A/N: So after the excellent response to my last two stories, I decided to start on a third. And it's summer and I don't have work for a few weeks, so I have a lot of spare time. That means updates will be fairly frequent for now though once school starts up again, I can't promise anything. But anyway, here's the third installment in my Booth/Brennan series.

Chapter 1

Special Agent Seeley Booth pulled the FBI-issued black SUV onto the highway, merging smoothly into the light late-morning traffic. He passed a folder of information to the woman sitting in his passenger's seat, happy to once again have the use of both of his arms after nearly a month without his left one. "A body was discovered in a small back alley in downtown DC," he explained as she opened the folder. "Since it was murder in DC, the case got kicked to the FBI. The first agents on the scene took one look at the body and called us in."

Brennan looked down at the picture of the badly decomposed corpse in the folder. "You said it was found in an alley?" she questioned.

"Yeah. Their first thought was that some drug addict simply OD'd, but then they noticed this." Booth pointed to the victim's neck and wrist. "A fairly expensive bracelet and necklace. Most drug addicts don't have expensive jewelry. They also don't have four-hundred dollar shoes," Booth added, pointing to the feet.

"So who is it then?"

"They don't know. That's why they called us in."

"I'm surprised none of these objects were taken," Brennan remarked.

"So were the other agents. But evidently the body was hidden pretty well behind some cardboard boxes and other refuse." Booth turned onto a side street, stopping the SUV behind two others. He stepped out and waited for Brennan to make her way around the car before they walked to the crime scene together. When they reached the alley, Brennan made her way immediately to the mangled body lying on the ground, half covered by a cardboard box. Booth hung back slightly, still overwhelmed by the stench even after so many years as an FBI agent.

"Victim's female," Brennan announced, crouching down beside her. "Caucasian. Probably late teens or early twenties."

"Cause of death?"

Brennan carefully removed the cardboard, her trained eyes surveying the bones slowly. "There is a bullet wound to the upper right torso. The positioning suggests that it most likely pierced a lung. I'll be able to tell more once we get the body back to the lab." Booth nodded, distracted by a commotion in one corner of the alley.

"What's going on over here?" he questioned, approaching another agent.

"I found the kid who called the body in," the agent explained, indicating a scrawny girl whose skinny arm was held tightly in his hand. The girl's clothes were ripped and dirty, and filth covered her face and most of her body. She looked up at the agent with defiant green eyes, struggling to escape his grip.

"I told you, I don't know nothin'. I found some bones, so I called 911. I thought you guys'd be happy. Now let me go!"

"Not so fast, missy, I want to know how you found the bones," the agent told her. She responded by glaring up at him, her thin lips set in a scowl.

"Let her go," Booth told the officer. The other man looked at Booth, clearly unwilling to do as he asked. "I said let her go," Booth repeated. For a moment, it looked as if Booth would have to pull rank, but after a few seconds, the agent sighed and released the girl's arm. She immediately attempted to escape down the alley, but Booth moved to block her exit. When she tried to sidestep him, he moved again. They continued the odd dance for a few more seconds before Booth asked, "So where exactly are you going in such a hurry?"

"I need to get Noah and Chance," the girl explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Noah and Chance, huh?" Booth asked, figuring they were stuffed toys or some similar sentimental objects. "Well, what do you say I come with you, and we'll get them together?" The girl looked up at him, studying him carefully for a moment.

Eventually, she seemed to come to the conclusion that he was trustworthy, for she shrugged. "Okay. Come on." This time when she stepped forward, Booth did not block her path; instead, he followed her farther back into the alley.

"What's your name, sweetheart?" he inquired as they walked.

"Kristen," she answered shortly.

"And where is your mommy, Kristen?"

Sadness flashed briefly in Kristen's eyes. "She's dead," the girl answered shortly. "She died last week. It's just me, Noah, and Chance now."

"Kristen, the woman you discovered back there, was that-"

Booth did not receive a chance to finish his sentence before Kristen interrupted. "No, that wasn't her. I don't know who that was."

"And did you see anyone hanging around when you found her?"

"Uh-uh. I just wanted some more boxes 'cuz a couple of the ones I have are leakin'. I went to pull those up, and I saw. . .that." She shivered.

"Have you ever noticed anyone strange around there? Or maybe you've heard something strange?" Again, a shake of the head answered his question.

"I don't know who did that. I just found her."

"Kristen, how old are you, sweetheart?"

"Almost eight."

"And you've been living here by yourself since your mom died?"

"Not by myself. I've got Noah and Chance."

Booth sighed. There was something different about the girl in front of him, something special. He could already tell that she was strong and independent; the fact that she had survived on the streets by herself for a week was a miracle in itself and a testament to her ability to survive. But he could not allow her to continue to live like she was. It was no way for a child to grow up, constantly wondering when the next meal would come or when a strung out junkie might come across a weapon and just start shooting. Kids needed stability. They needed a place to go at night with a warm meal and a roof over their heads. They needed someone to care for them, someone to help them with their homework and go to their Little League games. The streets were no place for children. "Kristen, once we get Noah and Chance, what do you say to coming with me?" Booth suggested.

Kristen shook her head emphatically. "No. The other kids told me 'bout the foster system. I'm better off by myself with Noah and Chance."

Booth thought quickly, wondering if he should make a promise which he might be unable to keep. However, one look at the malnourished girl in front of him made up his mind fairly quickly. "I won't put you in the foster system," he told Kristen. "But I still think you should come stay with me. You shouldn't be living out her by yourself." He followed Kristen around another turn which led to yet another darkened alley. It was truly a maze; Booth hoped Kristen knew where she was going because he had lost track awhile back.

Kristen stopped and studied Booth carefully. "You an FBI agent?" she asked.

"Special Agent Seeley Booth." Booth showed her his badge.

She giggled. "Seeley. That's a funny name."

"So I've heard. So what do you say to staying with me for awhile?"

"Can Noah and Chance come, too?"

"Sure," Booth agreed, figuring he should allow the girl to have whatever made her comfortable and made the transition easier.

"Okay. But no foster system." The girl shook her finger at Booth, and he had to bite his lip to stop himself from laughing at her.

"No foster system," Booth reiterated.

"Pinky swear." The girl held out a small, dirty finger, and Booth locked his own around it.

"Pinky swear," he agreed. The girl nodded before disappearing behind some cardboard boxes. She emerged a few seconds later carrying a tiny, sleeping baby.

"This is Noah," she introduced. "He's my brother. My mommy died while he was being borned, but she made me promise to take care of him. And this," she pulled a box out from her makeshift shelter, "is Chance. I found him yesterday. His mommy died, too, and all his brothers and sisters." Booth leaned over to peer inside the box and saw that it contained a small puppy who could not have been more than four or five weeks old. He looked back at Kristen who was watching him expectantly. What had he gotten himself into?