It's funny how fast your life can change; how one single event can set off a domino effect. How that one stupid little tile colliding into another one can set off a chain of destruction. Years ago I never thought about the consequences of my job. Not really. Plenty of times throughout my life I've stared down death. I've faced my immortality. I lived through having an alcoholic father who liked to use me as his punching bag. I survived the Army life, taking lives and nearly losing my own to enemy capture, torture, and gun fire. I've jumped out of airplanes. I've been blown up. Well, you get the gist. The point is I never really thought about the day to day. Nothing would come along my way that I couldn't handle. I was solid in my life. I was a father to the greatest son. Through the bureau I was partnered with a forensic anthropologist. A brilliant forensic anthropologist with whom I felt I could take on the world. No criminal could get by us. I was the heart. She was the brains. Yet she was so much more than that. She was beautiful, and I loved her but never felt confident enough to show her. I was afraid crossing that line would push her away, and I'd never get her back. Bones was emotionally fragile, I'd come to tell myself. I wouldn't be the one to break her. If only I'd known.

That night… the night, I had no idea what was about to happen to me. I'd never in a million years imagined that I could be overpowered by such a small woman. But evil knows no gender, or strength. The alcohol I'd been drinking earlier in the night dulled my reflexes, sure. But she never should have been able to strong arm me. Maybe if she hadn't of had the stun gun I would have gotten away. I'd like to think so, but I don't know. I guess I never will. One way or another she was determined to get me. If it hadn't of been there that night, it would have been somewhere else. For some reason I was meant to go through this. That's the only thing I can figure.

I don't know how I survived that year of torture. It's nothing I care to think about anymore. I can't. The scars are forever going to be on my mind and body. A bump in the night will never be just a bump again. A simple case of the sniffles will always be a reason for me to run to the doctor. That piece of mind is something I'll never get back, no matter how much time passes. I'll never be "sane," or "sound" or "normal." But I've learned there's more to life than that.

These thoughts keep running through my mind as I stand outside the observation window on the maternity ward inside the hospital. Behind a sheet of glass in front of me are lots of cribs, each filled with a new life screaming for attention. My brand new daughter isn't in there. She's back in her room with Bones, where I'll be returning shortly. I just needed a minute to myself. Too many people in a small confined space can still be too much for me sometimes.

"Daddy?" I hear a tiny voice say next to me. I can't help but to smile. "Yes, Lissie?"

"Up-ah."

I lift her up into my arms and hold her close. "Where's Gramps? Why aren't you with him?"

"With momma." She cuddles close to me, knowing full well she'll melt my heart and escape being in trouble for wandering off. Yeah. She's a daddy's girl, and she's got me wrapped around her finger. I choose to let the issue go. "Did you see your new baby sister?"

She nods, but gives me no other input. She isn't impressed. I chuckle. Sugar and spice and everything nice. That's my little Lissie. "Should we go see her again?"

She latches her arms around my neck, and I feel her shake her head in agreement. Together we walk down the corridor back towards the room where Bones lay in bed surrounded by friends and family. When we waltz in Angela is cradling Christine with Hodgins huddled close. Max in sitting in a chair next to Bones' bed. Cam is off to the side, and she gives me a look that makes me feel like she's staring into my soul. She knows where I've been. She knows what I'm thinking. I give her a curt acknowledgement.

"So how many more do you plan on having?" Angela asks me with a teasing smile. I sigh, which for some reason strikes the group as being funny. "I think we're done for a while," I add. I wink at Bones, and she beams back at me. She's sweaty and exhausted, appearing exactly how a woman who just spent hours in labor delivering a baby should. I still think she's the most beautiful woman I've ever laid my eyes on.

"She's precious. Absolutely perfect." Cam tells me.

"I know." I smile shyly.

"Where'd you go?"

"Needed a minute."

"You all right?"

I shrug. "Got a little overwhelmed. I'm all right now."

Cam doesn't believe me. I can see the disbelief in her eyes. "We should all get going anyway and let Dr. Brennan rest."

The group disperses. I place Alyssa back down on the ground. She has to leave to go home with Max. Her big eyes take me in with sadness. I kneel down to her level. "I'll be home later tonight for a while, okay? We'll read a story."

"But I might be sleeping!" She exclaims.

"I'll wake you up," I promise against my better judgment. This pacifies her. She hugs me, and I kiss the top of her head. Then I let them go. I wave goodbye to everyone. Then I slide into bed next to Bones and Christine. I kiss her forehead just underneath her pink beanie, then kiss Bones on the lips. "You're amazing."

She lays her head down on my shoulder. Nothing more needs to be said. I know she feels all that I'm not saying. Years ago if someone told me we'd be here, married and having our fourth child, I would have blown them off. Four years ago after the abduction I would have laughed in their face. Bones saved my life. I know I wouldn't be here if not for her. She never gave up on me. Not for a moment, even when I'd given up on myself. There's nothing I could say that would ever make her understand what she means to me. How grateful I am for everything she's done for me. I know I'll never be able to repay her for her love and support. But that won't stop me from trying.

"What are you thinking?" She asks me quietly. "You've been somber for quite some time now. Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm okay." I reassure her immediately. And I am. "Just thinking about a lot of stuff. Thinking 'bout us. Thinking about how fortunate I am."

Amanda tried to dehumanize me. She tried to strip me down to the core and destroy what was left. And honestly? She was almost successful. But out of all that hate and all that misery I got something great. I got a family. I built back a life I thought I had lost. It's not the same life. It will never be. But again, I'm all right with that. Life is meant to change. Moments are fleeting. I don't have a plan for the future yet. But I will. I know I will. Because of my family I know I can do anything. They give me the strength to strive for more.

She kisses me, and it's easy for me to determine how she's fighting herself to stay awake. "Sleep," I urge her. Gently I ease Christine out of her arms and into my own. "You need it, Bones."

"You aren't leaving, are you?"

I glance from her down to my daughter. "No." I promise. "Never again."

The end


I've decided that as far as goes, the story ends here. However, since numerous readers still showed intense interest I have decided to create a Live Journal account where I will continue this as a series of short stories. You can find it at - strongenough-pm {dot} livejournal {dot} com

If anyone has any questions (since that address looks weird - I couldn't get it to post) feel free to PM me and I will do my best to assist in any way that I can.

I know I've said this many times, but I have to get one last thank you in to all of you. This story would not be possible without your support.

All my love,

~PM