AN: Thanks to daMareMare for her advice on this story. Love you!
"You doing alright, Bones?" Booth asked his partner as they walked side by side down the halls of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. They were headed to an interrogation room to question Lucas Winters, the foster father of their sixteen year old victim, Monica Hamilton.
"I'm fine," Brennan answered automatically.
Unconvinced, Booth let one hand drop to her lower back. "I know cases with foster kids hit you hard. We'll get whoever killed Monica, I promise."
"I know." When they approached the interrogation room, Brennan dashed ahead of her partner and threw the door open. "We found Monica."
Booth was taken aback by his partner's abruptness. Had she forgotten everything he had tried to teach her about being tactful in these situations? "Mr. Winters, I'm Agent Booth. This is my part--"
"She's dead," Brennan interrupted. "Her remains were discovered in a landfill."
Winters gasped. "She's dead? Oh my God."
"We're very sorry for your loss," Booth said. "When was the last time you saw Monica?"
"A couple months ago. She left for school like usual and never came back. I figured she had just run away. Monica was a rebellious, troubled teen; a disaster waiting to happen. A typical foster kid really."
Booth bristled at the insult to his partner, but he remained outwardly calm. "Not all foster kids are like that."
Brennan gave Booth a quick smile before turning her full attention to Winters. "Monica's teachers didn't think she was rebellious or troubled. They described her as a sweet, intelligent young woman."
Winters shrugged. "She was different at home."
"Different how?" Booth asked.
"Disrespectful and disobedient. She thought she didn't have to listen to my wife and me because we weren't her real parents. They're in jail on drug and burglary charges. I wouldn't be surprised if Monica got mixed up with something criminal. You know what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree."
"You shouldn't assume she was a criminal just because her parents were," Brennan argued, her voice raw with emotion. "She was her own person."
Booth wished he could give her a guy hug then and there. "Mr. Winters, do you have any evidence that Monica was involved in anything illegal?"
"Just a father's intuition."
"So that would be a no," Brennan said with a satisfied smile. "How did you discipline Monica when she was being 'disrespectful and disobedient'?"
"We would send her to her room for a minor offense. For a major offense, we would take away privileges."
"Like her right to breathe?" Brennan asked.
Winters' eyebrows shot up. "Excuse me?"
"Forensic evidence proves Monica died of asphyxiation. She couldn't be the perfect child you expected her to be, so you suffocated her."
Winters laughed. "That's ridiculous! We've had plenty of foster kids--including some really rotten ones--and none of them ever died."
Brennan glared at him. "Maybe they were lucky. But Monica wasn't. She died and you panicked and you dumped her in a landfill like she was a piece of garbage. She wasn't garbage. She was a child…a scared and lonely child. You were supposed to take care of her!"
"I did take care of her," Winters argued. "I've been the best father I could be to all of my foster kids."
Brennan slapped him across the face. "You're a liar and a murderer."
Booth sat in stunned silence, but Winters laughed. "You really are a feisty one. You must be a wildcat in the sack."
Booth shot Winters his most venomous look. "Disrespect my partner again and I'll--" He was cut off when the door was flung open and Hodgins stepped in.
"It's a match!" The curly haired, conspiracy loving squint declared, triumphantly waving a piece of paper.
Booth narrowed his eyes at him. "I've told you before that you can't just barge in here! Consider this a no squint zone…well, no squints except for Bones….and what the hell are you talking about?"
Hodgins handed the piece of paper to Brennan, looking only at her as he answered. "The particulate evidence on Monica's clothing matches the sample you asked me to take from the trunk of Winters' car."
Brennan smiled. "Thank you, Hodgins."
"You're welcome." Hodgins turned to Booth. "Next time I'll try to remember to knock first." He gave the agent an apologetic smile and left the room.
Brennan's eyes flashed with fury as she addressed Winters once again. "You locked Monica in your trunk to 'discipline' her, but you waited too long to release her and she suffocated. Why? Did she question your authority? Talk back to you? Break one of your special plates?"
"How did you know about those?" Winters stared at Brennan for several moments before recognition finally set in. "You were one of my foster kids. Temperance, right? The one who thought she was so much smarter than everyone else."
"I'm Doctor Temperance Brennan," she said proudly. "The one who's sending you to prison." She smirked at him and marched out of the room.
Booth stayed behind, his blood boiling as he looked at Winters. "You were the guy who locked my partner in a car trunk for two days. Two days. Because of a fucking plate."
Winters showed no remorse. "I didn't care about the plate. She was a headstrong teenager who needed to be broken."
Booth punched him in the face, breaking his nose. "Who's broken now?"
"I have a confession, Bones," Booth said as they sat on the couch in her apartment that night. "I hit Winters after you left the interrogation room. I think I broke his nose."
Brennan wondered what his superiors would think about that. "Will you get in trouble with the FBI?"
"Maybe a little. I might get suspended for a few days, or have to take anger management classes. It's not a big deal."
"Getting suspended is a big deal. You shouldn't have risked your career."
Booth was touched by her obvious concern. "I know, but when I thought about how that bastard had hurt Monica…how he had hurt you…my career was the last thing on my mind."
Brennan's lips curled in a sad smile. "Are you mad at me for not telling you I knew him?"
He smiled to reassure her. "No, I think I understand why you didn't. You knew I'd want to protect you from him, right? But you didn't want to be protected; you wanted to confront him yourself. And you did. You were amazing."
She kissed his cheek. "Thank you for letting me help put people like him away."
"I'm grateful for the help, Bones…and for you." He felt close to tears. "You could have ended up like Monica; you could have died at fifteen and I never would have known you."
She placed her hand on top of his. "But I didn't."
"Thank God." Seemingly independent of his brain, Booth's arms encircled her waist while his mouth sought and found hers. Before a surprised Brennan could respond, Booth realized what he was doing and pulled back in embarrassment. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry you started kissing me…be sorry you stopped."
Grinning, Booth kissed her again and Brennan responded without hesitation, happily showing him she was just as grateful for him as he was for her.
"Is it too soon for me to say I love you?" Booth asked when they eventually pulled apart to breathe. "I don't want to scare you away."
She gave him an encouraging smile. "I'm not scared."
"Good." Booth leaned towards her for another kiss. "Because I'll be saying it a lot."
Thanks for reading! All comments are greatly appreciated.