Disclaimer: I don't own Bones, et al.
Author's Note: Thanks in advance to all who might read this story. As dedications go, I'm going with my usual Boneo Gals, Jeni ... (start writing again) ... Jules (because you read everything I ask you to) ... Lola (because I adore you) ... Katie (you'll feel better soon) ... Amy(because I adore you too) ... and Neeny (just because you're you) ... enjoy ladies ... xoxo
The Lioness and the Witch Inside the Dream
Sometimes things are not as they seem. We go through life and we're seemingly happy, we're changing, evolving and moving on – and then suddenly we're blindsided by the dream of something else – a vivid dream of what lies at the end of that path not taken … of that road … blocked in perpetuity.
And within the dream that ensues along the path not taken, we're led far and away from where we are and all of sudden it feels so real (even after we wake) … so real, that we have no choice but to ponder what might have been … had we taken that path … or waited for that perpetual roadblock to be cleared.
Admittedly things had been different for Seeley Booth since his return from Afghanistan, a statement no one could argue with, because it was the simple truth. For since his return he had been residing deep inside a bazaar alternate universe of sorts, the very place he had avoided for years. The place in which he was not only 'involved' with someone, but an active participant in a committed, healthy relationship … with a woman other than Temperance Brennan.
Though he never met a woman like Hannah before either – someone he thought would mesh well with his life as it was – well, his life as it was before he left for his assignment, his life with Bones … his partner … his best friend … this soul mate of his who spent her days by his side, and most his nights tucked inside the deep pocket of his wildest dreams.
But as it was, things between he and Hannah became cohesive, it was the stuff of survival – in too many ways to count – for they had met under extreme circumstances by which they saved each other over and over again, quite literally and figuratively and spiritually and sexually. She was available and living in the moment with him every step of the way.
And it was within those extreme circumstances that Booth found his gray area, this small comfort he unearthed in Hannah whilst Bones cast herself off into the great unknown and far away from him. And so aside from the intense physicality his relationship with his new lover, Booth found great solace in having a strong woman by his side and had all but convinced himself that she had provided him with everything Bones was not ready for or interested in.
And so when they parted ways and made plans to see each other and make the distance work, he thought, 'what the heck', because for the most part his relationships with both women would remain somewhat compartmentalized – and even though he thought Hannah would understand his thing with Bones – he was secretly relieved to live those two lives as separately as he could.
No meshing. No messiness. No confusion. No one gets hurt. Everyone stays happy. No line crossing. No 'friends with the partner thing'. No girl talk. No meshing.
But things never do go as planned, which is really the point of this sordid tale – we have no idea how to separate things like this – for we aren't built like that and the mind works in mysterious ways to make the heart's desires known and never forgotten … for a dream, unless fulfilled, can sometimes become a nightmare.
And this is what happened to Seeley Booth on the eve of Halloween in the year 2010 when his worlds collided and those universes converged and he was forced to come to terms with his dreams and all that his psyche had suppressed.
"So, how is this a case of mistaken identity?" Booth asked as he stared down at the skeletal remains of their latest case. "And how do I get from there to a potential for a double homicide?" he questioned his brilliant partner.
"Well, the husband of this woman admitted to her murder … rather, he believes he was the cause of her death," Bones stated factually. "He just couldn't live with the guilt any longer … and …,"
"Reached the ripe old age of seventy-five and just … spilled his guts?" Booth said sardonically, flipping through the case file.
"He's old and frail …," Bones reported.
Booth looked at his partner expectantly and then moved to step closer to her in an effort to stand beside her much like he always did, hoping that if he did, he might 'see' what she saw so easily when she studied their cases. Eye to eye … for once, he just wanted to see eye to eye with her. Though the truth was, that he rarely could, his brain just wasn't built that way. He scoffed and turned back to her, tilting his head, he considered her for a moment, somewhat bemused by her willingness to argue this man's motive for his confession. He raised a brow and an unintentional snicker slipped beyond his lips.
"What? He is!" she exclaimed, a smirk etched along her face. "He's sick Booth," she continued, bending down to scrutinize her spread. She shook her head. "And yes, he's … remorseful, or I believe he is," she breathed, making one of her copious notes. "He's about to die … so he dropped her remains off here," she murmured softly, pressing her lips together as she made her appeal.
"So, he killed her … why not go straight to the police station?" Booth pushed bluntly, still somewhat surprised by her softer side coming through.
"He felt it more humane, to bring her here," she answered. "And according to him, he did this twenty years ago … right after she revealed some big horrifying secret to him … but …," her voice trailed off, she had hit a road block.
"Something doesn't make sense …," he filled in the blanks, sighing as he watched her – for he secretly loved this part of Temperance Brennan – the part that only he and a few other people were privy to, the part of her that made her tick … he loved watching her work and figure it out. He loved it.
"Right," she agreed firmly, catching his eyes with hers for a beat.
"Twenty years … that's a long time to live with guilt like that … so how he did he kill her, this innocent, frail old man …," he goaded, poking holes in her newfound human side, just for fun. His eyes darted down to the case file.
"That's one of the problems … see, she had a heart attack, that day … after she told him her secret, " Bones said, turning toward him. He looked up to find her.
Booth lost himself inside of her intensity then, the fire in her eyes was so blue it arrested him – she was passionate about this case, of course she was passionate about every case, but every once in a while there was a case that shook her to her core – and he could tell this was one of those cases. And so as he stood idly by, he watched her work.
Her lips pressed into a thin line, her wild mind working as she held him inside the moment with her, her whole face softening now as her mouth turned up and into a small confident smile – the one that told him she had her answer – the smile that also made her look like the woman he first fell in love with. He turned away from her, his heart on fire. He sighed and dared himself to move.
"So …," he prompted with a weak smile, his eyes scanning hers.
"Well … there are two pieces of factual evidence that suggest the remains in front of us are not this man's wife …," she sighed heavily. "See … do you see this here?" she asked, lifting the skull up to her eye level.
Booth chuckled at the irony – 'eye to eye' – he wondered if he would be able to see what she wanted him to, despite her unwillingness to grant him the same privilege. Because somehow it always came down to this … his question … his burning desire: why couldn't she see what went on between them? Why couldn't she allow herself to feel a fraction of what he knew was there?
He stared at the skull. His mind went blank. She had lost him, or rather, she'd never found him, for how could one be lost if never found to begin with? His eyes burned. He stared at the skull.
"This is a blunt force injury, a deep skull fracture that could have been the cause of death, an injury so damaging … that she could have literally bled to death …," she reported, meeting his eyes. He sighed and pressed his lips together.
"But … you're not happy with that finding," Booth surmised evenly.
"No … no, because he didn't say anything about a head injury or even a fall, in fact he said … that after he screamed at her, she fell forward and landed on their bed … he said she was dead before he got across the room to her," she reported, her voice soft, her words careful as she caressed her specimen.
"He could have hit her …," Booth offered, still somewhat in awe of his partner's reverence.
"Ah, and I agree, it's his word against … a dead woman's … except for my other reason … the reason why I am one-hundred percent sure that these are not his wife's remains … ," she said softly.
"Enlighten me then," he challenged with a smirk, moving to stand closer to her. "There is that whole innocent until proven guilty thing we have to deal with … plus I'm not sure causing someone to have a heart attack can be considered 'murder'," he chuckled. "Though burying said person in the backyard afterward does kind of … scream 'guilty'!" he cackled like the wise ass he was.
"Or maybe it speaks to his fear …," Bones countered, gently pushing back.
"Or his fear okay … go on," he conceded with a chuckle.
"Okay … so, the thing is … I don't doubt his guilt, in the act of the crime or otherwise," she sighed. "And … technically, if what he says is true … he was the cause of her death … but regardless of his involvement … I do have serious doubts that these are her specific remains," she replied confidently.
"Go on," he encouraged.
"Well … besides the head injury … it's the age of the bones and not in the sense of how long they've been underground as much as their true age," she reported, taking the left femur into her hands, her long fingers caressing the bone. "These bones are old Booth," she stated evenly, flicking her brilliant blue eyes to his where they stayed.
"Old, but not old enough," he winced, venturing his guess.
"No!" she exclaimed. "On the contrary – they're fossilized, they've been decaying for a long time – they aren't the bones of a fifty year old woman Booth," she reported. He raised his brow. "But they are the skeletal remains of a woman of about the age of twenty …," she surmised without blinking.
"Come again?" he muttered, his brow furrowed, his head spinning on the details.
Brennan exhaled sharply and tilted her head thoughtfully. She set the femur down and walked away from the table and into a darker corner of the lab, perhaps in an effort to clear her head. Booth watched her go, giving her the space she obviously needed and then he waited … and waited, but she didn't move, instead she seemed to sink further and further into the deep pocket of darkness there, far and away from the troubling facts of the case. He watched her react to a shiver as it passed through her spine before she turned around.
She shook her head and though he intended to give her all the space she needed, he found himself crossing the room, his eyes trained on hers, riveted by the watery facets he saw within. She sniffled, holding nothing back now as her eyes glossed over with uncharacteristic emotion. He came to stand in front of her wherein she found his eyes –her gaze steadfast though her statuesque façade was crumbling – there was no way around it, this case had provoked her.
"Booth," she said softly as she stepped forward, moving toward him, her face still obscured by the shadow of darkness. "These are not the bones of his wife," she whispered into their private space akin to some kind of confessional. She swallowed hard and continued. "Unless … he lied about the year in which he killed her … or had her heart attack, which I don't think …," her voice trailed off and she shook her head.
"Temperance," he sighed, watching her crumble before him.
He wanted to hold her steady, he wanted … her, it was twisted, but this was their fate – and this was what happened – this was where they so often stood … upon the line of the 'gray area', this place where they were 'none of the above', not partners, not friends, not lovers … but oh so much more, for they were soul mates.
And so within this classification, he found himself holding back, giving her space … deeming himself a coward while she stared back at him still … a coward herself. Their ever present stalemate hanging between them like a noose ... open ... ready. His eyes darted away from hers, the scrutiny just too intense.
"Booth," she whispered, he turned back to find her. "I … I ... as crazy as it sounds, I don't want him to be liar," she pleaded, letting herself go. "I don't want him to be … more deviant than he already is …," she spoke, her tone so haunted and unsure that he had to wonder about the content of this man's confession, for it had pulled her into an uncontrolled tailspin. "He seemed so sincere … he loved her … he stayed with her … she was the one … or so he thought she was," she said softly, her voice quivering just enough for him to catch it.
"Bones … we'll figure it out," he encouraged, laying his hand upon her forearm, holding her steady.
"I know, we will … I apologize for … never mind," stopped herself.
"It's okay," he smiled tightly. "It'll all be okay," he reiterated.
Temperance found his eyes once more and then just like that, it was back to business as usual. She turned out of their space and approached the skeletal remains again, the fluorescent lights casting short shadows upon her shoulders as she scrutinized her notes before she sighed and pressed on with the facts.
"These bones … they belong to a woman between the ages of twenty to twenty-five," she estimated, her voice cracked around the edges. "And it is my estimation that this woman was buried sometime in the last fifty to fifty-five years," she calculated, her eyes vacillating over the bones. She sighed and turned to find Booth.
"So you're saying, these are the remains of a young woman … but our man confessed to offing his fifty year old wife," he reverse-engineered the facts for the sake of his own clarity.
"Yes, that's precisely what I've discovered," she replied.
"Making this a case of mistaken identity …," he said evenly, staring at the collection of bones, his eyes narrowing in on that skull fracture.
"Yes … and well, a double homicide, or it will be once we find the bones of the woman he meant to bring over here ... that is, if he's telling the truth …," she breathed.
"So much for a slow weekend at home, we better get a move-on before he flees," Booth directed.
Brennan scoffed at his antics. "What? With his walker?" she cackled, though her worried eyes betrayed her.
"He's guilty Temperance," Seeley reminded her. "Whether the man did any physical harm to his wife or not … he still feels the guilt – he loved her, she was his wife – and he is at fault, something he clearly regrets," he said, his eyes flicking to hers.
"Yes, she was, his wife … and he loved her … or he always thought he had… but he's confused now," she defended. "Sure, he feels a fury of guilt surrounding the events of her death … but … he came here … he confessed," she sighed, averting her eyes.
"Regardless … we better go," he suggested firmly, setting his hand low upon her back.
"Yes, we better," she replied with a tight smile. She gathered her notes and closed the case file. "Come with me, I'll take you to him," she said, turning away from the table.
Booth smirked and stood still. Temperance took one step and then another before she turned around and found him. "So … he's here," he surmised after a minute, dismayed by Brennan's willingness to let the man be here with her (after hours, on a weekend). He shook his head, cracking a smile at her bravado now, although somewhat apprehensive about these fearless decisions she sometimes made. He smiled and shook his head. "You lead and I'll follow," he said thoughtfully with a grin.
"What?" she quipped. "You didn't think you're the only one who could detain people did you?" she sassed.
"Well no, but … the circumstances, he's a confessed murderer and you just … what, invited him to stay?" he questioned her rationale.
"No, I detained him and then I called you," she smiled proudly. "And then I ordered lunch for him from the deli, he's been in the conference room ever since," she stated matter-of-factly.
"You're sure about that?" he countered playfully.
"He's detained and entertained … he's watching CNN," she smirked.
The duo stepped into the darkened hallway en-route to the conference rooms – the place was quiet, eerily so, barely anyone around, it definitely felt like a Sunday afternoon – Booth cracked a smile, a stock image of Parker dressed up as Han Solo a couple of years ago funneled through his mind, rekindling his own fond memories of the sweet treats holiday, revered by most American children, for it truly was the stuff of magic. He smiled tightly and made a sidelong glace at his partner.
"So, you're still going to dress up as the Cowardly Lion tonight, right?" he asked, stepping in line with Brennan as they moved toward the conference room.
"Yes, I'm sticking to Angela's plan – the 'Wizard of Oz' for everyone – and you … still going as the Scarecrow?"she confirmed with a smirk of her own as they rounded the corner.
"Well …," he scoffed and turned toward her.
Brennan snorted and jabbed him with her elbow. "You picked it out of the hat …," she reminded him. "You don't get a choice," she admonished playfully.
"I know, but Bones … the Scarecrow? The whole brainless and scared of his shadow thing, c'mon, that's not me!" he exclaimed, patting his broad chest with his hands.
"And what … I'm a coward?" she mused, locking her fiery blue eyes on his. "And Hannah's a wicked witch?" she giggled, her cheeks flushed.
"Nah … I just think it was rigged –"
"It wasn't rigged!" she laughed softly, stopping in front of a conference room door.
Booth laughed with her, fascinated by the sparkle he'd caught deep inside her eyes – often believing he was the only person who saw it there – glimmering, shimmering … like a diamond in the rough. She wrapped her hand around the doorknob and knocked with her free hand, her eyes still fastened to his – the muted sound of the high-decibel television – the soundtrack for the shared moment. She cracked the door open and smiled one last time before they stepped over the threshold and got back to work.
"So Mr. Wicker, I know you've told my partner here what happened, but if you can, I'd like to hear the details for myself," Booth said after situating himself at the table, trying not to focus on the vacant sadness of the old man sitting across from him.
"Where do I start?" Wicker asked weakly, his eyes darting to Brennan's before he leaned back and onto the armchair.
"How about from the beginning," Bones suggested; a soft, encouraging smile etched along her face.
Booth surveyed his partner for a moment before turning back to the fragile man Mr. Henry Wicker had become. He smiled, trying not to see a self-proclaimed 'murderer' –this man who accidentally 'killed' his wife and waited twenty years to confess – and to some degree the task was easy, for the man he was today, frail, weak, sick … was indeed a costume. No more than a manifestation that softened the defining edges of his personality and the angry man he perhaps once was – for Bones was right, it was his word against a dead woman's – it was the perfect crime until that ugly skull fracture was found and all bets were off.
Wicker cleared his throat and swallowed – his Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he raked his spindly fingers through his white-gray hair – he smiled weakly and picked up the paper cup in front of him and brought it to his lips. He took a long sip and set the cup down, his grayish eyes glistened against the dim interior lighting.
"The beginning," he cackled softly, shaking his head. "I wish I could go back … go back in time and … follow my instincts," he mused, flicking his eyes to Booth. "Something you two know an awful lot about," he sighed heavily, his eyes volleying between Bones and Booth, sizing the partners up.
Bones smiled and nodded to both men, the space suddenly so quiet, the distracting barrage of cable news turned off now as the trio pondered one another and focused on the task at hand.
"I met the love of my life in nineteen-sixty," Wicker began. "I had just closed my first commercial real estate deal, it was big, even back then – I was young, twenty-five, my whole life spread before me – I had time … I had my youth … and my wits about me," he recalled wistfully. He smiled and his dull eyes brighten up briefly. He blinked and continued. "Sophia, my true love, her life was somewhat tragic before we met," he sighed and cleared his throat. "Her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was just sixteen and I knew, though I didn't know her well, I knew she'd had a rough time," he offered thoughtfully. "But by the time we met, she was putting herself through school, she was so bright, studying literature, she was so smart, but it didn't phase her, you know?" he asked, locking his eyes on Brennan's. She smiled with acknowledgement. "Anyway, we fell in love straight away, we barely knew one another, but … it just felt right, it was … magical … when I think of it now, that time in my life – those first five or six weeks we spent together – it was the best time in my entire life …," he whispered, his voice trailing off with uncertainty.
Booth cleared throat and shifted forward in his seat, confused … didn't he marry this woman and later 'murder' her? He cocked his head and was about to ask when he felt Brennan's warm hand on his, he turned to her and she shook her head, 'no, don't', she said with her eyes and he obliged.
Wicker sighed heavily and pressed on, his watery gaze meeting Booth's for a beat before he spoke. "So we were very much in love and very soon engaged to be married, we planned to go to city hall, my parents and younger brother were to be there … and Sophia's sister Ruth, whom I hadn't met yet and though I sensed there was some tension there, between Sophia and her sister, I didn't push …," he sighed heavily, choking on his words. "I just … I thought we had so much time together to … I don't know, I thought I would help her mend this relationship – I thought we would do it together – for their youth was marred their parents death and I just wanted to help," he breathed, breaking down, he cradled his woeful head in his hands.
Booth looked to Brennan, but her eyes were glassy too and all he could do was sit in his seat and wait. He tilted his head and reached for the box of tissues that sat on the credenza behind him. He set them on the table. Mr. Wicker raised his eyes and pulled two or three free. He nodded and so did Booth.
"So, I guess you're wondering where all this went so wrong somehow …," he said softly. "Well, everything was just fine … I had closed on the house we were set to move into, where I still reside today … and Sophia had moved in while I stayed on in an apartment I had previously leased – for we were rather old-fashioned – despite the fast-pace of our engagement," he mused thoughtfully. "So … at any rate, with our wedding only week away, this seemed logical to us … so we moved her things in and I went off on a last minute business trip," he sighed, sudden tears splashed along his cheeks. He shook his head and dabbed his eyes with the tissues. "I think, well … now of course I know … this was the last time I saw my Sophia …," he whispered, completely caught up in the past.
"So … what happened?" Booth found himself asking, suddenly so intrigued, his own voice barely registered as it filled the room.
"Ruth happened," Wicker answered bluntly. He locked his eyes with Booth's. "I should have known," he shook his head. "What man … what kind of man does it make me? That I didn't do something? Or say something!" he exclaimed harshly, suddenly full of life and fury.
"Take your time Mr. Wicker," Bones soothed from her seat. "We want to figure out what happened, just like you do," she encouraged.
"So when you came back from your trip … did you get married?" Booth asked. "You said this was last time you saw Sophia …," he prompted.
"It was Agent Booth, it was the last time I saw Sophia … and yes, I did get married that very next week," he clarified, swallowing hard. "I married Ruth, but I didn't … know, I had no idea," he cried, a steady stream of tears cascaded down his weathered face.
Booth stared Wicker, confusion etched along his handsome features. He turned to Bones but she was too far-gone, also lost in all that could have been. He turned his attention back to the sorrowful man.
"See … this is where the dream of my life and what I imagined it would have been with Sophia somehow became something else entirely … with Ruth," he swallowed, stealing a look at Booth. "Agent Booth, Sophia and Ruth were identical twins," he reported evenly.
"Twins," Booth repeated, swiftly locking his eyes on Brennan's.
She nodded in assent. "Mistaken identity," she confirmed, giving credence to his wildest thoughts.
"The bones …," Seeley whispered. Wicker's eyes flicked up, his face ashen, he was wasted, his lips quivered. Booth turned to Brennan and spoke quietly. "Old, but … not old enough," he finished softly so as not to upset the grieving man. Brennan smiled tightly and nodded.
Wicker sighed heavily and the partners turned back to him. "Of course I didn't know this at the time – I didn't know Sophia and Ruth were identical twins until Ruth told me herself – and then I realized that their relationship was obviously more at odds than I had assumed …," he depressed sadly.
"So … what exactly happened to Sophia?" Booth asked, his mind still working over the facts, 'the bones were old, but not old enough', their earlier discussion jabbed at him.
"Well … I came back from the business trip and reunited with my Sophia, or I thought I did," he spoke softly. He raised his head and stared at Booth. "I know I should have said something … there were some obvious things about Sophia that were different, some things that a stronger, more intuitive man would have questioned …," he said pointedly, once again taking the blame for the ruin his life had become.
"You can't blame yourself Mr. Wicker," Brennan interjected.
"But here's where you're wrong Dr. Brennan," he smiled. "There is no one left to blame but myself, nothing but my weaknesses remain … well, that and the dream of what was supposed to be my life," he mused thoughtfully.
The room was quiet and everyone was lost and all of a sudden nothing was as it was – everything was different – for all of the players in one way or another, their realities and their dreams and their decisions were meshing … and it was painful.
"Agent Booth," Wicker spoke directly after another minute. "You're an intuitive man … so you tell me," he said pointedly. "I can see it in your eyes … and you're right," he pushed. "You're right … because I knew some things had changed about my Sophia – the sparkle in her eyes when I looked at her had dimmed ever so slightly and the way she looked at me was also different – but I couldn't place it, the difference …," he shook his head. "She was a happy, blushing bride-to-be, all outward appearances were the same … they were one in the same, but those small little things that make someone special to someone else – the soul mate thing – it wasn't there, it was as if it had evaporated into thin air …," he smiled sadly.
The trio looked at one another blankly, each testing the waters, each submersed in their own thoughts, wondering what could have been – the dreams, the special looks – the gamut gone, but not forgotten. Booth cleared his throat in an effort to clear his mind.
"So we married and we pressed on with our lives … and I just let those mysteries go – I got used to those small differences and for my whole life I searched for the way to bring her back to me – to bring the Sophia I first met and fell in love with … back to me," Wicker sighed. "But my reality never really became the dream I once shared with the love of my life," he stated evenly. "Even when Sophia graduated from college and was named the youngest library historian for Museum of Natural History, the spark and enthusiasm for her work and accomplishments was not there," he rambled. "Because it wasn't Sophia … rather it was Ruth," he said softly, his voice cracked around the edges.
"Ruth happened," Booth breathed upon his conclusion.
"Yes … and … twenty years ago, Ruth confessed to me … it was just a regular day in our lives, I had retired and she worked part time and it was one of her mornings off," he whispered, his eyes glassy, he was focused, but also in some far away place. "She came into our bedroom with a large box I had never seen before, it was dusty, years of dust …," he heaved. "She told me that … she wasn't Sophia … but that her name was Ruth and that she and Sophia were identical twins," he heaved, no doubt reliving the moments. "She showed their birth certificates to me and some baby photos … and some other things…," he wept, no thought to holding himself back. "She defended herself of course, laying out her reasons for what she'd done – mostly out of fear – she said that she knew Sophia would never leave her like their parents did, but that she could tell she was losing her and she was scared to be all alone in the world – 'truly orphaned' as she put it – and she pleaded with me to try to understand … but …," he heaved, his voice trailing off as he shook his head. "But … I was betrayed, furiously angry and I'm not an angry man … but I unleashed upon her, this woman with whom I shared my life with – this woman who's eyes never sparkled for me the way her sister's did – I set loose upon her the devil inside of me …," he cried, sorrowful tears, real and big, sobbing, though he tried so hard to maintain a level of decorum. Crumbling in the end, he was broken, beaten by the betrayal. He looked up and wiped his tears away. "I'm not an angry man," he repeated. "But … I was enraged and I know I scared Ruth and her heart gave out and right there in that moment, she died, right in front of me … and I … for as long as I shall live … I will never forget the horrifying depths I saw within her eyes as I watched the dim sparkle I had forced myself to love … burn out for good … ," he sniffled, pressing his hand over his heart. "She died and I never did find out exactly what happened to Sophia, other than the unimaginable," he whispered, his voice rasped with unearthed emotion.
"Mr. Wicker," Booth shook his head, his mind wild with all of the facts and insinuations. "I need to know … in no uncertain terms … did Ruth kill Sophia?" he asked, trying to find a way to diffuse the man's heartache … and just get it over with.
Wicker convulsed, his whole body trembling now as he sat in the semi-darkness and wept unto himself, his soft cries moving through the room along with the short, still shadows.
"Yes, she did …," he admitted, nodding furiously for a beat.
Wicker swallowed hard, pulling another handful of tissues from the box upon the table, he wiped his eyes – still gray and unsure and red-rimmed – he was a lost soul, still very much heartbroken and betrayed.
Booth turned to find Bones sitting quietly, her eyes also wet, she tilted her head up and looked away from him and his scrutiny. But he leaned forward and met her fiery blue eyes, now ablaze with sorrow and confusion … and a spark of something else.
For as she looked at him … she saw him … and he saw her … his soul mate … and he'd be a liar and a coward if he said it wasn't … magical.
A little more than an hour later the partners flanked Henry Wicker as they stood in front of his expansive Victorian home. Booth turned around to survey the upscale neighborhood, taking in the hullabaloo of Halloween decorations blowing in the chilly air, hours of time and energy spent on the pleasure of scaring kids to death. Well, maybe not to death … 'what a day, what day it's been' was all he could think as he watched Temperance disappear around the side of the house with Wicker. He shrugged his shoulders against the cold and fell in line.
"Like I said, the house was built with two bomb shelters," Wicker reported as Booth approached. He pointed to a set of hatch doors … they too were identical. "This morning, I went into this one here," he motioned, his hand shaking. "So, we should start with the other one then," he added softly.
"No time like the present," Booth said as he ushered forward and pulled on the door, heaving it up and back as he did.
"There should be a light there, on the right," Wicker said from behind him as he took one or two steps into the dark, musty depths below the ground.
"I see it," Booth answered, pulling on the chain, a dull light shone on the next few steps, barely illuminating the small shelter below.
"Dr. Brennan, if you'll help me, I can … I'll lead you right to her …," Wicker murmured as he followed Booth.
Booth turned around and watched his partner take Mr. Wicker by the forearm and they began to descend, she raised her eyes and held him inside the moment, smiling weakly wherein that smile told him everything he needed to know – she was uncomfortable – and not because she was scared, but because she knew as well as he did that this case could haunt the pair of them. He smiled tightly trying his best to allay her fears, but it was no use, for he was scared himself.
The cold, damp air swirled around him as Bones and Wicker came to stand with him, one small bulb illuminated above them, the natural light outside fading fast. He took a sharp breath in and rubbed his hands together. Wicker glanced at him and shook his head.
"I … I put her here," he whispered, making his confession real as he pointed to a small below ground storage area. He swallowed hard and bent down, almost falling to his knees, coughing as a halo of dust particulates began to dance in the thick air all around him.
"Why don't I do that," Brennan suggested, squatting down next to him.
"We can do it together," the old man answered.
Booth knelt down as well and they opened the second hatch – pungent, musty and warmer air wafted up, moving inside an invisible current – the trio coughed and Wicker almost fell down. "She's there, back in the corner, I wrapped her inside several wool blankets, I wrapped … and wrapped her," he cried, standing briefly wherein he righted himself. Tears welled in his eyes and he swallowed hard as a group of men came to stand in the doorway above them.
"Agent Booth," one of them called down.
"Give us a minute fellas," he ordered, also standing, shoulder to shoulder with Henry Wicker.
"They are coroners Henry," he assured. "But they know to take her to Dr. Brennan's lab, is that all right with you?" he asked, making eye contact with grieving man.
"Yes … Sophia … I can't believe she was here, under this house … all this time – I lived with her buried here for fifty-five years – and only now does the house feel … empty," he sighed heavily and cleared his throat. He pointed to Ruth's remains. "Now with both of them truly … gone … this place is a shell," he mused sadly, one tear fell and then another. "We had no children … but I always felt that she would be enough – even though I was chasing the dream – I made her enough, Ruth … I made her enough," he mused thoughtfully.
Booth shifted on his feet, his eyes darting around the small cavern – it was virtually untouched – exactly how everyone who had a bomb shelter expected it to look like … barren … dark … shielded from the evils of the world, or this case, holding them captive.
Wicker turned to Bones. "I thought I was finally doing something that Sophia would have wanted me to do … intellect to intellect … she would have appreciated Ruth's bones … going to you," he sighed, his eyes moving to Booth's. "I know … Agent Booth, I know I'm not above the law … but … Dr. Brennan, she's something special, just like my … girl … was," he sniffled.
"I sense that …," Booth smiled genuinely, his eyes landing on Brennan's for a beat. "We'll handle this … Bones will do her work up on Ruth's remains and we'll get the cause of death … and I'm sure it wasn't entirely your fault," he sighed.
Bones smiled and came to stand next to Henry. "If it isn't too much for you … I'd like to look in that other shelter, I'm hoping … for your sake, that we might find the murder weapon …," her voice trailed off. "As I told you … Sophia suffered a … powerful blow to the base of her skull, I'm hoping Ruth left some evidence behind," she said softly.
"Yes of course, take all the time you need, Dr. Brennan, for I do so hope you find what we all so desperately … need," he whispered, his voice so soft, it barely registered.
The partners helped Mr. Wicker ascend the steps, taking care of the breathless and tired and grieving old man as they did. They stepped over the threshold and into the late afternoon light – each inhaling a large breath of fresh air as the house became a crime scene – each closing their eyes in deep thought, for there was a lot to think about.
Booth called the coroners over and introduced Henry to the agent he had assigned to surveil him whilst Bones would work up her case and hopefully clear his name … on both accounts of homicide. Brennan squeezed Wicker's shoulders before she slipped on some gloves and descended into the second shelter. The men stood together and watched her go – courageous, detail orientated and brilliant – they felt sure, she would come up with what they all so desperately needed.
Later that night, Booth closed Henry Wicker's file – his eyes darted to his clock, he was late – late enough that he even considered scrapping the Halloween party. He sighed heavily and stood, pressing his palms to his desk to ground himself – tomorrow they would have to deal with the fallout, with Wicker and within their own selves – because now he knew just why Bones was so provoked by this case. It hit close to home, very close and for them, it was a bit too close, for the facts of the case tugged on their banner of avoidance and upset the compartmentalized balance of their lives.
Gathering up his things, Booth shut his laptop down and stepped away from the mess upon his desk. His cell phone vibrated – it was Hannah, again – he ignored the call and clicked the lights off and stood in the dark for a moment where no one could find him. He grabbed his coat and slipped outside and closed the door.
The bar was loud and unruly by the time he got there – a sea of varying textiles all meshed together, burlap, taffeta, rayon, polyester, black, black and more black – he stood tall and scanned the perimeter, his eyes falling on the point of every witch hat for a beat before he moved on – Dorothy (Angela), Toto (Hodgins), the Tin Man (Sweets), Glinda, the Good Witch (Cam), the Wizard (Caroline) and Auntie Em (Daisy, should she grace Sweets with her presence) were nowhere in sight – he stepped into the crowd, still looking for any number of distinguishing costume pieces … a tail, a hat, a wand … when all he really wanted to do was bolt.
The air was thick and smelled of stale beer and peanuts, he stepped further into the throngs of drunken party-goers and finally spotted Caroline perched at the other side of the bar. He made his way there and slid next to her, she turned her stool and smirked.
"You're late and you forgot your costume," she boomed over the crowd, her blue velvet Wizard's cape and the large flounce of her hat did nothing to smooth her rough exterior.
"And you're so wise and insightful, the Wizard I always thought you'd be," he teased, nudging her with his elbow. He sighed. "I am late … and I conveniently forgot the rest," he kidded.
"Don't sweat it," she cackled. "Angela and Hodgins left, so have Dr. Sweets and Dr. Saroyan … so I think you're safe, until tomorrow, and by then … this will all be forgotten," she declared evenly. She took a sip of her drink and motioned to the bartender to bring her two more of whatever was in her glass.
He chuckled at her antics. "And Hannah and Bones?" he asked, turning to look over his shoulder.
The bartender set the two tumblers down in front of Caroline and turned to go. "They're over there playing darts," she reported. "And this is for you because you look like you need it," she raised the glass for him.
"Again … very astute," he smiled, tipping his glass against hers. The pair was silent for a beat, his eyes moving toward the dartboard at the rear of the place and spotted what must have been the headdress of Brennan's costume.
"You better go over there," Caroline said after a minute.
"Yeah," Booth answered, taking another sip of the amber elixir. "Thanks for the drink … can I get you one?" he asked.
"No … you go on," she smiled. "We'll talk tomorrow, I'm sure," she added. Booth pressed his lips together into a thin line, tomorrow. He sighed and turned to go, pressing his hand to Caroline's forearm as he did. He set eyes upon his destination and focused.
"Watch out for those daggers Booth," he heard Caroline cackle as he began to walk away.
He shook his head and smiled – the alcohol already doing it's job, that plus the emotional stress of the day, coupled with Henry's case – we'll it was exhausting and the fact remained, he did not want to be here. He wanted to be alone and ponder what this all meant because he needed answers and he didn't want to stop himself from looking for them anymore. He wanted the dream, his heart squeezed in his chest. He moved closer to the rear of the space, alive with life and orchestrated cheer. He spotted the tip of Hannah's witch hat as she moved slowly toward the long hallway that led to the bathrooms.
Booth turned to follow her – but then he stopped when he spotted Brennan's large mane – and therein she stopped too and much like they seemed to do from time to time, they shared a moment … she looking at him and he at her, the world all around them falling away like a vase on a high shelf during an earthquake.
He raised his hand and smiled broadly and she waved too, his heart skipping a beat much like it always did when he first saw her again, those old feelings resurfacing, fighting their way to the top while he did his best to suppress them. He swallowed hard and felt his eyes soften around edges, his heart slowing down and into a rhythm he saved just for her. And just like that … his world was re-aligned.
He blinked and made to turn, but spotted a blank look in her eyes – one he hadn't seen before – and before he knew it, he realized that something was different. And it wasn't the abundance of make-up spread upon her face – it was something else entirely – and then he knew that things between them had changed … the case … the players … the outcome changed the way she saw him and he wondered what she saw now: a coward? A man who should never have given up on her and all that she did to him?
She shook her head and stood her ground and he watched her turn around and away from him. But he stayed there still for a moment longer, tilting his head as he regarded her over the drunken debauchery all around them. He looked down and thought to approach her, but reconsidered and raised his head, completely dismayed to see that she too was hesitating. She waved one last time, the fire in her eyes gone and then she turned around and walked away from him.
Emotion clogged his veins and he felt bereft for a lost beat in time – feeling the urge to connect and to ground himself – he set upon the task of locating Hannah, for he just wanted to wager in on his choice, this cognitive choice he made to be with her … to have this relationship with her. He entered the long, dark hallway and spotted a triangle of light as it presented itself when the door to the ladies' room opened. Hannah stepped into the darkness, the hat; the prize of her costume had skulls and crossbones along the brim and she loved it. He smiled and was suddenly upon her, catching only a glimpse of her eyes through her mask.
And that was the last thing he saw before he covered her mouth with his in a series of searing kisses, her lips swollen immediately from his touch, her fists upon his hips where she pulled him toward her, snaking her hand around his waist. He deepened their union, and within another few seconds he knew that she too, felt different. But he had no care because he felt her succumb to him and it felt good to be wanted – she opened her mouth to his and lapped at his tongue, massaging his nerves with hers like never before, she was hungry for him – and therein he lost himself deep inside her euphoric bliss, suddenly no match for her power-hold on him – for he never felt this way with her before – for she felt different! She was familiar, but entirely different and overwhelmingly compatible for the first time … and then just like a tidal wave: it hit him.
"Temperance," he whispered against her hot mouth – unhinged at the thought of the surreptitious costume swap, 'why, why, why' – his chant banged around his head as he kissed her.
"Booth," she breathed, brushing her lips against his one last time before he kissed her again, pulse, pulse, her proximity just too close to squander.
He swallowed hard and pressed his forehead to hers, straining to see her familiar sparkling eyes in the dark – blinking hard, hoping and praying this wasn't some kind of elaborate dream of his psyche – his head spun and he cradled her beautiful skull in his hands. Her breathing was stacked while the rasp of his own breath played in harmony with hers … and then he felt it: that familiar surge undeniable energy that belonged solely to Temperance Brennan … that unyielding connectivity he shared with no other … the pure unadulterated stuff of magic.
"I have to go," she husked into their heat, rolling out his embrace before she disappeared into the night.
Booth's head literally spun as he dared himself to open the door to his apartment, having searched the bar high and low for the witch and then the cowardly lioness and then witch again … and then for Bones, Bones, Bones – but he came up empty, both women had fled the scene – he slipped the key into place and turned it, cracking the door just a sliver before he realized all of the lights were on.
He stepped inside – pieces of the Cowardly Lion were scattered all over the place – he set his keys down on the table by the door and slipped his coat off, sighing into the private enclave of his place in the world. He took a deep breath and let the day's events just fall way, just for a minute, it was all he needed. He exhaled, he felt disconnected, misaligned …his head was all over the place and he didn't know quite where to start. He slipped his shoes off.
Just then Hannah walked into the living room with one of her small bags. She smiled tightly, her long blond locks likely matted to her head from the costume; a thin layer of her make-up still adorned her pretty face. He swallowed hard and watched her stuff some things into another small bag, her movements hurried, but not aggressive.
"I … we need to talk," he said, meeting her gaze.
"I did it," she confessed softly, interrupting him. "I asked Temperance to switch costumes with me," she smiled weakly.
"Hannah –" he started, but she held her hand up for him to stop.
"Seeley," she sighed, looking up at him, her eyes red-rimmed, watery and soulful. "I just wanted to see – the silly woman in me, the jealous one, wanted to know – just for a split-second what it might feel like for you to look at me the way … you look at her," she swallowed hard, small flecks of sadness washed over her eyes, adding yet another facet he'd never seen before.
"I'm sorry," he said, moving closer, he folded her in the wide envelope of his arms and rocked her for a beat, his chin resting on the top of her head. He closed his eyes.
"Don't be," she whispered, her voice cracked. "You love her, you've been in love with her – and her look, the one you save for her – it isn't enough for me … and I can't love you enough for both of us," she breathed, he felt her doing her best to ease the quake of her voice.
"No, you can't," he admitted sadly. "And … I don't think you should try," he said softly.
"I have to go, Seeley … I have to," she said, picking up her bags.
"It's the middle of the night," he countered, locking his eyes with hers.
"I have an early flight in the morning, I'm going back to Afghanistan … if I stay … without you … this life here, makes no sense to me," she admitted with a small smile. "I think it's for the best, for me … if I go," she said thoughtfully. "So … I'll just say it … good-bye … good luck Seeley," she said when she reached the doorway.
"Be safe," he said, hugging her one last time, saying a silent prayer for as he did, 'please, please, let her be safe and happy.'
And then, just like she appeared in his life, quite literally out of nowhere, she disappeared … gone now, but not forgotten.
And that was how life sometimes happened, things changed and the playing field became leveled – and a clean slate was drawn up – because people grow and evolve and perhaps end up chasing the dreams they see so readily in their mind's eye whilst they sleep. And even though sleep never came for Seeley Booth on that eve of Halloween 2010 – he dared himself to dream – and to follow his instincts … when morning came.
Presently he stood in front of Brennan's apartment door, the chilly morning air clinging to his clothing, two piping hot cups of coffee sat nestled in a to-go tray. He heaved a sigh and felt the fatigue set further into his eyes as he rang her doorbell. It was early, the sun was barely up, but he knew she probably had a rough night too, he also knew they needed to talk … and he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer … no more avoidance.
He heard her footsteps and knew she would know it was him before she peeked into the peephole – the door clicked – and she opened it and stood before him enveloped in the thick chenille of her robe. She smiled and pressed her lips together and invited him in without a single word. He followed her inside and quickly surveyed her space, everything was seemingly in order, though he knew she'd slept terribly – the short shadows under her typically bright and fearless eyes confirmed that much – he smiled and set the tray down on the coffee table before he slipped his coat off and turned around to face her.
"This doesn't have to awkward," she stated, tilting her head.
She sat down on the sofa and smiled up at him but her vacillating eyes betrayed her – for she couldn't hide from him – she knew it and he knew it. He sat down next to her and pulled her coffee cup free, handing the olive branch to her. She swallowed hard and he felt her energy – nervous, unsure, insecure – everything she disliked about how human he made her feel.
He exhaled and found her free hand wedged between them, he rested his palm there on top of her hand and felt her lean his way – she smelled of flowers, her skin warm and dewy and he knew she'd just showered and blown her hair dry – she exhaled too before she set her coffee cup down and slipped her hand free from his. She stood up; making her way across the space to her windows, dawn about to break. He watched her flee with nowhere to go.
"Say something," she pleaded softly from her spot.
Booth stood up and crossed the room and came to stand behind her – vowing to himself to push her, just enough – to not let her fears get the better of her when it came to this connection between them. She was scared and he got that, but he just didn't want fear to be the catalyst of her giving up on him anymore. He inched closer, feeling her billowy heat as he laid his hands upon the soft texture of her robe. She leaned back and into him wherein he found her eyes in the reflection of the dark glass in front of them.
"You kissed me back," he whispered, he felt her tremble under his touch.
"It was just yesterday … with Henry … and Sophia … and Ruth … and you … and me … and Hannah … it was a lot," she replied. "It was too much," she rambled, locking her eyes on the reflection of his.
"It's okay," he reassured, drawing her near.
"No …," she refuted, the sky became lighter still.
"Yes …," he countered gently, losing sight of the reflection of her eyes, the purple haze of dawn spread before them. "Come here," he whispered, turning her in arms, he held her close, feeling the tension in her body ebb briefly before he spoke again. "Bones, yesterday … it was an eye-opener," he began, he felt her shudder. "I don't want us to end up like them … a case of mistaken identity …," he sighed, his chest tight, constricting around his heart, pinch, pinch.
"Seeley –" she began softly on the verge of her protests.
"No," he put an end to those unannounced fears, pulling back from their embrace; he moved her hair away from her heart-shaped face. "I want you … there is no mistaking it," he breathed, watching her blue eyes grow wide, and though he spotted a certain amount of alarm etched within … he also saw something else: relief. "You have to trust me on this," he said, melting a little bit as he looked at her … and she looked at him. "Because … I think … when you're ready to admit to it … you'll let yourself want me too," he mused thoughtfully, pressing his forehead to hers.
"I do trust you," she whispered into their confessional. He felt her succumb to his hold her. "It's me I don't trust," she clarified. She swallowed hard and exhaled. "I could be the end of you … the 'you', you are … the 'you' who means so much to me," she murmured. "I could break you Booth and I don't know if I want to allow that to happen to you … I don't want me to happen to you," she sighed breathlessly, pushing herself away from him.
She rolled out his embrace and stepped away, running her hands through her brown locks, smoothing them back and away. She pushed out a breath and he watched her shake her head but Booth only smiled, for this is what he did to her – he tipped her world the side, much like she did to his – and therein they were one unto each other, mirrors, reflections … soul mates.
"But you already happened to me Temperance," he soothed with a knowing smile. He stepped even closer to her. "Don't you see that … years ago – you happened to me – and maybe I'm this version of myself today, the one that means so much to you … because of you …," he sighed, inching closer, he wrapped his arms around her and held her close.
The partners stood together then for a long while, or maybe just a few minutes. The new world fell away as they held on tight, each on the precipice of this soul mate thing they could not deny or ignore any longer. She became pliant in his arms and he lulled and rocked her, cradling her like a newborn baby.
"And what of Hannah?" she asked, her cheek to his chest, her ear over his heart.
"She left," he announced. "She tested me, I don't know what she told you, but she tested me and I failed," he sighed, his mind landing on the kiss they shared the night before.
"She didn't give a reason," Temperance offered, her cheek still pressed against his chest, her fists pinned to his hips. "She wanted to switch costumes and I agreed – you know I was only dressing up for the archaic holiday to appease Angela – you know that," she whispered, moving one arm around his waist.
Silence consumed the would-be lovers then, neither one willing to say anything just yet, Booth focused on how Temperance felt in his arms – he felt more and more complete as their embrace lingered well beyond their normal limitations – he felt as though she belonged right where she was and he only hoped she felt an ounce of what he felt, for if she did, she surely wouldn't turn a blind eye, 'please, please', he prayed … 'let her feel this', he whispered into that special place of his faith.
"So where does this leave us?" she asked softly after another minute.
"I don't know," he answered, beyond thrilled that she was even considering this thing they started, but had no will to stop. He ducked down and raised her chin with his fingertips; for 'eye to eye' was where he wanted her. He smiled down at her. "All I know is that … kissing you and the surge of what I felt when you pushed back … all I know is that … it was magical," he sighed, finding with ease now that sparkle set deep inside the ocean of her eyes, that sparkle that belonged to him.
"Magical," she sighed with a small smile as she held on tight. "Just like what Henry felt when he looked at Sophia?" she asked softly with anticipation.
"Yeah, just like that," he whispered, ducking his head down, his eyes narrowed and his breathing became stacked and hot, ricocheting off of the tufts of her breathless heaves. "Kiss me back again Temperance," he husked into their heat.
And so she did – she kissed him, long and hard and soft and easy – completely uninhabited now as she acquiesced to their energy wherein he felt suddenly aligned in triplicate: mind, body and spirit. Cradling his partner … his best friend … his everything as he kissed her, brushing his tongue along hers, demanding more and more from her as their mouths made love on this cold November morning where neither one would dare turn away from the sparkles set deep inside the eyes of their souls … those sparkles that belonged irrevocably to one another.
Less than a week later, the partners and lovers and everything in between … stood with only Henry Wicker, their catalyst, between them. The man was cleared of all charges upon the discovery of a sledgehammer fully adorned with Ruth's fingerprints and remnants of Sophia's blood. And the ruling that Ruth's death – while perhaps instigated by Henry's rage – was indeed the result of a heart attack, natural causes, the final note in the case file. And so it was that he was free on all accounts and perhaps in the most important of ways – he was free to rest easy – his spirituality finally intact.
And so here they remained, the cold November wind barreling over them without discrimination, the sun high in the cloudy sky, the conditions unpredictable as the two caskets were eased into the earth right before their eyes. Booth felt Henry quake slightly wherein Bones drew him near. The cemetery attendants made eye contact with Booth and he politely dismissed them with a nod. They sauntered away and he found himself drawn to pick up one of the nearby shovels. He found Henry's haunted eyes as he offered the tool to him. The frail old man swallowed hard and took the shovel from him.
"You know, for a long time I lived with some perpetual force of pain, it was a dull ache … it was the fear of the unknown …," he said softly, his words intermittent with the sound of the damp earth as it fell into the well of the shallow graves of his wife and her beloved sister. He looked up and scanned the partners, his wet, gray eyes hollow with remorse and regret. "And now there's this massive void … the pieces are all put together … but I feel like I've been torn apart," he wept, sticking the shovel into the earth with as much force as he could muster.
Booth approached Henry, flicking his eyes to Brennan's briefly where he found and kept his solace. She smiled and also approached the gravesite with him. Booth draped his arm along the old man's trim shoulders and gave him a gentle squeeze. "You don't have to do this, you know," he soothed. "Don't you think you've done enough?" he asked softly. "Let yourself heal Henry… walk away … walk away from here knowing that you did right by your true love, Sophia," he urged, watching now as his grip slackened on the shovel. He waited another few seconds before he began to turn the grieving man away from the ugliness of the gravesite.
The trio began to walk away then – Booth now flanked by Henry and Temperance – his arm still draped along Henry's shoulders, Temperance's fingers laced through his free hand. He squeezed, just to connect and she squeezed back.
His life had changed – all of their lives had – and much as he believed in true love and soul mates, he also believed that all of this change was destined to happen, even if it was at Henry's eleventh hour, because now he could live out the rest of his days in relative peace … a peace he hadn't been privy to in a long, long time. And it was a beautiful thing. He could rest easy and so could Booth and so could Temperance – for they were free – finally free from those unfulfilled dreams that somehow had become their realities … the shell of the lives they really wanted.
"You did right by her Henry," Booth whispered. "And look at it this way –now you can dream about her, freely – knowing that the look she saved for you hadn't changed or disappeared after all," he soothed, they walked some more. "Just … do what I always did," he said softly, squeezing Brennan's hand again. "Let the sparkle you always loved so much lull you to sleep every night," he advised before making a sidelong glance at his new lover.
Henry smiled tightly as they kept walking far and away from all the pain and alienation he had lived with for so long. "That sounds like a nice idea Agent Booth," he replied, keeping his eyes trained on the horizon.
"It does," Brennan agreed as she locked her eyes on Booth's wherein he found and captured and held onto that glorious sparkle set deep inside of her eyes … wherein she had miraculously become his … living dream.