A/N: Some ideas come to you, in a still moment or in the tiny space between words in a song. They grab hold of you and won't let go, and only get bigger and bigger. They write themselves, using your fingers as a way to get from where they've grown inside you, to a piece of paper, to the world. This is one of those stories.
This is a stand alone piece, but in some ways this is also a companion to a one-shot I wrote in July, Against All Odds. I wrote it after my friend was severely injured in an accident, while he was comatose in the ICU. I told myself it would be a one-shot until he got better. After he left the hospital, I would write a second half to it, a happier half, about love and recovery.
So in a way, this is a companion piece to Against All Odds. In a way, it's not. I feel that it stands alone just as much as it works with the other piece, if not more so. I suppose if you've read my previous piece, you can be the judge of that. Also, Against All Odds was not a songfic, but was mildly influenced by the song "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. In the same way, this is not a songfic, but was in some ways influenced by the song "You Found Me" by The Fray. Props to the respective artists for their fantastic music.
Now that I'm done rambling... on with the fic. Enjoy.
I found God
On the corner of first and Amistad
Where the West was all but won
All alone, smoking his last cigarette
I said, Where you been?
He said, Ask anything.
Where were you?
When everything was falling apart
All my days were spent by the telephone
It never rang
And all I needed was a call
That never came
To the corner of first and Amistad
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Why'd you have to wait?
Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me...
- You Found Me, The Fray
Sleepless nights in the hospital, dozing off to the metronome beeps and whirs of the machines attached to his still body. In the blurry moments that came after her head snapped up, the blinking lights looked like Christmas decorations, not affirmations of existence. And they were his existence—those machines were his life. They breathed for him, they beat for him; they lived for him.
She fingered the pamphlet in her hands, turning it over so the front cover faced upwards. He grinned charmingly at her, eyes twinkling, hugging Parker to his side. Parker clung to a large football, his smile strikingly similar to his father. The picture was enclosed in an elliptical frame on the page, finely drawn curves swooping in and out overhead, forming letters, forming words. In Loving Memory.
The inside was littered with anecdotes, meaningless Biblical fables that bore no relevance to this real man, to his real life. Stories and prayers, psalms. Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Ask and you shall receive. She had asked, but all she had received was an empty phone call, a cold, white voice on the end of the line. Static in her ears, something that faded into a dim whine before the lights went out completely.
She heard them milling around outside, buzzing like hornets. She could not be a part of them. She just couldn't take it anymore. The crying, the comforting, the posthumous laudation. The rosaries and prayers and tearful assurances of a better place, a better afterlife. They were blind—there was no afterlife. There was only death, and the kind of euphemistic words people invented to cover it up. They had touched her shoulder, held her hand, offered her tissues. They had smiled kindly, sadly. When she walked by the casket, lay a rose on the coffin lid, they expected the tears to come—they expected the rain.
Angela knocked on the door, three loud raps against the wood. She knew it was Angela—nobody else would come looking for her. Lost in their own grief, their own memories, their own delusions… nobody would come knocking on the funeral parlor door, where a single-stall bathroom was littered with flowers and tissue boxes, a Victorian-style pink seat, potpourri dishes in the windowsills. It was not a bathroom, but a powder room—she was surprised there was a toilet at all. It was a place to make yourself decent, a place to suck up your anguish and the deadness inside you; to hide until you could make face and reemerge.
She looked up in the mirror, but could not find her eyes. She tucked the folded piece of paper into her clutch and smoothed the front of her dress. She opened the door.
"Are you okay?" Angela asked as the door partially opened. Brennan hated her, absolutely hated her, for asking.
"I'm fine," she replied.
"The funeral party is moving to the cemetery to bury the casket. If you want to get in the procession… they're lining up, if you want to." Angela arranged her words awkwardly, as if she could not make them sit in the proper order. As if they escaped her.
"Okay," Brennan said, nodding and following Angela to the parking lot. They drove in slow procession three miles down the road, plagued by black flags flapping outside their windows. Marked. The people shuffled like punished children to the freshly dug patch of earth, up high on the soft knoll. It looked as if a large rectangular cookie cutter had stamped out the spot, just like all the others. One more hole in the ground, one more wooden casket, one more dead body.
The pallbearers unloaded the casket—she recognized Hodgins and Sweets, in their black suits, their red eyes. Dad, what's black and white and red all over? Parker had asked Booth once in the car, when Brennan was with them. She knew the answer now. She also recognized Parker, standing small with his mother next to the opening in the earth. A gold chain glittered around his neck, a small pendant dangling from the end. A Saint Christopher's medallion—protect us. Booth had worn the same, fat lot of good it had done him. So much for Saint Christopher's protection. So much for God.
The casket was lowered into the ground, and dirt was tossed weakly on the top. Parker sobbed into his mother's dress, and the whole congregation followed him. She did not cry—there were simply no tears. There was no rain, only darkness, an empty sky. There was only the emptiness.
They left. One by one and in groups they filed out, wiping their faces, clutching their rosaries, prayers falling from their lips like droplets. Like rain. In the end it was only her and Sweets, and then it was just her. Diggers filled the hole, compacting the earth until the only indicator of his grave was a lack of grass. They would fix that soon, though—within days they would lay fresh sod over the spot, and cover him up. The grass would root and grow, smooth over the entire area.
But for now, there was only dirt, and sand. The diggers left, as did the sun. She did not cry, shout out, fall to the ground like they did in the movies—she only stood. She stood beneath a tree, leaning against the trunk with her arms crossed, staring at the patch of dirt. She stared so intensely, as if she were waiting for something to happen. As if she were waiting for a miracle.
When the sun had disappeared and a cold dampness had settled on the cemetery, she moved towards the grave. When she reached its edge she settled on her knees, nevermind the dirt ground into the hem of her dress. She placed her hands on the dirt, moist from the accumulating dew of the cool spring night. It squirmed beneath her weight as she applied varying pressure to the earth, feeling it shift, feeling it slide between her fingers, cradling the mounds and dips of her palms. It settled. It shifted. It breathed.
She picked up a handful of the dirt and ground it with her fingers and palm, watching a slow stream of particulates trickle from her hand back to the ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That's how it went. We were born, we lived, and we died. Our bodies repaired and renewed themselves, withstood a test of time, and then after so many years began to slowly break down. Even as we lived we died, we decomposed with each weary day. But he did not even have the chance. He did not even have the chance to die slowly, to die gradually—for him death came all at once, with a young face and an open heart.
It came for his ambition, for his drive. It came for his deep laughter and his quirky humor. It came for his honor, for his courage—and for the work necessity did when courage could not. It came for his fears but more for his strength in spite of those fears. It came for his fatherhood, his livelihood. But most of all it came for his heart, and hers.
A month of days and nights since his death, and she never rose from the dirt. She went to work, hid in Limbo, identified ancient remains. She ignored the FBI's persistence that she continue her work with a new partner. She ignored Cam's insistence that she take sabbatical. She ignored Angela's pleas to let her in, to express her pain, to talk about it. She ignored the rain, though every day was darker than the last.
But in all of this, she was still on her knees in the dirt. Her hands still felt the earth breathe, and sigh, and moan. She felt it shift and settle, felt it pulse. She could work, she could function, she could exist. But she was not there—she was in the dirt.
She came on a warm Sunday afternoon, and found herself there. Still sunk into the earth, still waiting for the resurrection. And mostly still. She brought no flowers, only herself, or the shell of herself. Now the grass was there, hiding the dirt beneath it. A slick marble headstone gave the dirt a name, in impressive block print, for those who did not know or would like to forget. Those who would simply like to watch the grass grow.
As she looked down upon his grave, she saw something shine in the light. She reached down and picked up the glimmering piece of metal, holding it up to examine. It was a circular pendant, etched with the figure of a man carrying a child on his back. A man she knew to be Saint Christopher, carrying the baby Jesus across the river as he became increasingly heavy, slowly drowning the saint. With each stroke, with each moment, the load increased, so that Christopher could not even bring his head above the water. Soon the air would run out. Soon he would drown, and sink with the child to the bottom of the river. The only difference is that the child would rise to the surface, and beyond. He would not.
She turned the medallion over in her fingers, looking to the back of it. No etchings. On the back of Booth's, there had been his name and date of birth. On the back of Parker's, his own. This one had nothing; it only burned from the heat of the sun. Brennan clenched it in her palm and felt the burn, grasping it as tightly as possible. She dropped it into the grass, allowing it to hide in the tall shoots of green.
She hated it. She hated everything about it. Everything about the story, the saint, the religion, the world. The void within her had a voracious appetite, consuming anything positive that came near it, and breeding anger and hostility. Every day she hated something new—with every bone she looked at, she even hated them a little more too. They were dead people. She wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
But where could she go, how could she escape? It wasn't an external force; it was death of self, something dying within her. She could run a thousand miles, or like Sully, hop a boat and sail into the abyss. It would still follow her. It would catch her, no matter how fast she ran, no matter how far. It would grab her inside, drag her down into the dirt and never let go.
When life knocks you to your knees, you might as well pray. He had told her that once, a million years or a lifetime ago. In a diner somewhere, or maybe just in his car eating Pad Thai out of cartons. She knew she had rolled her eyes, dismissed the religious comment as silly and trite. She had heard it before in a song or a story, and didn't like it any more then either.
His faith had always mystified her. That he could put so much stock in a God he could not see, could not hear, had no proof of. There was no science there, no empirical data. Only faith, or fable. She had tried, truly, to understand it, but came up empty. There had been no God to help her through the foster care system. There had been no God to save her mother from murder. And his own God had abandoned him when he needed Him most. He would say that God doesn't abandon people, people abandon God. In her experience, God was the confused party guest who showed up an hour after the party ended, standing in the deserted room and shuffling his feet through fallen confetti and half-deflated balloons. Just a little late.
Booth said He was the unseen guest in every room. The unseen part she could understand. She had not seen Him in the ICU after the accident. She had not seen Him wield a scalpel and cut into Booth's flesh, in a vain attempt to repair his battered body. She had not seen Him breathe life into a flat line, make it jump. She had not seen Him at all.
Now she really was on her knees, in both figurative and literal senses. The grass was springy beneath her knees as she knelt in it, resting her face in her hands. She did not know why she hid her face from the world, as her eyes burned and her throat closed slowly. There was no one here to see her, no one to know. But she did, and felt the hot tears against her palms as they came, slowly. Finally.
She smeared them across her cheeks, trying to whisk them away, but they were coming too fast. Every drop of rain over the past month fell, and hard. She felt a spring of hot salt water well up from deep within her, as if it would never end. Her body seemed to squeeze it out of her, like her soul was retching—she could feel it twisting inside of her. Again and again, wrenching tighter and tighter until she thought the feeling human part of her might implode. It was every anguished, tormented thought and emotion that had been buried beneath the dirt suddenly rising and shaking off the dust. The dust clouded the sky, burned her eyes and coated her lungs, so that she coughed and gagged.
She tore at the grass as the air left her lungs, begging it to return, fighting for breath. She ripped up patches of grass, down to the roots, exposing the raw earth beneath. She was on her hands and knees, on her elbows, still desecrating the grass as she fought for air but could not breathe. She could not breathe. Her chest was so tight, it did not exist—there could be nothing there, not even an empty space. There was only nothingness.
Her fingers fell upon the medallion in the grass, pulling it up into her grasp. Through water-blind eyes she stared down at the piece of metal, at the brave man as he carried an endless load, as he struggled beneath its increasing weight until he could not carry it. Until he would sink, would drown. Until only God could take it from him, could drag him from the water and force air into his lungs.
"Our Father…" she choked, knowing only the first two words and none of the rest. She wracked her brain for it, begging it to come to her.
"Our Father," she heard, and she screwed her eyes shut. It was within her and outside of her, and it was him. Not Him, but him.
"Our Father," she repeated.
"Who art in Heaven."
"Who art in Heaven."
"Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."
"Give us this day our daily bread," she gasped quietly, wheezing with each word but somehow letting them come to her, like a magnet seeking north.
"And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," she breathed, feeling the air return to her slowly but surely.
"For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever," his voice said, soothingly. She felt it touch her, stroke her cheek like he had so many times. She felt it sink into her.
"Amen," she said. She felt the calmness drape over her body like a quilt, wrapping around her and sheltering her. She took deep, soothing gulps of air, her breaths slowly finding a rhythm, a pattern. She opened her eyes and looked up.
She saw nothing. No burning bush, no vision of angels, no Booth. Just a blue sky, a hot sun, and a field of stone grave markers. And a medallion in her hand, moist from the sweat of her palm, retrieved from the grass. Retrieved from the dirt.
She returned the hunks of grass she had displaced, tidying her mess as if she were a dinner guest. She slowly stood, rising up from the dirt and finding her own two feet again. All of her was up this time. She slipped the medallion into her pants pocket, hooking her thumbs into her belt loops and looking out at the world like it was something new.
After the rain, it was.
Early morning, city breaks
I've been calling for
Years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
You never send me no letters
You got some kind of nerve, taking all I want
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Where were you?
Where were you?
A/N: There's not much to say following that, except that I do NOT own Bones, Fox, "You Found Me", The Fray, or any related indicia. If you had any opinion on this whatsoever, please leave a review and let me know what you thought!