This is my tag for tonight's episode, The Salt in the Wounds. Short one-shot, perhaps a drabble. Slight plot spoilers, and a bit of guesswork on my part with regard to some end-of-season rumors/spoilers I've heard. I've been mulling this about in my head, much the way I imagine Brennan would, since I heard about it. If you don't want to know anything about the end-of-season rumors/spoilers, then don't read!
He's done it again.
I had everything neatly in its place; organized, arranged precisely, edge to edge. But he came along and scattered it all before I had a chance to admire a job well done. I had stated my unequivocal facts, accepted them as scientific truth, as the way things are in this world. Women don't need men. We're perfectly capable of doing anything in life that needs to be done. The only reason for a male to be introduced into the group is to further the human race. We're strong and smart and brave, all on our own. This is my argument, the theory upon which I can elaborate and debate and hold discourse for hours.
As I look in the diner window, everything changes.
I see a man talking to a boy. The exact phrases don't matter, although I know the words man and responsibility are going to be used. I know they will be used because I know the man who will use them. They are words that have value to him, words that, in his opinion, have meaning beyond their mere textbook definitions. The boy is listening closely to the man. He is motionless, leaning in, head tipped forward, eyes glued on the man across from him. What he is hearing is changing his life. I am not a good judge of emotions, but I know his posture. I recognize it.
He looks like me.
How many times have I sat in that precise spot, in that same exact position, every fiber of my being straining forward as I clutch the words being given to me as if they are precious stones? I've lost count, perhaps because all the different instances look so alike. I shiver, hunching my shoulders and pulling my jacket tighter around me. I should go home, but I can't seem to move from this spot. I have to watch the boy become a young man, led by the grown man into adulthood. In the anthropological sense, he is still a boy, true manhood some years off. But I realize now that, in all ways except for the physical, he is becoming a man. This is an inexact, nebulous thought, and it makes me unhappy. I am uncomfortable enough to shift from foot to foot.
The man – the man talking to the boy – more and more often, he makes me see things in the abstract.
I don't know when it began. That in itself is a disquieting thought. When exactly did it start? Abstract thought is a dangerous thing for a scientist. I prefer to deal in absolutes. Black or white, yes or no, true or false. Somehow, the words grey and maybe and half-truth and white lie have become a part of my lexicon. When did that happen? I would very much prefer to go back to the way I was before we met. There lies conviction, peace of mind, safety. But I can't go back to the way I was. And now that I've changed, I realize that I am thinking abstractly about other things as well.
During this case, I viewed the pregnant high school girls' actions with disbelief and scorn, even as I defended their plans and dreams as a logical goal. Yet somewhere deep inside of me, I found myself beginning to wonder if their actions did indeed have some merit. To wonder if it could be something I could ever do myself. Always I've stepped hastily away from any thought of parenthood. Sweets would say my behavior is caused by my parents leaving me when I was young. I don't know – maybe he's right. In a practical sense, to rear a child with the father nonexistent and the mother as good as nonexistent seemed the height of irresponsibility. But lately, I've been thinking more and more about producing progeny. Even as I shrink in automatic fear at the thought, another part of me refuses to abandon the idea. And the main reason I am unable to abandon the idea sits in his usual spot on the other side of the glass.
He is proof that a father is more than biological, more than a series of marks on a paper. He was given almost no chance to be with his son. But somehow, in the short time he has been granted, he has made a positive impact in his son's life. Taught him to defend others; to treat everyone with kindness. To walk away when it's time to walk away. His son already understands the words man and responsibility, because he made the effort to see that it was so. And when he was unable to nurture him intellectually, he took measures to see that this need would be met. He negates every argument of mine that a father is unnecessary.
And so I arrive at an impasse.
I could seriously consider bringing offspring into the world, but studies have shown that children will almost certainly display traits of both parents. If I were to have a child, the matter of the father's attributes would come into question. The father of my child would have to be someone I know – I am not comfortable choosing a stranger out of a book. He must be healthy, and intelligent, and strong. But he must also display other, more intangible traits. Compassion, kindness, moral fiber.
Of all the men I know, there is only one who meets all the criteria.
I glance in the window again, but they are gone. He is gone. The sense of loneliness is almost overwhelming. Overwhelming, and prophetic. Because, were I to approach him with my request, I fear he would disappear from my life, and that is a loss I simply couldn't bear. It is the loss that would finally, irreversibly destroy me. And now, at last, I have to be completely honest with myself and admit my selfishness. I'm afraid he will leave me. I've been afraid of this possibility for some time. And while my new desire for a child is, for the most part, altruistic, I have a shameful, selfish reason as well. If I have a child, and he is the father, he would never leave us. He would never leave me. My deepest fear would never come to light.
I am so afraid that if I do not ask him for this, he will look at me one day and realize that I am truly not worth the effort, and will turn and walk away.
But I am also reluctant to ask him for this, for the very same fear that he will turn and walk away.
What am I going to do?
With a violent start I realize he is standing next to me. As is so often the case, he has simply materialized by my side. I can't think of anything to say - my thoughts and fears and doubts are still clutched so close around me.
"What are you doing here? I thought you'd head home."
He looks confused, as well he should be. I am not the type normally given to stalking others. Finally, I work up the nerve to speak. "I was – restless, I guess. I went for a walk."
"And wound up here?"
His smile is knowing; he is aware that there is more to my presence than simple wanderlust. "Yes, I…" To my horror, I feel the question leaving my lips, and I am powerless to stop it. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, Bones. What is it?"
I'm not ready, not ready for this. I have to stop before I've gone too far and can't go back. But I want to ask him, I want to ask him so badly. I feel my mouth open, and close, and open again. He merely waits patiently for me to say my piece, his face watchful, his eyes warm and intense. A long moment passes as we stare at each other, and suddenly I know the moment is lost. My courage is lost. "Will you walk with me, for just a little while?"
His eyes quickly darken, the way they do when he traps a suspect in a lie. "That wasn't what you were going to ask me." Not a question. He already knows the answer.
"No." I look away for a moment, and then back at him. "But will you walk with me for a little while, anyway?" I don't mean to plead, but perhaps something akin to pleading sounds in my voice.
For a long time he looks at me, his face an inscrutable mask. Finally, he takes my hand, his warm palm chasing the chill from my fingers. He looks at me as we head down the street, and leans closer to speak into my ear. "I'll walk with you for as long as you want."
I need him. I clutch his hand tightly, allowing myself this weakness. Just for a little while.
Ah, again with the angst. Such is my life at the moment. But at least it was angst with BB! I think perhaps I shall have a motto: A day without BB is a day wasted. Thank you so much for reading, I appreciate it more than you know.