Her foster father gave her the look as soon as she walked through the door.
Inebriated again, she thought as she cringed, abruptly realising that her stomach felt like it had disappeared and her palms had begun to prickle with sweat. Next thing she knew she had put down her bag and books and retreated from the room. Deciding not to resist her initial impulses she blurted out - "I'm going for a run," before grabbing a jacket and running out the door, ignoring the startled looks of her neighbours as the door slammed shut, a mixture of intrigued, confused and admonishing gazes following her as she bolted.
Zach sighed as he flung the frisbee across the lawn again, watching his dog – well not his dog, but his unofficially adopted stray - fetch it once more. His siblings were all at a party, and while an invite had been extended to him he didn't feel right going knowing that he was only invited out of obligation. So he had stayed at home with his mother. And his dog.
After hearing a sudden bang he looked up just in time to catch Temperance starting to break into a run.
"Hi T! Where are you going?"
Slowing somewhat, she tossed him a half-hearted smile and replied, "Going for a run."
He tossed a disgruntled look towards his house – ordinarily he would have been perfectly content burrowing his nose in a book, but doing so when all his siblings were gone seemed to emphasise his isolation. Mind made up, he looked up eagerly and hesitantly asked, "Can I come?"
She briefly hesitated in contemplation, before shrugging and nodding her assent. As irritated as she might be with her current situation, there was no reason to take it out on Zach who had been nothing but sweet and attentive to her, despite her being different. Even if his acceptance of her was probably borne mostly out of how different he was himself.
He quickly stuck his head in the doorway to ask for permission; grinning when his mother hollered back, "Okay Zachary. But bring him back before dinner Temperance."
She smiled unwittingly, the tension in her torso and the pounding in her head easing slightly, "Of course, Mrs. Addy. Just to the park and back."
Just as the sun was starting to set, they came to a stop in front of the Addy household once more. Temperance immediately noted Zach's dampening expression as he heard the sound of his siblings laughing boisterously, apparently quite enthused from the party they had attended.
"Why are you sad?" she asked curiously. At age 7, despite his advanced mental ability, his 'lost upset little boy' look - with his eyebrows pinched in a confusion and turmoil, and lips forming a slight pout – invariably elicited her concern. It didn't help that his rather small skinny frame made him seem younger than he actually was.
Zach gazed back at her, immediately trying to school a neutral expression on his face. "I'm not," he replied as he attempted a feeble smile.
She raised an eyebrow in response, a mixture of concern and disbelief.
He relented, "I'm different."
She nodded accepting the statement, "Yes you are," she acknowledged, "Why do you imply that it is a bad thing?"
He shrugged disheartened by her immediate agreement, "I don't fit in."
She nodded again, eyebrows pinching and imitating his as she grimaced in contemplation, unaware that her expression was further deepening his melancholy mood.
He shrugged as he mumbled a goodbye and shuffled towards his house, making it halfway up the path before she spoke again.
"Nobody fits in Zach," she laughed bitterly and self-deprecatingly, "I would know."
He turned around in alarm; an apology beginning to form on his lips, fearing he had offended her. He knew fragments about how she'd come to live next door. What right did he have to complain?
She held up a hand to stop him, and walked slowly towards him, her face clearly showing her struggle to express her thoughts, "You are different, Z. So am I. That doesn't make anything about us wrong. And it's not a bad thing." She sighed, trying to remember how her mother had so eloquently explained it to her after her father had boggled up his explanation by just detailing everybody else's faults.
After a momentary pause lost in thought, she wistfully continued, "What's important is that they care about you. They love you. And they will protect you and defend you. No matter how different you are." She felt like hypocrite saying that since she herself knew that could all change in a split second; but looking at his troubled and uncertain face she couldn't bring herself to say otherwise. Especially when she so completely hoped it was true.
Thinking briefly of Russ she softly amended, "And you have me. I can be 'different' with you whenever you want. Always. Okay?" She tried to look encouraging. Her parents had accepted her and readily encouraged her, but as great as Zach's parents were they had many more children than her own parents to focus on; and as the only one not interested in sports or television amongst the kids, despite their attempts he stuck out like a banana in an orange tree.
He gave her a small hopeful smile in return.
"Thank you Temperance," he ducked his head bashfully, before suddenly staring at her wide-eyed and awkwardly wondering aloud, "Is this an instance when hugging would be appropriate?"
She chuckled softly and raised her arms towards him, satisfied when an accomplished grin spread across his features. Boy, she forgot how therapeutic hanging out with Zach could be. Even though he was about a decade her junior, he still managed to get to her on a completely different level to everyone else.
He tentatively leaned forwards and wrapped his arms around her waist, and she tenderly returned the hug and patted his hair gently.
And out of her front window, Mrs. Addy, who had been awaiting their return, smiled.
A/N: So what do you think? It's my first Bones fic, so it'd be nice to know if it's decent or not - please review. :)