Title: A Theory of Everything
Author: cathedral carver
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: In which Bones explains, well, everything.
Oh, he loves how she works a crime scene.
Not that he ever would/will admit it, but watching her mess around with dismembered bodies, with decaying flesh and bloody bones and guck is one gigantic turn-on. Okay. Maybe that came out wrong, but still. It's the way she is when she's in full-on work mode. It's the way her hair is pulled back from her face, and the way she forgets everyone and everything around her. It's her Serious Work Expression with its alternating frowns, squints and head tilts. It's the way her shoulder muscles tense under her coat, or the way the tendons flex on the backs of her hands. The bend of her arm, the curve of her neck. He can't help it: he loves watching her. He can barely take his eyes off her.
He could hug her, kiss her, right there with everyone watching, declare his undying love and demand she marry him, immediately.
She's dedicated, whip-smart, no-nonsense, beautiful.
And then she opens her mouth and starts talking.
"Why are you staring at me?"
It takes him a moment to realize she's talking to him.
"You're staring at me."
He blinks. He hopes it's dark enough that she can't see he's blushing.
"I'm not." He's caught, defensive. "I'm…watching you."
"Same thing." She stands, tools in hand, dirt on her knees, bones scattered at her feet.
"Is not. I'm simply…watching and wondering…what you're doing."
It sounds lame even to him. She smirks.
"I'm working. Shouldn't you be doing the same?"
"I am. My job is to make sure you're doing your job so I can…most effectively do mine."
She stares at him.
She smiles just a little, then kneels again, back to him, head bent. He doesn't move.
"I can feel you still star— watching," she says over her shoulder.
"No, I'm not," he says and walks away.
The remains belong to a woman, a 25-year-old named Laurel Myles, employed as a teaching assistant at a local high school. She's been missing for three weeks.
"I can't believe this," the school's Principal, a man in his 50s named John McInally, seems genuinely stunned and more than a little distraught. "She taught here for two years. Very enthusiastic, very popular. Really related to the students and the teachers. This will…crush everyone."
"We're very sorry," Booth says. "We can certainly help arrange for grief counselors to be brought in."
"Well, you must have suspected something was amiss," Brennan studies him from across the desk. "It was completely out of character, wasn't it? For her to simply disappear like she did?"
"Yes, of course. Everyone's been sick with worry. Her parents have been beside themselves. But they…we…were all hoping for the best possible outcome, I suppose."
"Where are her parents?"
"They're flying in tonight."
Booth shifts in his seat. He seems uncomfortable and Brennan wonders how many times he sat across from the school Principal in his day.
"Mr. McInally, do you know if Laurel was dating? Seeing anyone from the school maybe?"
John frowns, shuffles some stray papers on his desk. "I make it a habit to know as little as possible about my teachers' private lives."
There's a sharp knock at the door and a young teacher enters with a stack of file folders. He stops short.
"Come in and close the door, Evan." John sits a little straighter. "These people are from the FBI."
"Actually, I'm from—" Brennan starts but Booth shushes her.
"FBI." Evan's face pales. He leans back against the wall. He knows what's coming. He knows and he can't stop it.
The four of them stare at one another, waiting.
John clears his throat. "They found Laurel's body last night, in the Wye Marsh."
Evan visibly sags then, crumples against the wall. His folders slip from his hands, spilling papers that flutter and slide in a slow white avalanche to the floor around his feet. Booth stands, goes to him. Brennan remained seated, watching the men around her. Booth looks concerned. John just stares — glares — his mouth set, his eyes glittering and dark.
"Hey…you all right?" Booth takes the man's arm. Evan looks in imminent danger of either throwing up or passing out. He is very pale and sweat gathers on his forehead.
"No…no, I'm not." He bends suddenly, grabbing his knees and breathing harshly.
"He's hyperventilating," Brennan announces. Booth leads him to the empty seat, makes him sit, pushes his head down. "Deep breaths, nice and slow."
Evan manages to compose himself, scrubs his hands over his face. He's shaking.
"Take the rest of the day off," John says shortly. "Don't tell anyone yet, though. We'll need to make an announcement this afternoon."
Evan nods, manages to walk out on weak legs.
"Everyone was very…fond of Laurel," John says by way of explanation. "The teachers, the students…" He takes a deep breath, pushes his thumbs against his eyes. "Some of them will never get over this."
Booth drives. The sun is very bright and Brennan has forgotten her sunglasses. She leans her head back, closes her eyes. Booth looks over at her.
"You're watching me," she says. And then, "Well, that was interesting."
"The wildly divergent reactions of those two men."
"They were both upset. It's understandable."
"The Principal was upset. Evan was…devastated. And the Principal does not like Evan. At all."
"So, let me guess…you have a theory, right?"
"I do, actually."
"You have a theory about everything."
"Not true. The theory of everything is a putative theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena."
"Over time, the term stuck in popularizations of quantum physics to describe a theory that would unify or explain through a single model the theories of all fundamental interactions."
"There have been many theories of everything proposed by theoretical physicists over the last century, but none have been confirmed experimentally. The primary problem in producing a TOE is that the accepted theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity are hard to combine."
"A toe?" This is exactly what he'd meant by opening her mouth and talking.
He stares at her.
"You're staring again. And I mean staring."
"I know. I'm trying like hell to figure out what you're going on about."
"You're supposed to be driving," she says, arms crossed. "So?"
"Do you want to hear my theory or not?"
"Do I have a choice? Sure. Enlighten me."
"Classic love triangle. John loved Laurel. Laurel loved Evan. John killed Laurel."
"That's a bit…farfetched, don't you think? We have no evidence of anything like that."
She closes her eyes again. She feels a headache starting. She reaches over, fumbles, finds his wrist. She squeezes, briefly, insistently, her fingers pressing gently into the soft skin there, the veins, the pulse. He swallows, hard.
"Then I'll find it."
On the many nights he can't sleep he thinks about her. In particular he thinks about her face hovering above his after he'd been shot, frantic, anxious, teary. And her voice, her voice was…frantic, too, begging and breaking as she ordered him to not give up, to not leave. He thinks about her as she was then, not imparting facts or information. Not spouting off. Not theorizing about, well, anything. She was just…really upset, raw, emotional.
But then it was over, and he was fine, and she was fine but furious, and things progressed as usual with his questions and queries and quests for justice and her science and her detachment and her desire for theories.
And despite it all he loves her, still.
Laurel's apartment is small, clean, neat and filled with artifacts of adoration from one Evan Crandall, high school geography teacher. Notes, letters, photos. Six unanswered messages on her machine, each sounding more desperate and frenzied than the last.
"He loved her," Brennan declares as they listen.
"Doesn't prove he didn't kill her." Booth picks up a photo of a young, attractive couple embracing. Joyful, abandoned, desperately in love.
He puts it down.
She appears beside him. She studies the same photo. He can feel her breath on his neck.
"Doesn't prove he did."
"What exactly was your relationship with Laurel Myles?"
"We worked together." Evan swallows, clutches the Styrofoam coffee cup in front of him. His eyes are dark, hollowed. Booth wonders if he's slept at all in three days. The teachers' lounge is old, beige, depressing, nearly empty. "Colleagues. Work colleagues."
Booth sighs. He hates this. "Evan, we've been in her apartment, all right?"
Evan squeezes the cup tighter. His fingers tremble. "Okay, look. No one was supposed to know. The administration frowns on…personal relationships between the staff. We had to keep it secret."
"Did anyone else know? Friends? Family?"
"I didn't tell anyone. We'd only been seeing each other for a few months. She hadn't even told her parents yet." He scrubs the heel of one hand over his face. He looks haggard, lost. "John…Mr. McInally…he's a hard-ass about this kind of stuff. Protocol…infractions. Fuck." Evan takes a long drink from the cup, makes a face. Tears are not far from the surface. "I didn't care, you know? I would…I would have told anyone, everyone, but Laurel…she was so worried about it…about people finding out…about messing up our jobs."
Booth looks down at his notebook page, which is white, empty.
"When you're in love, none of that matters, you know? Rules?" Evan takes a shaky breath, tries to laugh. Instead, he starts to cry. "I loved her so much."
Booth nods, but what is there to say, really?
He finds her in the lab late, dark circles under her eyes, examining and re-examining. He watches her until she finally acknowledges his presence and sighs, irritated.
"Laurel was strangled."
"John McInally did it."
"And you know this because, what…you have proof?"
Booth takes a moment.
"Why are you so determined to get this guy?"
"Because he did it."
"You…don't know that."
"Laurel was strangled. It was…an up-close-and-personal crime of passion. John wanted her. He couldn't have her. He put his hands around her neck and squeezed the life out of her. Strangers don't do that."
"Evan could have done it."
"Evan loved her. She loved him. It was so obvious."
"We still need evidence to pin it on John."
There is silence for several seconds.
"She should have known better."
"Who? Laurel? You're blaming the victim?"
"Colleagues shouldn't get involved…romantically," she says without looking up.
Now he's interested.
"Really? And why's that?"
"Becoming intimately entangled with a professional workmate only leads to unmitigated disaster for everyone involved."
He can't believe he's arguing against her.
"I think it could work, if both parties involved…worked at it."
"You haven't always felt that way, if I remember correctly."
He shrugs. "People change, Bones. Theories…evolve."
"That's very…scientific of you."
"So you would never even consider it?"
"Me?" she laughs. "No."
"I would," he says.
"I have no doubt of that," she says, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. "But you're only asking for trouble, professionally and personally. It will only lead, inevitably, to heartbreak, and demotion." She sighs. "And that's that," she says without a hint of a smile.
He stops. He looks at her.
"Yes, of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
He shrugs. "I don't know. You just sound so…smug."
"If by smug you mean self-satisfied and superior, then yes. I have to agree."
He shakes his head.
"You don't know everything, you know."
"I've never said I do."
"You imply it."
"By opening your mouth."
She opens her mouth.
"Forget it," he says quickly.
"Wait a minute. Forget what, exactly?"
"Nothing. Nothing. Forget I said anything."
She watches him.
He tries very hard not to roll his eyes.
"And, I have a theory—"
"You know what, Bones?"
He leans down then, before he can second-guess himself, before he can question his actions or the inevitably horrible outcome of his actions, or think about tomorrow's weather forecast, and he presses his mouth to hers, gently, insistently, fleetingly.
"Theorize that," he says when he's pulled away just far enough to talk, just far enough to see her startled expression, the pale skin of her throat work hard as she swallows.
She opens her mouth. Nothing comes out.
"What?" he says, moving further away.
"You kissed me."
"Testing a theory of my own."
She clears her throat. "Care to elaborate?"
"Proving that you don't know everything."
"We've already established that I don't—"
"Just making sure."
She straightens her shoulders. "But I do know quite a lot—"
"There are a lot of things you don't know, trust me."
"Like what, for instance?"
He shakes his head. "Forget it."
"No, no. You started this line of discussion. Tell me some things I don't know."
He swallows hard. Where to begin?
"Did you know I was going to kiss you?"
He shrugs. "Then I've proven my point."
"Now you're being smug."
"If by smug you mean right, then I have to agree."
Sometimes Booth hates this job. Like, right now, for instance.
"Laurel Myles and Evan Crandall were seeing each other."
John McInally leans back in his chair. "Really. Well, that's totally against school protocol."
"I know. They knew. " Booth pauses. "There were lots of fingerprints found in her apartment."
"I would imagine."
"Many belonged to you."
"I've been in her apartment, yes."
John clutches the edge of his desk, his face twisting, changing from white to red to purple.
"I loved her more!"
Ah. Booth sighs.
"Okay. And she didn't love you."
"She said I was too old for her. She said she could have a relationship with anyone she worked with."
"And then you found out she was seeing Evan."
"A child! An idiot. "
He scrambles in his desk drawer, pulls out a file and tosses it to Booth.
"Letters…notes…she sent to me. Photos! She loved me. Not him."
Maybe it's the guilt, or the remorse.
Maybe it's just the love. Booth may never know.
John looks up, implores.
"I didn't kill her, though. I didn't. I wouldn't. Couldn't."
After all, Booth knows about loving a colleague.
But then he finds McInally less than 24 hours later at Laurel's newly dug grave, weeping, clutching a photo of the two of them: joyful, abandoned, desperately in love.
"I loved her, she loved me."
John's head bows, touches the recently turned earth. Dark. Raw. It's all too raw.
"She didn't want me. She wanted him. I couldn't…wouldn't allow that."
"Okay, okay." Booth reaches out, touches his shaking shoulder.
"I loved her, too." John grips the photo hard, harder. "But, she didn't care. She couldn't. Wouldn't."
"I loved her. More than he did. More."
What else is there for Booth to say, really?
"See. I knew he did it. I knew it. I told you, right? My theory? I was right." She's pumped, excited. Booth can't help but smile.
"You were right, Bones."
"If by right you mean right, then I agree."
He looks at her. "I'll make you into an agent yet."
She listens, settles down.
"Aren't you going to kiss me again?" Her voice is light and teasing but there's something about her eyes that makes him take a second look. Too late, it's gone. He shoves his hands deeper in his pockets.
"Fine." She looks at him. "You know, I have a theory—"
He looks at her, her hands, her wrists, her neck, her soft, sweet mouth.
"Sometimes Bones, once in awhile, it's better to keep certain theories to yourself."
"How do you know?"
He watches her, tries not to stare.
"I just do."
He just knows.