"To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family."
Buddha

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By the time Dr. Brennan arrived the next morning, Dr. Saroyan and Mr. Bray had been working for over an hour. Two polished silver tables were covered in sealed bags of varying sizes. On three others, closed cardboard boxes waited to be opened. Mr. Bray held a clipboard and pen and as Dr. Saroyan recited the number penned on each piece of evidence, he checked off boxes. The two of them turned when a security badge chirped through the scanner.

"Dr. Brennan! It's Saturday morning. I didn't expect to see you."

"Good morning, Dr. Saroyan. I thought I might be able to offer some assistance with the evidence. Booth didn't return until quite late and he's still sleeping. My time is better spent here than sitting at home."

She looked tired and drawn and I thought her time would have been better spent sleeping next to Booth but Dr. Saroyan smiled.

"I don't have any bones but you can help check the inventory list against the contents of the boxes." She waved a hand over the table. "From what we've seen so far, it looks like the suspects kept some of the victim's . . . some of Annie's clothes."

Dr. Brennan picked up a bag which held a pink-checked t-shirt.

"These appear to be blood stains," she said, pointing to a dark, discolored patch. "If we can match the DNA to the victim that would be very helpful to Caroline's prosecution."

"As soon as we've checked the contents of the rest of the boxes, we'll start collecting samples from everything."

More chirping announced Dr. Hodgins' arrival. After greetings were exchanged, Dr. Saroyan pointed him to an unopened box.

The work was quick and efficient and after only a short time, Mr. Bray removed the seal on the last box. He lifted the lid . . . and froze.

"Dr. Brennan." His voice was quiet. "Dr. Saroyan?"

At first glance, it looked like a wig. The bag wasn't long enough to hold my hair stretched out to its full length so the thin swatch was curled around itself, smashed flat against the plastic. Dr. Brennan read off the identification numbers and when Mr. Bray had checked it off on the form, she carried the package to an empty table. After a glance at Dr. Saroyan, she opened it and stretched the long pale rope across the metal surface. As they stood there staring, the old guide appeared beside me.

"It is time."

Somehow, I knew what he meant and I was terrified.

"Now?"

I was afraid to look away from the group around the table, afraid that if I did, they would disappear and I would lose them forever. I glanced over just long enough to see him nod but when I looked back, it was like I had already begun to leave. Dr. Brennan and the others were farther away than they had been only seconds before.

I had a moment of panic.

"Wait! They're not done! Look! They have my hair now, and my clothes! Can't I stay until they're finished? Can't I stay until I know how it ends?"

His silence was my answer and when I glanced back one more time, the distance between us was even greater.

I faced him, ready to beg for another day, another hour . . . anything. Suddenly, over his shoulder I noticed a stone archway. A woman stepped out.

I knew her. I knew her face and the scent of her hair and the touch of her hands.

When tears blurred my vision, I felt them wet against my skin and I knew they were real.

"Mommy?"

My mother smiled and held out her hand.

I took two steps toward her and then, one last time, looked back.

The steps I'd taken separated me even more from the living. They appeared through an open door at the end of a long, shadowed tunnel. It was so far away and the doorway was so small that I couldn't see all of them at once, just glimpses as they passed by. I waited until Dr. Brennan was there, framed in the light, her lips moving as she spoke words I couldn't hear to someone I couldn't see. Her hand rested lightly on the baby growing in her womb.

I knew it was the last time I would see her. My Temperance. My champion, the woman who had claimed me as one of her dead, who had reunited my face and my name with the pieces left of the body that had been mine.

It was goodbye.

Goodbye to the man who watched over her and guarded her and loved her. Goodbye to those she had drawn to her, the ones who worked with her to bring justice for the dead. Goodbye to the people who had become her family . . . the people I had claimed as my family.

I knew I was the only one who would hear it, but I had to say it.

"Goodbye."

My mother's voice called to me.

"Annie?"

I went.

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Eleven Weeks Later

It was quiet, as those places always are.

The sound of a car broke the stillness. Doors opened and closed and then there was another car and more doors and then a group of people made their way up the hill, talking in low voices that respected the solemnity of the location.

They stopped at the crest of a small rise. The six adults hung back and formed a line that curved slightly around a grave that had just begun to settle into permanence. Two boys shuffled forward until they stood beside a newly placed headstone. The smallest reached out with a long, thin arm and gently traced the name carved into the polished black granite.

The tombstone was simple in design. Tall, narrow. A name engraved in block, capital letters. A date of birth. A date of death. A few carefully chosen words.

And below those words, a child's drawing reproduced in stone. Three figures . . . a tall and skinny boy holding the hand of a smaller boy who held the hand of a young girl whose long white hair touched the bottom of the drawing. They all smiled happily.

The boys dropped to their knees, then rocked back to sit on the new grass that covered the grave. And then it was the oldest who brushed his fingers against the carved letters and the drawing beneath.

"That was a good thing you did, Bones." Booth nodded toward the headstone.

Brennan lifted one shoulder by way of response. She hadn't done it for praise. He knew that but offered it anyway. Too often, the good things she did, the soft things she did, went unnoticed and unmentioned. This would not.

She threaded her arm through the bend of his elbow and leaned against him. His free hand covered hers as Abe laughed softly at a whispered remark from TJ.

"You know, I've been thinking."

Hodgins' voice drifted through the quiet afternoon.

"The apartment over the garage, it's been empty since . . . well, it's been empty for a long time. It would be nice to have someone living there again."

Angela's eyes were wet when she smiled at him.

"Yes, it would be."

"It is several miles from where he works." Brennan's tone was carefully neutral.

Hodgins cleared his throat self-consciously.

"It would come with a new job. Since Angela and I moved to the condo, no one is on the estate. I could use someone to check the alarms regularly. Keep tabs on the landscaper. Make sure the main house doesn't burn down." With his eyes on the two boys he didn't see the broad grins sent in his direction.

Angela kissed his cheek. "I've always loved the way you think, Jack."

"It sounds like a perfect job for a college student," Dr. Saroyan murmured. "Lots of free time to study." At the questioning looks sent her way, a faint blush colored her cheeks. "Paul went to medical school with the Dean of Admissions at Maryland."

As one, the faces of the adults turned back to the boys sitting beside the grave, talking about the sister they had lost. No one mentioned it but the same thought touched each of them, the memory of a young girl's face staring back and whispering her thanks.

Abe and TJ stood and brushed bits of grass from their jeans as they stepped back from the grave. From above, a brilliant ray of sunlight broke free from a bank of clouds and claimed the polished marker with a halo of light.

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ANNE ELIZABETH DUNCAN

April 22, 1993 – June 28, 2008

SHE WAS LOVED

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Thank you very much for letting me share Annie's story with you. I appreciate the reviews and the kind words.