The unforgiving sun had set hours ago, but the heat still lingered within the desert sand. Brennan could feel it through the thin soles of her shoes. Had she been thinking rationally she would have thought to better protect herself with appropriate footwear. She would have second guessed herself the minute she'd stepped out of the safety of her motel room, and departed for the vast dry sands that stretched on for miles and miles. She had with her a single flashlight to battle back against the dark night. The gun she'd bought years ago was strapped in a holster to her hip. "You don't need a gun. I'm your gun," Booth had assured her when he'd first learned of her purchase. Yeah? Then where are you now? She thought bitterly.
It'd been three days she'd lost contact with him. As of recent memory she couldn't remember a time in which she'd gone so long without speaking to him. The birth of their daughter reinforced the lives they'd already built with one another. For years they'd been partners, paired together through the FBI much to Brennan's chagrin. In those early days they'd struggled to get along. Over time the chilly reception had melted into a different relationship: a friendship. From there on out they'd danced on an intricate line between best friends, and something more. After much excuse making and side stepping around the solid boundaries they'd built, at last been they'd been driven into one another's arms following a great tragedy. Not too much time had passed before Brennan was announcing to him that she was pregnant with his child. Their separate lines had merged into one.
She couldn't believe that either one of them had ever been happier. Which was why his sudden departure had been so difficult for her to swallow. Given that Christine was only a month old Brennan was still on maternity leave. Booth's paternity time had run out, and he'd been forced to return to his job. He'd been back only a few days before he'd come home to pack a suitcase. "I'm getting sent out to Albuquerque."
Brennan had stood besides him in their bedroom, rocking Christine. "What? Why?"
"They've assigned me to a task force that's heading out to work with the Anti-terrorism unit. That's where they're based out of. I guess they got a line on some group that's posing a threat to the public."
"I understand. But why you? Why are they sending you?"
He'd zipped his duffel bag, and finally turned to face her. "Because they're ex-military. The bureau believes given my history in the Army that I'll have some insight."
"There's other agents who are former soldiers," she reminded him.
"Yeah. And some of them are going too." He'd pulled her close and kissed her tenderly. "Look Bones, I'll be out there at most a month. I'm just going to do a little consulting and head home. It's no big deal." He removed Christine from her arms to cradle her in his own embrace. He kissed her forehead while admitting, "I don't want to leave. Especially now. But I can't exactly argue with bureau."
Her dismay had still been evident. He'd tried one last pacifier. "Look, I'll have my laptop with me. We can talk over webcam every night, and see each other. I know it's not as good as me being here. But it'll do for a little while, right?"
It was better than nothing, she'd supposed. "You're just consulting? You won't be aiding in the group's apprehension?"
"No." He'd sworn. "I won't be anywhere near the action, if there is any. The last thing we want is to spook these guys."
She'd had little choice but to begrudgingly let him go. He'd kept his promise to her starting the very first night he'd arrived in New Mexico. The two had chatted through their computers for several hours before turning in for the night. On the second night she'd noticed immediately a change had taken place within him. Even over a crappy digital connection she was able to read the great amount of stress he was carrying throughout his body. His smiles weren't as easily available. He appeared exhausted, and she wondered if he had been telling her the truth from the start. Often he had a tendency to downplay the possible danger he was exposed to, figuring her worry to be needless. Usually he was right.
However, the third night had proven him to be very wrong. They'd been in the middle of another conversation when Brennan had heard a loud commotion take place off camera. Booth had been laying across his bed. His expression had changed into one she wasn't able to identify. Just as he'd sat up to check out the situation she'd heard the sound of a round discharging from a weapon. The screen had gone black, and never turned back on. That had been the last she'd heard from him.
She'd spent the remainder of that night and most of the following day frantically calling whomever she could get in touch with. No one had any answers for her as to what had become of her partner. Since she was only a forensic anthropologist who was contracted to the bureau, she was allowed no inside access. Contacts she had within the government hadn't given her much assistance, either. In desperation she'd packed up Christine and gone straight to the bureau. Specifically, to Assistant Director Hacker's office. Booth's boss' boss.
He too, was anything but helpful. "I'm sorry, Temperance. But it's classified."
"I'm his partner!" She'd protested.
"I'm sorry. There's nothing I can tell you."
"You must know something. I heard gunfire. He was in trouble, perhaps even abducted!"
Quietly, he'd confided, "the bureau doesn't make deals with terrorists."
Her heart rate surged. Suddenly she felt as though her head were locked in a vice grip. Her temples pulsated. "So you're saying if he's been abducted… it's likely he's already been killed?"
"I'm saying… he's not the only agent who's been reported missing. I'm telling you it's classified."
Promptly upon arriving home she'd lost her steely reserve. Gazing at Christine induced the tears she could no longer fight. "Your father is missing," she'd told her. "I have no idea where he is. I don't even know if he's alive."
Christine's eyes had shone bright. Though they shared the same hue as Brennan herself, in them she could see Booth mirroring back at her. "No," she'd decided on the spot. "This is unacceptable. I have to find him. No matter what the outcome. I have to find him for your sake." She sniffed back a few more tears. "And my own."
Max, her father, had thought she was crazy when she'd described to him her plans, but he'd still agreed to take care of Christine while she was gone. "You really think it's wise to take on a terrorist organization, Tempe?"
"No. I don't intend to. I just want to find Booth." And if she happened to find some of the other missing agents in the process, that was just icing on the cake.
She booked herself a plane ticket over the internet. She swiftly packed her bags, and was out the door before Max could attempt to try to change her mind. A life was a stake. That was all that mattered.
The plane was boarded without incident. During the flight she replayed the horrifying scene over again in her mind. Her thoughts stretched into the shadowed corners of her brain, and picked up where the webcam had left off before it had gone out. Her imagination ran wild. Images of bloodshed and carnage flashed before her eyes. With a shiver she sprung back into reality. That's not what happened to him.
Since she had happened to know the name of the motel Booth had been staying in, she'd chosen to conduct her investigation from there. She hadn't had a problem in obtaining a room once she'd arrived. Shortly after checking in she'd taken herself on a tour of the dwelling and the grounds outside. Many of the rooms had been boarded off with yellow police tape. As she was alone in the hallway she paused outside one and stared longingly at the door. Had that been Booth's room? What had become of his luggage? Had the FBI seized it during their own inspection into his vanishing? Or had it just been left behind, forgotten?
She'd tried to question the hotel staff only to find herself stonewalled yet again. Anytime she approached anyone with a question she was turned away. No one wanted to help her, as no one wanted to be involved. Their silence angered her, and fueled her desire to root out the truth. Booth would be found. There would be no deterring her.
She went to bed that night frustrated, and miserable. Every passing moment in which she was away from Booth only increased her anxiety. Her life had become a waking nightmare that didn't end. Nor would it, until he was back in the security of her arms. Nothing else would suffice.
Throughout the midnight hours she tossed and turned until she decided trying to rest was worthless. Something out in the desert was calling out to her. She'd never believed in gut feelings. She certainly didn't believe in psychics, or clairvoyance. But the nagging feeling just wouldn't leave her mind alone. Booth, the wind whispered as it ruffled the drapes through her open window.
She'd sat up in bed. What if Booth is out there? Is it a possibility? Do I dare ignore it just because I perceive it as being preposterous? A heavy hearted sigh shook her shoulders. I can't sleep anyway. What would it hurt to search for him?
So here she was, out combing the desert on a hunch that she wasn't even sure she held any faith in. Her footsteps were carefully planted across the rough terrain. Cacti were strewn about intermittently. Coyotes howled their mournful songs. In the stillness she could hear mice and other rodents scurrying away from her. The atmosphere was simply too silent. If the earth had secrets, she wasn't telling.
She bumbled along until she became tripped up in a low lying tangle of dead branches. Forward she tipped into the sand, landing hard on her elbows and knocking oxygen out of her lungs. The flashlight flew out of her hand and skirted away from her. "Ow. Damn it." She muttered when she was able to draw in a fresh breath. She took her time climbing back up onto her feet. With sinking disappointment she realized the sun was just peeking up over the horizon. She had planned to be long gone before she could be caught in the first burning rays.
She swiped her flashlight up from off the ground. Before heading back towards her car she cast one last look around her. "Booth, if you're out here somewhere, I'll find you." She tossed her promise into the wind. "Just hold on."