You Look Like Someone I Used to Know
by Amy L. Hull
Writtten for memories_child in the Femme_fic spring '09 ficathon
Thanks to Eso and Leela for help with fashion, a language much harder than German. Thanks to Sophie, Tammy, Kate, Constance, and Sonya for beta-reading.
Brennan's smile in the low light was like streaks of cranberry through a golden sunset. From across the room, her face looked tanned, almost sepia-toned, and the dark berry of her lipstick--and nail polish--matched the big flowers on the light cotton fabric of the sleeveless dress she wore. Even the wine in the glass she held as she talked glowed a matching pink in the light. Brennan wearing a flower print was extraordinary in itself, but she stood there with a posture that bespoke casual comfort, chatting with her newly official sister-in-law.
Brennan did not chat, nor smile, nor stand at a party without looking rigid, yet there she was. Across the room, Max rolled on the floor with one of the little girls, getting schmutz on his cream jacket while the other watched and giggled. The one watching was a bit smaller and looked paler, though no less charming in the matching pink dresses with bows they both wore with shiny white shoes and frilly ankle socks. Angela guessed that must be Hayley, the niece Brennan covertly paid medical bills for.
Brennan had almost not told her that part, but Angela had seen hospital invoices on her desk and freaked out.
"Sweetie, is this what's been going on? Are you sick?"
Brennan looked up from her computer, frowning the look that meant, depending on the situation, "I don't know what that means," or "I'm contemplating a serious question," or "Are you truly of sound mind?"
Angela waved the hospital letterhead in the air. "Is it serious? I mean, for a while, I thought it was because I was preoccupied with Hodgins, then you were upset with Booth, then that you were working through the thing with Zack, but you're still so distant and--"
The frown only deepened.
"Brennan, honey, I'm asking if you're okay."
"Angela, what is that?"
"Your hospital bills!" Angela began to read over it and her face wrinkled up in confusion. "Why have you been having respiratory therapy...wait. Who's Hayley?"
Brennan took the paper and set it back in its pile. "Hayley is Russ's partner's daughter. She has cystic fibrosis and needs regular treatments. I'm fine, Ange. I've just been busy." She clicked something on her computer, glancing up occasionally as she continued working, acting as if they were discussing the weather or as if Angela had simply reported that she'd finished a facial reconstruction.
"But why are you getting bills--"
Brennan met her eyes evenly, "Because I can."
"Does Russ know?"
"No, and I don't plan to tell him. He has made it clear that he considers my financial assistance an affront to his manhood, but his stepdaughter needs more care than their situation will allow her." Brennan frowned again, this time with child-like fear that, instead of creasing her forehead, streaked her irises with the palest of white-blue spokes. Angela was sure Brennan did not know she so often emanated emotion that strongly. "I can't tell if Russ and Amy understand how dire Hayley's illness can be. She's such a sweet child, but it's clear from the level of treatment she requires that she already has significant reduction in lung capacity, and there's gastrointestinal involvement in her disease as well, and so many kids who have that severe a case don't live to be twenty. I...I just don't know if I should explain it to Russ or if he's happier not knowing how ill she is or if they're pretending things will be fine..."
Brennan's eyes shone a bit too brightly, and Angela smiled gently. "You're doing a good thing, then."
"I just...she's a good kid, very patient. She even drew me a picture, and liked it when I read her a story." Brennan swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "I'm fine, though. It's just medical care for Hayley." She smiled at Angela, but her teeth didn't show, and her eyes remained too light. Angela knew she would need extra layers of white and blue and azure paint to duplicate the color on a canvas. "I need to finish these reports. But it's not you, Ange, and I'm not avoiding you. It's just been...it's been a rough couple of months, and I've been especially busy now that I'm covering Zack's workload again as well as my own."
"You're right. And I think that you should wrap up what you're doing and we should go get drinks."
"Angela, I've got--"
"I didn't say this minute. You finish up, and in thirty or forty-five minutes, we'll go out. I miss you, Bren, and it's time."
"All right. I'll get this work done quickly." Her smile this time reached her eyes, which had shifted back to the color of where the sky and sea meet in the islands, and although it was almost two hours later when Angela pulled her bodily from the office and to a club, Brennan almost seemed to enjoy herself.
The smaller girl paused from her giggling to cough and Angela saw the glint of a bracelet on her arm with the classic MedicAlert shape. Brennan and Amy both turned at the sound, soft though it was in the crowded room, saw Hayley giggling again at Max's antics, and waved, smiling. Brennan's expression softened and her gaze lingered on her father's antics. Her smile was genuine but wistful. Angela saw her seek out Russ and watch him for a long moment as well. His smile was broad as he shook hands with guests, slapped backs and shoulders, and pointed proudly toward his wife, his sister, his girls. Amy said something and Brennan took a gulp of her wine, her hand quivering slightly as the liquid merged with the color of her lips. Angela felt moisture in the corners of her eyes as she watched Brennan take a deep breath and continue talking and smiling with Amy.
Russ approached, dapper in his tuxedo, and kissed his bride on the top of her head. The three of them talked and Brennan's smile broadened, then her rich laugh echoed across the room. She rubbed her brother's arm, then reached to hug him tightly, her lips clearly forming the shapes of "I'm so happy for you." Brennan stepped back, and Amy reached to hug her as well. Brennan's expression shifted to astonishment, then her eyes melted shut and she held the other woman as tightly as she'd held her brother for a long moment. After exchanging a few more words, Russ and Amy headed off, his arm around her shoulders as they greeted other guests.
Brennan took another drink of her wine, looking around the room and smiling, her face now so relaxed and content that Angela, as close as they were, felt almost like she was intruding on Brennan's privacy. She sipped her champagne and took a step toward Brennan.
A hand on her arm held her back and she turned to find that while she'd been observing Brennan, one Special Agent Seeley Booth had been watching them both. He was looking particularly debonair, wearing a shirt that was several shades darker than the darkest blues of Brennan's eyes, while still picking up their color. Two buttons undone, he'd rolled up his sleeves for the evening, and he stood leaning slightly back, weight on one foot instead of the cop posture Angela saw most of the time.
"Watch," he said softly, pointing with his beer bottle before taking a drink.
Angela followed his gaze and saw Hayley, her kicking feet scuffing at the floor under her chair. A glance around the room revealed that Max, Emma, and Parker were playing some game that resembled chase on all fours around the legs of the guests. When she looked back to where Hayley stared at the tiles, Brennan was there. Brennan smiled, spoke. Hayley looked up, laughed, and the sound carried over the room's conversations. Brennan sat in the chair her niece pointed to and leaned forward. They looked like two little girls with a secret, and soon the smaller one was talking animatedly.
"Bones doesn't like to see anyone feeling left out," Booth said from where he'd sat on a bench leaning against the wall.
Angela joined him. "Especially not when it's a lonely little girl?"
Booth's eyes, even darker in the low light of the room, flitted sideways as he raised his bottle. "Yeah."
Angela sipped her champagne again and leaned against Booth's arm. "Would you ever have thought?"
"Look at her."
Brennan and Hayley were now clapping and meeting hands in an increasingly elaborate pattern, and Angela was pretty sure that Hayley was playing instructor.
"I mean, Brennan is there, playing a pointless, silly game, and letting a little girl teach it to her without a sign of a lecture on the anthropological significance or origin of the thing."
Booth looked at her quizzically. "You really think there's anthropological significance to girls clapping hands?"
"Booth, come on. This is Brennan. She'd probably explain that it's some kind of skill-building exercise for coordination and communication that teaches girls to work together in groups to ensure their teamwork in activities like cooking and preparing for festivals... what?"
Booth was laughing and not even trying to hide it in his beer bottle.
"God, I've spent too much time with her, haven't I?"
"Yeah, Angela. But I gotta admit, she has that effect on people."
"Even you?" Angela stared him down, leaning back since they were far too close for that kind of intimate gaze.
He broke eye contact and stared at Brennan who was giggling and clapping with her niece so that the curls in her hair bounced against her shoulders. His smile was easy and content, spreading comfortably into the emerging stubble on his face, and his eyes, though softer, were no less dark and did not seem to shift color with his mood like Brennan's. "Yeah," he finally said. "Even me."
"Well, just don't tell her I can mimic her. I think she likes having that as her domain."
Booth chuckled, draining his beer. Angela finished her champagne and he took the glass, setting it and his bottle on a tray by the bench. He leaned back, an arm thrown over the back and an ankle balanced on his knee, watching Brennan and Hayley.
"She looks like Brennan. Except for that smile, she looks just like the Brennan I first met, the Brennan I used to know. But I never would have thought I'd see her..." Angela trailed off, grasping for words to describe her friend.
She settled back, letting Booth's arm fall around her shoulders, and they watched as the soft strains of "Miss Mary Mack" floated toward them. "Yeah. That's it, isn't it? I never thought I'd see her smile like that."
"Neither did I, Angela," he nodded, still staring quietly. "But it sure looks good."