A/N: This is a tag to Mayhem on a Cross and is set immediately following that episode. I found myself wondering about Brennan and this is what came out. I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Bones.
Brennan found herself grow quiet as the night went on. The food was excellent and the conversation was stimulating, even though it centered around the imprecise and ill-defined field that was psychology. She smiled and nodded when appropriate, occasionally interjecting a comment when it was expected, but Booth, Wyatt and Sweets held up the majority of the conversation.
Her eyes moved to Booth as he began a humorous anecdote about criminals that demonstrated remarkably little intelligence when he had taken a turn as a beat cop in New York. She studied him cautiously, swirling her wine in the glass idly. It was hard for her to imagine him young and helpless. He was such a strong and vital alpha male. Logically she knew that a species' young were vulnerable, and primates were no exception. That was why the urge to protect the young was hardwired into human DNA. Booth's father had taken advantage of that vulnerability and had almost driven his son to the point of suicide. However, in her mind, Booth was never helpless, never vulnerable to the whims of others, never…broken, never stained with his past.
She was broken. The emotional revelations they had shared made her remember other times in her childhood, both good times with her family and upsetting times in foster care. Her family's desertion had hurt her more deeply than she cared to admit to anyone, even herself. She was such an awkward teenager, and her mother's assurances that she was just a "late bloomer" and her father's claims that she was beautiful and unique and Russ's passive attempts at protection were so fragile against the taunts and loneliness she experienced among her peers. When they left, she had no more assurances to hold on to.
Shuttled between foster families, some of which were abusive, she had nothing to cling to. Sometimes getting kicked out of a home was the best thing that could happen. She still had her pair of shoes with the list of names written on the bottom. The last name on that list, the Melners, came to mind. Mr. and Mrs. Melner were an older couple who had fostered dozens of children. As a sullen 17 year old with a rep of being "strange" and "too smart for her own good," she was unwanted. The Melners took her in with the understanding that after she aged out of the system, they would retire.
Mrs. Melner was brusque, but kindhearted. Mr. Melner followed her lead in almost everything, but was less of a disciplinarian. When they saw that her sudden growth spurt had caused her jeans and her shirt sleeves to be too short, they shocked her by taking her shopping for school clothes. Because the Melners followed a strict budget, the stores they looked at were thrift stores and salvage stores.
Brennan distinctly remembered the salvage store. She had found a pair of jeans that looked her size and had timidly held them up for Mrs. Melner's inspection. After scrutinizing the jeans and the price, she nodded towards the dressing rooms and told her to try them on. Brennan had pulled them over her hips and fastened them, looking at herself in the mirror. They looked perfect, but they felt weird, like she had them on crooked, although the mirror showed clearly that there was nothing wrong with the way she was wearing them. She walked a few steps to see if the feeling would go away, but it persisted. She walked out of the dressing room puzzled.
"Do they fit?" her foster mother asked. Brennan nodded, smoothing out the fabric of the jeans with her hands. "How do they feel?"
"They…they feel crooked," she responded hesitantly.
"That's because the material wasn't cut along the bias. The material is crooked, not the jeans. Here, put them aside and try these," she said, handing her a pair of black slacks and a long navy skirt. Brennan took them both and tried them on. They both fit, but the slacks had a light purple stain on the hem of the right leg and the skirt had a series of holes along the side. After changing back into her regular clothes, she handed Mrs. Melner the skirt and slacks, pointing out the stain and the holes.
"Temperance, these are nice clothes," Mrs. Melner explained. "If we went to a department store and bought these, they would cost more than our fifty dollar budget. But these are damaged goods. You and I, honey, we are at the bottom of the world, and when we want something good, we have to make do. I can fix some of these problems, and we can hide the others, but we do what we can with damaged goods."
Damaged goods. Brennan knew that she qualified as damaged goods. She was made of good material, should have an expensive price tag, but there were tears and stains and hidden errors that made her worth less than her original asking price. She always thought that Booth was too good for her, but with that admission, "If not for my grandfather, I would have killed myself," maybe he let her see his hidden flaws.
"Hey, Bones," Booth said, snapping his fingers in front of her face. She glared at him in annoyance.
"That was completely unnecessary, Booth," she snapped.
"You were fading on me," he said with a grin. "Wyatt and Sweets are leaving."
"I am perfectly capable to see for myself that they are leaving," she said as she got out of her seat to escort their visitors to the door. Still musing on her thoughts from before, she smiled at Sweets and he smiled back. She, Booth and Sweets had all salvaged their lives from difficult beginnings, and had made something great of themselves. Before Sweets could leave, Brennan pulled him in for an impulsive hug. It startled all the men, even though the hug was perfunctory at best. Wyatt stood in the hall, watching the interactions. As Sweets and Wyatt walked down the hallway and Booth closed the door, Brennan had a thought.
We're all damaged goods. But we can fix some problems, and hide some others. We do what we can with damaged goods. For some reason, it left her with a smile.
A/N: I'm not sure it turned out the way I wanted it to, but I did my best...I would love to hear what you think of this.