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Mouths of Babes

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"Okay, boys and girls, come on, let's settle down." The young teacher clapped her hands to try and quiet down her charges. "Remember, this morning I told you all that we have a special guest for this month's Career Day. Let's sit quietly while he talks to us, and don't forget to raise your hand if you have a question, okay?"

When the children nodded, she glanced at the little boy standing by her desk, nearly vibrating with energy. "Parker, do you want to introduce our guest?"

The little boy shot her a huge grin and nodded before going to the door and opening it. Grabbing their guest by the hand, he dragged the man inside.

"This is my dad, Seeley Booth. He works for the FBI. That's the Fed'ral Bureau of Instigation."

Booth bit back his smile as his son deposited him in front of the class and then returned to his desk. I'll have to remember that one. "Investigation, Park. Not instigation."

He looked at the twenty or so children who were eyeing him curiously. "Hi, everyone."

"Thank you for coming, Agent Booth." His son's teacher gave him a smile, which he easily returned. She was a pretty thing; it was no wonder Parker loved going to school.

"Thank you for having me, Miss Diaz."

"Why don't you tell us a little bit about what the FBI does, and what you do there?"

"Well, like Parker said, FBI stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Like the name says, the FBI investigates crimes for the federal government. Instead of the police department for a city, or a state, the FBI is kind of like the police department for the whole country. We protect the United States from criminals here in the country and also from other countries. We also help city and state police departments if they need help."

"And what is it you do with the FBI, Agent Booth?"

He gave her an uncomfortable smile. No way was he discussing grisly murder with a room full of six year olds. "I catch bad guys."

She nodded, seeing his unease. "Well, that's a very important job. Did you want to say anything before we ask if anyone has a question for you?"

"Um... well, you've all learned about stranger danger, right?"

They nodded eagerly.

"Okay, so what are some of the things you know?"

"Don't go with strangers!"

"Even if they say they have candy!"

"Or a puppy!"

"Or a video game!"

"Or that they're friends with your mommy."

"Don't open the door to strangers!"

He nodded. "Good. And what do you do if someone tries to grab you?"

"Scream!"

"Fight."

"Yell, 'This is not my daddy!' or 'This is not my mommy!"

"Good. You guys know your stuff. Parker, if someone besides me or your mom comes to pick you up, how do you know it's safe to go with them?"

His son stared at him, a little startled at being put on the spot in front of his friends. "Um... they know the secret word."

"What does that mean?" Booth prompted.

"That means they know the word that only you and I and mommy know, so that means you told it to them and they're safe to go with."

"Does everybody understand that?" Most of the kids nodded, but a few looked uncertain. "You guys should all have a secret word with whoever comes to pick you up normally, so that if someone different comes and says your mommy or daddy or grandma or whoever it is told them to come pick you up, you'll know if it's true. And you'll know if it's safe to go with them. If they don't know the secret word, you run away from them as fast you can. Understand?"

When they nodded again, he glanced at Miss Diaz, who asked, "Okay, does anybody have a question for Agent Booth?"

Booth blinked as nearly all the children raised their hands.

"So you're a cop," one little boy called out.

"Jonah, raise your hand," Miss Diaz admonished.

"I guess you could say that, yes."

"How come you don't wear a uniform?"

"I'm more like a detective than a beat cop. FBI agents don't wear uniforms."

"My daddy says all cops are pigs."

"Kenny, that's a horrible thing to say! You know we don't call people names!" Miss Diaz said, shocked, while Booth narrowed his eyes at the kid. I bet he does. And what's your last name, kid?

"Policemen are very important. They willingly put themselves in harm's way to keep you and your families safe, and they should be respected!" she lectured. "I'm very sorry, Agent Booth."

"That's okay. I've been called worse. So... anyone else got a question?"

"How come there are so many different kinds of cops?"

"Well... there's lots of different kinds of crime. We all have different jobs."

"If you're a cop, how come you're not called Officer Booth?"

"In the FBI, we're called Special Agents."

"Do you have a gun?" one little girl asked, surprising him. He'd expected it from the boys.

"Yes," he said hesitantly. "I have a weapon."

The same little girl, her eyes sparkling with eagerness, practically wriggled out of her seat in excitement. "Can we see it?"

He had his service weapon on him, of course, but he wasn't about to pull it out and pass it around. "Guns are not toys," he told the class, trying to make eye contact with as many of the kids as possible. "They are very dangerous, and they kill people. It's not like TV, people don't get shot and get back up. If you see a gun, leave it alone. Don't pick it up, don't play with it, and never point it at anyone. Don't touch it at all. Find a grown-up, and tell them. Okay?"

Some of the children nodded, and some just stared at him. Miss Diaz called on another little boy.

"Have you ever shot anyone?"

"Did you kill them?"

"Did you shoot them in the head?"

Booth swallowed. He'd known the questions were coming since Parker had asked him to come speak to the class, but he hadn't been able to figure out a good answer. Before he could come up with something, Miss Diaz saved him.

"Those aren't nice questions, and I don't think Agent Booth wants to answer them."

"But I want to know!" one persistent little boy called.

"No," she said firmly, and the boy subsided with a pout. Booth shot her a grateful glance. If it had been any other class -- maybe a slightly older class -- he might have told the truth about dangerous, armed criminals and the occasional need to use deadly force, but Parker was sitting right there, adoration and pride in those big brown eyes.

"Does anyone else have a question?" he asked, fighting the urge to fidget. He could see them studying him, trying to figure out the answers to the last barrage of questions.

"Do you have a badge? Like on TV?"

"Yep. We call it a credential. Here," he said, unclipping his ID from his belt and handing it to one of the boys in the front row. "Pass it back, so everyone can see." He watched, amused, as the kids handled it like something precious.

"Oh!" Booth said, snapping his fingers as he remembered. He slipped the stack of freebies he'd brought out of his pocket. "In fact, I have credentials for everyone."

He passed them out, grinning at the excited squeals and exclamations. He'd seen kids go nuts over the little credentials in the past, and he was glad he'd remembered to stop by the Bureau's PR office on his way to the school. It had apparently been a good idea. "All you gotta do is put your picture on there and write your name, and you'll all be FBI Junior Special Agents!"

He smiled as Parker declined to take one. His son, he knew, already had one tucked into the little wallet he carried in his pocket.

Their teacher gave the kids a few moments to play with their new badges before calling their attention back. Booth was surprised to see that the number of hands in the air hadn't really decreased.

"Do you have a police dog?"

"Do you drive a police car?"

"Does it have a siren?"

"And flashing lights?"

"Do you pull people over?"

Though the kids had mastered the art of raising their hands, they hadn't quite figured out the concept of waiting until they were called on to actually ask the questions, and it seemed like their teacher had given up trying to get them to wait. Booth felt a bit overwhelmed, trying to sort out who was asking what.

"I don't have a dog, no. And I don't drive a police car, not a black and white one, like you guys are used to seeing. I drive a truck. And yeah, I do have a siren, and flashing lights."

"Do you turn them on just so you can go fast and run red lights? Mommy says that's what cops do, 'specially when they're late for dinner."

"I only turn the siren on when I need to get somewhere very quickly, for my job. So I can help someone who needs me, or catch a bad guy."

"How fast can you drive?"

"Fast enough to catch the bad guys."

"Do you catch a lot of bad guys?"

Booth thought with pride of his arrest record. "I do all right," he told the little girl with a smile. "I plan to catch a lot more before I'm done."

"Does Parker ever get to ride in your truck with the lights and siren on?"

"Whenever I have Parker in the truck, I try to make sure I'm far away from anything that would need the lights or siren. My most important responsibility is keeping him safe."

"Yeah," his son agreed. "It sucks."

"Parker! Language!" his teacher chided, and Booth frowned at his son.

The boy shrugged, not looking very contrite. "Sorry, Miss Diaz."

"The cops are always finding dead people on CSI. Have you ever seen a dead body?"

Too many to count, kid. "Yes."

"Did it smell?"

"Were there maggots?"

"Was it all gross and stuff?"

"Was it bloody?"

"Okay, okay! It's not very nice, all right?" he said, waving his hands to stem the flow of gory questions. "It's not nice at all. It's not like on TV."

"Do you eat a lot of donuts?"

"What?"

"Cops eat a lot of donuts. Like on The Simpsons."

He frowned. "No... I hardly ever eat donuts. I have to stay in shape for my job. I have to eat the right foods and get lots of exercise, so that I can catch someone if I have to chase them." The occasional piece of pie is not a problem, no matter what Bones says!

"Do you chase people a lot?"

"More than I'd like." It'd be nice if they just stood there and let me arrest them. Too bad that hardly ever happens.

"Do you have a partner?"

"I do -- "

"Does he have a gun?"

Okay, that one's a little obsessed with the guns. Keep Parker away from her. "My partner is a she, and yes, she has a gun." Against my wishes.

"Your partner is a girl?" one boy blurted, his voice dripping with scorn. The other boys wore similarly disgusted looks on their faces.

"Hey, Bones is cool!" Parker argued.

"Her name is Bones?"

"Her name is Temperance Brennan," Booth corrected, "And she's very smart. She's a scientist."

Parker twisted in his seat. "But we call her Bones, 'cause she works with them."

"Like skeletons?"

"I saw a movie once and the bones got up and danced and sang. Do her skeletons do that?"

He smiled, imagining Bones' reaction if one of her specimens broke into song. "No, sorry." Though she does say they speak to her...

"Is she pretty?" One of the little girls broke in.

He cursed inwardly as he felt his face heat. He refused to look at the only other adult in the room. "She's pretty, yes."

"Is she your girlfriend?"

"Do you love her?"

"Do you guys kiss?"

The girls peppered him with questions all of a sudden, dreamy looks on their faces. He would have preferred the questions about dead bodies.

"She's my partner!" he objected. "Not my girlfriend. We are partners and friends, okay, and we take care of each other. She's not my girlfriend," he repeated, and the girls looked disappointed.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" another little girl asked.

"Um... no."

"Do you want one?" She smiled winningly at him. "You're way cute."

"Dakota!" Parker hissed as he turned again in his seat to glare at her. "Gross! That's my dad!"

She shrugged. "So? He's cute."

Booth blinked, bewildered. "Um... does anyone else have a question?"

"My daddy says cops like to pull him over 'cause he's black. Do you arrest people just 'cause they're black?"

Can we go back to the questions about girlfriends? "No. Good cops don't do that. I arrest people because they've done something very wrong, not because of what color their skin is."

"Do you have handcuffs?"

"Yes."

"Can we see them?"

"I can show you them," he said, pulling them out. "But I can't pass them around. Sorry," he added, hiding them away again as the kids complained. He didn't feel like spending the rest of the time he had here running around and unlocking curious kids.

"My momma has handcuffs, and she lets me play with them!"

Booth blinked. He was not going to ask the little girl if her momma was a cop. He didn't want to know why she might have handcuffs if she wasn't. "That's... nice."

"Do you have a bulletproof vest?"

"I do."

"Are you wearing it now?"

I feel like I should be! I thought this was going to be easy! I think I'd rather be in court! "No, not right now."

"Have you ever been shot?"

"Yes."

"Were you wearing your bulletproof vest?"

"Unfortunately, no."

"Why not?"

"I..."

"Did it hurt to get shot?"

"Yes, it hurt. A lot. But I'm better now," he added, seeing Parker's smile dim.

"You said people don't get back up when they get shot."

The kid sounded like a defense attorney doing cross. I've been through performance reviews and after-action briefs that weren't this tough!

"I didn't get right back up," he clarified. "I had to go to the hospital, and I had to stay in the hospital for several days, and it hurt for a pretty long time. But I was very, very lucky that I wasn't hurt more seriously, and I had really good doctors who patched me up as good as new."

"Do you have a scar?"

"Yes -- and no, you can't see it."

"Why not?"

"Where is it?"

"It's right here," he told them, and -- opting for the most recent and most serious injury -- he pointed to his right upper chest. He flashed Miss Diaz a quick, reassuring smile when he heard her quiet gasp of alarm. "I'm okay now," he repeated, for her benefit as well as the kids'.

"Have you ever arrested a kid?"

He paused. While the toughest cases had kids as the victims, cases with kids as the perps were almost as difficult. "Yes, I've had to. A couple of times."

"What'd they do?"

"It has to be something really, really bad for me to arrest someone."

"My mom says that if I don't do what she tells me, she'll call the cops and they'll come put me in jail. Is that what happened?"

Booth did his best to hide his irritation; it wasn't the kid's fault. The police were not boogeymen, and parents who taught their children that did nothing but cause more problems. "No. The police won't come and arrest you for not doing your homework or not eating your vegetables. Cops are there to help you. They are not the bad guys."

One or two kids looked at him doubtfully, and he wondered if he or Metro would be seeing them again in a decade or so.

"Parker says you were in the army, is that true?"

"I was, before he was born, yes."

"My uncle Jermaine's a marine, and he says the army is for wimps."

Damn jarheads. "Everyone who serves our country is brave. They risk everything to keep us all safe. None of them are wimps."

"I saw soldiers jump out of airplanes on TV. I bet you never did that!"

"Actually, I did. I was a Ranger. I've jumped out of a lot of airplanes."

"No way!"

The kids were looking at him with awe now. Except for the one kid. Jarhead Junior. He still looked skeptical.

"I'll give Parker a picture of me in my gear, so he can show you guys, okay?" The kids nodded eagerly, and even JJ gave a grudging nod.

"Was it fun to jump out of a plane?"

"It was fun." When the pucker factor wasn't too high.

"My big brother's always beating me up. Will you go to my house and arrest him?"

He eyed the kid, tried to see signs of abuse. "Does he hurt you?"

The boy shrugged. "He gives me noogies. Pushes me around."

Having an older brother of his own, Booth was sympathetic. "Sorry, no."

"My dad doesn't wear his seatbelt, but he always makes me. Can you arrest him?"

Booth tried to hide his amusement. It never ceased to amaze him how eager kids were to tell on their parents. "No, sorry. But tell him I said he should wear his seatbelt."

"What do I hafta do if I wanna be an agent like you?"

"Well, most important is, you gotta stay in school." He hid his smile at their disappointed groans. "Special agents have to have a college degree, so you have to study hard and get good grades. Then, after you graduate college, you go to school at the FBI Academy in Virginia, to learn how to be a special agent."

"More school?"

"More school. But once you get there, it's only a few more months." Not counting the never-ending training seminars...

"I'll be way too old by then."

Booth laughed, but before he could reply, the bell rang to end the day. The kids started chattering excitedly, and Miss Diaz had to speak loudly to be heard above them.

"Okay, boys and girls, say thank you to Agent Booth for answering all your questions, before you go!"

"Thank you, Agent Booth!"

He grinned as they chorused their thanks. "You're welcome!"

His eyes widened as he remembered his ID, and he strode across the room, easing it out of the hands of a little girl who'd clearly had no intention of surrendering it willingly.

"Aww," she said, her face crumpling in disappointment.

He tapped the one on her desk. "You've got your own."

"It's not as nice as yours!"

"Work hard, and maybe you can have a nice one like mine." He smiled at her, and she grudgingly gave him a smile before dashing off to join her friends.

He clipped his ID back onto his belt, blowing out his breath in relief that he was done. Miss Diaz, who was straightening up her desk, looked up at his grateful sigh.

"You did a good job, Agent Booth. Surviving the gauntlet."

Booth laughed. "Thanks! Now I now why Hansen was smirking at me when he told me to have fun!"

She grinned. "Thanks for coming."

"Thanks for asking. It was fun. A challenge, but fun. Ready, buddy?"

Parker, who'd been fidgeting with his backpack by his desk, looked up and grinned. "Yeah! Bye, Miss Diaz. See you tomorrow!"

"Bye, Parker. It was nice to meet you, Agent Booth."

"Likewise. Good night," Booth nodded to the teacher once more as he guided his son out the classroom door.

"You did good, Daddy!"

"Thanks, bub. Hey, who was the girl in the green shirt? The one with all the questions about guns?"

"Beth Winters. Why, Daddy?"

"Just wondering..."