Well, this just turned out to be one of those stories where you end up on a different path than you'd planned. It also started like a great idea, but ended as something that's not easy to define.
Well, I'll just let you read it first...
No real spoilers. And it's not mine; but I can't WAIT for Sept. 17th! Or, in my case, 18th. (Although I read that the Canadians get it one day earlier, so if I'm lucky, so do I)
A small, singular event could give insight into a person's character, their intricate relations, their emotions. One word, one look could change someone.
That was something Temperance Brennan learnt on one sunny Saturday afternoon.
Booth, Angela and she were walking on the street, three nearly identical smiles on their faces. The case they had just solved had been one of the easiest ever; it had crossed Booth's desk this morning, and by 1 p.m. Hodgins had compiled enough forensic evidence to direct them to Mark Samson. They had found him compulsively cleaning the blood off his knife.
They'd been in a festive mood afterwards; the prospect of a few days off had lifted all of their moods. Booth had impulsively decided to invite them along to see Parker, and all but Hodgins, Cam and their most recent intern had accepted.
They were now walking towards the nearest park, where Rebecca would drop Parker off in half an hour; Booth had a huge grin on his face and Brennan couldn't help but smile along with him. When Booth was happy, really happy, it was hard to remain stoic.
Suddenly, Angela gasped. Brennan was accustomed to this; Angela often gasped when she saw an attractive male or female. This time, however, Angela tried to subtly hide behind Booth, and Brennan looked at her with a slightly worried expression on her face. She opened her mouth, but was interrupted by a deep voice before she could say anything.
"Angela Gibbons." The man said nothing else, but the threat was palpable.
Angela drew herself to her full height. "Hey, Alex," she replied. Though her words were cheerful enough, her voice was not; it was cold and full of contempt. Brennan could only think of one other time when Angela had used that voice, and it hadn't been a happy occasion.
'Alex' stood in front of them, together with two other guys who were tagging along behind him. Brennan immediately saw that Alex was the leader of the pack. He had piercing blue eyes and short blond hair, and he was taller than the other two.
The man to his right appeared a lot more timid; he had a military haircut, muddy brown eyes and was staring decidedly at the ground. His expression was sour; Brennan somehow got the impression he didn't enjoy being here. She surprised herself with that assumption; apparently, Booth was rubbing off on her.
The other man was very handsome in a boyish way, with long dark hair and eyes that were almost black. He seemed cocky and haughty; she did not know what to think of him.
Meanwhile, Booth had taken on a defensive stance, one she recognized from the interrogations, when a suspect showed interest in her.
"What do you want?" Angela continued in the same voice.
"Can't an old classmate just see his …favourite… girl again?" Alex' voice sounded normal, but he wasn't fooling anyone.
"You must've had a lot of favourite girls then," Angela retorted. Alex' eyes widened; he obviously hadn't expected such a response.
Booth made a sound that sounded to Brennan like something a protective monkey would produce. She looked at him, but he was staring intently at the trio, his eyes narrowed. Brennan was amazed by the primal look on his face. Apparently, he understood a lot more than she did. Whatever it was, though, it couldn't be good.
"And who is this pretty girl?" Alex asked, drawing his attention to her in an obvious attempt to change the subject. He reached out to touch her hair. Both Booth and Angela stepped forward simultaneously.
"Keep your hands off her," Angela warned, and Booth simply continued to stare. Brennan didn't understand how he could judge so quickly, but she would trust his judgment for now.
"Aww, you've gone protective," Alex drawled. "Is she your special girlfriend?" He said the words in a mocking, childish tone. Suddenly, Brennan felt as if she were in high school again, defying the jocks of her school. She'd never been very popular with her fellow students; they hadn't understood her fascination with science, a subject they all detested.
Angela was now glaring at Alex too, both threatening and warning.
"What changed? You were never so… defiant," Alex continued.
"I grew up, you asshole," Angela said. To an outsider, her voice was calm, but Booth and Brennan could both hear she was upset. "You should try it sometime."
"Why should I, when this is so much fun?" Alex replied rhetorically. Angela looked as if she was ready to burst into tears, and at the same time beat Alex to a bloody pulp. Her fists were balled and her eyes were blazing.
"Just leave me fucking alone, Alex," she said quietly. Then she turned around, but not before Brennan could see the tears in her eyes; and her heart bled, metaphorically, she reminded herself, for her friend. They turned to follow her.
"Ah, they don't know, do they!" Alex shouted after them. Angela began to walk faster; Brennan was struggling to keep up.
"They don't know how you fu-"
"Shut up, Alex!" Angela shouted back. She was really upset now, but she tried to hide it. "Rot in hell!"
"With pleasure," Alex yelled. "And you'll always keep me company!"
Angela shuddered; having finally caught up with her, Brennan cast a worried look at Booth. He was looking back with equal worry shining in his eyes; and she knew he was bewildered, too.
Then they were walking next to her, and Angela was finally slowing down a bit. She didn't say a word, nor looked at them; she just continued to walk, her head to the ground.
"Ange…" Brennan was at a loss for words.
"Just let it drop, sweetie," Angela told her, her voice uncharacteristically tired. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not," Booth replied for her. He stopped Angela; and everyone noticed Angela's flinch.
"Look, Angela, whatever that was, he's not worth thinking over, okay?" He was looking at her intently, and Brennan felt like she was intruding on a private moment, so she just stood there helplessly. It seemed as if Angela and Booth understood each other perfectly, and she was the dumb outsider. She wasn't accustomed to feeling dumb.
Worry began to overshadow once more when she saw that the tears in Angela's eyes hadn't disappeared. She felt that this was one of the occasions when Angela needed what she called a 'girl talk', and yet, Angela seemed to not want to talk to anyone.
Shaking her head slightly, she looked at the two of them. Booth was talking to her softly, and she was nodding. He hugged her briefly, then stepped back and turned around without saying goodbye to either of them.
Was he going to seek out Alex? Brennan wouldn't put it past him. "What's he going to do?" she asked in a hurry.
"Parker, remember?" Angela replied hoarsely. They looked at each other, and at that moment, Brennan knew that this will be one of those things with lasting effects.
"You, uhm… I mean, do you want to discuss… talk about…" she was talking helplessly, not really knowing what to do, but Angela just gave her a watery smile and motioned for them to start walking again.
"You know what it's like to want to be accepted," Angela suddenly said out of nowhere, and Brennan nodded, startled.
"So do I." That was all she said. Brennan couldn't deny she was curious, but she knew that Angela wouldn't talk unless she wanted to.
They walked for a while in silence, not really going anywhere; Brennan realized that Angela needed some time to categorize and compartmentalize, and she was more than happy to be her friend's companion during that time.
"You weren't popular?" Brennan finally ventured, unable to stop her curiosity. She had always pictured Angela in high school as that one popular girl that was actually nice.
Angela gave a snort. "No, I wasn't." She was quiet for a moment. "I suppose I was like you; too focused on one thing to care much about anything else." She stared ahead of her, seemingly lost in memories. "But, unlike you, I still wanted to be accepted."
"I wanted to be accepted, too," Brennan protested. Angela knew most of her experiences from high school; but, she realized now, she knew almost nothing of Angela's history. A sense of shame filled her, because she had never cared to ask.
"I know," Angela told her. "But you are strong, and unwilling to bend. You stand by your principles."
"You don't?" Brennan asked. From her point of view, Angela knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. She was strong, but not as stubborn as Brennan; and in her point of view, that was a good thing.
"Back then I didn't," Angela replied bitterly. Brennan tried to come up with a logical response, a way for her to determine what Angela was talking about without asking it directly, but she came up empty.
Initially, at the first new schools she'd entered, she had tried to be accepted, and liked; she had even gotten a genuine friend. But she always moved away before she had a chance to really fit in, so at the end she just hadn't tried anymore; instead, she had focused on her studies, trying to forget the world around her.
But she remembered those first few insecure months; she remembered crying over so many things, before toughening up and deciding nothing was worth her tears. She'd been like Angela, once; not corroded, but soft, humane and sensitive. She envied Angela more than anything for her ability to retain that sensitivity.
Realizing she was drifting off, she turned her attention back to the present.
"Angela." She waited until her friend was looking at her before continuing. "I assume Booth already knows what is going on, but I am not that insightful. And if you don't want me to, I don't need to know, either. But if you want to tell me something, anything at all, you can."
She felt she had somehow broken through a wall, because Angela basically threw her arms around her in a way she'd never experienced before; it was like she was Angela's lifeline.
It took her a while to realize Angela was sobbing into her shoulder, and she reached up to stroke her dark hair. There had been few occasions where Angela had had the need to be comforted; and it had never been quite like this.
Brennan tried to console Angela as good as she could. She was now beginning to understand how Booth felt when she sought comfort from him; both sadness and a strange feeling of accomplishment surged through her. She was the only Angela had chosen to cry with, not anyone else. Brennan had never before appreciated the emotion such a choice could bring.
Eventually, Angela pulled back, her eyes red and puffy from crying. She tried to smile at Brennan. "Thanks, sweetie, I needed that," she said, her voice still hoarse.
"You're very welcome," Brennan answered, smiling what she hoped was an encouraging and warm smile. She didn't understand what was going on, but the least she could do was support her friend.
"I just-" Angela wiped furiously at her eyes. "Did some things … I'm not very proud of."
"That's a normal human emotion, Angela," Brennan told her. "We all reminisce about what we could have done differently."
"I know, Bren, but that doesn't make it any easier, you know?" Angela said sadly.
"That guy – Alex… he thought he owned every girl he had ever had," Angela explained, her voice shaking ever so slightly. "Including me."
"Oh – you had –" but then she realized how insensitive that would sound, and she didn't finish the sentence.
Angela nodded sadly. "Unfortunately… but that's not the worst."
Brennan got that inexplicable feeling she always had when she was sharing a specific experience with someone; whenever she talked with Angela about men, or bad break-ups; that strange feeling of togetherness. Angela had once called it the 'we're all in this together'-syndrome.
"I did some stupid things, too," she confessed. She was not sure Angela knew everything from her childhood; but judging by the way Angela's eyes widened, she surmised she didn't.
"It's pretty desperate, right?" Angela asked rhetorically, and Brennan nodded immediately.
"But you do what you have to do," she continued. "And I thought I needed to do that." She stared ahead of her. "God, I was so stupid…"
"Ange, what happened?" Brennan urged. Angela did not reply; her posture had suddenly gone rigid, and Brennan assumed she was remembering something.
"We're not safe anymore," Angela finally said. Then, with more strength in her voice, she turned to Brennan. "He's here for a reason; he's got to be. He doesn't even live in the state. He's here for me, he wants to – to get me back or get revenge or something, and he won't rest until he gets it. He never did."
"Angela, I –" before she could continue, someone interrupted them.
"Look Daddy, it's Doctor Bones!" Her eyes widened. How had they managed to end up at the same park Booth was with his son?
She saw the child in person as he came running up to them, a grin on his face that seemed to be a patented Booth feature.
"Hey, Parker," Brennan smiled, not sure what else to do. She could hardly discard him as she comforted Angela, could she?
"What are you doing here?" Parker babbled. "Dad said you were going to come with us before but then he said you had to go somewhere else – who is that?" he broke himself off, looking at Angela.
"This is Angela, Parker," Brennan said gently. "She's a friend of me and your dad."
"Hey," Angela smiled back at Parker. "What's up?"
By this time, Booth had reached them and he was looking back and forth between them. "Hey, what're you doing here?" he asked them, just like his son had. He then took a closer look at Angela.
"Hey bub, why don't you go back and play some more with Rose, okay?" he said to his son, ruffling his hair affectionately. Brennan felt a rush of endearment and affection for Booth. He really was a good father.
"OK!" Parker said happily. "Bye, Angela," he continued politely before running up.
Booth sat down next to Brennan, their thighs touching. Brennan tried to ignore the slight pangs of desire she got from just that touch. It was something she had been experiencing more and more lately, and it was not welcome at all.
"So…" Booth started hesitantly. He finally looked at Angela. "You okay?"
Angela nodded determinedly. She told Booth what she had told Brennan moments earlier; that Alex was likely to come after one of them.
Booth nodded. "Yeah, I know his type," he said grimly. "I'll keep a tab on him."
They were silent for a moment; neither of them really knowing what to say.
"Angela, you know you can go to the police, right?" Booth suddenly asked rhetorically.
"That won't help," Brennan piped up unexpectedly. When Booth gave her a blank stare, she looked back incredulously. "Come on, Booth, these sort of things happen all the time. There's no need to be silent about it."
"Not that that makes it any better," she continued, looking at Angela, "but that doesn't mean we should pretend it doesn't happen."
Booth was still looking at her, possibly amazed by her sudden insight.
"Come on Booth," she told him, her voice growing more frustrated. "You cannot tell me that you thought all those girls want to behave sexually promiscuous, do you? Do you really think the girls you've been with in high school, that they were all in it because they'd made an independent, informed decision and felt they were ready?" She was getting worked up now; the combination of Angela's story and her own experiences was making her angry. "The truth is that they just want to fit in, they just want to find a sense of being appreciated. The same thing can be found in other cultures all over the globe; the Japanese, for example, have a ritual in which-"
"I get the picture, Bones, thanks," Booth cut her off.
"Anyway," Brennan continued, "my point is that there is no use in going to the police, not over something that happened in high school." For a moment, she was silent. "They never listened to my stories either." She shrugged. "Why would the police have changed?"
"Bones –" Booth was speechless.
"There's no need to get upset about it," Brennan told him. They had almost forgotten Angela was still there, and that Angela was the one who was in the most acute trouble.
"It's fine," Brennan told Booth. "We turned out fine, didn't we? There's no need to reminisce on the past." After a moment she added quietly: "it mostly just brings pain, anyway."
Parker chose that exact moment to come running up to them. "Dad, Rose asks if I can go with her after school next Monday, can I?"
Booth tore his eyes away from Brennan. "Sure, Parks," he said. Then Parker was off again, but the moment had been interrupted.
"I think I'm gonna go," Angela said quietly. "You know… be on my own for a while." She regarded Brennan with some sort of sad recognition. "I have to work on that facial reconstruction for the Civil War soldier anyway." She stood up, but turned back around when Booth called out her name.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Brennan could tell he was worried, and she was too; was it okay for Angela to be alone if Alex really was after her?
"We're close to the Jeffersonian," Angela reassured them. "I'll be safe in a few minutes."
"True," Booth relented. "But… call us if anything happens, okay?" He didn't even notice he'd used us, implying Booth and Brennan were a confirmed couple.
"I promise I'll call," Angela said, despite the circumstances slightly amused by Booth's protective streak.
Then she did turn around and walked away. Brennan followed her with her eyes.
"Do you think she will be okay?" she asked Booth, in a rare moment of vulnerability.
"She'll be okay," Booth reassured her. "It's just a shock to see someone from the past." He was biting his lip, but Brennan did not want to ruin the moment by asking what he was talking about. Their thighs were still touching, providing a nice distraction.
She spent the rest of the afternoon with Booth and Parker, feeling distinctly family-like. Both Booths were engaging company and she found she got on easily with Parker, even making him laugh once. Booth was his usual self but there was an edge to it: something she couldn't really define, as if an extra layer of their relationship had been added; and at times she caught herself staring at him, wondering what he would do if he knew everything about her. Wondering what she would do.
If she had been a little more adept at reading herself, she would have recognized the signs of a person falling in love. Or, perhaps, someone already in love. She would have recognized that she trusted him enough to consider showing him the depths of her heart, the most painful of memories, like Angela had shown her today.
But, as it was, she laughed along with Booth and admired him for his fatherly instincts; she smiled and waved at them as they left, and wondered what that feeling was that had nestled itself in her lower stomach. Was it a bad taste because she had basically abandoned Angela?
See? Told you... I think it's pretty easy to notice that I wrote the pre-Parker part first, then the rest later on (this evening, in fact). I guess my own mood influenced the second part *grins*. So that's probably why the mood is so different, and why Angela's story is suddenly diminished. I just couldn't find the right way to end it, so I decided to go with the flow.
Reviews are drugs. And I'll need them!
*That was my attempt at a funny way to say I want you guys to review. Why don't you tell me whether it worked?*
/Edit: Changed the ending.