Wow--I didn't think I'd get here. I also swore I wouldn't do another sprawling multichap dealing with life, death, and the pursuit of happiness, though, so apparently I lie really well to myself. I should note, however, that right now isn't exactly a great time for regular updates: 5 classes, starting a thesis, a massively all-encompassing job, finding a real job, going out and dancing when I can. You know--the usual. Things are mostly thought through though, so let's see how quickly I can type.

The title is derived from both the poem by Yeats (reprinted at the end; it's also the inspiration of Booth's 'the center must hold' philosophy), and Joan Didion's beautiful collection, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"--especially a quote of hers I love from the prologue: "I went to San Francisco because I had not been able to work in some months, had been paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, that the world as I had understood it no longer existed. If I was to work again at all, it would be necessary for me to come to terms with disorder." (There is also, incidentally, an "Angel" episode of the same title, though I've never seen the show). It will primarily concern Booth and Brennan in the "after"--after things have settled, after they have gotten together, after things seem good. What happens to their passionate intensity once their convictions and motivations change? Please let me know what you think. I'm not always the best at responding to reviews, but I do try and I take every bit of feedback I receive to heart.

January, 2013

It had been a long week. Screw that, Booth thought, as he parked the car quietly in the driveway. It had been a goddamn nightmarish four months.

Rebecca was gone. Ovarian cancer. It had been quick and painful until the very end, when morphine became the standard of care. Surgery, chemotherapy, and more surgery hadn't stopped or even slowed its assault, as it ripped through the uterus, pelvis, lymph nodes, liver, bladder, and lungs, undetected until an unrelated breast tissue tumor tipped a doctor off. The disease had clearly meant business from the get-go. Becca had always been strong and clear-eyed, and she had tried to approach this no differently, but it didn't matter.

Booth turned to Parker, who was studiously not looking at him, instead staring out the window with his eyes full of dread. Sweets had encouraged Booth to let Parker choose whether he wanted to be there at the end, and once he heard that option, Parker insisted on being there. Mercifully, he'd been dozing in a chair when she actually went, but then Booth had had to wake him and tell him the news. And only then had it become real to the 11-year-old — horrifyingly, shockingly real. Parker had melted, shaking with tears, his eyes wide and terrified. Booth had had to lift him up and carry him out as Becca's two sisters and Brent numbingly began to go through the paperwork, work out the arrangements. Parker hadn't protested and instead had sobbed into his father's shoulder. Now, though, he was completely silent.

Instead of nudging Parker and reminding him to hop out, Booth went around to the passenger-side door and lifted him out. "Dad — you'll hurt your back again," Parker mumbled, the first full sentence he'd said all night. "Put me down, I'm five-one," he insisted, wiggling and intentionally kneeing his father in the stomach. Booth complied, settling his arm around Parker's shoulder instead. Park buried his head about his side.

Bones was waiting up, of course, lazily swirling a tea bag through a mug, hair in a ponytail, bathrobe slung over tank-top-clad shoulders. "Parker," she said, standing awkwardly. Unsurprisingly, Parker reached out and latched onto her, and she hugged him tightly for a few minutes before pulling back, catching his cheeks with her palms as he held onto her hips. "I am so, so sorry. Your mother loved you so much, Parker, it was evident in every one of her actions. You know that, right?" He nodded. "You can't … ever … forget that, ok, Park?" She hugged him tightly again, and he burrowed into her shoulder and closed his eyes. She looked helplessly at Booth. Parker hadn't been this clingy in years; he'd been brave, strong, the entire time. Booth nodded, stroked and then kissed her cheek in reassurance.

"Do you need anything, Parker?" Booth said gently, peeling Parker away from Bones to look into his eyes. "Water … juice…?"

He shook his head. "I just want to go to bed."

"Do you want to sleep with Bones and me?"

He shook his head. "No offense, Dad, but I'm too old for that." His lip trembled though, and Booth ruffled his hair.

"What if I said I'd feel better if you slept with us? Help your old man out, huh?"

He looked torn. "Well, if it would help you …"

"Then go get your PJs, on, ok, bub?"

Parker nodded, and scampered up the stairs. Booth followed him with his eyes, his heart breaking just slightly. He and Bec had never been perfect, but he'd worked so damn hard to keep Parker innocent, light; to prevent him from seeing the dark, incomprehensibly tragic side of life too young. Parker had been a charmed, charming kid, up until four months ago.

Bones slid an arm around his waist. "And you — how are you doing? I can imagine where this would be difficult for you, too," she whispered.

He tightened his fingers around her. "It's all about Parker, Bones."

"Right," she whispered. "All about Parker."

They went upstairs quietly, peeking into Sophia's room to make sure she was still asleep. Parker came, bleary-eyed, into their room, and Seeley strategically placed him in between the two of them. They lay quietly, three in a row, for a while. Finally, though, Parker's hiccupping sobs cracked through the silence. As they rubbed his back, kissed his forehead and whispered soothing nonsense, Booth caught Bones' eye. There really was no way to make this easier.

So what'd you think? Confused? Anyone seem out of character? Let me know!

The Yeats poem, for those interested:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?