Author's Note: The rosary is a traditional form of Catholic prayer, which begins with the Apostle's Creed and works its way through several "decades" of Hail Marys, Our Fathers, Fatima Prayers, and Glory Bes. This prayer, the Hail, Holy Queen (in Latin, the "Salve Regina"), ends the rosary itself. It is a plea to the mother of God to pray for our souls' worthiness to enter into heaven. I thought it was fitting to begin this at the ending...

Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, Holy Queen

Mother of Mercy

The firefight wasn't supposed to get this close. A shot from 1500 feet away is one thing. Close hand-to-hand combat with children is another thing. Booth's only twenty, but as he uses his knife to end the life of a kid not much older than seventeen, he feels ancient, far too old for this sort of thing.

Or he will, later. His brain's mostly off now, and yet it's hyper-aware. He can hear everything, see everything, smell everything. He's not thinking. He's just cataloging, reacting.

Next to him, Hank is shouting something, letting him know that someone's gotten a bit too close, again. He's snapping the neck of an insurgent when it becomes very, very clear that he is mortal. The shot grazes his shoulder and sends searing pain surging through him.

The next thing he knows, Donner's dropped his weapon, and what happens next happens very, very quickly. Booth lunges to save him, to push him out of the way. The bomb goes off, and then nothing. Nothing but darkness.

He wakes up in a prison. A prison with a dirt floor, and the acrid smell of urine and sweat and fear permeates the whole place. Booth comes to his senses just as the door opens, and a man steps in.

He speaks English. Booth's flash of relief is quickly turned to horror when he realizes what is about to happen. He's not going to talk, he knows that much. It's going to hurt. He reaches in his pocket, finds his rosary, squeezes it and prays.

He's in prison for sixteen hours. When the Rangers carry him out, his feet are broken, his lip is broken, his ribs are cracked. Every step they force him to take jostles him. He floats on a haze of pain until they lift him out in a helicopter.

Then, nothing.

Our Life! Our Sweetness! Our Hope!

The medal dangles from Booth's neck as he bends over the crib to pick up his infant son, who is squalling and shrieking in his bassinet. It is attached to the chain with his dogtags, and it never leaves his person.

"Shush, buddy, shush," Booth says, his voice roughened with sleep. He half-sways, half-walks to the kitchen, retrieving some of the bottled breast milk that Rebecca sent. Into the microwave it goes, and he walks around with Parker in the kitchen, talking the sort of nonsense that just springs into his brain when he sees his child. "Ten fingers, ten toes. One nose, two eyes, one mouth..." Parker goes silent, looking up at him with big blue eyes that Rebecca tells him will probably change to brown.

The microwave dings, and Booth tests the milk to make sure it's not too hot before he offers it to his son. Parker grabs the bottle with both hands. Someday he'll be able to hold his own bottle, but for now, Booth walks with him to the recliner and settles down, rocking back and forth a bit while Parker sucks down the liquid like it's going out of style.

"Didn't give you a saint's name," Booth says absently. "Your grandma wouldn't have liked that, but... your grandma's dead now, so. It doesn't matter. You need a saint, you can borrow mine. And half my angels, okay, kid?"

Parker's eyes are serious, full of life and knowledge and wonder. Booth's heart is so full he can't hardly stand it.

St. Christopher rests right near his heart. He's going to need the protection, sooner than he thinks.

To thee do we cry, poor banish'd children of Eve!

The cue ball smacks against the other balls in the triangle, and they explode away from the center in a pattern easily predicted by geometry – just like the geometry of casing a shot. Booth's got fifty riding on the line, but that's hardly enough to give him the thrill he needs. He's drowning in this life, drowning and unable to come up for air. This, at least, helps him feel alive. It's almost as good as sex, almost as good as losing himself in another person.

"Six in the corner pocket," he says, and he sends the ball flying just where he wants it. A few of the other balls ricochet around, but he watches them with steady eyes, directs them with steady hands. It's quick work to sink all of the balls in the pockets, and take his fifty and his opponent's, and settle in at the bar. He taps the wood for a refill and studies the amber liquid.

"Seeley Booth," she says, and he turns. There she is. Unbidden, a smile crosses his lips. Smart-mouthed Camille Saroyen. Just another one of those women he can't help but love. He's got a reluctant heart, Seeley Booth would like to think, but the truth is it's just too damn easy.

"Camille! Come have a drink with me."

"What are you doing in a dive like this?" She asks, sliding onto a stool next to him. He rakes her over with his eyes. Christ, but she always did look good in a dress, and this is one that she must have poured herself into. There's certainly no room for error.

"Isn't that my line?"

She smirks. "I'm bucking tradition."

"I seem to recall you being good at bucking... tradition."

She snorts for his trouble. "Now that's just bad, Seeley."

"Why are you in D.C.?"

"Here for a conference on decapitation," she says easily. "If you can believe that."

"Actually, I can," he says. "Where are you now?"

"Coroner's office in New York. Moving up the ranks, are you?"

"They're thinking about promoting me to Special Agent. Or that's what I hear through the grapevine, anyway. Got a kid now, too."


"His mother won't marry me."

"Bummer." Camille knocks back the shot like a pro. "Her loss, though. Will it be my gain, tonight?"

He raises his eyebrows. "Just like that?"

She shrugs. "If you want. Just like that."

It's always just like that. Since they were kids in Philly. Seeley's broken, Camille can't fix him, but she can patch over the wounds, put band-aids over the scrapes and bruises, uses kisses and soft words to dull the pain. They're old friends, old lovers. He sinks inside of her and she welcomes him like he's a missing part of her, like some part of her will always be meant for him alone.

St. Christopher trails his way down her body. She grabs ahold of the medal and arches up when he brings her to pleasure, soothes him back down when she coaxes the same response in Booth.

She's slipping on her panties the next morning when his eyes open.

"You leaving?"

"Yeah," she says with a shrug. "I've got a panel in a couple of hours."

He half-sits. "Thanks, Camille."

"You're more than welcome." She walks out of his life, and he sinks further into himself.

To thee do we send up our sighs, mournings and weepings in this valley of tears!

Booth sets his shoulders. This part of the job he hates. He's not sure what's the worst. Knocking on the door, waiting... or saying his name and asking for a minute of their time, and that moment of knowledge that always flashes in their eyes, that something's not right, that one of their family isn't coming home...

He grips the rosary in his pocket and fingers the poker chip before he takes a deep breath and knocks. The woman that answers the door is dressed in pink, with a tiny gold crucifix at her neck. Booth feels a connection, drops the rosary from his hand and lifts his eyes. "I'm Special Agent Seeley Booth, ma'am. I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time, regarding your husband, Richard Avery?"

She crumples to the ground and he catches her. "Oh my Jesus, Oh my Jesus," she keens, and Booth's heart breaks over again for her.

Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us...

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been three months since my last confession."

On the other side of the confessional, Father John inclines his head. "Go on, Seeley."

"I fell back in bed with Rebecca." Booth clears his throat. "I... got impatient with Parker. And I'm trying really hard to quit the gambling but last Wednesday I just couldn't take it and I played a game of poker and lost forty bucks."

Father John taps the wood of the confessional. "You know, Seeley, you must really give yourself some credit."

"Excuse me?"

"Of course, I'll absolve you of your sins. But... it can mean nothing if you do not first forgive yourself."

"Listen, Father, I..."

"Uncomfortable emotional stuff, yes, blah blah blah. But listen. How arrogant it is for you to think that you must earn the grace which God would give you if you would only ask. Seeley. Forgiveness, peace... that starts within you."

"I..." Seeley bows his head. "I'm trying."

"God sees that. We're only human, Seeley. Bow your head with me..."

And after this, our exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of Your Womb, Jesus!

He's in his office, contemplating the well-worn rosary when his phone rings. He picks it up, absently, and then is chilled to the bone. He runs out of the office, hops in his car and drives south for a couple of hours.

In an emergency room, he finds his father. He's ashen, pale on the bed. The nurses tell Seeley that his dad will live, that he'll come through the other side of this. In spite of everything, Booth feels a rush of relief.

He stands at the door, feeling profoundly uncomfortable in his own skin. He knows his father, if he were awake, would mock his suit and tie, say something about the carefully polished shoes he wears. Mike Booth is a Vietnam veteran, and a child of the seventies. He came back changed, Booth's mother always said – but however he came back, he came back determined to buck every responsibility forced on him. He would mock Booth's embrace of those responsibilities.

It wouldn't be the first time he'd mocked his oldest son.

Booth stands there, motionless, for a long time. Then he pushes off the wall and sticks his hands in his pockets. The rosary there is his grandfather's... he could leave it.

He reaches for the poker chip, flips it. Walks away.


"Yeah?" He turns.

"Do you want us to tell him you were here?"

"Nah." Booth sticks his hands in his pockets. "My real father's in Philly. I owe the man in there nothing."

O Clement! O Loving! O Sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God...

Somehow, he knows... he knows the instant he sees her. This is what all the pain is for, the never-ending purgatory of his soul. Everything he's been through, it's to make him worthy of this woman. Sweetly curved, bright-eyed, vulnerable and caustic, intelligent and dense, all at the same time – this is her. He's never felt such rightness since he first held his son in his arms.

When he kisses her, it's everything. It's sex and love and hope in the pouring rain. And yet... and yet she runs.

That Sunday, Booth hits his knees, and asks all the saints for their help. If she's the one... then... he could use the assistance.

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

In the dream, he's worthy.

The past doesn't weigh so heavily on him there. He never took on the mantle of avenger, never assumed responsibility for the lives he took. There, he simply loves her, and she loves him, and there's nothing silly like doubt or fear or pain getting in the way of their two souls snapping together like they're supposed to – there's nothing between them.

He proves he loves her, she proves she trust him.

Push and pull. Take and give.

In the dream, all of his hard work pays off. He has Temperance, and she has him.

Then she calls him back. Relentlessly, she calls him name until he wakes up, until he comes back to himself and the world he's not as fond of.

He comes back to hope and patience.

He comes back to moments not taken and longing looks and no other woman but her. He comes back.

For her.