A/N: Yes, I am one of those people who starts one project, gets bored, starts another, goes back to the first one, does a little more, switches to another, maybe starts a new one... you get the point. xD I know I haven't gotten anywhere near finishing The Hands in the Snow, but I was hit in the face by inspiration to write this fic last night, so I decided to go ahead and get started on it. Synopsis-wise, it is a more in-depth look at Brennan's past in the foster care system, and how her experiences there made her into the person she is today.
Since we really don't know anything about her days as a foster kid, I took a lot of liberties there... which I feel completely entitled to do since I have nothing else to go on! Also, Bones contradicted itself as far as how Temperance got out of foster care... at first they said her grandfather sprung her, but later she says she did not know she had any family other than her parents and brother. I am going with what makes more sense, which is that she "aged out" of foster care by turning 18 rather than being rescued by a family member.
NOTE/DISCLAIMER: Lucky for you, my Spanish is considerably better than my Inuit (Confused? Check out The Hands in the Snow) but it is not my primary language, so if you find any issues with my Spanish, please let me know - I always want to learn and fix my mistakes, so I won't be insulted if you correct me! Also, I don't own Bones, don't even pretend to. Enjoy!
P.S.: The title of this chapter (La Chica en La Ciénaga) translates to "The Girl in the Swamp". :)
Heat rose from the pavement as Dr. Temperance Brennan and Special Agent Seeley Booth crossed the parking lot, bickering loudly as one might have come to expect.
"I don't understand the relevance," Brennan said impatiently, pulling her hair off the back of her neck and twisting it into a low bun. The July sun hung high in an otherwise empty sky; it was what Booth might describe as an "Indian summer". In Temperance's words, that meant an unseasonably high air temperature matched with a high relative humidity level. She felt beads of sweat roll down her sternum and resisted the urge to wipe them away with her shirt.
"I'm just saying is that it's a case that's close to home and maybe we should mention it to Sweets, that's all," Booth defended, suit coat folded over his shoulder, rolling the white starched sleeves up to his elbows.
"Booth, I've worked on plenty of cases with foster children, this one is no different," Brennan said. Booth unlocked the SUV and cranked the engine, cool air pouring out of the vents as they climbed in.
"No, it is different," he argued. "It's personal."
"No more so than any other case," she persisted, with a tone that suggested finality. Booth let her have the last word for now, but made a mental note to reopen this particular argument at their therapy session later that afternoon.
When they returned to the Jeffersonian, Brennan found Angela sitting cross-legged on her office couch, a sketchpad resting in her lap. Her eyes were shut, the way they always were when she was mentally reconstructing a human face. When she heard Brennan enter her eyes fluttered open, and she could immediately see frustration written all over her friend's face.
"What did you find out at Social Services?" she asked, setting aside the sketchpad and scooting over to give Brennan room to sit. She took the seat and leaned back into the couch, closing her eyes.
"Nothing good," she said, letting out a frustrated sigh. Angela waited patiently for her elaboration. "The partial prints Cam was able to lift, along with your sketch, definitely identified the girl as Sonja Alvarez. Social Services says she's been missing for almost a month now."
"Gosh," Angela said heavily, shaking her head. While it was always good to get an I.D. on a victim, it was still depressing to identify a dead child. Brennan nodded.
"She ran away from her foster family a month ago, but called her boyfriend from a pay phone a few days after she left," Brennan explained.
"And then?" Angela asked.
"Fell off the radar completely," Booth picked up, having quietly entered the office during their conversation. "Until two days ago when she showed up in a Florida swamp."
"Another girl in a gator?" Angela asked, but Booth and Brennan both shook their heads.
"Nope, just Sonja," Booth said, grabbing Brennan by the crook of her arm and lifting her out of her seat. "Come on, we gotta go."
"What, why?" she asked, looking at the clock. "It's not time for our appointment yet!"
"No, but we found Sonja's biological father," Booth said grimly. "It's time to break the news. Let's go." Brennan allowed herself to be lifted and mouthed 'bye' to Angela as Booth quickly lead her out of the office, only relinquishing his grip when they were well down the hall.
When they entered the room where Sonja's father was waiting, Brennan was surprised by his appearance. She had been expecting the kind of father child services would take a daughter from—rough edged, dirty, violent. Instead she saw a short, clean-shaven man in khaki slacks and a collared shirt, fidgeting with his tie, looking like a worried parent who was missing his daughter. A daughter he had not seen in over a year.
"Hola," he said as they entered, standing nervously. "Usted se buscó Sonja?" Booth stared at the man awkwardly for a moment, then turned to Brennan, at a loss.
"Habla Ingles?" Brennan asked, and the man nodded.
"Sí, lo siento," he apologized, rubbing his hand backwards over his head anxiously. "Did you find my daughter? My Sonja?"
"Yes," Booth said delicately. "You are Hector Alvarez, correct?"
"Sí, yes," he said quickly, taking a step towards Booth. "Did you find her? Is she alright?" Booth and Brennan exchanged looks, and Booth put his hand on the table.
"You should sit down," he said. Hector's face blanched, and he collapsed into his seat, bringing his hands to his face.
"No," he said slowly. "No, no, no no no…" Booth pulled out a chair and sat across from Hector, nodding slowly.
"Don't I have to see her?" Hector asked tearfully. "Mirar a mi hija?"
"No, Mr. Alvarez, we were able to identify her using the finger prints she had registered with social services," Brennan explained gently, standing next to Booth's seat. Hector rubbed his face in his hands, blinking hard. He looked up at Brennan with hard eyes.
"Das por seguro?" he asked. "You are sure this is my child?" Brennan nodded, and he sighed heavily, looking down at the carpet.
"Mr. Alvarez, if you don't mind me asking… for someone who hasn't seen his daughter in over a year you seemed awfully upset by her disappearance," Booth said suggestively, narrowing his brows at Hector.
"How can you say that?" Hector asked incredulously. "I love my daughter, very much. Fue todo mi corazón. My entire heart, Agent Booth. Do you know what is it to love a child with your entire heart?" Booth looked slightly affronted at the suggestion that he didn't.
"Yes, I have a son," he said, thrown off. Hector nodded.
"Then you know, even if they are a thousand miles away, they live in your heart. They had good reason to take Sonja from me; after her mother died I began to drink, I turned to drugs, I quit my job… I was not the father she needed. And I regret that every day," he said feverously. "But I still loved her. I got help for my problems; I have been clean for six months last week. I have a job now. I am fixing things."
"Congratulations," Booth said. Hector shook his head.
"It doesn't matter now. None of it does… it was all for her," he said sadly. "I wanted my daughter back, I was trying to do right by her, to get her out of the system and back home where she belonged. Whatever happened to her is my fault."
"Don't say that," Brennan blurted out before she could restrain herself. Booth looked up at her, as did Hector. "You were trying… to get her back. That counts," Brennan said, flushing and walking out of the room. Booth spoke to Hector for a few minutes more and then left, eventually finding Brennan leaned against his SUV in the parking lot, eyes shut.
"You okay?" he asked, and she nodded a little too assuredly.
"I'm fine," she said, stepping into the car.
"Okay then," Booth said, accepting that it was something she did not want to talk about, at that moment or possibly ever. "We'd better roll if we're going to get to Sweets' office on time." Brennan nodded and turned on the radio, finding a jazz station and turning the volume up to a level that could not be comfortably spoken over. This, Booth had learned over the years as her partner, meant she did not want to talk, about anything.
By the time they reached Sweets's office Brennan had regained composure and began initiating small talk with Booth, which he found obnoxious only because he knew it was an attempt to mask her emotions. He played along nonetheless, but prepared to play hardball when Sweets opened his office door and beckoned them in with a smile.
"So guys, what's up?" Sweets asked, sitting in his chair and offering them the couch. Booth shrugged innocently and looked at Brennan, who made an oblivious face.
"Just working on a case," Booth finally said when Brennan did not offer up anything. "Somebody found the body of a foster kid in a Florida swamp two days ago."
"Oh really?" Sweets asked, his face lighting up the way it did when he caught the scent. "A ward of the state, huh? Dr. Brennan, that must bring up some strong emotions for you."
"No it doesn't," she denied, shaking her head. Sweets made a face at her.
"Oh come on, you were in the foster care system for three years before you aged out," Sweets said. "It's personal for you."
"See!" Booth said, but Brennan brushed him off.
"I've dealt with plenty of other cases involving foster children, this one is no different," Brennan argued, but Sweets and Booth both shook their heads simultaneously.
"She knows the victim's foster parents," Booth blurted, cringing away from Brennan as she turned to him, outraged.
"Why would you tell him that?!" she asked angrily, and Sweets nearly exploded with happiness.
"You know them? Like, 'experience in the system' know them?" he asked, and Brennan slowly nodded, scowling.
"They moved from Illinois to Virginia a few years ago," she admitted.
"You've kept in touch?" he asked, and she shook her head vehemently.
"No, I read their file when I recognized the name. But that's not important, it doesn't matter!" she said. "It's not personal."
"Oh, it's so personal," Sweets said, taking notes frantically. Booth nodded smugly.
"See? It's personal," he said, and Brennan looked apt to spit nails.
"If you would have just kept your mouth shut…" she started, but Sweets interjected.
"No, Agent Booth is right, it's very important that we discuss these feelings that are coming up with this investiga—"
"There are no feelings!" Brennan shouted. Sweets leaned back in his chair, taken aback, and Brennan realized just how loud her outburst was. The room fell silent, with Booth and Sweets staring at Brennan, who felt more and more like a specimen in the lab with each passing second. She folded her hands in her lap, taking a deep breath and forcing a smile.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But there are no 'feelings' surfacing because of this investigation. It's just a case, like any other."
"Not really, not to you anyway," Sweets said. "You can't work on this case."
"What? Why not?" she asked, and Booth rolled his eyes.
"Hello Bones, you know the family," he said, and her mouth formed a small 'O' shape.
"I didn't even… but I… I don't really 'know them' know them!" she insisted.
"You lived with them for a month, Bones, I think the court would consider that knowing them well enough to tamper with evidence," Booth said. Brennan looked insulted.
"Why would I… I don't even know them! I don't care about them! Why would I tamper with evidence? Did you tell Caroline?"
"Of course I told Caroline!" Booth said. "Don't you remember what happened when Hodgins forgot to inform us that he knew the victim's wife? Do you think I want Caroline all over my ass like that again?"
"He used to be engaged to the victim's wife, I hardly know the victim's foster parents, it's totally different," Brennan argued.
"You lived with them for a month," Sweets pointed out.
"That doesn't matter!" Brennan insisted.
"But it does," Sweets said, resisting the urge to smile.
"This is ridiculous," Brennan said stubbornly.
"Sorry Bones, that's the law," Booth said. She crossed her arms and leaned back into the sofa.
"Agent Booth, you can go," Sweets said, flipping to a new sheet of paper. Booth and Brennan both stood, but Sweets held up his hand.
"I said Agent Booth could leave, Dr. Brennan. You're staying with me."
"Why?" Booth and Brennan asked simultaneously.
"Because Dr. Brennan and I need some alone time," Sweets said. Booth let out a snort, unable to suppress it, and Brennan raised her eyebrows curiously. Sweets blushed an intense shade of magenta.
"I didn't mean it like… I just… Dr. Brennan and I need to discuss her past with the foster care system and we can't do that with Agent Booth here." Sweets said, flustered. Booth looked hurt.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Patient confidentiality, Agent Booth. I wouldn't divulge anything to Dr. Brennan that was said in confidence between you and I, and the same applies to her. You can wait in the lobby if you want to," Sweets said, rising to his feet and ushering Booth out the door.
"But—" Brennan started.
"See ya," Booth said, giving a short wave as he fled the room, Sweets shutting the door softly behind him. Sweets returned to his seat, flipping to a new sheet of yellow lined paper and tapping the end of his pen against the pad.
"So where do you want to start?" he asked, smiling.
"I don't know," Brennan said, still stubbornly refusing to offer up any personal information.
"How about December 30th, 1991?" Sweets asked, looking up at Brennan.
"Why then?" she asked warily, and Sweets rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on, you know why," he said. "The day Russ left you! The day you officially became an orphan, at least for the time being." Brennan sighed—of course she knew why.
"Fine," she said bitterly. "I guess we can start there. December 30th, 1991."
A/N: Like it? Hate it? Want more? Leave a review and let me know! :)