My first Bones fic, yay. Bones is awesome. I know, I should update my GWTW story, but I ended up writing this instead just to get it unstuck from my head. It's based on AnabelleG's story She, and you can go read it if you want, it's good. You don't have to read it to understand, but still. By the way, this isn't exactly my usual style, so please tell me if I failed completely.
I WILL finish Just a Dream, I swear. It's just going to take a while... Sorry.
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters are not mine. The other characters are mine and you are free to steal them (though I have no idea why you would do that). The story idea also belongs to AnabelleG. Seriously, go read her fic, it's in my favorites. Now. Go. I'll wait for you.
EDIT: Due to popular demand, I'm adding a tissue warning, please grab a box of kleenex if you cry a lot, folks. There is now a french version, which Ptitange99 was kind enough to translate for tous les francophones out there. If you happen to be french, you can go read that one and thank her for being nice.
There she is.
That woman. Sitting there, in the diner I've worked for almost five years now, always in the same booth, staring into the distance with that same ineffable look of... sadness? Regret? Loneliness? I can't really tell.
She's serene, she always is, but her immobility seems to be hiding some deep, unnamable emotions she refuses to reveal to the rest of the world. Maybe it's because of the angry scars that disfigure one side of her beautiful face? Maybe this whole 'aura of mystery' surrounding her is simply caused by her disfigurement. Maybe her silence doesn't hide anything. Maybe I should stop asking myself so many useless questions when the answers are probably disappointingly mundane.
But I have trouble making myself believe that, because every time she's here, she orders a piece of pie, usually with a cup of coffee. And every time she's here, she never eats a bite. She just contemplates the dish, with the same quiet and unfathomable expression she uses to appraise everything else. I've seen her glance shift down from the windowpane to the table, and her finger hesitantly caress the edge of the plate from time to time, almost unconsciously, with a touch that looks too gentle not to mean anything, a touch that would be considered undeniably tender if it merely stroked a cheek instead of a dish. It's as if the pie is the cause of her sadness. Or regret. Or loneliness. I'm not sure which. It could be all of them.
That weird habit of never eating the pie she orders is what really intrigues me. Not the terrible scars, or the stillness she seems to be drowning in, or even the nagging feeling that I know her from somewhere, that I've met her before or seen her on TV. No, what fascinates me is the untouched piece of pie she watches over with such an intense expression of… nothingness. I want to know what's so special about those pies, what she hides under her calm exterior, and whether I'm imagining all this stuff. Millie, who usually works the same shifts as me, thinks I am nuts. Yet somehow, unlike her, I don't believe the woman's behavior can be explained by a simple fear of calories. Her figure is fine.
I remember she used to come here almost every day with a man, before she got the scars, but I have to admit I remember the guy better than her. God, he was hot. His smile could melt any woman's knees before she knew what hit her, even the gay ones. Plus, he was tall, dark, and buff, the kind of male specimen who usually wind up as underwear models in sunny California, not here, wearing a tie all day and putting up with a regular job in dreary old DC. He and that woman often came at any hour, sometimes laughing and bickering, sometimes talking softly and looking into each others' eyes adoringly, always madly in love and pretty obviously so. Seriously, they were one of those couples who are absolutely perfect with together while the rest of us can only gaze at them feeling secretly jealous.
I especially remember this one time, years ago, when the guy came in with crutches looking mighty beat up. (Even the bruises on his cute cheekbones couldn't make his smile any less attractive.) That meal stands out in my mind because when I served the table next to theirs, I overheard him say something like: "…I needed to give you time to find me." I heard him pause slightly. And then, reassuringly: "Oh, I've been tortured worse." He even chuckled a little, as though being tortured was no big deal. I pretended not to eavesdrop and walked away, a bit dazed by the unexpected piece of information this man had unknowingly provided to a random waitress.
Then, a moment later they started singing. Singing and laughing in the middle of a diner full of people. Even though I didn't know the song, and even though neither one of them could claim to be a particularly great singer, it was the most romantic thing I've ever seen in my life. Maybe it was because I didn't know the song, and because that man had a pretty mediocre voice that it touched me so much. It felt so real, it was beautiful because it was genuine, and though they were in the middle of a restaurant, it felt intimate. Millie saw them from the counter too, and we were still giggling like teenagers over how sweet they both were after we left the diner.
Now that I think of it, that man probably wasn't some white-collar-desk-job guy at all, even if he wore a suit. Maybe he's some kind of secret agent, like James Bond. I'm not sure if those people exist in real life, but it would explain his suits. People who are as good-looking as he is should not be tortured, that's for sure. Generally my focus was completely directed at the woman's hot partner, which meant I was too busy staring at the man's face and other beautiful body parts to notice his companion.
Until at some point they abruptly stopped coming.
After a long absence, one evening the woman reappeared all alone in the booth, with scars on one side of her face, a piece of blackberry pie keeping her company, and a dejected appearance. I then realized I hadn't seen her for the past few months. And it was only when she sat alone, when I was no longer blinded by my own envy or her hot boyfriend's grin, that I truly saw her properly and started recognizing her from some place. I'm almost certain I saw her on television, but I can't remember the exact context. Or maybe we went to school together. Or I saw her in a magazine. Not being able to remember really irritates me.
Now she comes from time to time, not nearly as often as she used to back when she still smiled, and puzzles the staff with her visible eagerness in staring at pies for no apparent reason. I think it might have something to do with his sudden departure. The guy really liked his pies, if my memory serves me right. Maybe they broke up and she misses him. Maybe he became an underwear model after all and moved to LA. Or maybe it has something to do with those horrible scars.
I know who she is now. Temperance Brennan. Dr Temperance Brennan, the bestselling writer. I know what happened to her face.
I finally recognized her when I saw Ed reading her latest book on the couch, something about "The thrilling and heart-wrenching conclusion of Temperance Brennan's acclaimed Bone saga." The lady in the diner's picture was on the back cover, although her face was still intact and unblemished on the photograph.
I'd never read those books before, as much as Eddie tried to make me, since they were much too morbid for my taste. Pride and Prejudice and The Notebook, that's what I read. But the lady at the diner had written those books, the lady at the diner was famous, and according to Eddie, the gorgeous man who stopped coming with her was her FBI partner. That explains the torture part, I guess. I had to admit I was curious about the content of those books.
Special Agent Seeley Booth. Huh. What kind of name is that? Seeley? Is it French or something? I don't like it. He's more like a… I don't know. A David maybe? Or Paul, something else not as bizarre. Anyway, I asked Eddie for his copy of the first book, and he looked at me like a Martian when I actually started reading it. I've refused to touch Brennan's books at least as many times as Stephen King's. Yet, although this was definitively not my favorite genre, the excitement lingering from my discovery fueled my need to read those gruesome stories and learn more about their author.
To my astonishment, there was a healthy amount of romance beneath the rotting victims. I immediately fell in love with Andrew and his antics. God, Kathy is a lucky gal. I became a shipper before I was halfway through the first novel. I tore through the remainder of the series in a matter of days, smiling at the dedications to Special Agent Seeley Booth (friend and partner) and the elaborate thank-yous to her other acquaintances in front of each novel, while I watched Andy and Kathy's relationship unfold with interest. I quickly reached the last book. Eddie of course hadn't had the time to finish it, and so I borrowed a copy from the library.
For some unexplainable reason, I was extremely nervous when I opened the glossy library book's front cover. Instead of the usually decorous lines announcing her gratitude, the first page simply read:
"For Booth. More than ever."
Andy died in that book.
Ed was annoyed at me for spoiling the ending, yet he still consoled me when I dissolved into a puddle of tears after finishing the last chapter. I bawled through the whole funeral. He teased me for crying over a fictional character, especially at my age. I asked him if he was insinuating that I was old. He said no. He said he didn't think I'd cry so much at his own funeral, and that I loved Andy way more than I ever loved him. I told him I wouldn't cry at his funeral at all if he was going to be so mean to me. He made me a banana split with M&Ms on top.
I love Eddie.
Still, I was thoroughly depressed. After bemoaning "the best fictional FBI agent in the world"'s death on the Bones chat boards, I tried to uncover the past of that Temperance Brennan and her Agent Booth. Now that I knew the name of my mystery woman, and she happened to be famous, it wasn't hard to find out what had happened to her and her face.
According to CNN, Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth had worked together for years on some highly dangerous cases and their solving rates were through the roof. While arresting a suspect, a bomb had gone off unexpectedly, killing two and injuring four. One of the two casualties turned out to be Special Agent Booth. The website had photos. He left behind a young son and a distraught partner, forensic anthropologist, and bestselling author who now sits without him in a diner where they used to eat, contemplating plates of pies with sadness, regret, and absolute loneliness.
Agent Booth was dead. Some people on the boards even claimed he had died for her, that he had saved her. Just like Andrew had in the book. Was Andy based on Booth? Had she ended her series by killing Andy because it was pointless to keep on writing when her love and inspiration was gone? The idea made me cry again. I felt pathetic.
Eddie told me I should watch the news more often so I would know about stuff like this. I told him to leave me alone, you jerk. He finally became aware of just how serious I was about this mess, and he left me alone like I told him to. I instantly regretted my words.
All I could think of was the no longer nameless hot guy, wearing his beautiful smile, ordering a piece of strawberry pie as the woman he loved casually leaned over the table to steal his fries. I thought I could vaguely remember a little boy with floppy hair and a smile as beautiful as his father's, who'd never see his daddy again anymore. I saw the boy's now deceased father, his handsome cheekbones bruised and blue, making an offhand remark about torture and singing an old unknown song a little off key. I saw the same person blown up in a deadly explosion, his battered body unrecognizable. But mostly I saw that woman, her disfigured face, her cherished piece of pie one of the rare tangible fragments of him she still had left. In my mind, I saw her caress the edge of the plate again, and again, and again.
There she is.
That woman. Sitting in the diner, in the same booth, with the same pie, looking absolutely no different from usual. Of course my own inner turmoil has no effect on her.
Should I talk to her?
No. Not today. I can't trouble a grief-stricken person with my offensive questions. Heck, I don't even know what to ask her. I will next time, though. I'll bring a book for her to sign next time. I'll think about it, and next time I'll know what to say to her. I won't feel as overwhelmed by the vastness of her loss by then.
Tonight I decided to read the acknowledgments at the end of Temperance Brennan's last book, even though I usually never read them. They've always seemed like a waste of trees to me. Why do authors have so many people to thank? A few lines in front of the story should be enough for the dedications, more than that was simply self-indulgent. If it wasn't for all the times the passage was mentioned in the Bones boards, I never would have looked at it. I skimmed through until the end. She needed to thank her parents, her brother, the coworkers at the museum, the BFFs, the FBI…
There it was, at the very end, the lengthiest paragraph. Booth.
"And finally to Booth, who gave me what I never thought I could receive. A friend, a heart, a glimpse of what true happiness can be, and all the things I assumed I had lost forever and can no longer hope to find again without him by my side. He gave me a life, saved me in every possible way and on more occasions than I can count, always at his own peril. He offered beautiful and painfully transient moments I will never forget and feelings too precious for me to repay, however much I may wish for it to be possible. He believed I deserved everything good, even when I myself disagreed.
And he was right all along. Andy is based on him, though I tried hard to deny it. I regret not admitting it to him earlier. I now know fiction falls far, far short of reality.
I have faith you are in your heaven now, Booth. No man is worthier of such a place than you."
I cried again. I've been crying a lot recently. Ed is getting sort of worried.
Next time she comes to the diner, I will talk to her. I don't know what to say, and I don't know how to say it, and I don't think I'll be able to look at her up close without dissolving into tears, but I have to talk to her. I can't go on without doing it. This is starting to become some kind of scary obsession, and I know I can't let it go without talking to her or else I'll regret it for the rest of my life.
"Excuse me, Ma'am?" My voice cracked in the middle of the short three word sentence. I felt absolutely mortified by this, though I don't remember why anymore. It seemed to me like I was the biggest idiot in the world, and everything I did in front of her was the stupidest thing to do. When I look back on the conversation I often still cringe when I think of my awkward start, though the rest of the conversation overshadows it entirely.
She wordlessly shifted her attention from the glass surface to my face. Her blue eyes were distant, her mind clearly occupied by other matters. It was in that instant, when she angled her head in my direction, that I fully saw the extent of the damage caused to her profile, and it was ugly. Her soft white skin was ravaged. But it was also in that same instant that I discovered she was… beautiful. Absolutely stunning. I knew she was pretty, and she had a nicer rack than mine, but it was much more than that. The hideousness on one side of her face only accentuated the sheer loveliness of the other. Seriously, a good-looking couple like them belongs in a chick-flick, how they ended up in the diner where I work is beyond me.
"I'm sorry to bother you," I continued clumsily after swallowing most of my embarrassment, "I just, I'm a fan of your books, and I really wanted to ask if you could sign my copy of your novel. Please?" I felt like a complete idiot. I already regretted my decision to approach her and I had barely muttered two sentences.
"Certainly," she answered coolly. Her voice was deeper, huskier than I remembered.
I handed her Eddie's copy of Bred in the Bone, the book I took from him without his permission. I had originally planned on making her sign her last one, but Ed still wasn't done with it since he's such a ridiculously slow reader.
She rummaged in her handbag and took out a pen. I once again felt stupid, standing there in front of her in awkward silence. I noticed scars on one of her hands that looked exactly the same as the scars on her face.
"I'm sorry," I finally told her as she uncapped her pen. I could think of nothing else to say.
"Pardon me?" she asked, her pen frozen in midair.
"About your loss, I mean. I'm sorry about your loss."
She stared at me, and I had the feeling she was actually seeing me for the first time.
"Thank you," she whispered after a long silence. Her eyes fled mine and her gaze fell once more on the pie. She quickly recomposed her features and handed me the book after scribbling a few words. She obviously wanted me to leave.
"I'm sorry I bothered you, Dr. Brennan," I repeated weakly.
"No, no, not at all. I always look forward to meeting my fans." She wasn't even trying to sound sincere. At this point I was sure the whole conversation was the worst idea of my life.
"You see, I'm a waitress here," I blurted out, "and you order pies every time you're here, and you never eat them, and I kinda wondered why you did that."
I still don't know where I found the guts to say this since the only thing I wanted to do right that instant was to get out of her sight. I guess I just couldn't let it go, as embarrassed as I was. After all, I had cried over this woman's story more than at the end credits of Titanic back in late 1997.
She ignored me for a few moments but she looked visibly upset by the question. She slowly caressed the edge of her plate. I expected her to tell me to get out. When she finally replied, the answer was so soft I barely heard her.
"I don't like my fruits cooked."
Huh. That made absolutely no sense. If you don't like your fruits cooked, why on earth do you stare at pieces of pie as if they are the most captivating objects in the world? Why order any in the first place? Of course I was too intimidated to actually voice any of these thoughts.
Instead, I replied, "Oh. Ok."
What an eloquent answer. I become increasingly inarticulate when I'm nervous. But apparently it was the right answer because she kept on talking in a feverish, slightly desperate tone.
"Booth loved pie. His diet was quite unhealthy. I tried to convince him vegetarianism was a more rational decision considering the state of the earth, but of course he refused to listen to me. He was always trying to make me eat pie and he acted as if I was missing something extraordinary when I refused his offers. He'd look at me, with that… that smile he has and those eyes…" She trailed off.
"But you probably don't even know who he is." She paused and I thought she was done. She wasn't.
"We hated each other at the beginning of our partnership, you know. He had to get me arrested at the airport simply to talk to me, and I had to resort to blackmail to coerce him into letting me accompany him into the field. He was condescending and arrogant, and I suppose he thought the same of me. We were both terribly wrong. I was terribly wrong, at least. He's a good man, Booth. He deserved a better life, I was the one who constantly took him for granted." She paused again, this time longer, and I wondered why on earth she was telling me all this. But I was already too engrossed to question her reasons for long.
"He has a son. He's an incredible father, considering the way his own family treated him. And he's the kindest person. You have no idea everything he's done. I would be dead several times over without him. That last time, we were after a suspect. It was just a suspect, we arrested suspects all the time together. He yelled at me to get down, he was behind, protecting me as usual, and he suddenly jumped on me before I even had time to notice something was wrong. It wasn't just a transmitter this time."
A transmitter? What?
"He was heavy, I had trouble breathing under him. And his eyes were shut. I had no idea what he was doing until the place exploded." She laughed bitterly, sending a shiver down my spine. It was a strange laugh, completely mirthless, more likely to be associated with a person choking than a display of happiness. "It really is a good idea to close your eyes during an explosion. The flash is blindingly bright."
I hadn't expected her to tell me anything. I had secretly hoped for a few juicy details, but my realistic side had assured me I'd indubitably make a fool out of myself and she'd never come to the diner again because of all the annoying waitresses who worked in the establishment. I didn't think someone like her would actually want to talk to me, really talk to me, let alone tell me so many painful details about the man she loves.
"I went to the funeral. Booth cares about this kind of thing. He was hurt last time when I nearly didn't go. I half expected him to appear in his uniform so I could punch him again and everything would be fine. I even scanned the rows just to make sure he wasn't there, and I was actually disappointed when he was clearly absent. And Parker was crying so hard, it was horrible. It was a nightmare. We had so much trouble convincing the boy that his father was really dead. He went to the Hoover building by himself to see Booth's boss just so he could make sure his daddy wasn't faking like he did last time. When I'm in front of his grave I swear I can hear his voice, Booth's voice answering back in my head. I know it's irrational but I do. I've been doing a lot of irrational things, lately. Like coming to the diner and ordering pies when I know I won't eat any."
My eyes were wet and my vision was blurred by the tears. I felt privileged and completely undeserving of such confidences. Why me? Why was she talking to me? Because I was the only person who knew why she sat there? Did anybody else even know about the silent hours she spent in the diner except me, Millie, and the other employees? I still wonder about this today.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," I murmured, my voice practically incomprehensible. Again, I couldn't think of anything fitting to say. There was nothing else to say anyhow.
She finally looked back at me, then. She'd kept her stare on the plate the whole time. If she was surprised by my pitiful tears she didn't let it show.
She sighed, gauchely put her pen back in her purse. "I apologize for taking so much of your time. I don't know what took over me." Her tone was back to the cool and impersonal one she had used when first addressing me, but it sounded more strained, as if she was forcing herself not to care. She stood up and shook her head slightly, tiredly passing a hand through her brown hair. I'd never noticed how tall she was before. At that moment, the scarred side of her face looked uglier than ever.
I lamely said "No, no, it was an honor, and my shift is over anyway, I, please, Dr Brennan…" I definitely had nothing remotely intelligent to talk about that day.
I'm not sure she paid attention to any of the feeble protests that came out of my mouth. I would have ignored my own inane rambling too, if I was her. I think she just wanted somebody to listen, somebody who would just listen without judging her, or unsuccessfully try to offer her solace, or tell her about how everybody else missed Booth as much she did. She just wanted to talk, not receive advice on how to handle her grief. The fact that I was a perfect stranger meant she didn't have to bring up the conversation with anybody again, which was convenient because she appeared to regret every word she'd uttered. I guess that's why she talked to me. I was handy. I'm not sure if those are her true motives, of course, but it's the only explanation I came up with that makes sense. Either that or she's just… even lonelier than I thought.
I thought she was done, I was sure she was leaving, but as she opened the door, she turned her head towards me. "He died protecting me," she told me, and there was misery in her eyes, the kind I've never seen before and I'll likely never see a second time. "He died protecting me. Again. I had another chance, we both had another chance, and he still died, and I'm still alive. They say he would be dead even if he hadn't jumped on me, saved my life, as though it could make me feel any less guilty to be alive. They're wrong. Every time I see my repulsive face in a mirror I'm reminded of how wrong they all are. He shouldn't be dead. He didn't deserve to die. I should have died protecting him."
The entire diner was silent. Everyone stared at the woman by the door. I'm not sure she was aware of the attention, because her fierce glare was still focused on me, and I doubt she could see much of anything. She'd finally started to cry. We were both crying.
"I miss him, you know. It's always the little things you miss the most. Like his annoying voice, or the way he always made me mad on purpose, and his stupid socks, and all those unhealthy pies he loved so much, and his flashy ties, and his childish belt buckles, and his charm smile, and the takeout in the middle of the night, and his laugh. And his stupid, irrational, unnecessary kindness. to me This diner is not the same without him, it will never be, but I come here anyway, I come here anyway…" She had no idea why she came back either.
"And you know what? I never told him I loved him. I'm a complete idiot, aren't I? A total goddamn idiot. A loser. A coward. Not that I was good enough for him in the first place, but when we both had a second chance and I still end up wasting it, I just feel so bad." She wiped her cheeks with her hands.
"I'll never hear him tell me he loves me back. But... He does. I know he does." Her quiet last sentence was obviously not intended for me.
She was gone in a flash while I stood in front of her abandoned booth, watching her climb into her car to sob on the steering wheel through the glass windowpane. Her untouched piece of apple pie still remained on the table.
I never saw her again.
When I went home, I apologized to Eddie for ignoring him lately, and he had the sense not to ask me why my eyes were red. His compassion made me cry again. But this time I cried against his shoulder, and when I was done I felt a little bit better. I love Eddie, I really do. Thank the Lord he never got blown up.
I still work at the diner, though I'm currently job hunting. I seriously can't bear to work here for much longer. Once, a cute young blonde and her smiling boyfriend sat for lunch at what I now consider to be 'Booth and Brennan's table', and were served two pieces of apple pie for dessert. I started bawling on the spot and my boss sent me home on sick leave for the rest of the day. Even if I don't resign I'll probably get fired in the end.
I never want to see a piece of pie again.
I'm still depressing. Yep. And isn't my title wonderfully appropriate? I had no idea what to call this fic.
Oh, and some details are different from the original story, I hope you don't mind, Anabelle.