Author's Note: Hello! Yup, it's me again. Feel free to throw things. After all those broken promises, after making you believe I had changed… I won't even make an excuse this time. Let's face it. We're beyond that point now. It's been too long…

Wait! Okay. Just one little excuse. My best girl Norah Pearly-Gates and I have teamed up to provide the Bones fandom with a fabulous new story. That's where I've been! I promise this time! And I've learned from this particular Now That You're Here experience that I cannot be trusted to continually write chapters to be posted. SO, we've been writing since the finale to ensure that the entire story is FINISHED before we post it. (The story we're writing together, not this one – sheesh, what do you want from me!?) Anyway, the story will be called The Moderation of Joy and will be written under the penname SubtleMomentsofJoy. (Yes, that's a lot of joys – maybe a theme perhaps?) So please, please do check us out. And before you write it off all together, keep in mind that there will be CONSTANT updates because it will be completed at first post. As for a little summary, the story will play off the idea of Booth and Brennan going through with having a baby. An overused topic, you say? Think again! (Okay, so it is a bit overdone…) Our story holds a bit of a twist. It's rather unique, if I do say so myself. So please watch out for it. It's the longest, most intricate thing either of us have ever tackled…it's a beast of a story, let me tell you. Okay, now I'm done promoting… Wait! One more thing! Go check out my lady Norah. She's got a couple of one-shots for our fandom, you'll love her! Okay done now…

Anyway, I'm not making any promises on when the next chapter will be up. Let's face it, we've been down that road, yes? So instead, I will thank you again for being such faithful readers and sticking with me on this ridiculously long, rocky journey. (Want to know how awful I am? I wrote most of this chapter back in May. MAY!) I'll stop rambling now… I do hope you enjoy this chapter. Lord knows you've waited long enough. You may need a little refresher since it's been so long…glance over the last few chapters, just in case. This scene is kind of pivotal… Love you all!

I've got this feeling that there's something that I missed

(I could do most anything to you...)

Don't you breathe

Something happened, that I never understood

You can't leave

Every second, dripping off my fingertips

Wage your war

Another soldier, says he's not afraid to die

Well I am scared

In slow motion, the blast is beautiful

Doors slam shut

A clock is ticking, but it's hidden far away

Safe and sound

Somewhere a Clock is Ticking – Snow Patrol

Of course the elevator wasn't working. It was just a cherry on top of a perfect day. Well, night really. Agent Lopez turned, and with tired limbs, pushed the door open leading to the stairwell. Nine floors. Awesome.

As she dragged herself up step after never-ending step, her mind zeroed in on the happy faces of those four little girls. That's all she'd ever seen of them – pictures of their smiling, youthful faces. To be honest, she preferred to focus on these instead of allowing her wayward mind to conjure up images of them scared or in pain or, god forbid, sexually abused. As much as she didn't want to allow herself to believe it, she'd seen too much. She'd been working for the Kidnapping and Missing Persons' branch of the FBI for ten years now. She wished she could say that sexual abuse was uncommon in non-familial abductions, but she couldn't lie even to herself. What worried her most, was that ransom didn't play a factor in this one, which suggested that all the bastard wanted to do what make them suffer.

Well congrats, bucko. You've accomplished that.

What was worse was that this Agent Booth knew all that she did. Granted, he worked homicide, not kidnapping, but that probably meant that he understood far better than she ever could. It was he who saw what happened when the kidnapping experts failed. It was he who crushed what little hope remained in their loved ones, it was he who had to unveil the ugly truths and recreate what really occurred. He didn't have to imagine, like she did. He saw the result.

Agent Booth knew the statistics, he knew the odds. He also knew that the odds were against them. And still, he fought. Hell, she'd just gotten off the phone with him for the…she'd lost count of the amount of times she'd spoken with him in the last twelve hours. Too many.

It made it worse. Looking at the family of the children – namely him – and knowing that he knew what she did. She couldn't lie to him to soften the blow. He'd suffer greater than even the parents of these kids, if they didn't get them back. Because he knew.

She'd heard of Agent Booth before today. His partnership with the bone doctor was something of a legend in the FBI. Their success rate was beyond words. No one could touch them. They were the very best. It was easily recognizable in their efficiency today, even if it was greatly distorted by their proximity to the case, to the people involved.

It had only taken a couple of hours before she'd received the call that they'd identified the kidnapper based on some fancy facial recognition software, with the help of a bunch of squints. It made her wonder just how much they were capable of if they were able to truly put their heads in the game.

It was true; she should have been nicer to this Dr. Brennan, but it was just so damn hard to put stock in the capabilities of an egghead who had barely seen the light of day. She'd give this one to her though – it was her idea to run Agent Booth's contacts against the picture they had of the perp. Yeah, she could give this one to her.

Finally, she reached the top landing. The ninth floor. She felt like she just may fall over – that's all she wanted to do in this moment. The faces of the four girls surfaced again and she was given the incentive to push forward. She'd just grab a quick bite to eat, change her clothes, and head over to the Booth home.

She had to hand it to this kid, this Aariz El-Gendy – or Hakim Raddick, whichever – he may be a bit sloppy, a bit inexperienced in the whole kidnapping scene, but he was pretty damned good at making himself invisible. Matt Bennett, Agent Booth's brother-in-law, had been something of a friend to this kid. He looked after him, as far as she could tell, and tried to make his transition into life in America easier. According to Matt – which of course, she'd heard through Agent Booth as she had been forbidden to question him – Aariz had lived in the area, though Matt himself had never been to his apartment. The kicker was that no apartment had been rented out to either his recently uncovered identity or the alias that Matt knew him by, in the entire city of Philadelphia. She'd had a dozen agents working on finding his place of residence all night. Nothing.

As she blurrily attempted to unlock her door, her mind on other things, she tried to convince herself that he was indeed 'sloppy and inexperienced', even though he'd still managed to keep just out of their reach, thus far. The kid was only nineteen, surely his immaturity would lead to impatience and carelessness. Yes, she smiled to herself, that's when she'd nab him.

Closing the door behind her as she entered into her apartment, she dropped her coat and keys onto a nearby chair and slipped her shoes off. She practically limped across the room to the kitchen and just as she was thinking, no high heels today, she caught sight of him in her peripheral vision. Before she could even make a sound the butt of his gun was colliding with the side of her head and she was collapsing to the floor.

"What's he doing?" It was Jen's voice that broke through Brennan's thoughts as she watched her partner from the front window in the kitchen. He was rummaging through his supply kit in the back of his SUV out in the driveway.

Brennan turned, her arms crossed tightly around herself, and was surprised to see that everyone in the kitchen had been watching Booth, too. "I -" She paused, pursing her lips. She had been about to say that she didn't know, but the eyes watching her seemed so trusting and dependent on her connection with their – their hope – the man who they trusted, with no shadow of doubt, to fix this mess for them. Still, she hated to lie. "Something…important," she told them instead.

She turned back to see that Booth was jumping out of the back of his truck, slamming the door and making his way inside.

It wasn't like the feeling was new to her – the helplessness that came with having absolutely no idea how to console him in his misery – but she knew that this situation was far worse than anything they'd tackled before. It, as Booth would say, hit too close to home. Though, it would probably be more accurate to say that it hit home, for that's exactly what it did.

As she watched him walk up the front path, she thought of the faces of the people standing behind her. How horrible it must be to be Booth in this situation. He hated letting people down. He simply would not, could not, let it happen. There was an eerie nonchalance in the atmosphere of this home – they were worried, of course, she'd even go as far as to say they were terrified – yet it was almost as though they knew, knew it deep down, that they didn't actually need to waste their energy on worry. It was merely an unconscious reaction to their current situation – something that couldn't be helped. They seemed to think – no, they were certain – that it was only a matter of time before Booth would pull through for them. It was only a matter of time before Booth would save the day.

Their faith was absolute.

Yes, being Booth in this circumstance must be gut-wrenchingly impossible.

Even Kayla's outburst earlier seemed something of an unconscious response brought on by unfounded hysteria. Kayla had the faith, too. She just couldn't help it. Something in her body, in her mind had prompted her to lash out – a mother's prime instinct was to protect her young, to fight – but Brennan had seen her after the outburst. She'd sobbed and apologized and told Booth – actually told Booth – that she knewhe'd find them.

It was a painful paradox. Brennan wanted Booth's family to have this kind of faith in him. She herself, no matter how often she denounced the logicality of faith, had an unshakeable faith in her partner. At the same time though, she found herself wishing they'd be more subtle about it, less obvious. Less absolute. Booth was being pulled apart at the seams. Not just the lack of, but the actual absence of leads, and the limited resources and clearance allotted to him were just about driving him mad. But to top it off, the entire prospect of his family's future happiness, of their future sanity, weighed down on Booth's shoulders and his shoulders only. What was worse was that the rest of them, they were allowing it to happen. They were letting him carry each and every one of them through this nightmare and they were still expecting him to pull through for them.

She wished that she could knock some sense into them, but that would just be another burden that Booth would feel he needed to bear. She supposed, if she were honest with herself, she really couldn't imagine what they were going through – despite how close she was to them – she wasn't a parent and, therefore, couldn't possibly feel their pain.

Honest or not, she still wanted to hit them. Maybe she'd always be biased where her partner was concerned.

Slowly she walked towards the front hall, leaning against the threshold that separated the kitchen, and watched him enter the house. He was distracted, clicking buttons on what looked to be a fancy palm pilot of some sort.

"What's that?"

He looked up at her, caught off guard by her presence. That worried her. "Oh, uh, just an idea. I'll let you know if I can get it to work." He stuffed it into his back pocket. It wasn't until he did that she noticed what was in his other hand.

"Bones…" He invaded her personal space, speaking quietly. "Take this." He handed her a loaded gun, the same as he carried, but his own was holstered at his side.

"Why?" She whispered, taking it anyway.

"Just…" He shook his head, seeming at a loss for words.

"Booth," she insisted.

"I just…I feel like you should have it."

Without another word, she tucked the gun into her jeans at her back and covered it with her top. It had been a long time since she truly questioned one of his feelings, and today they really couldn't afford to waste any time with an interlude of senseless bickering.

He gave as much a smile as he seemed able to muster, retrieved the device from his back pocket and disappeared behind the door that led down to the rec room.

Turning back into the kitchen, she was met with wary eyes. So they'd seen the exchange. They were more worried. Good. Now maybe they'd be more reasonable.

At least a half an hour had passed when the knock came. It wasn't until it did, that Brennan realized that Agent Lopez was later than she said she'd be. It irked her. Booth was always punctual. Always. Glancing out the front window she saw that it was indeed Agent Lopez's vehicle in the driveway. Rolling her eyes she rushed to answer the door before anyone else could react. It would be easier to give the agent a piece of her mind without anyone else there in witness.

When she swung the door open she was promptly greeted with a blow to the chest and she found herself being propelled across the room until her back collided with the opposite wall. It only took a second for the disorientation to fade before she was reaching for the gun at her back while simultaneously fighting her unknown attacker. Her hand clamped down on his wrist, holding it high in the air, keeping the gun he held pointed up and away from her. She exerted as much force as she could with her upper body to push herself off of the wall.

Unfortunately, though at the present moment she didn't really have time to pick a proper location to execute this fight, she had thrown him in the direction of the kitchen – right to the very place where they'd have the biggest audience. Harsh gasps and terrified screams filled the room, as the Booths were introduced to the unplanned turn of events.

Immediately he was on her again, pushing her back towards the far wall, battling with her unfailing attempt to keep his gun away. Suddenly though, catching her off guard, he pulled away, causing her tense form to fall towards him and her own gun – now free from its makeshift holster – to clatter to the ground. She dodged the punch he threw in her direction by falling into a roll, retrieving her gun in the process. When she stood, allowing herself to feel a small bit of victory at her success, and pointed her gun straight at her attackers face, her heart dropped like a massive brick.

He snickered cruelly, his own gun pointed in the direction she least hoped it would – her partner's family. "Drop it."

There was no choice. There was not one alternative to shuffle through. Immediately, she released her own weapon, allowing it to clatter loudly to the floor. Slowly, she raised her hands in surrender.

"That is what is wrong with people like you," he smirked in triumph. "Law enforcers. Heroes," his voice rolled lazily over the words as he moved to stand before her. "You are always too busy saving everyone else," he raised a strong hand to her shoulder and shoved her roughly against the wall. Someone gasped off to her side. "You would be stronger if you remembered to save yourself."

"And you'd be more human if you cared enough to put others first," she retorted coolly.

He ignored her. "Where is he?"

"He's not here," she stated calmly, despite the barrel of the gun he now had digging painfully against the side of her head.

She watched as fury seemed to pulse through him and then, after a moment, it disappeared. He smiled.

"Dr. Brennan," he stated with false warmth, sending a shiver down her spine. He looked at her closely for a long moment and it took everything she had not to flinch at his stare, react to the foul stench of sweat rolling off of him and to withstand the urge to beat his body to the ground. "He's really got you…hasn't he?" His spoke slowly, reveling in the ability to make every person in the room hold on to his every word.

She said nothing.

"You think he is a hero…" he stated, incredulity coating his soft tone. "And they told me you were smart," he finished with a condescending smirk.

"Booth is a hero," she spat at him, losing the battle to keep calm.

A look crossed his face and for one horrible moment, the arrogance painted across his features paired with the patronizing gleam in his eye reminded her of Howard Epps. "He killed my father you know…" His words were laced with something akin to a childish whine. "I was just a boy…"

"Your father was a murder. He wiped out entire villages." Pushing herself of the wall, she stepped impossibly closer to the man before hissing, "He was a terrorist and Booth was a soldier."

"Hmm," he cooed, eyes narrowing. "So tell me, Dr. Brennan…why is it that my father is required to pay for his sins, but yours is able to walk free?"

She inhaled sharply, her normally quick retorts failing her. How did he...?

Confusion, pain, guilt seeped through her. It was true. She'd lost count of how many times she thought it herself…but, it wasn't the same thing. It wasn't even close. Booth would be upset with her for even thinking it…

Just as the thought of her partner crossed her mind, his body filled the threshold into the kitchen, still and silent. She didn't acknowledge his presence, but she knew that Booth had noticed the subtle shift in her demeanor from over the shoulder of her captor, the moment she realized he was there.

He was a Ranger. Silent. Cautious. In control. He took slow, steady steps forward. Out of the corner of his eye – because he saw all, heard all, knew all – his family reacted to his arrival. It was in their expressions, in the relief that sagged through their bodies. Fortunately for them, Bones was better at being neutral, and she currently had the bastard's full attention. The man's back was to him, a gun firmly clenched in his hand, the barrel digging into Bones' temple.

"Ah," the man cooed. "I have – as you Americans call it – struck a nerve, yes?"

"You have no idea what you're talking about," Bones told him flatly, appearing much less calm and unaffected than Booth knew she was.

"Is that what your partner told you? That your father was a good man? Huh," he mused and Booth could practically see the superiority, hatred and thirst for revenge coming off him in waves. "Maybe that is because they are so similar. They kill and call it justice…"

"No," Bones quietly retorted, "They kill in the name of humanity. They kill to make it so that innocent people can live their lives without fear."

He appeared to ignore her comment and said, "Tell me where your partner is and I will leave everyone unharmed."

"He's not here," she emphasized each word, her voice brimming with anger.

"You're stronger than I expected," he said next, ignoring her once more.

In a sudden burst of movement, Bones' eyes flew to his – they locked gazes, forming a plan without words in the span of half a second. "People often underestimate me," she stated casually, immediately her throwing her arm out to the side, her elbow colliding sharply with the side of the man's head.

Booth caught him as he faltered, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and throwing him with ease against the wall Bones had just been pushed up against. "Nice shot, Bones."

"Thanks," she said as she retrieved her gun from the floor and knocked the gun out of the hand of the man he had in his arms.

No, boy. He wasn't a man. Nineteen, the file had said. The kid was only nineteen.

Booth stared into the eyes of the boy who haunted his dreams. The boy he had cried over, more times than he can remember, in the dark of night, alone in his bed. He'd lost count of the amount of times he'd asked for forgiveness over this child, had said the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary over and over until he was too exhausted to continue. Often, he'd close his eyes to see these wide, brown eyes staring back at him, even when nothing in his day would trigger the memory. It would appear unbidden. He couldn't escape.

Except now, now those eyes were really staring back. The boy was here, before him. The blood that Booth had believed would stain the child's skin forever had been washed clean, even when the blood on his own hands would always remain. Guilt and hatred melded so flawlessly within him, that he almost forgot why he was there in the first place. It was a sob from someone off to his side that brought him back.

This child was no longer innocent.

"Agent Booth," he stated softly, his accent thick.

Booth said nothing, he simply stared. There was a shade of victory unraveling in the depths of the kid's eyes as the soft whimpers and uneven breaths of his terrified family began to seep into fill the eerie silence.

He felt the heat of Bones' body as she took a reassuring step closer to him. She remained quiet.

"It's a shame…" he breathed, the corners of his mouth turning up in triumph, "Your family seems devastated."

The air shifted behind him, signaling movement in his partner. Immediately the room was quiet again, the anguish now only discernable by the thick atmosphere that had settled over all its occupants. Bones must have thrown his family a look that brought them to silence.

Those little girls. That was all that mattered now. The kid had willingly walked through the front door. He was safe. The outcome was secure. He held too much leverage. He was set to win and he knew it.

"Tell me what you want," Booth's voice was hollow and defeated. Bones stiffened behind him even before the words had fully left his lips.

Those brown eyes widened with something approaching glee and some perverse, guilt-ridden, sick part of Booth was almost relieved. Twelve years ago he'd ruined this child's life. He'd forced him down into a sea of pain, suffering and maybe even madness. He himself had sealed this boy's fate when he was only seven years old. He looked almost happy now…

Warmth seeped through his shirt as Bones placed a hand on his back. She was being unusually quiet given the circumstances. Her fingers dug in slightly, grasping at the thin fabric. She was worried, but there was nothing neither of them could do. Not now.

"I want you dead," he stated with confidence. He held all the cards.

The silence continued to blanket the room, as loud as it was quiet. The words ran a continuous track, playing over and over and over. They were not unexpected, but he felt the tension wafting off every single person in the room as they teetered on the edge of despair, waiting for his reply.

Her hand on his back tightened into a fist.

"Done," he said lowly; not a trace of a tremor in his tone, no waver in his gaze. He lowered his gun and stepped away.

Reaction finally burst through the room. A sob of protest came from his mother. Jared cursed, "Seeley, what the hell are you doing?" He felt Bones shift behind him again and anticipated her action to silence their protest. However, it was his father's voice that came first.

"Quiet." It was all he said. His tone was not raised, he voice was not harsh. But everyone heeded to the command.

The kid's eyes darkened. "FBI," he stated simply. "Fidelity. Bravery. Integrity." A smile spread across his face. "You are willing to die for those children."

Booth said nothing, but it seemed that was confirmation enough.

Patronization coated his features. "You are foolish."

"Take me to them," Booth said. "Now."

A/N: Ooooh. A bit of a short one, I suppose. Hope it made up somewhat for my ridiculously unreliable updating skills. Let me know what you think! Oh – and what story are you watching out for? (readers give a chorus of The Moderation of Joy) Yes! Exactly! That is the one. I'm so impressed that you remembered!