Did you ever just believe something? Despite the evidence, just know it was true?
--Angela Montenegro, The Boy in the Tree
--Angela Montenegro, The Boy in the Tree
After the dust settled, Angela put Zack away in a drawer.
Thirteen days since they packed up Zack's life into a cardboard box and shipped it off to the insane asylum, as if was possible to put a killer (their friend) in a box and forget about him.
Cam walked around in a rage meant for no one, anger that she'd missed something, had failed them. Booth stayed away, as if he could distance himself from the stain of a killer with a lack of proximity.
Hodgins wouldn't talk about it (pressing the buttons to deliver drugs into Zack's system so he wouldn't admit what he'd done because the words would make things real) and had taken to parking in the driveway so he wouldn't have to go in the garage.
Brennan was falling apart and wouldn't let anyone see and there was nothing Angela could do.
For any of them.
(this is the house that Zack built)
Instead, she had put the framed photo of Zack with Hodgins, Brennan and her into the bottom drawer in her desk and walked away and tried to forget, but the memories of all those twelve-hour days with Zack and everyone (trying to catch a killer with a killer) coated her mind like tar and she couldn't escape.
(What do you do when your friend is a killer? When the killer is your friend?)
Things had gone wrong and Angela couldn't fix this.
She tried desperately to stay afloat, but night after night she foundered in half-true dreams with Zack elbow-deep in the blood of a widow's son with brilliant blue eyes and a greatcoat smelling of salt water and open countryside; a corpse to tuck her in at night with a silver skeleton in her bed and a silver lily around her neck, only to wake gasping to a darkened room and Hodgins turned away from her on the bed.
Dreams haunted her nights and stagnation choked her days. Brennan died a little more each day, betrayal weighing down on her shoulders in ways that even she could not escape. And there was nothing Angela could do.
Twenty-nine days since they packed up Zack's life, and Angela sat alone in the concourse, staring at the skylight with the weight of a silver skeleton pressing on her mind.
Booth returned to the lab, skulking in the shadows, and Angela could not make herself look at him for longer than a heartbeat. The world wouldn't focus around him, so like Zack lying maimed in a sea of hospital whites. Angela looked away (never look back) as Booth teased Brennan from her solitary orbit to his side, cajoled Cam, blustered with Hodgins, pulled them all out of the lab and into the heat of a Capitol day, leaving Angela alone and unnoticed in the controlled climate of an air-conditioned cavern.
(come away with us)
the scent of rose petals tugged at Angela's hair, a brush of wild forest air whipping at her skin in the artificial confines of the lab
(come, human child)
dragging out the memories of a childhood in woods and rocky beaches, of dancing on the sand and bonfires and singing and mommy holding her hand, the other in the hand of a tall man with brilliant blue eyes and a World War II greatcoat smelling of sea water and open countryside
(come away with us, forever)
and Angela moved with the breeze, chasing whispers down the hallway, scattering promises of all she'd run away from years before.
The breeze pushed her into her office where the scent of roses choked the air, thicker than the decay of broken humanity that permeated her life.
(after the dust settled, she put Zack away in a drawer)
The framed photograph lay on a scattered handful of blood-red rose petals, the shattered glass mocking. Propelled by the sudden stillness, Angela stepped across the carpet of quiet, imagining a sigh in the silence.
The glass had shattered in the frame, shards of glass radiating back to a single point over Angela's heart. With numb fingers, Angela removed the frame's back cover and removed the damaged photograph. Zack smiled up at her, such a young face, happy with friends.
Zack's mother had caught up with Brennan after work, two days after Zack had been taken away. The woman had screamed about exposing her son to such death and Brennan had said nothing. The next day when Brennan came to work, she had dark bruises on her knuckles. She'd said she'd been careless at the gym. Brennan was never careless at the gym.
Angela slid the photograph into her pocket and walked away from the blood-red accusation of rose petals scattered on her desk.
(Come with us now, human child, or nevermore will you hear our call)
A woman from upstairs appeared at Angela's side, speaking lawyer-ese and her words bounced off the walls and into the air. Angela slowed enough to let the words "visitor" and "Gormogon" into her head, then walked away.
It wasn't her fault an out-of-focus Booth had pulled the others away into the day. She would not walk into Gormogon's vault again, not after he had taken Zack away from them.
She kept walking, rose-petal scent clinging to her skin. Past security, past the doors separating the researchers from the museum, past the space display and the mounted corpses in natural history. Her feet carried her to the enlarged black and white photographs of a world war, with the only color spotted in from a sea of waving poppies. Usually, Angela was the only one there, sitting in solitude on the bench while tourists walked past without seeing the history of a war fought before most of them had even been born.
Today, it was different.
Today, part of the display had detached itself from the motionless glass and stood on the floor, an anachronism writ large in breathing flesh and blood surveying a part of history.
Today, Angela's past crawled out of the muck of history and stood blocking her path.
For a long moment, the man stood motionless, oblivious, then he looked at Angela with clear blue eyes and he hadn't aged a single day since that horrible day in 1995 when Angela had watched her mother's coffin lowered into the ground.
He smiled at Angela, oblivious. "They've got the names wrong on the display," he said conversationally in the not-quite-American voice that Angela remembered after all these long years. "That's not Captain Mark Spencer of the Thirty-Ninth; for starters, the man spent the War walking around with a moustache the size of my hand."
A smile, a joke waiting to be shared with the pretty lady.
He didn't recognize her.
Inhale, the scent of roses filling her throat. "What are you doing here, Jack?"
The smile faded, momentary confusion filling his eyes, then realization rolling down like an overflowing stream. He stepped back, to the side, mouth open and awe dawning in his eyes. "Lily?" he said, a name she hadn't used since the day she turned eighteen. A smile broke over his face. "Wow, you-- You grew up." His eyes searched her face. "I'd forgotten how much you look like your mother."
(come, human child, leave your mother behind and come with us, far away)
His words collapsed on her like a stone, and Angela fell to pieces in a room surrounded by photographs of the dead. Everything she held inside shattered, like glass over the photograph of a killer, slicing her to shreds. Grief poured into the air with gasping tears; hands on shoulders pulled her over to the bench before knees collapsed, wool under her cheek smelling like the countryside around Cardiff and the cold sea breeze washing in off the bay. Hysteria hammered at her chest until she was choking.
"Calm down, tiger," came a voice at her ear, a hand steady on her back, as impossible and real as the rose petals scattered accusingly in her office. A childhood of fantasy suddenly wrought real in the sterile walls of the Jeffersonian. "Hyperventilating is bad and I'm out of paper bags."
Angela's head fell forward. There was something stupidly pragmatic about the recovery position, about nosebleeds and shock and first aid courses, and the upwards pressure from her thighs on her ribs leeched away hysteria. Her arms wrapped around her legs, holding herself in the fetal position, wishing it would all go away, that she could be a child again, be at home with her mom drawing in the kitchen and Jack Harkness sweeping into the flat with take-out food and fantastical stories for a curious seven-year-old girl with scraped knees and a naked Barbie wrapped in a homemade doll sari.
She was no longer a child, and if Jack Harness hadn't changed in all these years, the rest of the world had. Reluctantly, Angela sat up.
The burly security guard who had spoken rested one hand on his belt and glared at Jack. "Miss Montenegro, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Angela lied. "Really, Levon, how many times am I going to have to tell you to call me Angela?" The smile didn't reach her eyes. Levon Brown had been at the Jeffersonian longer than Angela, even longer than Brennan, and he had a wife and five adorable kids and some reflexive flirting never hurt anyone.
"Just checking," Levon said, thawing a little bit. "You need an escort back to the lab?"
"Of course not," Angela said, straining to keep from screaming. "Everything's fine."
Levon looked Jack over once more, forever untrusting when it came to the security of Jeffersonian employees, then nodded at Angela and wandered off into the exhibits.
At her side, Jack let out a soft exhalation. "You changed your name?"
"The moment I turned eighteen." Angela shifted around on the bench, needing to look at Jack if only to try and make some sense of the impossibility.
"What was wrong with your birth name?"
This was familiar, a half-teasing rant about names. Angela could fall back into these patterns from her childhood without thinking. "My mother was insane, that's what was the matter."
"Your name was fine."
"My mother named me Tigerlily Wong, Harkness."
The corner of Jack's mouth twitched, making Angela hit him. "Ouch," Jack said, rubbing his arm. "You're a lot stronger than you were at six."
"So, now you're Angela Montenegro." The smile faded from Jack's face.
"I didn't know you worked here," he said. In his voice was as much apology as she'd ever heard. "If I knew, I'd have..."
"What?" Angela asked as the air around them crinkled in the white noise from the overhead fans. "What would you have done?"
Jack reached into the pocket of his greatcoat and withdrew a sheaf of papers, imprinted with an official FBI seal. "I'm sorry."
Angela had heard Jack Harkness apologize a grand total of once in all the years she'd known him. "For what?" She didn't want to know.
He folded the papers in his hand. "For why I'm here," he said, and his eyes had gone flat. "I'm supposed to meet with the members of the Jeffersonian Medico-Legal team about Gormogon's Apprentice."
His words didn't make any sense, no matter how quickly she turned them over in her head. "But... none of the victims were Welsh," Angela said dully. "You worked in Wales."
"And I still do."
"But none of the victims were Welsh," she said again. Insistently. As if it mattered.
"It's possible that the Gormogon killer had some connections with a series of deaths across Britain in the late nineteenth century," Jack said, words so delicate that Angela knew he was lying to her. She always knew when he was lying to her. "I'm trying to clear things up so we can close the files."
"But why are you here?" Angela asked. "Gormogon is dead and Zack--" Her throat closed on his name. "He's not here. Not anymore."
"I came to talk to Dr. Addy's co-workers and to see the Gormogon vault." Jack handed the official-looking paper to Angela. "To see if I can find any similarities."
"But why you?" Angela pushed the papers back at him. "You used to chase scary things in the night. There wasn't much psychology going on there."
Jack's eyes went cold in an expression that never changed. Wintry, Angela used to call it, but he never scared her when he went like this. "How much do you remember of what I did?"
Rather than answer in this place (dead boys looking at her, dead bones lying in limbo waiting to be known), Angela rose to her feet. "The rest of the team's out in the field right now," Angela said, wondering why that thought sent her heart into a panic (something was out of focus). "I can show you the vault."
For the first time, that paternal worry came over Jack's face, the kind Angela used to see when she was about to launch herself off the jungle gym, or when she'd walked into the house at age twelve and announced she was getting a tattoo. It had bothered Angela as a child, but now the memories made her feel old. "Are you sure you're up to that?"
Okay, now she was getting a little annoyed. "Why wouldn't I be?" she demanded. "This is my job, I deal with crazy stuff like this all the time at work."
"But not all of the killers you deal with are your colleagues," Jack said, standing. He was tall (like Booth) with wide shoulders (like Booth) and potentially dangerous (like Booth) and Angela had forgotten how the man was larger than life.
(Mom couldn't have been more than two inches over five feet, and Angela had always laughed when she saw Jack and Mom together, him tall and her small but both larger than life, and even when Angela shot up like a beanpole Mom always seemed big and then Mom died and there was nothing of her left in the coffin lowered into the ground)
"Zack being a killer doesn't matter," Angela said and it was such a lie that her stomach cramped, but she was an adult now and had a job to do and she wasn't going to let Jack Harkness see how this was ripping her apart. "Just come on, okay? I can hear a school group approaching and my head hurts enough as it is."
With an obedience Angela instantly mistrusted, Jack stepped to her side and didn't say a word as she guided him past security and into the lab, down the stairs, past more security, and to the silent and open vault door to Gormogon's lair.
The cloying memory of decay mixed with the rose scent on Angela's skin, nauseating. This place had been what pulled Zack in, had turned their sweet, brilliant Zack Addy into a murderer and that just wasn't right.
(Zack hadn't seemed in focus at the end, like he wasn't real, like what he'd done wasn't real)
"You don't have to come in," Jack offered.
Angela swallowed hard, forcing the bile back down her throat. She would not embarrass herself in front of this man who meant so much to her even after all these years. "You could have come any time to see the vault, you didn't need us for that," she said. The darkness lay coiled inside the vault like a serpent. "But you wanted one of us, or all of us, down here. This isn't about the vault."
"It's not entirely about the vault," Jack corrected. He put his hand on her shoulder (and this was familiar, his hand on her shoulder as the dirt hit Mom's coffin and the world ending around her). "I can go through this with someone else."
"Like who?" Angela challenged. "Zack was Hodgins' best friend, they had this thing going where they competed to be King of the Lab. Cam feels responsible for not seeing what was happening to Zack, like she was supposed to have known he was boiling bodies in his spare--" Her voice broke and she almost fell apart, because this was Zack she was talking about and that didn't make anything okay, but Jack's hand on her shoulder kept her in place. "And Brennan's being ripped apart and there's nothing I can say to make it better."
"Dr. Addy was Dr. Temperance Brennan's assistant?"
Of course, Jack would know all about them. He did that, digging into lives with surgeon's precision.
"Zack used to be Brennan's grad student," Angela said, stressing the first name. She wasn't going to fall into that trap of dehumanizing the perpetrator. It was Zack and she wasn't going to forget that. "When he received his doctorate, Cam gave him a full-time job here. He spent some time in Iraq last year..."
"Going to war doesn't make someone into a serial killer," Jack said quietly. His hand dropped from Angela's shoulder. "War can mess people up, but it doesn't do this. I know."
"Yeah, you fought in the war," Angela said without thinking. "Mom always hated it when you told me those stories. She thought you meant Vietnam."
"What's to say it wasn't Vietnam?" Jack said, more defensive than she expected.
"Because there were no bombing raids on London in the Vietnam war," she said, hands balling up in her pockets. "And don't tell me I'm remembering it wrong, because I'm not."
The silence between them swirled up and into the darkened air of the vault, illuminating the faint edges of the bars in Angela's mind.
Then, finally, Jack said, "You always could tell when anyone was lying to you."
"Damned straight," she said, straightening her back. Enough of this cowardice. She moved one foot forward, then the other. "Let's do this."
The lights went on under Angela's touch, brightening the macabre interior of Gormogon's vault. Jack's eyes went wide as he took in the serial killer's trophy collection. "This is... wow," he said under his breath.
"Gormogon's vault," Angela said, gesturing with her hands. "Removed en mass from the basement of a deserted bank last fall, and moved here."
"Did Dr. Addy spend a lot of time down here?" Jack asked, removing a pen from his pocket and poking at the altar.
"A bit." Angela leaned her shoulder against the most inoffensive corner she could find. "Well, more than the rest of us. He didn't think it was creepy down here."
"Why not?" Jack's words were toneless, judgmental in their banality.
Angela looked away. "That's the way Zack was. He wasn't like the rest of us, he was socially awkward, didn't understand women..."
"Dependant on rationality and language to a hyper extent," Jack continued. He pulled out a black PDA with blue lights and pointed it around the vault. He moved through the opening in the bars, Angela following reluctantly. "From talking with him, he probably has undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome."
Angela gripped one of the smooth metal bars, staring at Jack's back. "You met with Zack?" she demanded.
"Yeah." Jack looked over his shoulder at her. "I did."
"How did you get in to see him?" Angela slipped through the maze of bars until she was at Jack's side. "None of us can get into the insane asylum--"
"They're not called that anymore."
"--and even the DA needs written permission from the FBI to see Zack!" Noise pushed itself around in Angela's head. Maybe, if she'd tried harder, hadn't tried to shut Zack away in a drawer (glass shattered over his picture, rose petals scattered in a reminder of what she had failed to do), she might have been able to get in to see him. Like Jack had.
"But... how is he? Zack, how's Zack?"
Jack slipped his PDA back into his pocket. "His hands are healing," he said noncommittally. "He seemed... resigned. Like he was explaining what someone else had done, not him."
"But he did it," Angela said. "We proved that Zack did it, the tap water he used to boil the skull was from his pipes, we found the pot and the bloodstains where he dismembered the body--"
Spots danced in her vision and she had to force herself to breathe. The very air in the vault was tainted and as she inhaled, that taint became a part of her.
"Zack Addy killed that man," Jack said. "He was Gormogon's newest apprentice, and if he hadn't been stopped, he'd have become Gormogon one day. He'd have assembled his own silver skeleton and killed and eaten people, and found himself an apprentice and kept up a cycle that has been continuing for over two thousand years."
Angela crossed her arms over her chest defensively. "No, you're wrong," she managed to say. "Zack wouldn't do that. I know him, I know what he could do and that wasn't Zack!"
The words made no sense, but there was nothing else Angela could say. Zack was the murderer. Zack couldn't be a killer. There was a fundamental disconnect in the way of the world and only Angela could see it.
Jack leaned his hip against the stone altar, clear blue eyes on Angela. "What else do you know?" he asked.
The simple question unlocked a mountain of memory, of things Angela saw and knew, and the torrent burst forth into the stillness of the vault.
"I know this isn't Zack, but it had to be, and I don't understand." Angela gestured at the wheel where some sadistic asshole had replaced the half-silver skeleton recovered from Gormogon's house. "I know Brennan feels that Zack betrayed her, and all she can think these days is that everyone's going to betray her--"
"Why is that?" Jack interrupted.
"Because! Zack did this, and Booth died but not really, and her father's a murderer and Brenn had to pretend on the stand that she'd killed Kirby and that's a betrayal of all that she's ever worked for and everything that's happening to her is like she's drowning in betrayal--"
Jack spun around. "Why did you say that?"
"Say what?" Angela asked, a little freaked out over how fast Jack moved. "That stuff about Brennan?"
"About drowning in betrayal."
"What?" Angela demanded uncomfortably. "It's just words."
Still, Jack did not look away. "How many times have you said something that meant something, later on?"
Angela threw up her hands, wishing she had something to hold on to, a pencil or a notepad or something (falling rose petals) anything. "I was a kid, Jack, I said weird things all the time."
Jack's eyes were lit with a strange fire in the dim light of the vault. "The day we met, not even ten minutes after I first met you, you said I shouldn't trust the Prime Minister."
"I was just a little kid." For Angela hadn't been any older than six when Jack Harkness first appeared in her life. She couldn't remember the details of exactly how he and Mom had met; memories flittered vaguely around about her being unhappy with Mom and Jack made things better, and Jack was just around for all the years they lived in Wales.
Thinking of those early days with Jack made Angela imagine she could smell the sea
"And maybe I was just surprised with the concept of a constitutional monarchy," Angela finished shakily. "You told..." A flash of memory came back, like a faded photograph in her head. "You told me that whenever you talked to the Prime Minister, she was very professional."
Jack ran his hand over the surface of the (rose) marble altar. He wouldn't look at her. "Do you remember anything about what I did?"
"Not a lot." Cardiff had been such a strange place to live, with all the strange accents and the dreary rain and the sparkling lights in the sky and the hum under the city that no one but Angela could hear. Mom hadn't understood when Angela tried to explain. But Jack had. "Some sort of cop?"
The corner of Jack's mouth twitched up in a smile. "Sort of."
But Angela wasn't just going to accept that, not anymore. "What does it have to do with the Gormogon?" she demanded. "Why did you go see Zack and why are you here?"
"I told you, there's similarities to a case--"
Angela pushed off the bars. She had some vague idea to hit him on the arm or something silly like she would have done as a child, but she froze in place after only two steps towards Jack.
It was something about the shadows playing over his face or the way he held his shoulders, but suddenly he was far more real than anyone else in the universe, real in the way Booth was faded, solid in the way Brenn was made of smoke, and (come, human child) he was standing unmoving as time moved around him.
And then "Easy," Jack was saying in her ear, his hands helping her out of the vault and up the stairs and somewhere Angela had lost time. "Just breathe, it'll pass."
It took all the way back to her office for Angela to find the words she wanted to say. "What will pass?" she asked dizzily as Jack sat her down on her couch.
"You grayed out for a few seconds," Jack said in a soft voice. "You used to do it as a kid, get that far away look in your eyes and start seeing things you couldn't possibly have seen. Your mom always thought you were playing make-believe."
"What else could I have been doing?" Even as the words left her mouth, Angela didn't want to know. She did not want to know what Jack knew, not after that moment in the vault.
"Like I said, telling the future." Jack passed a hand over her hair, a comforting gesture she remembered from her childhood. "You have any water in here?"
"On the desk." Angela let her head fall forward onto her knees. This was the second time in an hour she'd almost fainted. Thank god Hodgins wasn't there to make fun of her for it.
But there was something about the desk, something that Angela needed to remember. Jack's sudden stillness pulled her back together, lifted her head in time to see him pick up a handful of rose petals and let them fall one by one back to the desk.
There were more petals.
And they were falling from the ceiling.
"What happened?" Jack asked, his voice frozen. His eyes met hers, and she didn't understand the panic there. "Did they come for you again?"
Angela pressed her shoulders back into the couch cushions. "I don't--"
Jack came around the edge of the desk and sat beside her on the couch. Rose essence clung to him as he picked up her hands and he was more alive than she would ever be but she didn't understand that either. "Have they been back for you?"
But even as the words left here mouth, a fragment of a forgotten childhood slipped through the broken shards of memory, of rose petal carpets in the forest, of dancing lights in the twilight and gentle whispers to (come away, human child).
In that frozen instant in her office, Angela's life rewrote itself and left her breathing in the scents of roses and salt water as Captain Jack Harkness held her hand.
With nerveless fingers, Angela pulled the photograph from her inner pocket and handed it to Jack. He took it before her shaking hand let it flutter to the ground. "This..." Angela took a breath and tried again. "I put Zack away, but I came in today and it was on the desk with the rose petals."
Jack looked at the photograph for a long time. "He looks happy," Jack said finally.
"He was." Angela slumped back against Jack's arm, the intervening years falling away and she was nine again, with a sprained ankle and stuck in the house while Jack told her impossible stories and Mom painted across the room. "Zack was always... content, I think. Before he went to Iraq."
Jack still looked at the photograph. "You all look happy."
"I think we were," Angela said distantly. There was something hovering on the edge of her mind, something she needed to tease out of the darkness. "Why are you here?" she asked once more.
This time, the plea worked. "There might be... well, it's possible that there's another apprentice."
The world wouldn't focus. "Someone else?" Angela demanded. "You mean someone instead of Zack?"
Jack put the photograph on the table. "No," he said gently. "I mean someone after Zack."
Angela pressed against Jack's shoulder, wishing with all her might that this was just a nightmare, that Zack was fine and Brennan was fine and everything was back to the way things should have been. "How could there be someone else?"
Why wouldn't this horror end?
"Lily..." and he had that look on his face again, the one Angela remembered from so many nights when Jack came in late, or missed dinner altogether, and he'd told Mom any number of stories about his tardiness and all Angela ever heard were the hints of fantastical tales underlying the lies.
"Do you really think there's someone out there?" Angela asked.
Jack let out a sigh. "There always is."
When she was seven, she'd told Mom and Jack there was a monster under her bed and Mom had laughed but Jack had gotten that look in his eyes and shooed them both out of the house and when they'd come back from the market, Angela's room and the hallway smelled of burning sulphur as Jack swept Angela up in his arms and told her the monster was gone.
She'd always believed him. She believed him now.
"The thing is..." Jack sighed again. "I really hate this part. I start telling stories and people think I'm crazy."
"I've thought you were crazy for years," Angela told him, sitting up. "So we can skip that part and get right to the story."
"Right." Jack reached into an inner pocket of his coat and pulled out a thin gold chain. On the end of the chain hung a small glass orb, no larger than a golf ball. The ball swung oddly through the air, not paying any attention to gravity's pull. "This is..."
"A cracker jack toy?" Angela guessed when Jack didn't continue. "New sports technology?"
Jack didn't smile at the jesting, which worried Angela more than she could let on. Jack was never one to pass up a little joke. Finally, Jack said, "It's a prison cell. For energy-based life forms."
Angela's mind froze on life forms.
"The story goes a little like this," Jack went on, letting the cold glass ball down into Angela's hands. "Once upon a time, a being fell to Earth. It wasn't like the creatures already here, and it hated its existence. It considered itself superior to the herd animals spreading across the face of the planet, at the communities they formed, because it was always on the outside. Eventually, it decided it was going to destroy those communities from within and try to consume their power."
Angela couldn't even give voice to her terrifying thoughts.
"It possessed a human host and started killing and eating other humans," Jack said. Angela clutched at the glass prison ball, feeling the cold as pain against her palm. "This went on for a while, and then... it got lonely."
"I guess eating your neighbors cuts down on the after-dinner board games," Angela said as a reflexive retort, anything to distance her mind from what she was hearing.
"You have no idea." Jack stretched out his legs, settling into the couch and the story. "So it--"
This made Jack turn his head. "What?"
"Call him Bob."
"Because I really don't like Harolds. So Harold decides he's lonely and sort of..." Jack wiggled his fingers in the air. "Split himself into two pieces and put the other piece into a local boy. His apprentice."
Angela bit her lip to keep herself from exclaiming. "Let me guess how this ends."
"It doesn't. End, I mean," Jack said. "To make a long story short--"
"--After a while, Harold's apprentice decides his master has been corrupted by the same sense of community they've been consuming over the years and views him with the same level of contempt as he does the humans."
"Does he kill Harold?"
"If only it were that easy." Jack shoved his hair back from his face, tired. "He held Harold under water, drowned him if you like, until he was unconscious, then ritualistically consumed part of him."
Angela's stomach churned, her breakfast threatening to make a reappearance. "But you said he didn't kill him."
"Oh my god!" Angela pushed back into the couch cushions, hands reaching out blindly to centre herself on something less horrible than the story she was hearing. "That's..."
"Yeah," Jack said with a nodded. "Across the whole universe, cannibalism is one of the only almost-universal taboos. But here's the catch. When the apprentice ate Harold's flesh--" Angela turned her head away in case she did throw up, "--the energy that was Harold went into the apprentice. Two beings, one body. Until the next time."
Angela wondered if she could get away from this story by pleading insanity, but doubted Jack would buy it.
"The apprentice was being torn apart by his dual nature, until finally he found himself a young boy that would suit his purposes. He tied the boy down and forced the apprentice essence into him."
"So it continued," Angela said, finally understanding the point of the story. "The boy eventually turned on his master and, like, rinse and repeat, this goes on for about two thousand years."
Jack picked up Zack's photograph from the table. "Until Zack Addy was injured in an explosion and the master was shot in an FBI raid." He took Angela's hand and unwrapped her fingers from around the glass ball.
"Maybe..." She took a breath to steady her voice. "Maybe that's the end? The Master's dead?"
Her fragile hope was shattered when Jack shook his head. "Beings like this can't be destroyed when their host dies. But they can jump hosts."
"And you think that the Master's... what, parasite? Jumped to a new host?"
Jack tucked the glass ball back into his pocket. "I think that once threatened, both Master and Apprentice jumped into a new host." He hesitated. "The same host."
"The same..." Angela started to protest that none of them had been on the FBI raid, that none of the FBI agents had been anywhere near Zack's hotel room, when sickening comprehension swam up.
There was one person who had been at Zack's bedside and at the FBI raid on Gormogon's house.
(The world wouldn't focus around him, so like Zack lying maimed in a sea of hospital whites.)
Grey pushed in on Angela's vision and her chest was tight and she couldn't breathe. Her sudden realization choked her, crushed her down.
A sharp blow to her back almost pushed her off the couch, but at least she was able to draw air in again. She turned to look at Jack. "You hit me?"
"We haven't got time for you to pass out," Jack said urgently. He shifted over to the low table and there was nothing of the fond father figure about him now. "You know who it is."
"It's-- no, wait." Angela put up her hands, as if trying to ward off the inevitability of it all. Jack caught her wrists and lowered her arms to her lap. "It's not possible! Any of this!"
"Yes, it is." Jack hadn't let go of her wrists. "When you were six years old the fairies came to take you away with them, and you very nearly went with them."
Jack let go of one of her wrists and reached for a handful of the rose petals, which lay covering the entire office. "They came to make you one of them, to take you back through time." He let the rose petals trickle down over her lap. The cloying scent made Angela faint. "You chose to stay and I need you to remember!"
Angela tried to pull away, but Jack's hand held bruising tight on her arm. "I don't understand!"
"Yes, you do," Jack said. Desperation tinged his words. "You always saw things no one else did, not your mother, not the other kids at your school. You used to tell me about them, how you saw everything and you understood what was going on all around you in Cardiff, and how no one believed you but me."
Even as she protested, the faintest edge of memory slivered its way into her mind, a shivering painful point of light shining bright on things she'd pushed away.
With one quick movement, she jerked her arm free of Jack's hold and stood, crushing rose petals underfoot as she crossed the room to pick up her favorite sketch pad and a handful of old pencil nubs. The face in her mind quickly took shape on the page, sparse hard lines into an angry, wrathful face.
Angela turned the rough drawing towards Jack. "This. What's this?"
Jack slowly rose to his feet, a faint wind swirling around him to whip the red petals into a storm. "We call them Weevils. They're..." He cleared his throat. "Cardiff is built on a rift in time and space. Weevils just wash up through the rift. We have no idea where they're from."
"But they're angry," Angela said softly. She ripped the page off the pad and laid it on her desk, covering the shattered glass from the photograph frame. "They're real?"
"Very real," Jack said. The room went still, the wind vanishing as quickly as it came.
Angela inhaled, almost choking on the rose smell in the air. "And you're telling me that an alien cannibal possessed Zack and now it's in Booth?"
Jack cocked his head to the side. "FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth?"
Angela looked down at the blank white of her sketch pad. "I... I'm not sure," she said. Her pencil hovered over the blank page for a moment, then the soft lead slid down in a blurry line. "You come in here and start talking about aliens and fairies and Weevils, my ceiling is raining rose petals, and now I'm thinking my best friend's partner has been possessed by a serial killing cannibal alien?"
The blunting pencil lead smoothed across the page, and Angela was no longer certain who she was drawing.
"How can I believe this?"
"Do you believe it?" Jack asked.
Angela was quiet for a long time as she tried to force her pencil to draw a face on the sketch. It would not happen. "It's totally not logical or rational."
"Since when are you rational?"
Angela gave up on her sketch. "I've been hanging out with Brennan for a long time. She's always like, everything has a scientific explanation. There's no such things as ghosts or fairies or aliens because they can't be explained."
"They can't be explained yet," Jack corrected. He held out his hand for the sketch. "A hundred years ago, who would have understood about DNA or nuclear fusion? One day, science will catch up with all that we claim not to know."
"You sound pretty certain of that," Angela said.
Jack smiled, but it was a faint echo of his usual exuberance. "Maybe I'll tell you about it someday."
Angela always knew when Jack was lying to her, and he was lying to her now.
But that hollow pain was back in his eyes, and because she wasn't six any longer she couldn't cuddle up to him on the couch and tell him stories about princesses and dragons until it went away. All she could offer him was the sketch pad with the shadowed blurry drawing on it.
"Who is this?" Jack asked.
Angela stepped across the now-red carpet to Jack's side. The figure on the paper had shadows masking a blurry face, shoulders hunched in, and every angle of the figure screamed hunger. "It's Zach," she said softly, but there was a pressure in her head, pushing out the words she did not want to say. She traced the hard lines of the suit jacket. "And it's Booth."
Jack let out a breath. "You're certain?"
Angela didn't answer for a long minute. There was a small figure in the background of the sketch, a light-haired child.
A small figure she had not put there.
This was just one horror too many. Angela pressed her hand to her mouth, unable to speak. Jack put his arm around her shoulders and if it was the only thing keeping Angela on her feet, so be it. "Booth has a son," she said when she got her breath back. "Parker, he's only a kid, you don't think--"
Jack squeezed Angela's arm. "Have you seen Parker since this whole thing started?"
Angela shook her head once, then harder. "His mom took him to Canada when we thought Booth was killed, and they've been there ever since with Rebecca's family. But..."
The wind picked up suddenly, blowing the rose petals up into a blizzard, whipping around Angela and Jack in the middle of the storm. Then the petals and the wind were gone as quickly as they came, leaving a horrible silence in their wake.
"But they're coming back tomorrow," Angela whispered into the stillness.
The stillness was broken by a loud exclamation out in the lab. Angela's blood ran cold. That was Booth's voice.
They were back.
Booth was out there with Brennan and Cam and Hodgins, back from yet another crime scene, but now Angela knew it wasn't Booth at all that had been making her cringe away for weeks, it was the same thing that had destroyed Zack and so many young men before him.
Something that Jack Harkness could stop.
Angela pulled away from Jack, her shoulder going back. "We have to stop him," she said, ready to face whatever she needed to. "How do we stop him?"
Jack placed the sketch pad down on the desk. "There is no 'we'. Just get him in here to talk to me."
"And then what?" Angela demanded.
Jack looked at her for a long moment. Then he said, "Do you trust me?"
Angela narrowed her eyes at him. "What kind of a stupid question is that?"
"The kind that you answer."
Angela smoothed her hands over her skirt, resisting the urge to ball her hands up into fists. "Yes," she said after a minute. "Yes, I do." Although she had never been exactly sure why, but it was the truth.
When Jack smiled, it actually seemed real. "Then I need you to go out there and ask Booth to come in to see me in here. Can you do that?"
"Yes, but--" She stopped talking when Jack touched her chin, a gesture he'd used when she was just a child and needed reassurance.
"Whatever you do, do not come in here with him. Do you understand?"
Without meaning to, Angela nodded.
"Good. Now, get out there."
Angela stepped back, her hands shaking at her sides. She wanted to say something meaningful and important to Jack, but it was all she could do to stay upright as she put one foot in front of the other, across her office and out the door into the lab.
Everyone was on the brightly lit platform. As Angela neared, she saw the way Booth reached out a hand to touch Brennan's shoulder (possessively) and lean over the body (a little too eagerly) and how Brennan shied away (without knowing why).
How did they not see the shadows around Booth?
High above, Angela heard a soft wordless chittering, eyes on her back, and suddenly she felt a little stronger. She put her shoulders back and held her head high. "Booth?"
He glanced down at her, his gaze at once covetous and dismissive. "Yeah?"
Angela remembered Zack, lying broken on a hospital bed, and Parker, so young and tiny and helpless, and she refused to lower her eyes. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
He responded to the challenge, pulling his hand away from Brennan and straightening up. Across the platform, Cam stared with wide wary eyes, while Hodgins watched everything out of the corner of his eye. Brennan looked ready to bolt. Then Booth said, "Sure thing."
The man moved quickly, down the platform stairs and over the floor to where Angela stood. He was a fraction too close for propriety, making Angela painfully aware how large he was physically, taller and wider and stronger than she was, could hold her down and break her without a fuss. Her body screamed at her to run away and hide.
Above her, points of light shone brighter, eclipsing the usual illumination, and Angela stared into the face of danger without flinching. "I hope the crime scene wasn't too gory," she said, unable to keep back the sarcasm.
"Just a bunch of dead things," Booth said, and smiled. Hungrily. "What can I do for you?"
The way he looked down her body was suggestive and wasn't at all like Booth. Angela tossed her hair over her shoulder and angled her torso slightly away from him, drawing his attention off the conversation. "There's a man here from the British secret service?" She let her words end in a question. She wasn't nearly this dimwitted, but if it kept Booth distracted, she'd risk it. "He was wanting to talk to you about something FBI related."
"Is that so?" Booth finally pried his eyes off her chest. "Where is he?"
"In my office," Angela said. She smiled. It was too much like baring her teeth. "He'd like to talk to you now."
"Okay." Booth leaned in a fraction more, but Angela refused to be the one to back away. "Would you come and introduce us?"
The lights above them flared. "Sorry, I have to go see if Brennan needs anything," Angela said, all apologies and smiles. She lifted her hands in a 'what can you do' attitude, then clasped them in front of her chest, in case she needed to defend herself.
Booth regarded her for a moment, then licked his lower lip. Angela fought down a shiver of revulsion. "Right."
He brushed past her without another word, almost running into her, but she stepped back just in time. She watched him enter her office and close the door, then she turned back to the look at the platform
(take care, human child)
and the bright lights shining along the ceiling where she knew no light bulb lay
(dangers in the dark)
and the lights grew brighter as she watched
(the bad wolf hides in the dark to get you)
"Hey, Ang?" It was Hodgins. He reached out and touched her arm, but she scarcely noticed. "You okay?"
The lights moved overhead, and the last of the masks fell off her childhood as she saw the tiny dancing lights for what they were, her childhood friends and protectors, come back to her now.
"I'm... I'm fine."
"What are you thinking about?"
The lights flared overhead and pushed at her, surrounding her, but Angela would not close her eyes on the brilliance. Then, just like that, it was gone.
"Silver skeletons in the dark," Angela murmured, but Hodgins wasn't listening. He stared over Angela's shoulder in the direction of her office.
"What was that?"
Over. Angela turned and walked towards her office, not knowing why she felt so abandoned, so alone. Jack had warned her to stay away, and Booth was in that room, and he was armed and dangerous and if he had hurt Jack, Angela would kill him.
The door opened under her hand. Jack had his arm around Booth's back, helping the man onto the couch. Booth moved as if his legs wouldn't support him. Behind Angela, Hodgins exclaimed, "What happened?"
Jack glanced at Angela, and there was satisfaction in that gaze. "There was this strange light flash," Jack said easily. "Your buddy here, does he have epilepsy or something? He's not doing so well."
"Booth, are you okay?" Angela said, stepping into the charade easily. She knelt on the ground in front of Booth. The man was holding his head and seemed to be having trouble staying upright, but when he looked at Angela, his face was clear and the shadows were gone.
"Hey there," Angela said, smiling in relief. "Are you okay?"
Booth blinked and shook his head. "There was this light..."
"The wiring in this office has been acting up for days," Angela said quickly. She reached out quickly when Booth almost toppled off the couch. "Jack, can you go get Cam?"
Hodgins was moving before the sentence was finished. Jack Harkness raised an eyebrow at her. "That was..."
"My boyfriend, and is this really the time for this?" Angela retorted. Booth was fading in and out of attention now. "What happened?"
Jack carefully removed the glass ball from his pocket. Inside, it swam with brilliant green and yellow swirls, angry and violent. Angela's stomach lurched in horror.
"That's it. Them." Jack chanced a glance over his shoulder at the empty doorway. "Gormogon."
"What about Booth?" Angela pushed the man back until he slumped on the couch, a hand cupped over his eyes.
"He'll be fine, he just needs some time to recover."
Angela sat on the touch beside Booth, her hand on his shoulder. "Seeley?" she asked softly. "What's wrong?"
He groaned. "Jesus Christ, my head hurts!"
"How bad is it?" As Angela spoke, Cam blew in through the door, Hodgins and Brennan on her heels.
"Like someone's stabbing me," Booth muttered. "I'm going to be sick."
Cam sat on the couch on Booth's other side. "Here, let me see," she said in her no-nonsense boss-woman voice. Booth tried to resist, but Cam pulled the man's hand from his face. "Seeley, I need to see your pupils."
"Gah!" Booth spat out. "Why is it so bright?" But still, he tried to open his eyes, gritting his teeth the whole time.
"Easy," Cam murmured. She looked carefully into his eyes, then let him go. He snapped his hand back up over his eyes and curled over. "It sounds like a migraine."
Brennan gripped the back of the couch hard. "Booth doesn't get migraines," she said, her wary uncertainty fading now, but lingering in the way she stood back just out of reach.
By this point, Jack had faded into the background, letting things carry on around him. For all those years in Cardiff, Angela had let Jack take care of everything; Mom, danger, the funerals of friends, even dealing with Angela's teachers with Mom was too involved in a project to care about Angela's grades. But that was then, and this was now, and no one but Angela could set this right.
"It must have been the flickering lights," Angela said with an certainty she did not feel. She laid a hand on Booth's back. "Why don't you go home and get some rest?"
Brennan gave Angela the are you crazy? look, but Booth didn't answer immediately, which told more as to how bad the man was feeling.
Angela moved in for the metaphorical kill. "Parker's back tomorrow, isn't he?" she said. "You should rest up for all the stories of a Canadian summer."
Strain tensed Booth's shoulders as he forced himself to lower his hand and look at Angela. "Parker," he repeated. There was something in his face, an edge of worry that could slip over into panic.
Angela thought about the little boy on her sketchpad, a little boy who had been far away all summer as his father walked around carrying darkness inside him. She made herself smile at Booth. "I bet he'll talk your ear off."
"Yeah," Booth said after a minute. He visibly pulled himself together, sitting straighter on the couch. "Maybe I should. Go home, I mean."
"Good idea." Angela transferred her gaze to Brennan. "He needs a ride home, he can't drive. Right?" This last was aimed at Cam.
Brennan crossed her arms over her chest. "Booth doesn't like it when I drive," she said defensively.
By the wall, Jack turned his head to one side, casting an appraising look at Brennan's reaction.
"Today I'll risk it," Booth said. He tried to stand and stumbled, and that was all the prompting Brennan needed. She put her arms down and rounded the couch, slipping an arm around Booth's chest and helping him to stand. Once the man was upright, he didn't look like he needed any help, but Brennan stayed where she was, at Booth's side once again.
Angela rose carefully to her feet as Booth and Brennan walked from her office, followed by Cam, who was giving instructions on how to watch for potential strokes and comas, leaving the office empty except for Jack and Angela.
The man looked between Angela and her visitor for a moment. When neither of them made a move, he took a step back. "I guess I'll get back to work," he said after a moment. He hesitated again, then turned and stalked out of Angela's office.
"Did I walk into something?" Jack asked when Hodgins was clear.
Angela shook her head. "I'll deal with him later," she said under her breath. "That's my fiancée."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Dating at the office? How often does that end well?"
"Are you kidding me?" Angela demanded. "With all those stories you used to tell Mom about your past conquests when you both thought I was asleep?"
"Which just goes to prove that I know what I'm talking about," Jack shot back.
"I do." The corner of his mouth twitched, giving Angela all the information she needed.
"All right, who is she?"
"She?" Jack was innocence itself.
"Is it a he?" Jack's lack of response was her answer. "What's his name?"
"Is he cute?"
"So good with the rolling vowels?"
"You're not old enough to know what that means!"
Angela rolled her eyes. "I'm almost thirty!"
Jack pulled up short. "You are?"
"Born in '78. How old's the boyfriend of the rolling vowels?"
"Younger than I am?" Angela shook her head. "You're a dirty old man, Harkness."
Jack held up his hands. "Can we get back on topic?" he demanded.
"About how you're a dirty old man?"
"About how you can't tell anyone about what happened."
"Like anyone's going to believe me if tell them that Booth was possessed by a cannibalistic space energy?" The amusement in Angela's voice faded as she considered her words. "Wait. You're talking about Zack."
Jack picked up the sketch pad again, looking down at the joint drawing of Booth and Zack. "Yeah. I am."
Angela opened her mouth to protest, to say that Jack had to do something to free Zack, that it hadn't been his fault. That something had to get him free, to excuse him for what he'd done.
In the end, Angela closed her mouth without a word, hope crushed in her chest.
No one was going to believe stories of aliens and cannibalistic energy, no more than they'd believe that fairies came to warn Angela that an FBI special agent had been possessed by the same evil alien.
Zack wasn't getting free.
She sat on the couch, burying her head in her hands. The thought that Zack wasn't coming back made every part of her hurt.
She couldn't let him go.
The couch moved as Jack sat beside her. "I'm sorry," he said, pressing a kiss on her hair. "I wish it could be different."
Angela took a breath around the heavy weight in her chest, then another. "It's not-- you got here as soon as you can," she said, the words coming to her in an echo in the still air. "Things were complicated long before you got here."
Jack's arm tightened around her shoulder. "Yeah," he said. His voice was heavy. "I have to go."
He kissed her hair once more, and Angela was a child again for just a moment, and Jack had made the bad things in the night go away again. "I'll take care of this, tiger."
Then he was gone.
Angela sat in her office, alone, until the security guard came by to tell her everyone was shutting down for the day.
Hodgins didn't come back.
Time continued on, as if Jack Harkness hadn't dropped back into her life, and Angela couldn't settle down. Her office regained the reassuring smell of decay and old bones. No rose petals or whispers in the dark returned to give her warning.
She missed it.
Work went on, as did the damage wrought by the Gormogon's betrayal. No one spoke of it, but it remained in the air. And there was nothing Angela could do to make them understand.
Then, one day, her telephone rang.
Angela set down the skull she was working on and leaned back in her chair back to pick up the receiver, stretching the kinks out of her spine. "Montenegro," she said in greeting.
There was a long hesitation on the other end of the line. "Angela?"
Angela almost tipped out of her chair. "Zack?" she demanded, certain she'd misheard the voice. "Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me."
Jumping to her feet, Angela gripped the phone as tight as she could. "Oh my god, how are you?" she asked. "What's happening? Why are they letting you on the phone? Are you okay?"
"I was transferred," Zack said, his voice so much stronger than when she'd last seen him in that hospital bed.
"Where to?" No one had told her anything about Zack being transferred from the mental hospital. If they'd tried to put him into the regular prison population... well, she wouldn't stand for that. "Where are you, Zack?"
There was a pause, and Angela heard something vaguely familiar in the quiet noises of the line. Something from her childhood. "I'm in Cardiff."
Angela almost dropped the phone. "Cardiff? What are you--" Comprehension came in a flash. "Jack Harkness! He did this, didn't he?"
"He said my talents were being wasted in a padded cell," Zack said, literal to the last. "But I wasn't in a padded cell, just solitary confinement. He says he knows you."
"That utter jerk!" Angela could have smacked Jack. In fact, the next time she saw him, she would kick him. Hard. "He didn't tell me he was taking you back to Cardiff!"
"I don't really understand why I'm here," Zack confessed. "Captain Harkness told me that they need someone who understands things, but a lot of people understand things."
Angela sank back into her chair, her initial burst of energy gone. "It's because of what happened with the Gormogon," she said. "What happened wasn't your fault."
"That's what Captain Harkness said."
"Well, you listen to Jack," Angela instructed sternly. "And don't let him boss you around too much. He gets all these big ideas, but don't buy into it. Be rational."
"I can be rational," Zack said. "That's almost exactly what Ianto said, about how to handle Captain Harkness."
"He works at Torchwood too."
At least now Angela knew the name of Jack's younger man. "Jack Harkness takes some special handling. Like a hyperactive puppy."
"It's good that I'm not allergic to dogs."
"I'm kidd--" Angela stopped herself. "That was a joke! Zack, you told a joke!"
"I have been known to tell a joke," Zack reminded her. "Sometimes."
Angela smiled to herself. "It's so good to hear from you. Can you call again when you get more settled in?"
"Jack says I can call you whenever I want, but I'm not supposed to let people know that I'm no longer in the States because then they'll start digging and then they'll try to take me back."
"Do you want to come back?"
Another pause. Then Zack said, thoughtfully, "I wouldn't ever be able to come back to the Jeffersonian. Here I can come and go a little bit more."
"So you're staying, then?"
"Yes." The word was so final. "I think anyone can get used to living underground." The line clicked twice. "I have to go, something is wrong."
"Zack, wait, what about your hands?" Angela asked quickly. She'd been so caught up talking to Zack that she hadn't asked how he was handling his disability.
"I'm functioning," Zack said, then the line went dead before either of them could say goodbye.
No matter, Angela thought, her heart soaring as she hung up the phone. She knew she'd speak to Zack again, as certain as she knew the sun would rise every day until the end.
Things wouldn't ever be the same, but eventually, they'd be okay.
Angela dug a battered photograph out of a box on her desk and stalked out of her office to where Jack Hodgins sat at his desk.
"I'm busy," the man said, never looking up. "Maybe I can talk to you later?"
Angela narrowed her eyes. "I want to talk to you now."
"Is it work related?"
"Since when do you care about not talking about personal things on work time?" Angela demanded.
He didn't reply, just peered carefully into his microscope.
Angela set the photograph down on Hodgins' paperwork and waited.
Luckily, she didn't have to wait long. Hodgins' curiosity was legendary, no matter how angry he was at the world. Trying to act nonchalant, he glanced over the photograph as he reached for a pen. His hand hung midair as he took a second look, the glance turning into a stare.
It was the photograph of them together with Zack.
Hodgins stared at the photograph for a long time. After a while, Angela put her hand on his shoulder. "What happened wasn't your fault," she said quietly. "It wasn't the fault of anyone here. It just happened."
Hodgins went back to fiddling with his microscope. "I should have seen something, done something--"
"It wasn't your fault," Angela said again. One day soon, she'd tell him that Zack was safe, and he wasn't stuck in a room anymore, and they could go to Cardiff and see Zack alive and healing.
She'd make sure of it.
A commotion across the lab drew her attention away from Hodgins. The chattering voice belonged on the playground, and Angela found herself smiling as Booth rounded the corner with his son Parker.
When he caught sight of Angela, Parker broke away from his father and ran over. "Hi!" the boy exclaimed.
"Hi Parker," Angela said. "How was your vacation in Canada?"
"Really cool," Parker said enthusiastically. "I caught a fish!"
"Uh huh, and I throwed him back because he was small," Parker went on. Behind him, Booth shrugged helplessly at his son's antics. Parker reached into his knapsack and just as quickly pulled something out. "Someone wanted me to give you this."
The boy held out his hand. On his palm lay a small tarnished fleur-de-lis, an ancient charm on the silver necklace Angela's mother had given her for her third birthday, that Angela hadn't seen since that forgotten day in the forest, with whispers and rose petals on the wind and mommy screaming and Jack Harkness calling for her and the blinding storm and the stillness when her friends went away forever, for good.
"Parker, where did you get that?" Booth asked, going down on one knee beside his son.
"The children in the woods wanted me to give it to Lily," Parker told him.
Angela took the charm from Parker with boneless fingers, the metal cool against her skin.
"But this is Angela," Booth said.
"She was Lily a long time ago," Parker replied, rolling his eyes with all the world-weary knowledge of a first-grader. He picked up his backpack. "Can I go see Dr. Bones now?"
Angela cleared her throat. "Of course you can," she said before Booth could object. "She'll be happy to see you." The boy beamed. "And Parker? Thank you for bringing this back to me."
"You're welcome," Parker said, then tore across the lab floor, a confused Booth on his heels
"That was weird," Hodgins said, staring after father and son.
"Everything is weird here." Angela absently touched the charm to her lips, a memory of a childhood of wonder and mystery.
The silver lily carried the scent of bruised rose petals.