A/N:I can't believe I am starting another multi-chapter story, but this one just wouldn't go away no matter how hard I tried. I've got a few more chapters completed, so hopefully updates won't take as long as I usually end up taking.
Special thanks to BrainySmrfs for the read-throughs and the title suggestion.
This story takes place in mid-2013.
Booth sauntered into the break room on his floor at the Hoover and began to pick through what was left of the donuts from the morning. Without thinking, he listened in on the conversation two of his colleagues were having behind him, neither agent aware of Booth's presence.
"Yeah, the guy was shot right between the eyes. His wife reported him missing and the car was found three days later, in Belle Isle State Park, body was in the trunk."
"Was he shot in the trunk of the car, or was he thrown in there afterward?"
"Forensics said he was shot in the trunk. We're looking at suspects, but the pool is pretty large."
"Lots of enemies?"
"Oh yeah. Guy did time for child abuse back about 15 years ago back in Illinois. All foster kids he and his wife took in. We're going over the list of kids now, but it's pretty long."
Booth couldn't contain the shudder that ran through him at the other agent's description of his current case. Nah, it couldn't possibly be… He thought to himself, turning around and dropping any pretense of subterfuge.
"Hey Roberts…quick question?"
Agent Greg Roberts turned around, eyebrows raised. "Uh, sure Agent Booth. What's up?"
Booth settled against the counter behind him, trying to look casual. "The case you were just talking about…I couldn't help overhearing. What's the victim's name?"
Roberts took a sip of his coffee before answering. "Dale McInerney. Why, did you know him?"
Booth shook his head and grabbed his cup, already heading for the door. "Nah, just sounded like a case from awhile ago. Guess I was wrong. Thanks."
The agents nodded in answer, and then turned back to their conversation, completely unaware of the fact that they had just dropped a lit match on a possible forest fire.
"Bren, can you take a look at this sketch? I think it's accurate, but the bone structure is so odd I'm not sure I got it right." Angela laid her artist's pad in front of her obviously preoccupied best friend, tapping her on the shoulder when the action failed to get Brennan's attention.
"What? Oh, I'm sorry, Angela. I've been studying the reconstruction Dr. Wick did on the skull so I didn't hear you come in." Brennan turned from her laptop and picked up the sketch Angela was so worried about. "Actually, I think you did a great job, Ang. Considering the anomalies, this is going to be a difficult identification, but your sketch looks to be very accurate when compared to the reconstruction."
Angela sighed in relief. "Thanks, Bren. After being on vacation for a month, I was afraid I was losing my touch."
Brennan smiled. "Never." Her smile widened when she noticed Booth over Angela's shoulder, leaning against her doorframe. "Hey, Booth. Angela finished her sketch of the victim; we should have an ID for you soon."
"Good morning, Booth." Angela smiled in welcome. "Let me go run this through missing persons and we'll see what we get." She patted Booth on the shoulder as she passed, winking at Brennan before heading back to her own office.
Booth waited until Angela was far enough away, and then closed and locked Brennan's office door. Crossing the room to where Brennan waited at her desk, he took her face in both hands and kissed her deeply, drawing a surprised squeak out of his partner.
When they parted, Brennan tipped her head back and regarded Booth curiously. "What's wrong?"
"There has to be something wrong for me to want to come over and kiss my girl?" Booth dropped onto the couch and leaned back, trying to look casual.
"Booth…" She sat next to him and placed a hand on his now-bouncing leg. "Stop it. Tell me what's wrong."
Brennan watched, worry escalating with each passing moment, as Booth pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, head falling back onto the back of the sofa. She waited while he collected his thoughts, and just as she opened her mouth to ask him again to talk to her, he opened his eyes and asked her a question that rocked her to her core.
"Do you know the name Dale McInerney?"
Brennan had previously thought it impossible, but it seemed to her as though all the oxygen in her office was sucked out at once. She gasped at Booth's vocalization of a name she had tried very hard to forget, and covered her mouth in horror.
Booth sat up and reached out for her, surprised when she batted his hand away. "Did you go looking into my foster care file?" She hissed.
Shaking his head sadly, Booth reached for her again, this time refusing her brush-off. "No, Bones. I wouldn't do that and you know it."
Brennan thought about his words, and who they were coming from, and realized that he was right. Booth would never snoop into her past; he would simply ask her if he wanted to know. "I- I'm sorry, Booth. I do know that." She was angry to discover that her voice was shaking. "But, then…why-"
"He's dead. Murdered."
"How did you know…"
"I overheard the agent in charge of the investigation. He was describing a man who had been shot and then left in his car trunk. The victim had been a foster parent in Illinois, and had been sent to prison for abusing a lot of the kids he was supposed to be caring for." He took in her deathly pale face and wrapped a comforting arm around her. "It just seemed like one hell of a coincidence."
"Yes." Brennan shook her head, still in shock. "I imagine those particular facts triggered your suspicions."
"When you say 'suspicions'…you know that it never crossed my mind that you would do something like that, right?" Booth looked genuinely distressed that she would think he would ever suspect her of cold-blooded murder.
"No, I know that. I just meant…you knew who he was; even with the small amount of information you were given. I imagine that is why you are an exemplary investigator." She picked at a loose thread on her slacks, trying to organize her thoughts. "Do you think…I mean, will I be a suspect?"
"They are going over a list of foster kids McInerney took in, so…yeah. They'll probably bring you in for questioning. It's standard procedure." He was rubbing soothing circles on her back, trying to stop the nervous shakes that were wracking her body. "But you have nothing to hide, so it shouldn't be a very long interview."
"But they will make me tell them about the abuse, correct?"
Booth reached down and pulled her shoes off, and then lifted her onto his lap, where she immediately wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her face in his neck. "I'll see if they'll let me be there with you, okay, Bones? They might not, but I can ask. I'll try like hell."
He felt her nod against his shoulder, then release a breath he knew she had been holding since he mentioned McInerney's name. Suddenly, Brennan sat up and Booth watched in fascination as a steely, determined look settled on her face, eyes sharp and bright. "No more of this. He's dead and I survived him and won't let him ruin my life anymore." Booth felt a warm, affectionate admiration spread through him at her resolve and he pulled her into another tight embrace. "I won't let him hurt me again, Booth. I won't." She whispered.
"I know you won't, babe. I know."
Brennan jumped off Booth's lap in one smooth, sudden movement and walked purposefully to her desk. She grabbed her paperwork, absently stuffing it into her messenger bag as she went. Then she turned on her heel and grabbed her jacket, handing it to Booth, who helped her slip it over her arms. She turned and smoothed down Booth's collar, her hands sliding down to straighten his lapels. "Now, you're going to take me out for a nice dinner, maybe we'll go for a walk on the Mall, then we're going to go home and see what we can find to do to distract ourselves. Alright?" For a moment, Booth caught a flash of insecurity in her eyes, and then it was gone again, replaced by the stoic Temperance Brennan he knew and loved.
Booth slid his hand down her arm to her hand, lacing their fingers together. "Sounds good, Bones. Let's go." He let her lead the way out of her office; ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach that something truly horrible was lying in wait on the horizon.