Author's Note: Just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who has read/reviewed/alerted and favorited this story. I appreciate all of you. Sorry for the wait and I promise that updates will begin to come much more quickly. Thanks again to someonetookmyname, Rynogeny, and Frankie for all of their help!
Booth kept the printout from Angela's computer in front of him as he watched the couple eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Arlington. He had been able to trace the rented SUV to the hotel they were staying at and he had been following them all day. He had watched them share a banana split sundae on the National Mall. He had seen them somberly inspect the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery and he had seen them laughing with one another during hushed conversations as they walked the streets of old DC. As they toured the Lincoln house Booth wondered if his mom was sharing her connection to the slain assassin with her companion. They'd also visited the Vietnam War Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Spy Museum before stopping to eat at Wang's Chinese Bistro.
If Booth hadn't known better he would've thought they were just tourists. But most tourists didn't rent cars under assumed names with fake credit cards or stalk FBI agents. And most of them didn't bear such a striking resemblance to his dead mother. Booth sat in his vehicle and alternated between looking at the photo and watching the couple through the window of the restaurant. He could tell that they were deeply engrossed in conversation.
"I've enjoyed today George, it's been nice getting out into the world."
George glanced over his shoulder nervously. The sounds coming from the other patrons were making him anxious. He wasn't used to crowds and today's activities had brought back memories of his anxiety filled days before The Leader had brought him to live at The Facility. George didn't have to deal with his anxieties there. He wasn't sure if he could deal with them here. He glanced at Hester's smiling face. She was lost in the memories of her boys. He knew that he would have to talk her into going back to The Facility soon otherwise it might take more than simple persuasion to lead her back where they both belonged.
"We have to go back. I'm afraid that your son is starting to get suspicious."
"I know George." Hester put another spoonful of egg drop soup into her mouth. "But it's been nice to see him, to know that he isn't dead. That's why I was brought to The Facility. Now that I know they're okay, why can't I just stay here with them?"
"Because that isn't the way it works Hester. The Leader always keeps exactly one hundred and two inhabitants. He won't allow that number to change. The only reason we got passes is because with both of us gone, he still retains an even number. And I promised him that we'd both be back. I can't function in this world. And I cannot go back there alone. He won't stand for one hundred and one."
"Stay here with me."
George shook his head. "No. This world isn't for us. We belong to The Leader now. He's always been good to you Hester. You cannot deny that." George jumped as a waiter dropped a tray, resulting in an echoing boom, right as he finished speaking.
Hester was startled by the noise as well. Noise inside The Facility was kept to a minimum and she was not used to the loud atmosphere of the busy restaurant. She calmed her nerves by sipping on her water.
"Why did he let me think my sons were dead?" She was finding it hard to reconcile the loving man she felt The Leader to be with someone who could perpetuate such a large and cruel lie.
"Perhaps he didn't know. Your husband may have lied to him as well."
The waiter presented them with the check and asked if they'd be paying with Visa or Discover. George and Hester exchanged confused glances. She spoke first. "You don't take cash here?"
"Of course we do, it's just not very often that anyone offers cash these days." The waiter was finding the odd habits of the couple at table fourteen amusing. He couldn't wait to regale his girlfriend later with the tale of how they demanded he take away the third chair from the table before they would sit.
As their waiter left to get their change, Hester continued their conversation about The Leader. "You are correct, George, that he has been good to me. If it hadn't been for him I never would've survived after I lost my boys. But now I have the chance to get them back. The Leader will understand."
George sighed. He wasn't nearly as optimistic. "He is a very powerful man Hester. What if he doesn't understand?"
Hester refused to let herself answer his question.
Booth watched as the pair finished their dinner and climb into the SUV to drive back toward DC. He parked a few spots over from them in the parking lot of the Marriott where they were staying.
Flashing his badge, he asked the man at the counter for the room number of George Santora. Without missing a beat, the clerk complied. His customers' privacy aside, he didn't want to be mixed up with an FBI investigation.
"Rooms 320 and 328 are both registered in that name sir."
"Do you have a name for the occupant of the other room?"
He never looked up as he clicked on his keyboard, "Hester, she didn't give a last name. I remember these two, kinda strange, they insisted I put them in even numbered rooms. She threw a fit when I assigned her to 321 at first."
Booth barely registered the rest of the information; he had stopped listening when he had heard his mother's first name. It was the last piece of evidence he needed to convince himself that this woman was his mother. He knew that his father was a lying bastard but to hide this from his sons? How could anyone do that to their own children? He had to confront this woman tonight.
He phoned Brennan and told her to eat dinner without him that he'd be home late. She was worried but she understood what he had to do, and she was ready for them to get to the bottom of this.
Booth ate a snack in the common kitchenette of the hotel while he tried to figure out the best way to confront his mother. He debated knocking on her door but he had no way of knowing if she was alone or not, and he didn't want to take the chance of being outnumbered. Booth sat there for hours, earning only occasional glances from the hotel staff. Apparently the clerk who he had spoken with had filled them in on his FBI status.
It was nearly midnight when he finally got his break. He had just gotten off the phone with Brennan when he saw his mother walking down the stairs and toward a vending machine.
"I know who you are," Booth said as he cornered her.
"I don't think you do." Hester wanted to gather her boy in her arms but George's warnings echoed in her mind and faced with her now grown son, she found her faith that The Leader was harmless waned.
"You're my mother."
"No, you're mistaken. I'm not anyone's mother." Since she had first seen him that night through the window of his home she had imagined this moment. But standing here now, she knew that she couldn't tell him the truth. She loved him too much to put him in any more danger.
"Then why are you following me and my family?"
"You must have the wrong person sir."
"I saw you. You and your friend were outside my house, and my office. You told my fiancée that you liked the ring Hank gave her, you played with my daughter. Don't lie to me. I think I've already been lied to enough."
There were tears in her eyes as she spoke, "I'm not lying, I'm not your mother. You need to leave now."
"Tell me why you're watching us."
"I can't. I won't bother you again. I promise. Please, just leave this alone. You don't know what this is."
"That's obvious. I have no idea what the hell is going on here. Why can't you just tell me?"
"If I tell you; we'll all be in danger."
"I thought you were dead."
"I thought you-" she stopped midsentence, catching herself before she said anything else that she shouldn't. "I'm sorry, I wish I had answers for you but I, I'm not who you think I am."
She pushed past him and ran back up the stairs. Booth stood in the hallway now convinced that this woman was his mother but even more confused as to why she was lying to him. Before he turned to leave he noticed a crumpled piece of tissue paper lying in the floor. He wasn't sure if it belonged to the lady who he thought was his mother, but he picked it up anyway.
Hester watched her son from the stairwell of the hotel. Had he chosen to follow her, he would have easily caught up to her. She was glad that he hadn't. She had been in The Facility since before the prevalence of DNA identification and the inhabitants weren't kept up on scientific advances. So when she saw her son pick up the tissue that she had dropped she wondered why he had pocketed her garbage.