommodating.

She was lucky that her interview with Northwestern yesterday was over the phone rather than in person. They had given her precious phone time in a private room and even had the respect not to monitor the call. The committee had put her on a conference call, and Temperance felt that the interview had gone well. The chair of the committee told her that she could expect a decision about a scholarship before the end of March.

She trailed Ricardo's heavy footsteps down several corridors, weaving their way through the center and stopping a number of times to unlock doors. Everything was locked here. Everything was locked, everything was cold, everything carried a distinct smell, like chemical cleaner that couldn't quite eradicate the stench of body odor and mold.

The food here was terrible, the people were worse. The girls were hardened, a product of a cruel world where survival instincts drove even the youngest to harden themselves at a young age. They ate their meals with plastic forks and spoons, no knives. The utensils were recovered and counted at the end of each meal, just in case.

There was a television on her ward, set to MTV. She hadn't watched MTV since before her parents left, but somehow TV was no longer important to her. The others played cards, gambling their snack privileges and phone time. The toilet and sink she used were in her cell; nothing here was private. She wore navy blue sweatpants, slide-on plastic sandals with socks, and white T-shirts. Only sports bras were allowed here, no underwire.

Finally Ricardo led her to a private bathroom, the one the visitors were allowed to use, and handed her knapsack and street clothes to her. True to her word, the judge allowed her to attend her school. It meant she had to wake very early to dress and be chaperoned out before the usual morning routine at the detention center. She dressed quickly, ran a brush through her hair, and emerged from the bathroom.

"Finished?" Sherry, the guard at the front, asked her, taking back her bag of personal belongings for storage.

"Yes, thank you," Temperance said, slinging the knapsack over her shoulder.

"I'll get Ernie out to warm up the van for you. You certainly have an odd situation, my dear. You don't deserve to be here."

"I agree. I know you have no choice, but thank you for honoring the judge's requests for me."

"You are welcome, dear. And, I have something for you," she said, holding out a brown paper bag. "I know you didn't eat breakfast yesterday and prisons don't exactly brown-bag it. There's a bagel with cream cheese for before school, and a PB&J, banana and some cookies for lunch."

Temperance took the bag, her stomach growling in anticipation. The tougher inmates had taken most of what she'd been given for supper the day before, so it had been a while since she'd eaten. While the consistent deprivation of food was not new to her, the feeling of hunger was still uncomfortable.

"Thank you so much, Sherry, I really appreciate it." She said sincerely. The van horn sounded from outside and, waving goodbye, she dashed outside and hopped into the van.

School had always been her escape, and today was no different. She had been lucky that the judge had taken pity on her, arranging for her to be driven out just a couple extra miles to the school she'd been at with the family who had taken her back, Burtonsville High, so she wouldn't be set back any more with this move. She still rarely spoke during the day, both to her teachers and to her peers, but she relished every moment where she could sit with her studies, undisturbed, and feel a little bit of hope for her future. People whispered behind her back about the quiet girl who now smelled a little funny and looked too pale and drawn, but she ignored them, eating the sandwich that Sherry had packed for her and turning through the pages of her Government Studies book.

"It was an awful place to live," she said to Booth unnecessarily. "There was danger and fear everywhere I looked, even when I was asleep. The girl who shared the cell with me often uttered threats. More than ever, I decided I wanted to learn martial arts, or some other form of self-defense. I was a very good runner, but at the detention center, there was nowhere to run.

"I developed very good instincts for danger, though, that's one thing that being in the system did for me. Being able to feel a threat before it was actually made helped me to evade a lot of situations that could have turned out badly. But still…"

"Those instincts can only take you so far, right?" Booth asked. He wanted so badly to reach out and put his arm around her, to comfort her and simply let her know that he was still there, maybe somehow that would ease the pain of reliving her past. Brennan only nodded. "Did you ever think about running?"

"Every day," she told him. "I would have if there wasn't so much holding me to the path the system had set for me. If I'd run, I would have been untraceable. I would have lost communication with the universities I was applying to, and I would have lost all of my things. Those were the only things I had left of my family, I couldn't let them go." Without having to ask, she knew Booth understood. He knew her better than anyone, even, perhaps, better than Angela.

"So how long did you have to stay in Juvy Hall?" he asked her, knowing that even though the judge said two weeks, it was all too easy for a foster child to be lost in the system.

Just as Brennan opened her mouth to answer, there was a knock at the door. The two of them locked eyes for just a moment. Then, as if a gunshot had gone off, both raced toward the door, Booth digging for his wallet and Brennan grabbing her purse from the end table by the door. After hastily checking the door to confirm that, as they had suspected, the pizza had arrived, Booth flung the door open. Brennan was too quick for him—she slid around his broad shoulders and came face-to-face with Devon, one of the doormen in her building. In his hand, he held a pizza box.

"Good evening, Devon," she said, smiling as Booth opened the door a bit wider to stand in the doorframe. "What do I owe you?"

"$12 even, Dr. Brennan," the broad-chested man smiled at her. As Brennan dug the money out of her wallet, Devon's gaze shifted to a sullen-faced Booth. "She beat you to it, Ranger. Gotta be quicker next time," he smirked.

"It's okay, Booth," she said, handing the bills to Devon. She turned to smile at her partner. "You can get the tip." She took the pizza from the doorman and Booth chuckled, digging some cash out of his wallet. He handed it to Devon.

"Thanks, man," he said. "Pass whatever he deserves to the kid who delivered the pizza. Thanks for looking after us." Devon winked at them.

"Sure thing. You have a good evening. Wrap up another case?"

"No, Booth's building is being fumigated, so he's staying here for a while." Devon nodded and tucked the money into his navy jacket. He tipped his hat to them.

"You have a good evening, folks," he told them cordially. After bidding farewell, Brennan carried the pizza inside and Booth locked the door behind her.

"I can't believe you wouldn't let me pay for the pizza. I was the one who ordered it," he said, pulling two plates from Brennan's cupboard.

"Don't be silly, Booth. I wanted to," she said, setting the box down on the counter. "Besides, you'll have to be quicker than that to beat me," she smirked. Booth shook his head in disbelief.

"Yeah, well, next time I won't let that happen."

"But you said that last time."

"You know what? Just eat your food, Bones."

The two of them grabbed pizza, choosing to sit on the stools at the counter for a change in scenery. They munched on the pizza for a moment, then Booth set his slice down.

"How long? In Juvenile Hall?"

"Only a week," Brennan smiled. "I was very lucky."

The woman stepped into the visitor's atrium, if that's even what you could call this tiny, disheveled, gray room. The tiny windows hardly lit it, and she squinted as she removed her sunglasses. She was smartly dressed in a skirt suit with a rose-colored blouse, moderate heels, and large, dangling earrings that looked as though they had been crafted somewhere in the Far East. Tucking her sunglasses on her head atop the mass of wavy blond hair, she stepped up to the empty reception window of the reception counter and rapped sharply on the glass.

"What can I do for you, ma'am?" Sherry asked her.

"I'm here for Temperance Brennan."

"Oh, good, that girl doesn't deserve to be here. I hope you have the proper paperwork?"

"Of course." The woman withdrew a small stack of paper from her sleek leather briefcase and slid them under the heavy glass toward Sherry. "My name is Clara Toyne, by the way." Sherry smiled at her.

"Sherry Lapinski," she said, checking through the papers she'd just been handed. "So how did you hear 'bout the Brennan girl's case?"

"Oh, the judge is one of my good friends. I heard about what happened—she feels terrible—and I'm in the position to help. She sounds like quite the kid, and I want to help her out." Sherry nodded and kept turning through the pages. This woman was only about 30, unmarried, and worked as one of the special exhibits coordinators at the natural history museum.

"You're registered as a foster parent?"

"Yes." Sherry nodded. Everything seemed to check out, and she told Clara this.

"Okay, this all seems to be in order. I'll need to run everything by my supervisor and get some things entered with the computer system, but I don't foresee any problems. Do you have any questions?"

"Yes, where is Temperance? I would like to at least ask her whether she'd like to go with me." Sherry smiled.

"I'm sure she'd rather be anywhere else but here, but there's no harm in checking. I'll get Sam, he's one of our day guards. He'll show you around, help you find Temperance."

Temperance hated exercise time. They forced everyone into the courtyard when the weather was nice and made them stay there for an hour and the others ran and played basketball with a hoop with no net. Others gambled, hid away in corners to pass around a contraband cigarette, got in fights or simply loitered. She, on the other hand, had taken one of her books out with her, sitting with her back flush against the cold metal of the high fence, trying to remain invisible. The noise surrounding her was tuned out as she struggled for just a moment of peace.

As she turned the page of Darwin's The Origin of Species, she could feel that someone was watching her. Pulling her gaze from the pages of the book, she turned her head to look upward and saw the cause of her discomfort: a slim woman of average height stood ten feet away, removing her sunglasses to get a better look at her.

"Temperance Brennan?" she asked. Temperance nodded, and to her surprise the woman smiled broadly at her. "My name is Clara Toyne, and if it's alright with you, I'd like to get you out of here." She was still smiling. Temperance faltered. It sounded too good to be true.

"I don't understand. How?"

"I heard about your case," the woman said, "and I want to help. If it's alright with you, I would like to become your foster parent." Still, Temperance remained uncertain. Seemingly sensing her nervousness, Clara continued to speak. "I am a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, I live alone in an apartment at Lincoln Park, and I heard about your situation from the judge, who happens to be a good friend of mine. Like I said, you have a place to stay if you would like it."

"I would like that," Temperance said, surely but quietly. "When will everything be finalized?" Clara grinned at her, her brilliant white teeth showing.

"Five minutes ago. We can leave whenever you'd like." Temperance nodded, feeling immensely relieved. She was finally going to get out of the dismal youth prison, would not have to worry about her safety every moment of every day or whether she would have her meals stolen or withheld. That was her hope, and with a smile on her face she stood.

"I would like to leave now."

And just 10 minutes later, Temperance was wearing jeans and her purple Chucks, sitting in the front seat of Clara's Toyota with her things in the backseat of the car. She glanced back sadly at the black garbage bags lolling shapelessly on the seat, the knot at the tops bobbing as they went over a speedbump in the parking lot.

"I can't believe that they make you put everything in a trash bag," Clara said, shaking her head disapprovingly while they waited at a red light. "I'm sorry about that. We'll have to comb the sale pages in the paper and see if we can get you a real suitcase."

"No, Ms. Toyne, you don't have to do that," Temperance said, staring into her lap. "Besides, I had a duffel in the beginning. It was my father's. But a seam at the bottom ripped out just before I was sent to the detention center, and it was tossed out before I could mend it."

"Well, if you won't let me buy a new one, at least let me give you one of mine. I used to do a lot of globetrotting and have more bags than I know what to do with." She smiled at Temperance before turning her gaze back to the road. "And please, call me Clara. Ms. Toyne is my crazy aunt with six cats who lives in my grandparents' basement." She caught Temperance's eye and smiled at her.

The apartment was beautiful, situated just two blocks from the park in a good neighborhood. It was a spacious two-bedroom that was well-furnished and decorated with vibrant artwork whose origins Temperance could not pinpoint. She carried her bags through the apartment, following Clara, and the blonde woman led her to the guest room.

It was bright, with a large window at one end with pale yellow chiffon curtains draping it. The full-sized bed was draped with a simple pale blue and yellow quilt, and a small potted tree stood in the corner. There was a dresser with a mirror, a spacious closet, a small writing desk and chair, and a few more pieces of unique artwork that adorned the walls.

"This is your room," Clara said as Temperance looked around, bags still in hand. "I'll let you settle in a bit, and we can go out for dinner. What kind of food do you like?"

"Anything is better than prison food or no food," she answered truthfully. "I would prefer somewhere with a more lenient dress code, of course, but wherever you would like to go is fine with me, " she smiled. "Thank you so much for getting me out of there." Something she said made Clara's facial expression sadden, and she gave her a small smile back.

"Very well, then," she said. "You take your time, grab a nap, let me know if you'd like to do any laundry. We can go for dinner at seven if that's alright." Temperance nodded.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome, sweetie." She closed the door almost all the way, leaving Temperance to herself. She dropped her garbage bag on the bed and slowly began to unpack her things. Sherry had helped her keep her clothing clean at the center, but she had so little of it that it filled only one drawer of her dresser. She carefully laid the jewelry from her mother, as well as her dwindling supply of makeup, atop the dresser, and her knapsack went next to the desk. Crumpling up the now-empty garbage bag, she stuffed it into the wastebasket and stood to look out the window. The streets of Chicago were bustling beneath her, and for the first time in a long time she felt that she could be a part of that life.

It's been forever, I know. Please review!