a/n: one-shot written by sleep-deprived author. set after season 2 finale. enjoy.
It's the names of all the foster homes he's been in.
Brennan could still remember with vivid detail the names she had scrawled on the bottom of her shoe. They had been a pair of worn red Converse sneakers which she had refused to part with when she had been shunted from home to home. She had learnt early on to only keep the bare essentials with her, but those shoes had been the sole indulgence she had allowed herself to develop.
The low hum of the diner filled the air around her as she took a small sip from the now tepid cup of coffee in front of her. Angela had sent her questioning glances when she had suddenly departed for a late lunch, all of which Brennan had resolutely ignored. Staring down at the letter in front of her, Brennan stood resolutely. Placing the money needed to cover her meal on the table she made her way out onto the sidewalk, eyes scanning for a free cab.
'Bones! There you are.' Closing her eyes, Brennan instinctively hunched her shoulders as her fingers tightened on the envelope she had in her hand.
'What is it Booth? Do we have a case?'
'No,' Booth said slowly, eyes narrowing at the tired tone in his partner's voice. 'What's wrong with you?'
'Nothing is wrong with me,' Brennan insisted, trying desperately to think of a way to shake Booth of. 'If it's not urgent, I have an appointment I need to keep.'
'Someone,' Brennan replied evasively, flagging down an empty cab. 'I'll be at the Jeffersonian in a few hours, Booth. I'll see you then.'
Hurriedly opening the door, Brennan gave the driver an address. Hearing the door slam shut, she sighed in exasperation when she saw Booth seated beside her. Seeing the determined expression on his face, Brennan conceded defeat. Aside from the angry yells emanating from the driver's side, the two passengers at the back maintained a silent vigil.
Leaning her head against the window, Brennan squeezed her eyes shut as she recalled the contents of the letter she had received the other day. Thomas Newman had been the one constant in her life after her parents had left. Angry and mourning the loss of the family she had once had, Brennan had lashed out at everyone months after Russ had left her. Thomas had endured her spats of rebellion, from her blue hair to the times she had arrived from yet another home with her garbage bag in hand, retorts that she was 'too difficult' following in her wake. He had been her rock as the list on the bottom of her shoe had grown longer, an anchoring presence that she had needed to latch onto and chart a new course.
Paying the fare, she saw Booth glance uneasily at the giant plaque mounted on the wall that said 'Child Services'.
'I didn't ask you to come with me. You can leave if you want.' Despite the indifferent tone, some small part of Brennan cried out for him to stay.
Seeing the shuttered expression on Brennan's face, Booth wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Since Zach had left for Iraq, Booth had seen less and less of Brennan. The times he had attempted to reach out to her, she had disappeared behind a cool mask of professionalism. He had almost torn his hair out in frustration. Temperance Brennan was not an easy person to get along with at the best of times, but her persistence in locking him out was beginning to wear on his nerves. The call from Angela earlier had been all the impetus he needed.
'I'm here to collect a few things from Thomas Newman's office,' Brennan said, handing the receptionist the official note Thomas had left for her. Palming the visitor badges from the somber woman, she saw Booth pin his to his lapel. Brennan was surprised he was here at all.
She knew that she possessed - what were the words Angela had used? – the emotional span of a teaspoon when it came to matters of the heart, but she had found herself blaming Booth for allowing Zach to leave. It was irrational, when she reflected upon it, but knowing that an integral part of her patchwork family was stuck in a war identifying remains that would leave him sucking in deep drafts of air from nightmares that would never leave haunted her. Brennan had needed a villain, and Booth had been the easiest option with his talk of Zach needing to leave the nest, become a man.
Stopping outside the door, Brennan paused for a moment before wrenching it open. Booth hovered behind her as she took in the small alcove Thomas had made his own. She remembered the sports memorabilia he had kept stubbornly tacked on his walls, the never-ending stack of files and papers that always seemed to be on his desk. Tracing a finger along his desk, Brennan recalled the days when Thomas had yelled at her, had chastised her, had encouraged her.
'Thomas was my social worker when I got put into foster care,' Brennan started, feeling the sudden impulse to share the relationship she had had with this man with someone. 'Usually you get bumped around when they realize you're a problem child, but Thomas refused to let me go.'
'Problem child?' Booth asked inquiringly, taking in the absent gaze that Brennan was giving him.
'I couldn't accept the fact that my family had deserted me,' Brennan replied, smiling thinly.
I…wasn't the most considerate child. Foster families prefer young children or babies. It's difficult finding a home for a teenager, let alone one that seemed intent on making your life a living hell. But Thomas…' Brennan was horrified to hear her voice crack. 'Thomas was always there for me. He told me that I was an idiot, that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and that he wanted me to realize that before I decided to keep acting like a hellion.'
Tears were now streaming down her face, the now bare walls of the room becoming blurred. She felt Booth's arm come around her and she grabbed fistfuls of his coat, her sobs muted as she pressed her face into his shoulder.
'He's gone Booth. Why did he have to go too?'
Booth held onto Brennan's shuddering frame, running his fingers soothingly up and down her back as he guessed that Thomas had passed away.
'Shhh. Hey Bones, look at me,' Booth said, tracing a thumb across her cheek and lifting her face up. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy, the whites of her eyes stained a slight pink from her tears. 'Thomas isn't gone, okay?'
'I was at his funeral Booth. They put him into the ground.'
'Why didn't you ask me to come with you?' Booth asked, hurt, before kicking himself internally. Of all the stupid things to say Seeley…
'I'm sorry, but I haven't been treating you very well these past few weeks and I didn't…' Brennan trailed off contritely.
'I still would have come with you Bones. I mean, it hasn't been nice that you've been trying your hardest to shut me out but I would have been there for you if you had just asked,' Booth whispered, arms still around her.
I'll be there for you even when you don't.
Brennan stared at him, seeing the concern and…something else she couldn't quite decipher underlining the expression on his face. Her fingers tightened automatically on his coat, as if her heart and mind were subconsciously united for once.
Booth had always been there for her. He had risked his job when he had come down to New Orleans and retrieved her mother's earring. He had dragged her out of the sand when she had been buried alive. He had been there when she had thought Russ was dead and when her father had decided to barbeque his victims as a warning.
'Thank you Booth,' Brennan said almost reverently and relaxed her grip at Booth's answering smile. Something warm settled inside her when Booth tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Forcing herself away, Brennan inched towards the shoe box that lay undisturbed on Thomas' desk. Lifting the lid, she gazed unblinking at the pair of red shoes nestled inside. She turned one of the soles and saw the untidy cursive scrawl at the bottom.
'Are those the shoes that you told me about?' Booth asked her tentatively. His hand rested on the small of her back and Brennan could feel his fingers through the thickness of her coat and shirt.
'Yes,' Brennan answered, trailing her eyes down the names she had written. The Evans, the Conroys, the Hiedlemans, the Jespers…
'When my grandfather came to get me, I gave Thomas these shoes. It was a symbol, a way of telling him that he had helped me find my way I suppose,' Brennan told him.
'He would have been proud Bones.' Booth said it in such a definitive way, his tone brooking no argument. Brennan struggled to stop a fresh round of tears from appearing. Hugging the box to her chest, Brennan let Booth lead her back.
She remembered how Thomas had smiled at her, his face stretched wide and filled with something like pride, when she had given him those red Chucks. He had placed a kiss on her forehead and told her never to forget him when she became rich and famous. She hadn't. Brennan had made sure to be at his doorstep every birthday, had made sure to write him a reply for every letter he sent, made sure to send him something from every country she visited.
'Earth to Bones?' Booth's voice broke her out of her reverie and she was surprised to find herself in front of the door to her apartment.
'I am on earth Booth,' Brennan replied. 'Why aren't we at the Jeffersonian? I need to get back to-'
'I'll explain things to Cam. You need to go inside, drink some wine and go to bed,' Booth ordered, pointing a finger at the door. 'I'll be by later to check up on you.'
Booth saw Brennan's features soften when he finished his tirade. Waiting until she had unlocked the door, and thankful she had not put up her usual resistance to his alpha male leanings, Booth called out to her before she closed the door.
'Hey Bones?' Seeing the expectant look on her face, tear tracks still visible, Booth screwed up his courage and plowed ahead. 'Thomas was right. You're still the most beautiful girl I've ever seen.'
Pulling the door firmly shut, he waited until the lock clicked into place before he walked away. He hadn't expected a response from her anyways. It was just something that needed to be said.
I'm proud of you Temperance. So very proud.