The Path of a Lie:
The Lie is told by Temperance Brennan in the November of 2005, its subject matter pertains to her time as a ward of the state and to a grandfather that she never knew. It is composed of eleven words, although only six are dishonest. The Lie is told to Seeley Booth, who at the time had no reason to question its measure of truthfulness.
I was a foster child until my grandfather got me out.
As inconsequential as The Lie may have appeared as it spilled from the mouth of the esteemed Doctor Brennan, its trajectory – when examined thoroughly, suggests that it might have been anything but.
The first consequence of The Lie is the least damaging. It was still the November of 2005 and with the quiet satisfaction of a case closed behind him, Seeley Booth would decide it was time for a little side investigation of his own.
It was to be a relatively straight forward investigation, and a curious need to find out a little bit more about the enigma who'd been dropped into his lap would drive Booth to poke around in the affairs of Temperance Brennan. Any kid who'd been in the system had a record and as a fairly high ranking SSA, he had access to this information. A fact that he didn't really want to advertise to his partner.
With the flick of a few keys and a couple of minutes searching, Booth would find that rather than satisfying his need for information on The Good Doctor, his search would only serve to confuse him more.
Because the records of Temperance Brennan, born 1976 and placed in protective custody early in 1992, stated that before aging out on her eighteenth birthday (the time at which the Department of Child Services had promptly lost contact with her) Brennan's last known address had been in a group home she'd been placed in shortly before she was seventeen. Other than a brother who'd been noted as unable to care for her, she had no known family.
This did not match the story that he'd just been told, and for some reason he would choose to believe that it was the file providing the incorrect information and not the forensic anthropologist. Maybe this was because he hated the thought of her living like that, the whole idea of a group home and no one to look after her burning quite uncomfortably in his gut. Maybe it was because Temperance Brennan didn't seem to lie, ever – her vigilante truth, facts and evidence regime hardly lending itself to a white lie about her childhood. But for some reason, maybe none of these reasons and maybe all, he would close the file and put it down to poor record keeping by the Department of Child Services.
Having not read further than the alleged misinformation, he'd never read that she'd been removed from her final foster family after evidence of mistreatment (no charges had ever been filed).
The second consequence of The Lie is more elaborate and it begins with a case in May of the following year.
Again Agent Booth had solved a crime and again caught the bad guy – but this time there was to be no satisfaction, quiet or otherwise. Having located and identified the bones of Christine Brennan as well as apprehending her killer Vince McVicar, Booth would finally come to know a lot more of his partner's past.
It is not until several weeks later he would make the connection. It would take a long call to his grandfather and his (increasingly Bones-oriented) wandering mind to finally bridge the gap between her parent's secret lives and a grandfather she'd claimed to have.
Because if her family had cut and run before Brennan was old enough to remember, she'd hardly have had the ability to maintain contact with a grandparent into her teens and beyond her parents' disappearance.
Because if the small glimpse of her life he'd seen during their investigation was true enough, it was almost impossible for what she had told him all those months ago to be accurate.
He still refused to believe that this could be the case.
Armed with the names Max and Ruth Keenan, as opposed to Matthew and Christine Brennan, he'd begun to dig. It hadn't taken long to learn that although she may not have known it, Temperance Brennan's maternal grandparents had been alive when she'd been growing up. While her father's parents had died a little before she was born, and her mother's mother when she'd been sixteen, to that day one grandfather remained.
It was from there he'd made a very interesting discovery. As Bones had chosen to bury her mother by the name Christine Brennan, an outstanding missing persons report filed by Albert McCrae regarding his daughter Ruth and her family had never been officially addressed throughout the investigation. In any other situation, it would've been a high priority, but in the confusion of the multiple identities, it had never been pursued.
Skimming the report, he learned Albert McCrae had heavily implicated his daughter's 'good for nothing husband' in the disappearance. It also stated he'd had little contact with the family since Ruth's marriage, but spoke to his daughter on occasion and had become concerned when a significant time had gone by without contact. On confirming their apparent disappearance and convinced Max Keenan had done something sinister, he'd made the report to the authorities.
Seeley Booth's first call was to Brennan. He would call several times as anger bubbled dangerously at The Lie before remembering that she'd made plans to travel to Darfur for some reason or another and had warned she may well be out of reach. After picking up the pieces of a phone angrily tossed across a room, Booth would head for his vehicle, police report clutched in hand.
It was a Friday and for once it was alright he didn't have Parker, because it meant he could take a road trip half way across some of the northern-most states to a small house, with a small well-kept garden. Booth had stopped in a motel overnight after leaving the office pretty late, so he was quite refreshed as he tripped up the steps of the residence.
Standing on a cheery welcome mat, he took a deep breath before knocking lightly. As he heard the sounds of someone moving within, he fumbled for his badge in his pocket, determined to be prepared for the meeting.
The door opened.
"Hi there, Mr McCrae – I'm Special Agent Seeley Booth." It felt odd not adding an introduction for his partner and he only just caught himself before it was trailed on automatically. Booth offered up his badge for the man to inspect before he continued. "I'm here to discuss some new evidence uncovered in an ongoing investigation. I was wondering if we could talk inside for a moment?"
"An ongoing investigation?"
He paused before gently explaining, "It's your daughter."
"You found new evidence?" The man seemed completely baffled.
"I understand it's been almost 30 years Mr McCrae, but information was very recently recovered in connection with another case I was working on. Could we..?" Booth motioned inside.
"Of course, of course." The elderly figure then shuffled backwards slowly, making room for Booth to enter.
Their discussion had been scanty at best, Booth carefully editing his story and McCrae far from chatty. Booth had provided him with the standard-issue facts but it appeared that after such a long time, Ruth's father had become resigned to her fate.
"So you've had no contact with any members of the Keenan family since their disappearance in 1978?"
Booth had watched very carefully as the elderly man had responded before continuing, his tone modified considerably. He had to ask. "And, during my ongoing investigation, should I be able to locate any remaining family members, would you be at all interested in establishing any contact with them?"
McCrae's eyes had hardened, his mouth set firmly in a line. "No."
Though his heart sank, Booth could almost understand - not when his daughter was really gone.
"Okay, I understand and I thank you for your time Mr McCrae." Booth stood from his seat, "That's all of my questions for now, but if you need anything I'd like to leave you my card. You can call me whenever you need."
McCrae nodded and took the card, not looking at it as he sat it aside. He showed Booth out of the living area, past his well filled bookcases towards the door.
It caught his eye almost instantly. "Temperance Brennan, huh? You like her books?" He motioned to the bookcase.
Again under Booth's careful watch, McCrae had smiled without warmth. "A favourite of mine, yes."
"That's nice, she's my favourite too. I ah, just noticed them there on your shelf."
And as the door closed firmly a minute later, Booth could only look out over the garden as his stomach turned uneasily. Albert McCrae had never so much as met his granddaughter, this he now knew for sure.
The third consequence is harder to define and the manner in which it eventuates bleeds almost directly from the second.
It begins with two decisions made by Seeley Booth upon his return to DC; the first being not to contact Dr Brennan directly until such a time that they had case to work on and the second being the very difficult choice not to mention his meeting with Albert McCrae. The first stemmed from a need for his odd sense of betrayal to fade before dealing with her and the second for many, many reasons that ranged from not wanting to get punched in the face right along to not wanting to risk dredging up further feelings of abandonment after the revelations of an uncomfortable conversation the previous weekend.
The first way this consequence manifests itself is merely by way of a slightly aggressive conversation (as it were, their very first conversation since her return, save for a brief 'we have a case' phone call) in his car on the way to a crime scene. As said conversation veered dangerously onto the topic of her family (and the fact she'd skipped out on Darfur for a nice North Carolina vacation with her brother) Booth's blood had boiled and a small part of him suggested that he might not be as ready to forget about the episode as he'd hoped. Trying to channel his anger into driving had interesting repercussions ("Is it okay to go up on two wheels like that?"). But in the grand scheme of things, the exchange was all small potato stuff.
Because the beauty of this third consequence is how quickly it spirals into a train wreck.
Because after the scary driving and an actual real life train wreck, there is Camille Saroyan.
The flirting, the obvious demonstration of their past relationship, shutting Brennan right out of their exchange right there on her first case – they were all things a little uncharacteristic of Seeley Booth. So maybe he just wanted it to grate a little.
But the kicker? Well, perhaps the decision to sleep with Bones' boss wasn't the best one he ever made.
At the time it was all he could do to quietly tell himself that everyone had a secret past. Everyone got to deal with this past whatever way they liked. Apparently.
But even so, Booth liked to think that he was reasonable enough that his tryst with Dr Saroyan had nothing to do with his probably overblown feelings of upset that Bones had lied to him and his frustration that a year later, for the most part she was still an enigma. Sometimes though, this facade cracked a little and he had to think about why he really pursued such a complicated course of action.
And so consequence number three boils down to a shaky decision with shaky reasoning and a shaky kind of ending.
It's amazing, the power of The Lie.
A fairly large amount of time elapses between what are to be known as the third and the fourth consequences of The Lie. This is not to say that The Lie goes completely forgotten in this period, but there is a time and a place for everything and having not taken the opportunity to bring it up earlier, it soon becomes impossible for Booth to ever address the issue. There's also the matter of not mentioning ever that he went to see a grandfather that seemed rather unwilling to meet her and really, addressing The Lie without addressing that would be particularly tricky.
Eventually, it tapers into nothingness. Time marches on, their relationship marches on and soon they are far from their vast personality differences, their well guarded secrets and their slowly developing friendship – instead trundling full speed ahead to the brink of something so much... more.
When all things are considered, the catalyst for this the fourth consequence is obvious – Booth's grandfather comes to stay.
He's watched the way she easily interacted with him, the comfortable way the three of them spent time together, an implied trust that had developed so quickly. It had been at the back of his mind the whole time.
And so after they'd left him at the retirement home, they'd gone for dinner.
"You're very lucky to have him Booth," she smiled warmly, "He's quite a character. And an excellent person."
"I almost makes me wish... sometimes I wonder what it would've been like if I'd known my own grandparents." Her voice is smaller than normal, a little wistful and it's the introspective side of Temperance Brennan he'd been seeing more and more making itself known.
Her words reverberate in his head. She either didn't remember, or was trying to pretend – but Booth couldn't tell which.
"Do you... I mean, do you remember when we'd just started working together – you told me something."
"I'm sure I told you a lot of things."
"You told me something about a grandfather," he stumbled a little over his words, "That you had one. That you knew him."
Recognition flickered across her face before it went blank. She'd been leaning in towards him, but rather suddenly she straightened and crossed her arms.
He spoke slowly. "Bones. You told me that you were in the foster system until your grandfather got you out."
"That's... You must've heard something I said incorrectly."
"Please, stop lying to me." He wasn't angry, and he asked her gently as her solid expression betrayed a small amount of something else underneath.
"I never knew my grandparents. When my parents took on new identities they left behind their own families."
"So what you're saying isn't possible."
"That's my point." He wanted to reach for her, but he wasn't sure it was the best course of action. "Why did you lie Bones?"
"Please Booth, I don't think we should talk about this right now."
"I'm sorry." She'd begun to gather her coat, "I'm going to go. I'll talk to you... later."
"Bones, please, you don't need to go-"
Her response was firm. "Goodbye Booth."
Three hours. It was three hours before he broke and showed up at her door with ice cream, chips and some files from the Tracy case, just in case he need an excuse. He knocked lightly, with his own usual rhythm and waited until she opened the door slowly.
"I know we had dinner already, so I brought you ice cream." He smiled carefully before waving the files held in his other hand. "I've got some paperwork from the case and I'm happy to talk about nothing but that all night if it makes you feel better."
She opened the door to let him in, but didn't step back as he crossed over the threshold. Pushing the door lightly closed behind him, they stood almost toe to toe in the entryway.
In a carefully quiet voice she finally spoke. "I'm sorry I left before."
"It's okay. I'm sorry I pushed you to talk about it."
"I hope you understand..." She struggled for the words.
"I know Bones, c'mere." He reached out the short distance to pull her into a tight embrace. Pressed up against him Brennan's arms snaked around his midsection as she pressed her face into his shoulder.
He whispered in her ear, "I don't like it when we fight."
And she whispered back, "Me neither."
And standing in that moment, the consequence of The Lie was not their fight, but the thought that emerged from it. Because it was then that Temperance Brennan realised that some of her most carefully kept secrets, the ones that she'd begun to unravel just a little when she was sharing metaphorical scars on her back, might just be safe with Seeley Booth. Because she already knew she could trust him and right then, she was almost sure she could trust herself to share the deepest darkest parts of Temperance Brennan with another person.
The fifth and final consequence is possibly the most far reaching. Just as The Lie had begun with a case about foster children, its last stop on the long and winding path of consequence is also in conjunction with a case pertaining to this matter.
"I'd like to use what's left of our session to discuss your ongoing investigation. In light of your own experience Dr Brennan, I think it might be beneficial to explore your time as a foster child and how it's been affecting the way you work this case."
Booth had watched and seen Brennan clam up, pushing herself into the farthest corner of Sweets' couch as she'd replied with an edge of irritation, "I don't think my work has been affected in any way."
"I don't mean to imply that the standard of your work has been lowered at all, I was just wondering if you had approached the case any differently."
"I have approached this case as I would any other. Unlike some people, I understand the need to be professional in these situations."
"Dr Brennan, the body of a young foster child was found in a National Park with evidence of prolonged abuse. You've had experience as a foster child and have previously admitted that-"
She didn't let him finish. "I don't feel that my own experience is relevant to this discussion. As you've previously noted Sweets, I'm highly adept at compartmentalising my own feelings on any matter and as a professional I did so for this case." Her tone left no room for argument and she held Sweets in a steady glare as he found himself unable to respond.
Brennan took advantage of his silence. "I feel we've covered enough this session." With a curt nod she took to her feet, Booth following blindly as she mechanically said her goodbyes and left the room. Without talking to her partner, Brennan sped through the hall to the elevator.
Having jabbed at the button repeatedly with no small amount of force, Booth carefully placed a hand on her outstretched arm before she could lower it.
"Hey, come on, let's call it a day."
"We're finished with the case, we got out of Sweets' early, let's shrug off the paperwork – just for tonight." Giving her a patented Seeley Booth charm smile, he let his hand slide slowly down her arm to the small of her back. As the doors before them opened, he guided her into the elevator. "Come on Bones, we'll have fun."
"I have work back at the lab-"
"It's been a tough case and I'd like your help keeping my mind off it, if that's okay."
She finally allowed him a small smile, "I suppose if you need my help..."
He smiled in return. "Yeah Bones, I do."
It was a little later, they'd had time for dinner before he'd brought her back to his apartment. He'd sat a large bottle of tequila on the table in front of her with two shot glasses, but she was yet to take a drink. Instead she stared pensively at the bottle, sitting in the same spot as she had the whole ten minutes they'd been back at his place while Booth waited for her to speak.
"A while ago... you asked me about when I was a foster kid... and why I lied."
Pressed close together on his couch, he lent forward so that their faces were level. "Bones, you don't have to talk to me about it if you don't want to."
She looked at him closely. "I want to talk to you about it."
"But before... with Sweets – I mean, I know it's hard for you to-"
"I want to talk to you about it."
"Oh. Well you know you can, you can tell me anything." He spoke seriously, holding her eyes as he promised.
He liked it when she smiled a little. "I know."
She took a few more moments staring at the bottle and collecting her thoughts before she began to explain. "When I was living with them... when I was with that last family, I used to pretend. In my head, I used to pretend that there was someone out there who was coming for me, even if it wasn't my parents."
"This family, they were the ones who..." But he couldn't finish, instead offering, "The plate?"
She answered quickly. "Yes."
He went to speak, but she held up a hand, "I... I'd always kind of wanted a grandfather, they always seemed just so nice, trustworthy. Sometimes in my head, when it was really bad, I'd pretend."
"It's okay." She waved off his concern before continuing, "When we had that case with the little boys, you knew and you looked at me like you felt sorry for me. I didn't want that."
"I just... I just cared about you. I didn't like thinking you'd been alone like that."
"I know that now." She finally reached for the bottle, and twisting the lid off she tipped a measure into each of the glasses. She took a deep breath, "You've helped me see that it's okay to let people care sometimes."
"And I'm sorry I lied, I hope you understand it was because I didn't want you.. feeling sorry for me."
She nudged his shot glass towards him, taking her own in hand. In tandem, they both swallowed the liquor, Brennan hissing as the taste hit her mouth.
"I'm sorry if I was difficult to work with this week."
"Booth, I yelled at you and I threatened to shoot you with your own gun."
"It's still okay."
"Yeah. You know why?" He took the bottle and quickly refilled the glasses.
"Because I still care and I still don't like the thought of you being alone."
She took the glass from him as she leant in and spoke slowly, "But I'm not alone now."
"Because I have you."
She strained her neck to kiss him lightly on the cheek, her lips lingering as she pulled away just a fraction to murmer, "Thank you." She'd done it before, a kiss by way of thanks for what he'd done for her brother, but this time it had been... different.
"Any time Bones."
Her face hovered just where it was as consequence number four reared its head. It had been turning over in her mind since that day, the idea that she might be able to sacrifice a bit of herself and the very last of a well built wall for something so much more important.
And on that moment of impulse, she closed the gap, tentatively pressing her lips to his. The faint taste of tequila mingled with something else so distinct as his arms came to wrap around her, pulling her into his lap.
After several moments, they broke away, their faces still separated by the smallest space. It was Booth that broke the silence in a low murmur.
"This isn't because-"
"You know that if we're doing this, that it means-"
He laughed quietly. "Would you let me finish?"
Bringing a hand up to press gently to his face she explained, "I don't need to."
He remained silent, carefully searching her face for any sign of dissent or anxiety. When he didn't speak, she added earnestly, "This is what I want."
It was enough, more than enough, possibly the best thing he'd ever heard and before returning his lips to hers, Booth reverently sprinkled kisses on her forehead, in her hair and across her cheeks – all the while uttering careful reminders that she was no longer alone.
Seeley Booth once said that some people deserve the kindness of a lie. He'd never know the path Temperance Brennan's November 2005 Lie had taken and perhaps he'd never understand what it had brought him, but more than half a decade later he'd take to seeing it as a kindness rather than a disservice.
He wouldn't see it as a kindness for himself, but for his partner (in work and in life) who didn't want to feel alone. And who wouldn't ever again.
A/N: This story is complete... for now. Depending on feedback and on inspiration, I'm thinking of doing a counterpart based on a Booth lie (probably mobster-related from The Woman in the Garden) that would play out on a different timeline, but with rather similar results ;) Let me know if you're in!
(Also, if you're interested the episodes specifically mentioned, vaguely in order of reference are 1x05 A Boy in a Bush, 1x22 The Woman in Limbo, 2x01 The Titan on the Tracks, 5x08 The Foot in the Foreclosure, 3x08 The Knight on the Grid and 1x01 Pilot. Heh, I rewatched a lot of Bones for this fic.)