Hey guys! At last, the final installment. I still can't believe this little spur of the moment experiment got such a great response. Thanks so much for sticking with it, and let me know what you think of the ending chapter.
Is anybody out there?
Is anybody listening?
Does anybody really know if it's the end of the beginning?
The quiet rush of one breath
Is all we're waiting for
Sometimes the one we're taking
Changes every one before..
It's everything you wanted, it's everything you don't
It's one door swinging open and one door swinging closed
Some prayers find an answer
Some prayers never know
We're holding on and letting go
Booth's vision was bleary when he opened his eyes, the ceiling of Brennan's bedroom swimming in front of him.
His disorientation dissolved within seconds, and Booth jerked himself upright, eyes panning the bedroom in panic.
He was alone.
Fear knifed through him the second Brennan's absence registered, and her name rounded in his throat, but something kept him quiet.
Booth's instinct was to run through the house and find her, but there was no point in pretending he was a physical match for Sean Lowell…especially when the older man had a baseball bat and God knows what else at his disposal.
Swallowing his terror and fighting dizziness, Booth turned and crawled through Brennan's open window, taking off at a run the second his feet hit the ground.
Brennan woke up to darkness, the familiar, metallic smell of blood overwhelming her senses.
She struggled to lift her head, instinctively, and collided with a solid surface. She kicked her legs, and again met resistance.
Clarity dawned, and as Brennan realized where she was, a tidal wave of panic threatened to drown her.
This wasn't the first time Sean had stuffed her in the car trunk. She knew she could be here for days, but she also knew she'd be let out eventually.
But Booth was unconscious in her bedroom, and there was no precedent to know what Sean might do to him.
Terror surging, Brennan flattened herself as best she could in the trunk, bracing her hands on either side, bending her knees, and kicked against the top of the trunk.
She hadn't tried this method since the first time this punishment had happened, when she'd been inside for two days after breaking a dish. It had been futile then, and it was futile now, but desperation blocked the logical portion of her brain, and Brennan kicked until she started to feel lightheaded.
When she finally stopped, her legs trembling with the effort, Brennan was crying, gasping, panicked sobs of frustration and terror.
Time moved excruciatingly slowly in the car trunk, and every agonizing second was another second that Booth was alone with Sean.
When the front door of a neighbor's house swung open after thirty seconds of pounding on the door, the woman's eyes went wide at the sight of a wild-eyed, frantic teenage boy with blood on his shirt standing on her porch.
"I'm sorry," Booth panted. He felt dizzy and weak, and he was clutching at a stitch in his side, though it hadn't been a long run across the street. "Please, my friend, she…she's hurt, if I…if I could just use your phone…"
The woman visibly hesitated, unconsciously pushing the door a little further shut.
"Please," he begged, voice cracking. "Please…" Booth cast a glance over his shoulder, at the Lowell house across the street.
Suddenly the woman's face changed. "Is your friend…do you mean the Lowell's foster girl?"
The door opened wide, and the woman gestured for him to come in. "There's a phone in the hallway."
Booth didn't wait for the police to come; just knowing they were on their way allowed him to sprint across the street, intent on finding Brennan.
Her bedroom window was closed.
Peering inside and still seeing no one, Booth ran to the front door and started to knock incessantly.
The door swung open after nearly a minute of that, and before Booth could even register, Sean had thrown him down the steps and onto the sidewalk.
"I don't know who the hell you are, boy," Sean stated, his voice low and measured. "But if you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from here. And you'll stay away from Temperance."
Booth stared up at him, bracing his elbows on the sidewalk, glaring. "Where is she?"
"None of your concern," Sean gritted out. "I'll give you one more chance to get the hell off my property…"
Booth ignored him. He was looking past Sean into the open door of the house, wishing for some sign that Brennan was alright. Spontaneously, he yelled for her, as loud as he could, "Bones!"
Sean's face twisted in an angry incomprehension, and he came down the porch steps, close enough that Booth could see the muscle jumping in his jaw.
Then, suddenly, Sean's expression changed, his eyes shifting behind Booth, focusing instead on the police car pulling up to the curb.
By the time two police officers started up the sidewalk, Sean's expression had become one of mild surprise. "Officers?"
Grimacing, Booth pulled himself to his feet. One of the policemen met his eyes. "Seeley Booth?"
Booth nodded mutely, and Sean stared back and forth between the two of them, doing a frighteningly good job of feigning confusion. "What's the trouble, officers?"
"Mr. Lowell, I'm Officer Thames…we got a call from the boy expressing some concern…"
"Right, right," Sean said quickly, cutting him off. "I'm afraid I reacted a bit quickly…the boy snuck in through the window, see, trying to see my daughter-"
"She's not your daughter," Booth snapped heatedly. He was shaking with rage, terror throbbing throughout his body, angry at the fact that nothing was happening, that he still didn't know where Brennan was.
Sean ignored him, "I saw him crawling in and jumped to conclusions, thought he was breaking in-"
Thames interrupted smoothly, "Sir, where is your foster daughter?"
"Well, that's part of it. She isn't even home, so I didn't think he'd be coming to see her-"
"Where is she?"
"Uh, the hockey finals are tonight. At the high school." Sean smiled mildly. "All those kids are at the game."
The officers exchanged glances, and Booth felt sick, fear and anger dovetailing. "He's lying, she was just here, he…he was hitting her with a bat and I got him off her..he hits her all the time-"
The fury that flashed in Sean's eyes was a warning, and it was gone as quickly as it came. "He's hysterical," Sean stated flatly, in a voice that suggested he pitied Booth. "As I've said, gentleman, my daughter's at the hockey game tonight."
Booth clenched his fists, sure he might snap any second, scream at the officers to storm the house until they found her, scream at Sean to stop lying, when a woman appeared on the porch behind them, small with hunched shoulders and darting eyes. "What's going on?"
Sean's face froze, while the younger officer stepped forward slightly. "Mrs. Lowell?"
The woman nodded, expression uncertain. "Annie."
"Annie, I'm Officer Frost…do you know where your foster daughter tonight?"
Immediately, her eyes darted to Sean, frightened, looking for instructions. His face tightened, a menacing warning in his expression.
Annie began to stammer, her eyes never leaving her husband's face. "She's…um…T-Temperance is…"
The officer's expressions had hardened. "Mrs. Lowell, has your husband ever hurt Temperance?"
"Annie," Sean snarled, his control snapping, and immediately Officer Thames gripped Sean by the arm. "Mr. Lowell, why don't you come with me…"
Booth couldn't wait anymore. He ran past the rest of them, into the house, yelling for her, "Bones!"
"I was inside the neighbor's long enough to use the phone, and then I was back outside," Booth's voice was shaking with the effort of staying calm, staying stagnant. "He didn't take her anywhere, she's in the house."
The house was crawling with police officers, and an ambulance was parked outside, waiting. Sean Lowell was handcuffed in the back of a police car, refusing to admit to anything, or reveal where Brennan was. Annie Lowell was in the yard, being interrogated, weakly promising that she didn't know where he'd put her this time.
"Alright," Officer Frost was taking his statement in the living room, while other people milled around, looking for her.
"It wasn't that long, I wasn't…I wasn't unconscious long, I looked at the clock at that neighbor's house…"
"If she's here, we'll find her."
Booth's face constricted, because he knew what no one was saying; Brennan was here, somewhere, but she wasn't answering, and it had been over an hour. That couldn't mean anything good.
"She…she hit him," Booth managed in a quiet voice. "She was…she was about to hit him, with the bat before I passed out. To save me. She can't…" He leaned forward, closing his eyes. "Whatever he did to her…she has to be okay."
Before Officer Frost answered, there was a voice from another part of the house. "Seeley?"
Hank Booth came striding into the living room, his gaze snapping right to his grandson, accessing him as he sat down beside him on the couch. "They haven't found her?"
Booth shook his head mutely.
Pops introduced himself to the officer and began asking questions, and Booth stood abruptly, resuming his pace around the house, wanting to believe that he could somehow find her when these police officers couldn't.
Another hour passed; the house, the yard, and the garage were still being searched.
Booth stood on the porch, feeling like he was breaking apart. He stared across the yard, eyes on Sean Lowell's outline in the cop car. Booth hated his right to remain silent, hated that one of those police officer's couldn't simply pull out their gun and demand Sean tell them where she was.
Then, his eyes fell on Annie Lowell, standing in the yard next to an officer, no longer talking.
Before he could think about it, Booth was walking toward her. "Mrs. Lowell?"
Her small, watery blue eyes slid to him. She was a short, unnaturally thin woman with a perpetually frightened expression that was unsettlingly familiar. "Yes?"
Booth swallowed, suddenly losing his words.
He'd never heard Brennan mention this woman; when she called home after school, furtively claiming study sessions and promising to be home as soon as possible, she was always speaking to Sean. Booth had almost forgotten the presence of a foster mother…a silent, passive witness to everything her husband did to a fifteen year old girl they were supposed to take care of.
"I…I'm the one who called the police. Bones…" Flushing, he corrected himself, "Temperance, she's…she's my best friend. I need her to be okay, I…" He took a breath, holding her eyes. "I love her. And I need her to be okay. So…" His intention was to sound firm, but his voice was suddenly shaky and small, like a young, scared little boy. "If you know anything…"
"I don't," Annie told him softly. "I wasn't watching, I never…I never watch…" She lifted her gaze from the ground. "I don't like what he does to her, I don't…"
"Then…then why?" Booth burst out. "Why let him? Why even take her in the first place, I don't…" Suddenly, his throat tightened around the accusation as Annie Lowell's face fell in shame, and in that moment, Booth realized who she reminded him of.
It was only the rare occasion before his mother left that Booth's father would come after him or Jared. But it did happen. And each time, he would watch his mother slink into the background, leaving the room, unable to watch but never intervening.
For years he'd hated her for that, almost as much as he'd hated her for walking out, for leaving him and Jared alone with a man who suddenly saw them as his main targets.
But there had also been times, in the years after she left, when he would secretly, selfishly wish for his mother to come back. Not because he missed her, and not because she would help him…but because when she had been there, he hadn't been the one getting knocked unconscious most nights.
"You didn't want to be his target anymore," Booth said softly, staring into Annie Lowell's eyes. "You wanted him to leave you alone, I…" Booth squeezed his eyes shut, wrenching the words from his chest. "I can understand that, but…but it's not right. It's not. You could walk away. She can't, she never had a choice… " Booth's voice broke. "Please. Please help her now, at least." He cast his eyes past her, at the police car Sean was sitting in, and Annie followed his gaze. "He can't hurt you anymore. And I…I need to find her. Please."
Annie closed her eyes. "I don't…I don't know where he took her, but…there was one time, Sean…Sean left her in the car trunk. For two days she was in there I don't…I don't know if anyone's checked-"
Booth spun on his heel, running into the house and through to the kitchen, speeding past bewildered police officers and snatching up the car keys he'd walked past twenty times over the past few hours.
Within seconds he was in the garage, his hands trembling as he fumbled with the key. "Bones! I'm coming, I'm right here, just hold on a second…"
Two police officers and his grandfather had just appeared behind him when the trunk popped open.
A strangled scream, half of worry and half of relief, rose from Booth's throat: Brennan was curled inside, unconscious, dried blood staining her cheek and clothes.
In seconds, one of the police officers had run out to alert the medics, and the other was stepping in front of Booth to check her pulse, just as Hank pulled Booth back.
"Is she alive?" he demanded shakily.
An eternity of seconds seemed to pass before Officer Frost twisted to meet his eyes, nodding. "She's alive. But we need to get her to a hospital."
When Brennan's eyes opened, the brightness of the room was jolting. She closed her eyes, the circumstances before she lost consciousness screaming back to her.
Car trunk. Booth, alone with Sean.
Fresh terror swelled, and his name spilled like a whimper over her lips. "Booth…"
Suddenly a warm, familiar hand slipped into hers. "I'm right here, Bones…"
She opened her eyes, gasping.
Booth was in a chair beside her hospital bed, looking exhausted but smiling.
Brennan's entire body went weak with relief. "You're…you're okay…" She closed her eyes again, tightening her grip on his hand. "What…what happened?"
Booth shifted was he was sitting on the edge of her bed. "It's okay. You're going to be fine, and…Sean's in jail, Bones. He can't hurt you anymore that's…that's all that matters."
She stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. "How?"
"When I woke up and you were gone…" Booth swallowed hard, glancing down at their joined hands. "I ran across the street to call the police but…but we couldn't find you…" He sighed, shaking his head a little. "They know now, Bones. They know what he does to you and…and you're safe."
"But he…he hurt you…"
"I'm okay, I'm fine…now that you are." he soothed her immediately. Booth drew a breath, holding her gaze. "Bones, what Joey tried to do to you…I swear, I had no idea-"
"I know you didn't," Brennan cut him off, her voice shaking. "I…I'm sorry I believed him, I thought I was processing the evidence logically but I was wrong, I should have known you wouldn't-"
"It's okay, Bones. I'm just so sorry that happened to you, any of this…" Booth wrapped his arm around Brennan, letting her curl against him. "But I'm here, Bones."
She nodded, pressing her face into his shoulder until her vision cleared. "Thank you for saving me," she murmured, voice muffled against Booth's shirt.
Booth touched her chin, making her look at him. "You saved me, too." He paused, "And not just by hitting Lowell…in lots of ways."
For a long moment, they merely looked at each other, everything they'd been through, everything they'd become to each other passing between them.
Then Booth leaned forward slightly, tentative. He paused with his lips an inch away from hers, lifting his eyes, a question.
Brennan bridged the gap in answer, closing her eyes and kissing him softly.
They stayed that way, entangled and quiet, making up for lost time, until a doctor came in and pointedly cleared her throat.
The next several hours were chaotic with police officers wanting statements, and Brennan's social worker guiltily asking for explanations, with Pops coming by to check on the both of them.
Booth never left Brennan's side. And when the doctors cleared the others out, insisting that Brennan rest, Booth stubbornly refused to leave until they agreed to make an exception to visitor hours and let him stay with her.
So Booth cut off the lamp above the hospital bed and settled into the tiny bed with Brennan, her head pillowed beneath his arm, one finger absently tracing the pattern on Booth's shirt.
"I love you, Bones," Booth whispered, almost shyly, after they'd been silent for a few minutes. "And I'm not going anywhere."
Brennan's throat tightened, and she moved a little closer to him, squeezing her eyes shut. She could truthfully echo only one of those sentiments.
"I love you, too."
Brennan came out of the bathroom the next day, having changed out of her hospital gown and into the clothes her social worker had brought from the Lowell's house. She smiled at Booth, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, waiting.
"You feel okay?" Booth asked, leaping to his feet, looking ready to catch Brennan mid-collapse.
"I'm fine," Brennan lifted her head automatically to the stitches along her hairline. "He's done worse. Really."
Booth's expression darkened, anger flashing briefly in his eyes before he physically shook himself. "That's over now."
Brennan nodded, threading their fingers together and sitting on the edge of the bed, Booth beside her. "I know. Thanks to you."
Kate Fisher, Brennan's social worker, came back into the room then, her face plastered with the overly cheerful smile she'd been wearing all morning. "Alright, Temperance. I have your discharge papers, so you're good to go!"
Booth squeezed Brennan's hand, lifting his gaze to the social worker. "Where exactly does she go now?"
Looking at both of them, Kate replied, "Well, right now we're going to go by the Lowells and pack…no one's there, don't worry. And then we're going to go to the local group home and get you settled for the night, and hopefully by tomorrow we'll have a new family. We're looking at a couple in Danville…"
Brennan lowered her eyes at Booth's outburst; she felt his whole body stiffen beside her. She couldn't look at him.
Booth was staring at Kate Fisher, face pale. "Wha-…Danville? That's almost an hour away."
"Yes…" Kate replied slowly. "These small towns, it's usually hard to find available families in the same place on a moment's notice…"
"No!" Booth protested hotly. "No, she can't…you can't move, Bones." He set his jaw, determined. "She can stay with me, my grandfathers-"
"Seeley, honey, it doesn't work like that…we can't just send Temperance anywhere-"
"But you can send her to a house with an insane abusive…" Booth stopped abruptly, the volume of his own voice startling him. Brennan wasn't looking at him, and Booth inhaled slowly, trying to calm down. "Please, maybe…she could stay just until you find somewhere else, somewhere else local-"
"I'm sorry," Kate told him, sounding genuinely sympathetic. "I am."
"Bones, are you…do you hear this?" Booth looked at Brennan, and she painstakingly lifted her gaze to meet his, expression pained. "You knew?"
Her voice was tight, suppressing the sobs building in her chest. "I…I never stay in the same place, so I…I thought, probably…" A tear streaked down her cheek. "Sorry."
Booth put an arm around her, nodding, his throat tight. Several long, silent moments passed before he turned again to look at Kate. "When?"
That night, Booth was sitting with his back against a tree, eyes on the group home across the street, waiting.
He'd stayed with Brennan for as long as he could that afternoon, but eventually her social worker had made him leave so they could make arrangement for her move tomorrow. Still; he hadn't left without making plans.
So just after midnight, the side window of the large house slid open, and Brennan crawled through, still pulling on a jacket as she ran across the yard.
Booth met her in the middle of the road, trying to smile. "Hey."
"Hi…" She kissed him, soft, and Booth responded immediately, his fingers tangled in her hair, trying to shut out the fact that it felt like a goodbye.
Eventually, he broke away, casting a glance at the dark, quiet house. "We probably shouldn't do this here…"
Brennan nodded, glancing down the street for Booth's car. "So where are we going?"
Booth smiled then, a genuine one. "Our spot."
"I don't wanna go."
Brennan's voice was small and hesitant, like a confession. They were lying curled together on a blanket in the middle of the football field.
"I don't want you to go," Booth replied quietly.
"Kate says…she says the couple's really nice. They have a five year old biological son, and an eight year old they adopted from the system. But…even after Sean, I don't care…I just want to see you."
Booth's eyes drifted shut, and he pulled her a little closer. "I know." He brushed his lips against her forehead, searching for words. "But we'll see each other. We played that high school in hockey, it's a forty five minute drive, that's not..that's not bad. I can…I can come on weekends. We'll call, and I'll visit and…we're going to be fine."
He sat up suddenly, looking down at Brennan. He smiled a little, tracing a finger down the bow of her cheekbone. "The important thing…is that you're out of the house. And Sean can't hurt you anymore."
Brennan smiled up at him, but it quickly faded. "There's going to be a trial…Kate said I probably have to testify…"
"That'll be here, right?" When she nodded, Booth continued, "Good. I'll be there, for the whole thing. You just have to tell the truth, Bones. And I'll be right there in front of you, the whole time."
Brennan was quiet for a long time, staring at him like she wanted to memorize his face. When, she finally spoke, her voice was thick. "Booth, what you've done for me…it means everything. But you don't have to…it's going to be difficult, and it's going to take a lot of effort. Traditionally, there's a certain amount of skepticism towards…long distance relationships jus for that reason, and you don't have to…you've already saved me, Booth. But you don't have to keep taking care of me just because there's no one else, I don't want you to think it's some sort of obligation…"
She was starting to ramble, but Booth touched his finger to her lips to quiet her. "Bones. You are the strongest, smartest, most incredible person I know. And I love you, so…stop talking about obligations. I'm not letting you go. I can't."
Brennan nodded for a long time. "Good. Because you're…" Her voice fell to pieces. "You're all I have…"
Booth leaned down and kissed her, their bodies pressed together, their words falling away, unneeded.
"Temperance." Kate shot her an apologetic look and opened the backseat of the car. "It's time. We need to get going."
Brennan looked at Booth, her eyes huge and frightened. She tightened her grip on his hand, like he could somehow keep her.
"Okay." Booth nodded, clearing his throat. "It's okay." He swallowed again, hating the lump forming in his throat, threatening his calm. "You're going to call me when you get there, right? So I'll have the number?"
"And I'm going to check it with Pops and…come visit next weekend."
"Good." Brennan's lips were trembling, and she was saying as little as possible so she wouldn't break down and cry like a child.
"Temperance." Kate's voice was gentle.
She nodded once, not moving her eyes from Booth's. "I have to…"
"I know." He stepped forward, cupping her face in his hands. "I love you."
Then he was kissing her, not caring that her social worker was watching, just wanting it to last as long as possible. Her tears slid over his fingers, and when they finally broke away, her quickly whispered "Love you, too" fell against his lips.
"Bye," he whispered roughly, leaning his forehead against hers for a brief moment.
"I'll call. First thing."
They kept their fingers linked together until the last possible second, until she had to close the passenger door of the car. Booth touched the glass once, their eyes locked, and he stood on the edge of the sidewalk long after the car had disappeared down the road.
Three Months Later
Booth was too keyed up to sit still. He bounced his cleats on the floor, staring out the dusty window of the bus, much to the annoyance of the teammate beside him.
Finally, the bus pulled to a stop in front of the high school, and Booth was out of his seat in seconds, throwing his bag over his shoulder and charging down the aisle before the rest of his team had even registered their arrival.
Most of the students gathered outside the field house were jeering at the visitor's bus, but Booth ignored them, scanning the crowd for the guaranteed friendly face.
He turned just in time to catch Brennan against him, leaning down to enthusiastically greet his girlfriend, smiling against her lips as he did.
"Not bad, huh?" He murmured with a grin. "Mid week visit…told you the baseball team was a good idea."
"You play too many sports," she informed him with a smile.
"Probably," he agreed, kissing her again and keeping it up until a hand seized him by the nape of the neck and pulled him back.
"You're killing me, Seeley," Coach Anders said, rolling his eyes. "No one's going to take you seriously if they've seen you being a weak kneed loverboy. Now get to the visitor's locker room." The baseball coach clapped him on the back and walked off with the rest of the team.
Booth smiled apologetically at Brennan. "Sorry. Everything good?"
"Yes," she replied patiently, knowing it was his way of asking about her foster parents, the kids at school, and the upcoming Sean Lowell trial. "Promise."
"Good." He pulled a baseball hat down on his head and grinned. "You're pulling for me today, right, Bones?"
She frowned. "Traditionally, I think loyalty should lie with my own school, Booth…"
He groaned, mock offended. "Oh, c'mon Bones."
She laughed, proud of herself. "I'm making a joke. Of course I want you to win." She glanced over her shoulder. "So does Angela, even."
Booth followed Brennan's gaze to the girl hovering in the background, staring at him with a scrutinizing expression and, smirking, shooting Brennan an approving thumbs up.
"Good." Booth glanced toward the locker room, where all his teammates had disappeared. "I really gotta go. But I'll see you after?"
"Yes." Brennan kissed him again, quickly, then headed to where Angela was waiting, waving at him. "Hit a goal for me."
Booth laughed, unable to wipe the goofy expression off his face in spite of the ribbing he was bound to get from teammates. "I'll do my best, Bones."