The Key Title: The Key
Author: DebC
Rating: PG-something
Keywords: Dec/Peggy friendship, "Wonderful" Spoilers
Disclaimers: "Mysterious Ways" is the property of Binder, O'Fallon and Lions Gate. I don't own much, so please don't sue me.
Summary: Declan urges Peggy to discover the origin of a mysterious key.

Author's not: This is my reaction piece to the episode "Wonderful" in which Peggy finally learns what became of her father.

"The Key"

The box lay on the coffee table next to a half eaten pizza and two wine glasses. It was a plain brown shoebox, unassuming in every way imaginable. Inside, however, were the few remaining personal effects of a man whom Peggy Fowler had once called "daddy." Also inside that box were the shattered remnants of her dreams of their reunion.

Peggy sat beside Declan on her couch, eyes fixed upon the shoebox. Her face wore an expression of deep sorrow. "Declan, I… " she began, choking back the emotion that suddenly welled up in her. When she'd learned that her father had been living in Portland, she'd allowed herself to have hope once again—hope that she might finally see her father after all the years that had passed. Now that hope was gone. "I'd like you to help me do something," she said at last.

"Sure, Peg. Whatever you need," replied Declan, popping the last of his pizza into his mouth. "Do what, exactly?"

His words were muffled by the food in his mouth, and Peggy had to smile. Sometimes she wasn't sure why she kept him around… and sometimes she couldn't imagine her life without his friendship.

Peggy explained to him that she needed to have closure and planned to have this box buried at the campsite where she and her father used to go in her childhood. "It was our favorite spot, Declan, and I think that's were it belongs, even if it is only junk."

"Closure is good," Declan said. Reaching for the box, her began to open it. "Do you mind if I take a look?"

"Ummm… sure…" Peggy looked bewildered. "It's just junk, Declan."

Declan didn't say anything, as he was too busy pawing through the box. He pulled out store receipts, a baseball card, and some spare change that must have come from Martin Henderson's pocket. "You're right, Peg, " he said at last. "It's just ju—what's this?" he asked, stopping in med-sentence and holding up a small, tarnished key.

"It's a key."

"I know it's a key. What does it open?" Declan studied the key carefully.

"I don't know, Declan. I didn't even know it was in there," Peggy told him.

"Maybe there's something in here that will tell us where it goes," Declan suggested. Then he dumped the contents of the box onto the coffee table.

When he'd meticulously examined each item and returned it to the shoebox without finding any clues about the mysterious key, Peggy reached out and took it from him, dropping it into the box.

"Peggy! Why'd you do that?" Declan protested.

"It's a lost cause, Declan. Let's just bury the box and be done with it." There was weariness in her voice that Declan had never heard before.

"But… Peg… what if this key is important? What if it holds some secret about your father's life? Don't you owe it to yourself to find out what it goes to?"

"I don't know," Peggy sighed. "I just want this chapter of my life to finally be over with, Declan."

"I know, but Peg, what if this is the last chance you have to connect with your dad?" Declan urged. "You'll never know if you don't try, and what kind of closure would that be? You'd forever have doubts, Peg."

Peggy hesitated. She hated it when he was right, especially when it came to things she should know as a psychiatrist. She would never really have closure if she thought she'd buried the only link to her father she might ever have.

"I don't want to get my hopes up, Declan," she told him.

"But?" he asked. "Come on, Peg. I know there's a "but" in there somewhere."

She nodded, and he grinned at her in triumph.

"Great!" he said, clapping his hands together and rubbing them in anticipation. "When do we start?"


"This is the building where he lived," Peggy said as she pulled her car into the parking lot. "They said he'd lived there for quite awhile but never mentioned having any family."

Peggy led the way into the building. A few people glanced at them and the landlord came up to them.

"Back again, huh?" he asked. "What can I do for you this time?"

Peggy hesitated long enough for Declan to jump in. "My friend found a key in that box you gave her. We were wondering if you knew what it went to?" Peggy brought the key from her pocket and showed it to the landlord, who shook his head.

"I'm sorry, " he said. "I don't recognize that key."

Peggy sighed and started to turn away. "I told you it was a dead end, Declan."

"Wait, Peg," Declan said, stopping her with a gentle hand on her arm. "Are you certain you haven't seen it before?" he pushed.

The owner studied the key some more and again he shook his head. "it does look a bit like a safe deposit key or something," he added as they left.



"Come on, Peg!"


"Just this last bank."

"Declan I said 'no!' What part of that word are you having trouble comprehending?"

Peggy and Declan stood arguing outside the Portland National Bank. Declan had the key in his hand, clutching it tightly. They'd already been to nearly every bank in the city with no luck, and with each failure, Peggy became increasingly cross and uncooperative.

"Please, Peggy," Declan pleaded, giving her the puppy-eyed look that always signaled her defeat when it came to his flights of fancy. "I promise this will be the last one. If we fail here, I'll give up."

"Why is this so important to you, Declan? He was my father, not yours."

"I know. I know he was your father, Peggy. I also know how badly you wanted to find him. I just want…" he paused, fidgeting with the key. "Peggy," his voice was serious. "If there's anything this key can tell us about your dad, I want you to know. I don't you to have live the rest of your life without knowing the truth… like I almost did." This last part was said in a hushed whisper, but Peggy could still hear the emotion in her friend's words.

Peggy sighed heavily in resignation. "Okay," she agreed. "But this better be the last one."

Once inside the bank, Declan scanned the room for a customer service desk. Spotting one, he turned to Peggy and asked, "Do you want me to ask them?"

"No," Peggy told him, holding her hand out for the key. "I'll do it this time."

She approached the desk slowly, looking back at Declan only once. He smiled and flashed her a thumbs up.

"May I help you, ma'am?" the woman at the desk asked.

"I… I hope so," Peggy began, and she held out the key. "My father dies recently, and we found this key with his things. We don't know where it comes from, but we think it might go to a safe deposit box."

"It does look like one of our keys," the woman replied with a smile. "I could check for you if you'd like?"

"Yes… yes I would."


Peggy sat on her couch, clutching the box that sat on her lap. It was no shoebox, but rather a large file box. She had given the key to the woman at the Portland National Bank thinking that this, too, would be a dead end. When the woman came back with the large box, she hadn't known what to say or do. Declan had taken over at that point, signing for the box and thanking the woman whole-heartedly. Peggy couldn't move or speak; she was too shocked to even think.

Now at home, she was too afraid to open the box—afraid to know what it contained.

"Aren't you going to open it?" Declan asked as he returned from the kitchen, two steaming cups of tea in hand.

As the comforting sent of chamomile and honey reached her, Peggy nodded. "I guess I should," she said at last, but she still did not open the box. "Declan…" she turned to him, looking more vulnerable than Declan had ever seen her. "I just wanted you to know… wanted to say…" Peggy was fumbling with her words and Declan placed his hand over hers, squeezing reassuringly. "Thank you," his touch gave her the strength to say. "No matter what's inside this box, thank you."

"I only did what you would have done for me if the situations were reversed, Peg," he told her with a smile. "So… you gonna open it?" He grinned at her, throwing her off guard and making her smile.

"You're incorrigible, Declan," she laughed in spite of her trepidation.

Encouraged, Peggy began to fumble with the tape securing the lid of the box.

"Here. Let me." Declan broke through the tape with his truck key and lifted the lid from the box.

Peggy swallowed a lump of nervous fear and looked inside. Reaching inside, she pulled out a bundle of faded envelopes. There were two similar bundles inside. Along with the envelopes were three gay jewelry boxes and an empty whiskey bottle. Peggy ignored the bottle and the jewelry boxes, focusing on the bundle in her hands.

"They—" she slid the string off the bundle and began leafing through the envelopes. "They're addressed to me," she said, feeling bewildered.

"Letters?" Declan queried.

"I don't know. I suppose." She looked at him. "Should I open them?"

Declan shrugged. "They are addressed to you," he reminded her.

She nodded and carefully broke the seal to one of the envelopes in her hand and began to read.

Dear Peggy,

I suppose you are wondering why I am writing to you. One of my councilors suggested that I write to you, even if I never the letters. He said it might help me to tell someone I love why I am here. And I love you, my Peggy, my daughter. This is my second time in rehab, another time going through the motions of the 12-Step. This time, I won't want to go through the motions. I want it to work. I want to be sober for you.

Peggy continued to read, her eyes pooling with tears. Letter after letter told of her father's struggle to stay sober. He loved her, they said, but was afraid of ruining her life by showing up on her doorstep, drunk and reeking of whiskey and failure. They told how his sister and other family members had sent him information about her—pictures of graduation, both high and college, and news of her wedding. They spoke of his pride in her and his misery because he could not break free of the alcohol that enslaved him.

The letters also explained the other contents of the safe deposit box. The three jewelry boxes were for her, intended as gifts for her high school and college graduations and her wedding day—all not given, but kept as reminders of the barrier that separated father and daughter. The whiskey bottle—as explained in one letter dated only two years ago—was the last bottle Martin Henderson ever emptied. "I dumped it down the sink," Martin said in the letter. "And I haven't had drop since."

One final letter said:

My darling daughter,

I moved back to Portland to be close to you, but I have been afraid to see you. I wonder if you hate after these years of silence. Can you ever forgive me? I love you so much.

Peggy folded the letter, laying it on the coffee table beside the box where it had been for a year before her father's death. "He loved me," she whispered, fighting back the tears. Sensing her sorrow, Declan put an arm around her shoulder. "He loved me, Declan," Peggy said again, her voiced choked. Tears were now streaming down her face as she allowed Declan to gather her in his arms. As she cried, Declan gently stroked her hair, whispering only "I know he did, Peg. How could he not?"