A/N: I was inspired to write this by three things. In no particular order, one was the song "This is Home" by Switchfoot. Another was the act of walking through my admittedly ghetto neighborhood at night with my dog. The third was a vicious case of poison something (according to the doctor, probably poison oak since oak tends to be worse than ivy) that I contracted about 3 weeks ago, which I still have. How the three came together and made this is beyond me, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. Let me know what you think!
And now, after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I've got a brand new mindset
I can finally see the sunset
I'm gonna call it home
Oh, this is home...
- This is Home, Switchfoot
Broken glass littered the edge of the road, where asphalt melted into a tangle of limp grass blades and knee-high weeds. Virginia creeper ran the height of the chain-link fence, tumbling over the top in twisted green clumps of leaves. The look was astonishingly similar to poison ivy, but the clusters were in fives, not threes. Leaves of three, let it be. She remembered that from her childhood, sitting on the bathroom counter as her father rubbed Calamine lotion on her feet and calves.
She leaned against the hood of the SUV, watching Booth as he questioned a neighbor. They were losing daylight—in less than an hour, the sun would dip behind the tall, tightly-packed brick apartments and the orange street lights would flicker on. As darkness fell, those few brave witnesses who might have given up what they saw would retreat to their homes, lie awake at night staring at the ceiling fan, and decide it was safer to keep it to themselves. What they didn't uncover now might be forever lost in the recesses of one person's mind, dark and quiet.
"Did you find out anything?" she asked when he returned, looking disgruntled and shoving a small notebook into his coat pocket. He shook his head.
"Not much," he admitted. "They're tight-lipped around here. Better safe than sorry with this crowd, you know?"
She nodded—she knew. She knew the way you walked around the edges of the street lights, staying carefully out of the lamp's glow cast out onto the glittering streets of broken bottles and the occasional bullet shell. She knew that was the mark of an easy target; the person who walked in the light didn't know enough to know better. They didn't know enough to know that there was a reason you stayed hidden on streets like these, a reason you kept your coat collar turned up and your hands tucked in your pockets, a reason you stayed quiet, shoulders hunched, carefully controlling the whites of your eyes.
Before her foster brothers taught her, she walked in the light. She walked with her arms relaxed, hands swinging at her sides, sneakers scuffing along the street's edge. The leaves crunched beneath her feet and she was so loud, she didn't even realize how loud until she began listening to the footsteps of others. It was cacophonous, the amount of noise one naïve teenage girl's footfalls could make. It was disastrous. She had walked with a black eye and blood in her mouth the next day, and that's how she learned to stay dark, stay quiet, keep your head down. Better safe than sorry.
The lamps came on half an hour later with a lazy hum that made her stomach flop. Like an old refrigerator they buzzed overhead, flickering as each one woke up and cast its light onto the inhabitants of the street below, those who were stupid enough to stand under it. Booth called it quits at that point, watching the neighbors disappear into their homes, pulling the blinds down and locking their doors with a soft click and a careful rattle of the handle, just to be sure. They locked their doors with the same care, engine coming to life with a roar, headlights illuminating the bright yellow-white eyes of some animal on the other side of the dilapidated fence before it ran off, it too aware of the rules of the dark and quiet.
He watched her carefully out of his peripheral vision as they slowly pulled out of the tight, narrow neighborhood block and onto a wider main road, flanked with sidewalks and taller, sturdier cement light posts. He saw her reflection in the black glass, eyes lost beyond the window, far beyond the hazy outline of the buildings beyond, out to the gibbous moon and even further still. It was like watching her dissipate as smoke would, unfurling into the sky and becoming nothing.
She stared down at the glittering Formica tabletop at the diner while ignoring her french fries, and he pulled her relentlessly into the current day with pleasant small talk and cracked humor. She smiled in half appreciation, but her look was still lost. She was still blinded in the glint of orange, warm light against the broken glass, like flecks in the table's surface.
When the soft white lights in her apartment came on and the heavy wooden door was shut and chained, she sunk into the corner of the couch with a sigh that escaped neither of them. It was, as her memory, dark and quiet. His lips fell into a downward curve and he stopped filling the spaces between them—having grown vaster and colder with each passing street lamp—with emptier words. He settled into the curve of her body and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and she did not deny him. Instead she rested her head back against his chest, hand finding its way on top of his. He stacked his other atop hers and they were as one piece is of two, two pieces in one.
"Home, finally," was all he said, giving up on the space fillers—there was no space to fill now.
"Yes," she sighed, relaxing more fully into his body. He rested his chin against her shoulder, breathing with her, breathing her in. Breathing her back to this place, this moment. Holding his breath for a moment, and in the release, holding her. "Home."