C h a p t e r O n e – F r i d a y A f t e r n o o n
Sometimes time heals all wounds. Sometimes it leaves it under a thick layer of dust, covered for the moment but ready to be just as open and just as bleeding after the next breeze strong enough to blow that layer of dust away. For Temperance Brennan, a single phone call stirred the dust from that blood drenched layer in her mind that she had tried so hard to intelligently rationalise. When that hadn't worked she'd simply tried to forget. But sometimes a photographic memory served too well; the squalling cries and sticky limbs that were taken so quickly from her. The shame of it all. The empty feeling afterwards and later, that night, the firm decision that it would never happen again. That, in her mind, it hadn't happened before. Because that was the only way she could cope.
For sixteen years she remained in firm denial until that day in sun drenched July when the latest killer had been handed over to prosecution and she was languishing in the thought of a weekend spent doing her current two favourite things; bed time with Sully and getting through some of the old bones backlogs of the Jeffersonian. It was a normal Friday afternoon for her; she was tidying her office while Angela told her about weekend plans she wasn't paying attention to. Zack, Cam and Booth had left for the day and the air conditioning was soothing background noise. There was a feeling of Friday to the air that could have been as simple as saying everyone was leaving early, but it was always more that that to Brennan. The lab itself, an inanimate object lit only by the human life within seemed to settle itself down, hunkering over, waiting eagerly to be engulfed by silence.
"I mean if you and Sully would actually drag yourselves away from the bedroom for an hour we could double date. I bet Sully is one of those men who are secretly fabulous at bowling. And he'd look cute in those shoes-." Brennan's cell rang and she fished in her bag, expecting to see Booth's number. Instead it was an out of state number, unrecognisable. A number that could have kept quiet and let her remain in the self obligatory oblivion of the sixteen year old event that she was accustomed to. Instead, it made Angela fall silent while it trilled.
"Brennan." She answered the phone in her usual way; briskly. If people wanted niceties, they could call someone who wasn't so pressed for time.
"Dr Temperance Brennan?" The question wasn't a new one. The voice was one she hadn't heard, and as she replied she let her mind quickly sort through where she might have heard it before.
"Yes, this is her." Another file went into her bag to peruse at home. There were x-rays she wanted to look at before she started on the actual bones. Sully had the propensity to sleep straight after sex, while Brennan stayed awake, using those hours to work.
"This is Ray Vanault." His name and sombre tone punched through the dust that had accumulated, went straight to the wound. His next words ripped it wider and his words after that rubbed in the salt.
"It's about Lucy. Bad news." Brennan felt herself sink into the chair. She could tell from Angela's worried look that the way she felt was expressing itself on her face.
"What is it?"
"I… She was found Tuesday night. Dead. My little girl was in a ditch… They just left her." She couldn't breathe. On the other end of the line in a city far away, Ray Vanault was making use of his oxygen in great, gulping sobs of sorrow but she couldn't summon any air into her lungs to approximate his grief. At the moment, she couldn't feel anything. She was airless and shocked but was still calculating the time between when Lucy was found and the call that came to vanquish her weekend plans.
"It's Friday now." She could state nothing but fact, could deal with nothing else. The little air that she had gathered to give him that sentence was too precious to waste on recriminations.
"We couldn't find you… You never leave a return address… We never even knew which city you lived in." His words carried guilt across to her, to settle right next to the shock. It was a heavier weight and through it she managed to draw a breath, not to knock away his truth but to accept it.
"I'm sorry. I'm so… Sorry." A deep grief was beginning to pervade the shock, dissipate it somewhat. When her parents left, when Russ left… Nothing compared to the sorrow that was settling. Not being firsthand, she'd never had the day to day worry. But even removed as she was there was still enough of a link to make her want to rip her soul out and exchange it just so that Lucy could live.
"The police haven't released the body. They haven't told us anything. We're her parents… We just want to bury…" He trailed off, and again the sobs were sudden before they were stifled. Brennan clenched the table harder. They were her parents. Them. Why did they think reaching out to her would help anything? She could have remained unconscious to what had happened, could have remained in her blissful oblivion that required nothing more than two cards a year.
"If you take a flight at nine you can be here in a little over three hours. You have the address?" He knew she did. That was where the two cards a year were delivered safely. She'd never had one returned to her; had never put a return address on. The more oblivious she could make it, the better.
"You want me to… Be there?"
"You might not know this but she would want you there. Lucy didn't know you but she loved you." She could hear the slight bitterness over the strangled grief. She wanted to tell him that it wouldn't have bothered her if Lucy didn't love her, if she didn't know anything about her at all. She'd effectively failed in that area of her life and it was one she didn't care to be reminded of, but Ray Vanault and his picture perfect housewife Linda had insisted on a minimum contact agreement. Too scared to argue, a sixteen year old Temperance Brennan had numbly signed the papers and had been able to do that part of it right.
"I…" Brennan looked across the desk at Angela. Though she'd remained blissfully quiet there were already questions crowded in her eyes. Going away for the weekend would mean questions from Angela, explanations for Sully. If it stretched on longer than that there would be leave reasons needed for Cam, and Booth wouldn't give up until he found out. But not going… She owed Lucy more than she had to give and being there would be some kind of penance. Brennan didn't believe in such a Christian invention, but she did believe that Lucy deserved more from the most unreachable person in her life.
"I'll take the flight and book into a motel. Will you be there tomorrow morning?"
"I'll make sure we're here for you. And Temperance… I'm sorry. For what you must be feeling." She hung up feeling hollow. Ray Vanault's last words had diffused the last of her shock. The guilt she felt was held at bay with action; she had started booking herself a flight on the internet even as she finished talking. The sadness she had managed to dampen for the moment, but that meant there was nothing left.
"Sweetie, what was that all about?" Angela was sitting forward on her chair but Bren didn't look at her until her last credit card number was in place and the seat request was processing.
"One day, Ang, I will tell you. But I can't today." The words wouldn't be found. Irrational and childish as it was, the human condition is to leave things unspoken lest they become real. Brennan was going with irrationality on this, since nothing in her rational world could explain the way she felt, or how she could make this better.
"You're going somewhere?" The printer whirred to life and shot out her reserve pass. Brennan nodded, wiped dry eyes. Crying was a normal reaction, she knew, but she knew she wouldn't be able to cry without feeling it all. And feeling it, too, meant it was more real than it had been for the last sixteen years.
"For the weekend. Maybe for longer. I'll call Cam if I'm going to be away more than that. I think I've got sick days owing. If Booth calls…" She'd been running on auto-pilot in the last few sentences, mentally running through one checklist while she verbally barraged Angela with another. Then they collided on one point; Booth.
"I don't want you to tell Booth anything. About the conversation I just had on the phone, about the fact that the phone rang at all. Tell him its work related, another case."
"This isn't work related?" Bren picked up her bag and put her phone in. For such a small object, it had managed to communicate to her unsurpassed terrible news.
"No, Ang." Her best friend followed her as far as the doors out of the lab, still quiet.
"Bren, I love you." The words were not new from Angela; she was always best at displaying her feelings as soft waves of sound in the air but these, uttered at this time, almost undid Brennan. She looked Angela in the eye as she felt the first tear roll down her face. Her best friend could tell her she loved her, and she hadn't told Lucy once. Hadn't managed to get past the irrational feelings that inundated her the few times she'd laid eyes on her, or heard her voice. And saying it now to Ang would make her want to tell her the whole story, from abrupt, sickeningly scary start to even worse finish. But she had a flight to catch.
"Yeah, Ang. I know." She left the building to its Friday afternoon settling and walked into dusky sunlight. She wondered if Lucy had known. That despite her self-imposed disconnection from it all, that she'd loved her. She wondered if she herself had realised until now, until it was too late.
A/N: So I'm trying a new style of writing; far more abstract than what I usually write.
So you might be sitting there going 'what the hell' but it will all be explained!
Pushing the button and sending some love will make it happen so much quicker, though.