Love Month

It's late, but let's rock the Bones fic anyway

Title: Codetalkers
Author: fluffernutter8
Spoilers: Through the season 8 finale.
Rating: PG
Word Count:
Summary: And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off.
Authors notes: This probably stretches believability to the utmost degree and there's no way in the world that this is how season nine will play out, but it's fanfiction so I get to have a bit of catharsis for how I feel about the Pelant case.

Brennan tells Angela that she and Booth are not getting married in the same way she told her that they were. They’re at work and Angela asks a question about the plans- something non-threatening about when she might want the wedding that even her hesitant friend should be able to answer- and with barely a break in examining the bones, Brennan tells her that Booth called it off. She says it in one of her most coldly logical tones, and if Angela didn’t already know her best friend was in love with Seeley Booth, she would have understood from the way that Brennan spins it, making it seem that Booth is respecting her feelings about the superfluity of marriage. Brennan doesn’t lie, and she’s not adept at putting pretty packaging on anything, so she must be invested in Booth. But underneath the alleged disinterest, there is hurt.

Angela takes an early lunch and stalks into Booth’s office.

“It’s probably none of my business,” she says, leaning over his desk, “But you’re hurting my best friend. You’re hurting your best friend, messing around with her heart when we both know she’s had enough of that. What do you think that you’re doing?”

Booth blinks at her, slow and then fast. “I don’t know, Ange. I think that it just wasn’t our time. And you know that she’s never wanted to get married, so really-”

“Don’t. She was trusting you and now you’re pretending that your cold feet are out of respect for her. Don’t do that to her. Don’t lie.”

Booth stands up, moves around his desk. It’s been a while since she has actually been this close to Booth rather than seeing him on her screen. She steps back and he steps toward her again, voice firm. She focuses on his eyes, on their opening and closing. “Look at me, Angela. I know you’re trying to protect her, but I’m doing the same thing.”

She turns away from him, ready to leave, disgust in the back of her throat. “Don’t make excuses. It’s beneath you,” and she walks away.

But in bed that night, all she can see is his eyes, the brown of them hidden behind long and short blinks. She wakes Hodgins, and even in her own house she barely moves and speaks almost silently. It’s what Pelant has done to them, made them afraid that he is everywhere, seeing every moment of their lives with his ridiculous, overdrawn omnipresence. But with Hodgins there, there’s no need to use a computer or even a library book, nothing that can be traced by the terrible ghost who lives on the periphery of their world.

“Jack,” she breathes, making sure that even their wakefulness is undetectable in the dark. “I need some help with Morse code.”

The next day she goes to get a cup of coffee (she needs it anyway, after a night of whispered code training with Hodgins), timing it so she will cross paths with Booth on his morning run to the diner.

“Booth,” she says coldly as they wait beside each other. She isn’t as practiced as he is, and looks like she has something in her eye. But Booth winks at her before blinking out “Let’s get him” and taking his to-go cup.
 ~
After Angela explains it all to him, Hodgins decides that they should stay low tech. Booth’s blinking technique is good, but they don’t know what kind of software Pelant has and they don’t want him to pick up on what they’re doing. Variety is key, and when Angela hugs him, Hodgins knows that it’s because at the moment she especially loves that fact that he’s been preparing for this challenge without even realizing it. They host a party on some pretense, with mailed and handwritten invitations, some of which include a very personal touch. Jack doesn’t know how Angela said it, but he put a very firm “He’s finally going down,” at the bottom of those that he wrote. They leave it up to Booth to find a quiet way to explain to Brennan, and even Hodgins can tell by the slightly loosened set of her shoulders when he has.

He has stuck with longhand files, partially as an excuse to come see Angela during the day under the pretense of delivering some testing results, Angela and Hand has never been so glad. While they have to assume that Pelant can see everything that they do no matter where they are, they can also assume that there’s no way that he can watch all of them at all times or even process all the input from his surveillance. So Hodgins writes updates and tucks them alongside case information, occasionally staying to make small talk as Cam or Ange bends over to purposefully block his scrawl as they read through before casually closing the folder and thanking him.

They tend not to have any information to share while at home, but if they do notes won’t look as casual there, so when necessary Angela starts incorporating narrative into her art, blending symbols and words into the colors.

“Looks great, Angie,” Hodgins will say, tone even as he wraps an arm around her, and sometimes, “Can I try something out?” He likes to write something encouraging and give her a smile, because despite the rage inside of him, he wants her to believe that this won’t last forever.
~
As they make their first tentative plans, there is a debate about whether to involve the interns. After Zach, Brennan is hesitant. Her instinct is that all of her interns, some of whom she has worked with for nearly five years, are trustworthy, but she has learned to stop trusting her instincts and instead deems it prudent to work under a guilty until proven innocent theory. In their terse, covert communications Cam rallies for Arastoo to be informed and eventually the others agree. He has been teaching her Farsi and during their lessons she carefully collects the words she needs to know and forces her tone to be casual while she falters through a brief explanation.

“Good job,” he says, jaw locked and eyes burning. “But you’ll definitely need more help.”

She presses her hand against his and nods. “I trust you to help in any way that you can.”

She presses Michelle to sign up for summer classes at a university in North Carolina and has Hodgins suggest that Finn go home for a while. Although they aren’t informed about the details and she puts up a typical struggle to the idea of Michelle and Finn spending the summer alone together, she thinks that they must see the relief in her eyes.

Finn picks Michelle up early one morning, ready to drive the two of them away. Cam comes out in her robe, hugging Michelle in the driveway before she leans into the car to speak to Finn.

“Good morning Finn.”

“Morning, ma’am.”

She starts out asking him about the drive, reminding him to stop if they get tired and that she will know if they get only one room. Michelle runs back into the house to grab her blow dryer and Cam crosses her arms and looks down at him. “When you were arrested, it was because someone had tried to hurt someone you loved?”

“Yes ma’am. I wouldn’t hurt someone otherwise, but if it’s about protection I turn into one mean mama bear.”

“Good,” Cam says, taking a breath in. “Mama bears are what we need just now.” Michelle comes back out then, and Cam hugs her one last time before shutting the car door and waving them off.
~
Sweets has never been sure exactly where he fits into the team. He’s close enough of a friend to be invited for Christmas, to stay with Booth and Dr. Brennan for weeks, to put up with everyone’s teasing about his new roommates and potential relationship with Agent Sparling and yet he needs to try to remain distant enough to give clinical advice.

But what causes him the most discomfort it that he’s still, even after half a decade, the newbie. He’s not the boss, he’s not part of a lab couple, he’s not a Brennan-approved assistant. In fact, Brennan, so central to the lab family, has been only very slowly brought around to the idea that he might have some useful skills. She would say that he is still completing the rituals to become accepted into the tribe.

After Pelant uses his papers, Lance distances himself further. He helps out when necessary for official cases, but he can feel the chill there, the one that is manufactured but seems real to him because it only echoes the way that he thinks of himself. He can identify the irrationality of the feelings, but the emotional part of him has separated from the part of him with training. He can’t get that logic to police his blame, even as he knows that it’s not his fault. It’s a head and heart split that he can’t force into compromise. He almost wants to ask Booth and Brennan how they do it, but doesn’t know how to approach them. He’s glad he’s not living in their home anymore because just being around them talking through cases is uncomfortable. Brennan has betrayal beneath every word. Worse, although they are normal toward him, he imagines the anger they must hold in their hearts for him, the one who armed their enemy.

Later, they tell him that they needed to keep the circle small. They assure him that they talked about telling him many times, had devoted more of their precious time and advantage than was probably strictly wise. After it’s all over and he can be sure of the privacy of places outside his own head, he starts telling his own psychologist about how he can’t decide if it was worse to be rejected, considered non-essential until the last minute, than it would have been to be forgotten or considered too valuable or too vulnerable to tell.

Still, he is told before the end. Booth tells him as they go out to question a suspect. The street is loud with construction and the resulting traffic, and it’s unseasonably warm. Sweets is about to ask why they walked instead of drove but then, “Pretend I’m talking about the case,” the other man hisses, looking down as he helps a woman bring her baby carriage gently off of the curb.

The information is painfully slow in coming, as Booth explains it all. The last thing, the reason he’s saying anything at all, is about Hodgins’s connection who tipped them off about someone on a hacker message board whose posts matched keywords and verbal patterns that Angela had identified as Pelant signatures. More paranoid than Orwell could ever have been, Booth keeps up mundane conversation or tense quiet for most of the walk, only revealing another sentence if he is sure that their faces and voices are not being recorded.

“Would he show off like that?” in the confusion as he narrowly dodges a collision with a biker, one that should have been easy to avoid.

“Angela wants you to confirm that the posts are his,” over the rattle of coins and guttural shouts of spare change, spare change? as they round a corner so tightly Booth nearly melds into the wall.

Much later, Sweets feels folded at the bottom of his pocket a piece of paper he doesn’t remember putting there. He is patient, waiting to slide it out until he can hid it in the sheets of his bed, and then slip it into a book.

It’s a list of code words, starts and stops. They act as parentheses in the emails that are used for communication about Pelant. Use a starter, and the words after until a stop word are part of the message. It’s hard to formulate believable emails to encode in, and harder to include brief, understandable notes within, but it’s also difficult to crack when done right.

There’s a note at the bottom of the list, Cam’s handwriting, reminding him that nothing is his fault, that he is part of them. His book is about school shootings, so he cannot smile, but in his heart he thinks about how tough she is, and how observant.

Lance turns the page and tries to fill in the blanks from what he should have read on the page before. He dwells on the fact that he knows about everything now, rather than the number of weeks it took for them to tell him at all.
~
They send Christine away with Max as soon as possible, allowing him to beg to take her on a road trip to Minnesota just enough for it to be believable before they give in. Brennan doesn’t have to fake her anxiety as she triple-checks all of the bags and makes sure Max has the list of what Christine likes and doesn’t, what she’s allowed to eat and play with and lie on, and when.

“And read her this book for early help in developing letter recognition skills,” she continues, looking mostly at her daughter, already buckled into the car, as she hands her father a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

“Tempe,” her dad admonishes. “We’ll be fine. They do have phones in other parts of the country.” He kisses her forehead and goes around to the driver’s side of the car. “And we’ll see you when we get back.”

“We’ll be right here,” Booth says as he comes out of the house to say goodbye. “Have a safe trip,” he says, shaking the hand of his would-be father-in-law before ducking in to say one last word to his daughter.

“You stay safe here too,” Max says with that significant look that means that he knows more than they have told him. He tosses the book in the backseat and starts the car. Christine waves a little at her parents before going back to babbling quietly to her stuffed sheep. They can see her through the back window all the way to the end of the street. Brennan feels an ache that she might describe as forlornness; she wishes that Booth could put his arm around her. As it is, he has already forced himself to go into the house.

It is almost shameful to her, the way she felt herself collapsing when Booth called off the engagement. It makes her angry in retrospect at how happy she was, how happy he was, when they decided marriage was right for them. This was why she had once kept her feelings in, why she barricaded herself with logic and science, why she eschewed emotion and personal connection for so long.

“I’ll be fine,” she spits to Angela one night over drinks. She’s had a little much even for her normally high tolerance, or she wouldn’t have stopped pretending that the whole thing doesn’t bother her. “But I knew better. I should have just stayed as his partner.”

“Oh, honey,” Angela says miserably, “I know it feels like that, like you’ve never been so angry about being right, but Booth has-” She looks around then, almost nervous, and Brennan would surely catch it and ask about what she had been about to say, except that the good doctor is very busy concentrating on not falling off of her stool.

Angela helps her home. Booth is already in bed. She thinks he is asleep, that it is just instinct that draws him to curve around her as she presses into bed, but as she is about to learn, every move of their lives is calculated now.

He is lucky on two counts: that she is drunk enough not to gasp or say anything, but is lucid enough to translate as he carefully finger-spells into her palm I love you. Pelant called me. He is watching. Told Angela. We’re working on it.

Very quickly, the trouble goes from being angry at Booth to needing to pretend to be angry at Booth. It’s a vital part of the plan, keeping up the appearance of being divided, and she summons the memory of Booth sitting her down and saying that they shouldn’t get married in order to ensure the stiffness she must project toward him.

She can identify the irony in her current situation, the “incongruity between what actually happens and what might be expected to happen,” but does not feel that there is a humorous element to the ordeal. For so long distance was the hidden core of her interactions with him, an indifference originally natural but which became forced as she tried to pretend that she had no deeper feelings for him than partnership. Becoming in love with Booth was a progression that she didn’t want to happen, something that she tried to prevent because it panicked her with its precarious, unquantifiable nature. Now that she has accepted it, it is denied her, and beyond that she is denied the comfort of speaking about that denial with him.

The only time she is allowed to be herself, this new self, is in bed at night, when they can feign sleep and press letters into each other’s hands, telling each other we’re getting closer and it’s almost over, although even Brennan can tell from the hesitance in Booth’s fingers that he doesn’t quite believe that it will end soon.

But then somehow it does. Booth calls it a miracle, later, but Brennan believes that it was the merely the culmination of persistence and skill. It starts when Hodgins gets a letter from an old friend. He has been communicating with a group of them on encoded message boards for longer than he’s known the name Pelant, and they’re all paranoid enough not to question when he asks for help. The only thing in the envelope is a scrap of paper with an IP address, one unfamiliar even to Angela, who has come up with different ones from different countries that have all dead-ended. No one is more surprised than she when, under the guise of a friendly visit, she checks it at the home of a fellow computer expert known for having impressive firewalls and it tracks to a local house.

There are many furious conversations had about what to do with Pelant. Hodgins wants to set a hit. “I’ll sell the house, I’ll sell the car, I’ll take out a second mortgage, I just want him gone,” he tells Brennan in a furious undertone as they pick up food for everyone at the new burger place they- and everyone else in the neighborhood, apparently, by the way it’s crowded- like. But Sweets makes it known that he supports only legal action toward Pelant. Booth, as much as he itches to pull the trigger himself despite the lack of authorization, reluctantly agrees to work inside the system. Angela is able to bring Hodgins down a little, although she seems reluctant to do so and Brennan thinks of how she would feel if Pelant had stared down on sleeping Christine and understands.

Now they’re in a bind, because they can’t have a warrant on file and there’s no cause they can give a judge to get one anyway. But a month later the news catches Brennan’s attention despite the overwhelming caseload as the summer heat increases decomp odor which causes an upsurge in corpse discovery. It stretches the strict definitions of legality just a little bit, but she uses a disposable cell phone to call someone who she never thought she would call after she came back from Uganda.

She had liked Nancy Mackenzie, who had treated her normally when few others did, but was never actually clear on what she did for the Department of Defense or what she was doing in Africa at the time. Nancy had been very secretive. Still, in a stroke of luck, ten years later, she still remembered the time Brennan had tackled her as a small explosive was coming toward her back. She is still grateful enough that, after Brennan sketches out a few details, she is willing to get information on the computer activity of an Egyptian national named Bassam al-Fayat from a project named PRISM.
~
Booth isn’t allowed to be a part of the deeply covert operation. He isn’t allowed to do surveillance, not even sitting in the truck, during the three days that the taskforce (which is allegedly FBI, although Booth suspects that there are some CIA and DoD agents in there are well, if not some NSA in the mix) watches Pelant to become accustomed to his routine. He isn’t allowed the victory of smashing through the door and shouting “FBI!” to the restlessly sleeping body of the serial killer. He has to hear from others how they had computer experts on hand in case the computer system had some kind of self-destruct programmed in, but even Pelant’s password proved easy to hack.

“It’s pretty simple when you get down to it,” Sweets says when they all meet at Founding Fathers a few weeks after the raid. They’re all still shaken by the entire affair, and speaking about these things openly feels like stretching cramped muscles: pleasurable, but uncomfortable enough that you want to go back to the old position because you had gone a little numb to it. “Narcissistic personality so overcome by his own brilliance that he’s beaten by those he overlooked as inferior. It’s classic.” He shrinks down slightly as the others stare at him. “That’s not to say it wasn’t hard…”

“I think what Dr. Sweets means is that it was a job very well done,” Cam inserts. She drains her drink and stands. “I have to get home. Michelle should be back tonight, and she keeps saying that when she does she wants an explanation of what exactly went on these past few weeks.”

“So you’ll be trying to get to sleep before she gets home so you can put that conversation off for one more day?” Booth asks, his tone half Boy Scout innocent and half cheeky skeptic as he teases his old friend.

“I’ll pretend if I have to.” And she’s out the door.

“It might be more effective if she just has Arastoo come over and they get freaky loud,” Angela puts in, smiling broadly. Booth mentioned in the car this morning that she seemed unsurprisingly happier, “unburdened” was the way he put it. He’s still surprised by the way that the things he thinks come out when he speaks to Brennan. He typically covers up what he perceives, dumbs it down.

Angela and Hodgins stay for a few more drinks, long enough to be home a few minutes after they told the babysitter they would be. Booth and Brennan are quiet once they leave and follow them after a few minutes.

It’s been awkward for the two of them. Not all the time, but sometimes, after Christine is in bed or when they’re in the car for too long, Booth can tell that she’s still somewhat guarded. He remembers Cam once warning him not to start anything with Brennan because he could hurt her so deeply she would retreat to unfeelingness and unwillingness to feel. He hates to think that it might have happened because he couldn’t outsmart Pelant in the moment.

“Did you want to…set a date?” Brennan says beside him. “For the wedding? Angela says that it’s traditional to give people time to ensure that the ceremony is at a sensible time for their schedules.”

Booth looks over at her. He is surprised for more reason than one, and she seems to see that. “I know that you did the best that you could. I think that I probably would have done,” she takes a deep breath, “the same thing.”

There’s plenty left to do. While there’s no way that prosecuting Pelant will be easy, it can’t be as difficult as it was to nail him down.   Brennan will undoubtedly need some time to regain her comfort with him, but there’s no one he would rather have by his side. “I couldn’t ask for a higher compliment,” Booth says, and he lets her take him home.
I like your way of bringing down Pelant. Although, yes, Booth would be very frustrated not to be the one breaking down the door. I'm sort of interested to see how it plays out on the show, and sort of interested in having it just be over already. Not sure why, but the overarching storyline gets a little much for me sometimes. So, I enjoy reading all the ways that the fic writes wrap it up. Thanks for sharing!
I'm sort of interested to see how it plays out on the show, and sort of interested in having it just be over already. Not sure why, but the overarching storyline gets a little much for me sometimes.
I definitely agree. The Pelant story has definitely been challenging and emotional, but I find the way that he's so clever and so easily manipulative of both technology and people to be a little much.

Thanks very much for the comment! :D
This is really nice - so good to witness an end to Pelant and I like the way you involve the whole team.

There are some lovely turns of phrase here, e.g. :

They’re all still shaken by the entire affair, and speaking about these things openly feels like stretching cramped muscles: pleasurable, but uncomfortable enough that you want to go back to the old position because you had gone a little numb to it.

And some very smart dialogue - you write a wonderful Cam in particular! :

“I think what Dr. Sweets means is that it was a job very well done,” Cam inserts.

Hee!

I like that you show Booth's frustration at not being there to literally take Pelant down - and yet have it go that way which is more realistic than Show's handling of this whole business!

Clever methods of communication throughout too - love the moments where BB use finger spelling to communicate.

Thanks for sharing :)
Thanks for the comment, especially about the dialogue. Always one of my anxiety points. And I've never worked with Cam extensively before, so that was a nice surprise.

I liked coming up with the different communication methods that would be covert enough to escape notice but not so covert that they couldn't be used.
Thanks for the comment, especially about the dialogue. Always one of my anxiety points.

Seriously? Well definitely no need to be anxious there - awesome!
Yeah, dialog and characterization (AKA two HUGE parts of most fiction writing) always make me doubt myself. I used to imagine the characters saying what I'd written to make sure it sounded accurate but then it turned out that I have a good enough imagination to make them say anything. So now I have to wait around for people like you to give me compliments that make me less obsessive. Thanks for that!
From the news in TV guide, I expect Pelant to be over and done with by November (Thanks Hart!) And I don't think I am too worried about Pelant's life expectancy once he gets to prison, Max has friends.
That might be the perfect balance between tension in the new season and the part where they beat him. Still maybe they should have just let Max deal with it from the beginning, lol. :)
I love the tone of this fic and how you choose Angela to question Booth's behavior; she would not let him get away with it!

As I'm visiting your LJ via Bones Love Month I'll take the opportunity to say thanks for reminding me about Jellicoe Road, time I reread this great book! Useful Hebrew phrases... I once did a presentation in Hebrew, now my phrases are limited to specifying how I want my coffee, asking people if they want red or white wine and telling them to shut up ;)
I liked the idea of Angela stepping up to the plate for Brennan.

Jellicoe Road is so great! It's such a comfort book for me that it sits next to my bed a lot of the time. Were you taking a Hebrew class that you had to do a presentation? In my experience, if you're ever around Hebrew-speakers, they'll probably speak English better than the majority of Anglos speak Hebrew, but you have a nice little collection of phrases!
Yes, I did my presentation in Hebrew class. You'd definitely manage without Hebrew in Israel!

I have books I return to again and again. None of them sit next to my bed at the moment, though. If I added to the currently- reading-or-about-to-read-stack I'd risk becoming a headline along the lines of "Woman killed in sleep by avalanche of books" ;)
I'd been taking Hebrew for almost twelve years by the time I went to Israel after high school, and if I tried to speak in Hebrew people would roll their eyes and gently tell me to switch to English. :P

I'd risk becoming a headline along the lines of "Woman killed in sleep by avalanche of books" ;)
LOL! I usually keep four or five books in my headboard; the rest teeter on a stool at the foot of my bed. I've actually had to put myself on a very painful library hold until the tide recedes a bit.
I've actually had to put myself on a very painful library hold until the tide recedes a bit.

I guess I have to do that too... My moratorium on buying just isn't enough :(
Too cheap to buy many books so I successfully resist that temptation, but it's so much harder to convince myself that there are downsides to the library. It's grown more difficult since I started working at two local ones this summer, and I practically whisper I'll come back for you every time I leave. But I've finished enough books now to be able to get more tomorrow (yay!!).

Good luck on getting your books under control. It really is an awesome problem to have. :)
This was EXCELLENT...the low-tech communication, the sending those who could be sent out of harm's way (in both cases with people who will kill to protect them), the slow and deliberate and patient planning, the caution...excellent.

I love the way you worked with the language of each person's individual hurt and disillusionment and feelings of isolation and being left out and watched and paranoid and furious. The section on Sweets, where he talks to his psychologist about how he was particularly hurt to be kept out of the loop for so long...that was excellent. Second to that is the list of short sentences about what Booth doesn't get to do himself in the process of the arrest that is incredibly powerful based on who we know Booth to be. Good writing choices there.

I also love that EVERY person was necessary, everyone's piece was crucial to their efforts. These people work best as a team, and you made them that perfect storm of a team that is them at their best. Just...excellent throughout.

(I'm wondering now if I should have read this...I may be disappointed when the show gives me something less effective!)
This comment was EXCELLENT. I tried especially hard to show how Pelant isolated everyone by trying to cut off the possibility of connecting through all the typical methods of communication, but how they needed to overcome that because each of them is part of the team that will bring him down. Not sure why I'm restating what you already said other than that I'm so glad that you picked up on that!

(I'm wondering now if I should have read this...I may be disappointed when the show gives me something less effective!)
I suspect that a ridiculously cautious and gradual code-based offensive will not film well and that the end of the Pelant arc on Bones will be a bit splashier. Nevertheless, I will take the compliment and run! :D