The first thing you notice about Mr. Hendrickson is his hands. They're big and heavy and even at six you can tell the word for them is "meaty" because they remind you of sausages. He claps one of them on your shoulder as he leads you away from Mrs. Langley, your social work friend. He reminds you of Mr. Clement who watched your Little League games and always gave you ice cream and a pat on the back afterwards but who couldn't keep you because his grandma got sick, so you figure that Mr. Hendrickson is okay.
Only he's not.
One time you come home crying because Jeff Tarken pushed you on the playground. Mr. Hendrickson takes you to the yard and pushes you until your shoulders are bruised. Nancy Lancey, he calls you. The only Nancy you know is Nancy Doyle from fifth grade. She has the prettiest yellow hair you've ever seen, but somehow you don't think Mr. Hendrickson is talking about your hair.
"You'll never do anything for anyone if you keep up this way, Nancy Lancey," Mr. Hendrickson grunts over and over, shoving you around the yard. After an hour, you don't cry anymore.
You don't remember a lot about Mrs. Hendrickson except that she was very quiet and pale and her hands were always rough from washing dishes. You do recall one night when she pulled your comforter up and brushed the back of her hand against your cheek and you felt like she was saying sorry. But soon after that you stopped feeling like you needed anyone to apologize to you. After all, you were never going to do anything for anyone. Why should people feel sorry for you?
Mrs. Langley takes you away from the house four days after your sixth birthday. You didn't have a cake, but you weren't expecting one.
You stay at the home with the other kids for seven months and spend most of your time in bed. Mrs. Langley lets you because she feels bad. The first day you were back, the scars on your back and the bruises on your chest and shoulders and hips made her gasp. You don't tell her that there are much worse things than those. Words that are so much worse that sometimes you feel like your brain is bruised and bleeding.
So you sleep. If you're never going to be good, maybe you'll just hibernate here for a while. When you're awake you hear the other kids talking about you but it doesn't matter. You just hold your breath and turn over and hope that maybe if you just stay quiet you won't hurt anyone.
It's Saturday when the parents come in. Last time you were here, lots of parents were interested in you, but this is your first time in a while. Mrs. Langley tells you that it's because you're too special for most people to see, but you know it's because you're damaged. You put on the clothes Mrs. Langley gives you and stand where she tells you as she shows them in.
They walk in slowly, holding hands. You stay still and look at the ground. The woman comes over, kneels beside you and touches your cheek.
"Hello, Lance," she says. "I'm Barbie. I can't wait for you to come home with us."
Her palm is soft. Her voice is kind. You look into her face and see another grown up. You stare for another minute and Mr. Hendrickson is superimposed there, telling you how you'll never be good at anything and you feel a shield building around yourself. You know that he's right, but that doesn't mean you have to get hurt anymore.
"You're too fat to be a barbie," you tell her.
What you mean is: I have been here before.
What you mean is: I am standing up for myself.
What you mean is: I will not let you hurt me.
Barbie looks up at Mrs. Langley, who shakes her head. This is what I meant, she is saying. See how bad he is?
Barbie's husband helps her up. "Where are his suitcases?" He asks. You're confused. Why do they still want you?
But they take you to their home and show you a room that they say is yours and let you bounce on the bed a little and don't yell at you. And you think you'd like to go to sleep for a while, so you do, and then Barbie wakes you up for school. And you go and sit in the desk that feels too big for you. You are the new kid with the scars on his back that the others see when you're all changing for PE and you figure that they're not going to want to make friends with the weird broken boy, so you don't try. You keep to yourself and wait to run into a brick wall.
It goes on like that for a long time.
And then one day it's tenth grade and you're wearing all black and spending hours on your makeup every morning. You have a sort-of girlfriend named X (although you know that her real name is Stacy) and the two of you go to concerts together and talk about how there's no point in getting worked up over college or the future or anything because everything's going to end in blood and darkness anyway.
You flush your Paxils every day instead of taking them. You have a rule not to look Barbie or her husband (John is his name, John Sweets, a man who works with his hands and tried to teach you for a while before he realized that you kept hitting your hand with the hammer on purpose which is what landed you in the first shrink's office) in the eyes because you can't understand them. Whenever you accidentally break the rule, you can see that they're so disappointed in you, but they still cook for you and get you whatever clothes and makeup you want and sometimes even still try to ask you about school. You feel bad about spitting it back in their faces by barely getting through life, but you can't help it, so the easiest way to avoid facing your guilt is to make sure not to look at them.
It's mostly because of the guilt that you let Barbie drag you to the job fair. It's at your high school and you wish you could be laughing with X in the corner about what a lame job they've done disguising the cafeteria, but Barbie beckons you towards all the tables, picking up pamphlets and pretending that you're not weird because not only are you the only boy not wearing a pressed shirt, you're dressed like you're going to see Necrophagia in ten minutes.
There's a big crowd around the FBI table (and even though you only talk to X and a couple of other kids, you know that the principal had to call in some serious favors to get them to come here), all those preppy kids eager to show the recruiter that they have what it takes to be a special agent. Barbie walks right by for once, intent on a booth touting the fascinating career of dentistry, but the FBI woman spots you through the crowd and for some reason you walk toward her table.
"Do you want a pamphlet?" She asks, and you take one because she's ignoring the good looking crowd around you and noticing the weird kid in all black. You pretend to look through it and start to step away and she touches your arm.
It's the first time someone's done that in years and you're startled by the slightly sweaty warmth of her hand. Anyone who might touch you knows not to, and everyone else thinks you're too weird.
"Do you have any questions?"
Something in you snaps and you just want to get out of here but her hand is still on your arm. You yank it away. "Yeah, I have a question. Do you get stuck doing the career fair circuit because you're the youngest on the team or because you fucked up your last mission?"
You've always been able to do that, freak people out by honing in on the thing they're most insecure about and you can tell that she really wants to do this well so she can get into the game so you push your words out because you don't want her being nice to you.
She doesn't look fazed and you've gotta hand it to that FBI training. She lets you shove your way back into the crowd but before you go she stuffs another pamphlet into your hand. You finally read it when you get back to your room.
Behavioral Analysis, it reads. Come help the FBI bring criminals to justice.
For some reason, you think of a poem your teacher read one of the times you were in English class. The part you remember was about yellow woods and diverging roads. It occurs to you then that you have a choice. Mr. Hendrickson doesn't have to be your prophet.
The next morning you take your Paxil. You keep hanging out with X because it's better than having no one, but there isn't much there now that you don't just want to talk about death. Your grades go up-way up to straight As and honor roll- and if John and Barbie are surprised that the kid who they've never seen do homework can accomplish this without cheating, they don't show it. You take the GED in December and do so well that soon you're the only sophomore applying to college. You start off in community college (one year of stellar grades isn't going to get you to the Ivy League) but you do so well there that you get accepted to the University of Toronto. You go in with credits, work out an accelerated program with the dean and do summer courses, so you're out with your degree in a year and a half. Barbie and John fly up for the ceremony and as you hug, you look them in the eye for the first time in forever.
When you get to Columbia, you're already known as the whiz kid and you agree, not egotistically, but because you feel like your life is whizzing by. A few years ago you weren't wearing colors and now you sing karaoke.
You fly through grad school and suddenly you're this close to being the holder of two diplomas and you begin to panic. What if the FBI doesn't want you? You're off the Paxil, you've been off for a while now, but just thinking about the possibility of failure makes you want some.
Still, you choke your panic down and apply to the offices in New York and Washington. You cry when you get rejected from New York, and then do it again when the letter comes from D.C. telling you that they've heard about you and they've been thinking about making you an offer, so fly on down. Barbie and John help you move into your new place and when you go out to dinner, you look into their eyes for the whole time and you can see that they are proud of you. You call each other every night once they go home. You talk to them about your training and they tell you that they're so happy that you're doing well.
But with your life being how it is, you shouldn't be surprised that something bad happens.
Barbie goes first. Just drops dead while vacuuming the family room, John sobs to you over the phone. You return home and sit with him and don't remember any of the lectures you've attended on grief in the face of your own. One morning you go to wake John and he's too cold and still and quiet to just be sleeping. You fold his workman's hands over his chest and kneel beside him for a while before calling the hospital.
You bury them in one of those shared caskets that you and X always used to snort about, saying they romanticized death. Now it seems perfect. You get them a single headstone, too, and when they ask you what to put on it, they only thing you can think of is "Loving Parents."
You stand alone by the graveside once the service is over. A soft, spring rain- a growing-things rain, Barbie always called it- starts falling around you and you begin crying again like you've been saving the tears since you were six. It occurs to you just then that you never called them Mom and Dad. It feels shameful that you didn't when they saved you and kept you and loved you. You crouch and run your fingers over the last name on the stone. Sweets. They adopted you, gave you their name instead of Fortune, the one your mother made up before she abandoned you. You crouch beside the grave and try not to imagine your parents' bodies beneath the ground, beneath your feet. Your best suit is ruined from the mud.
You go back to work soon after and move off of the interrogation room to less stressful counseling sessions. Now you're just dealing with other people's depression instead of actual criminals. Maybe it's not helping the world, but it's helping people and for now that's what you can do.
"There are certain points in history that are dividing lines, certain moments where everything changes. This is the way it was before and this is the way it is forever after."
The first thing you notice about Seeley Booth is his hands. They're big hands, long-fingered. One of his knuckles is off- an old injury, you decide.
His hands never stay still. They're always moving, touching something. The first day it's his cell phone- flipping it open and closed to check for messages- and occasionally his gun.
It's the first thing noted in the file, those hands.
It's obvious from the first meeting that they're important to each other. They need you, though, to push, to force them to face the tough questions.
It's spring before you realize that they're in love with each other. You go to grab a bite at the diner and spot them through the window. It strikes you very suddenly as you watch them: they're in love. You let out a soft "huh" because you're an idiot for ignoring what was right in front of you. You've taken years of classes to recognize the signs, you saw it every day in the quiet glances and partnership between your parents, but you were too blinded by your own pain to understand it and so you couldn't see it.
You keep a poker face and continue observing them.
Someone doesn't know. The Booth/Brennan file sits by your bed now (which is a little creepy when you think about it). It's the last thing you look at before you go to sleep because they're like a soap opera puzzle to you, the most interesting of all your cases. It's been months since your revelation and you know for sure that one of them knows that they're in love and one of them doesn't. It takes a few more sessions to pin down who's who.
A few months later you translate your notes into academic jargon. You call the file that sits on your computer "The Thing" because thesis aside, you can't believe you wrote a book. The name is a little bit of disassociation, a little bit of nervousness because there are peoples' lives you're dealing with. You finish it in the middle of the night, a beer by your side and your laptop nearly burning your legs. You stare at it for a while and finish that beer and then another to tamp down your fear.
Daisy comes out of the bedroom, yawning. Like a kid who ate a pound of candy at noon, she crashes at night. Standing in the dim light from the one lamp, wearing a Wizard of Oz nightgown spangled with ruby slippers, she doesn't even look like the springy-ponytailed intern from the lab during the day. You like to think you're the only one who's seen Daisy this way and you know that thought is reflected in your eyes as you stare at her.
"You're done, aren't you?" She knows exactly what's going on.
"Yeah," you say quietly.
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. If I get it published and they read it, it could ruin the tenuous balance of their relationship."
"Maybe they won't read it."
You think of the fact that Booth keeps all of Dr. Brennan's book reviews and that she always attends his awards ceremonies. "They'll read it."
"Lance." She slides onto the couch next to you. "What if they never get together?" It's a big concern around the lab. "What if they go their whole lives and don't say it and this could have opened their eyes to it? What if you could change everything?"
She has a point. You joined the FBI to help the world and ended up finding a family that you've let help you. You didn't even realize that they were bringing you back into the interrogation room until it happened. You didn't even notice that they were taking you out to lunch and getting you involved and invested in their lives. You didn't notice that you weren't spending every night alone until you were already deeply into their family. It's the least you can do to give a little back.
The two of them are smart, two of the smartest people you've ever met, although in different ways. But they're not going to make a move. Maybe they just need someone to help them and it makes you want to be that person.
When you see Booth and Brennan kiss for the first time (in public, at least), you smile. When you get home, you cry- just a little, more tearing really-because you've proved Mr. Hendrickson wrong. You've done good for someone and you finally know your own hands and what they can do.
A/N: Title from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Timeline and facts slightly altered for my own happiness.