Author's note: You have no idea how long this story has been bothering me. No matter how many times I rewrote it, it kept giving me bad vibes. I still don't know how the heck I managed to finally make it readable...Anyway, this is my entry for the October NJC. This month's song was Eden by Hooverphonic, one of my all-time favourite Hooverphonic songs. The first time I listened to it, it brought me pretty close to tearing up. The horns and how the words are sung evoked a powerful feeling of longing. It made me feel as if I was trying so hard to catch something I desperately want, but finding it out of reach. I tried translating this longing to Brennan's family situation. On the show her brother is out of the picture and all she has to go on is a "he is fine" comment made by her father. I tried to combine the "what if her brother returned" question with a strong mental image of Brennan holding a baby I got after listening several times to the song.
Jemb and I asked all participants to pinpoint their favourite image in the beautiful video we chose for the song. Overall I like how the English lyrics have been translated into French; It gives the song and video an extra dimension. As for my favourite photograph, I'll have to go with the picture of the hand reaching for a dot of light. It goes well with that feeling of longing I mentioned earlier. But I have to say that the more I look at the photo, other meanings also present themselves. Besides reaching out, the hand could be supporting, waiting for, or setting the light free. It all depends on from what angle you wish to look at the picture.
I have to thank Jemb for reading through this. I was convinced it was utter crap until she told me otherwise.
-- ANNABEL --
Tap, tap, tap...
In an agitated pace her fingers drummed on the steering wheel as Brennan contemplated the large entrance doors of Washington Hospital Center. The glass sliding doors were slightly obstructed from view by a neat row of pillars supporting the roof of the entrance hall. Behind the structure Brennan knew as the welcoming area, the hospital rose up. In that immense building, on one of those floors, behind one of those windows, was the reason for her sudden visit.
Tap, tap, tap...
Each tap of her nails on the leather of her steering wheel sounded like a roll of thunder on a clear day. She should have never come down here. Russ had only called to say where he was and what had happened. His call had been purely informational, not inviting. To her surprise, Brennan completely understood his behavior. Ever since he had moved to Washington D.C. with his girlfriend, she hadn't exactly made a huge effort of reconnecting and trying to restore their old trust. It would have all been different if he hadn't walked out on her a second time...together with their father nonetheless. Russ couldn't expect her to be flexible about the emotional wounds from her youth he had opened again. It would take a lot of time and hard work before they would find each other again. For now it seemed to Brennan that they were both wandering around aimlessly in the dark calling out Marco Polo without ever hearing an echo.
Breathing out audibly, Brennan let her fingers slip off the steering wheel. Though she and Russ weren't the traditional brother and sister, she had very much acted her part as caring and loyal sister after he had called. After some initial hesitations, she had left Booth's office where she had been waiting for Booth to come back from a meeting with Cullen and had headed for the parking lot where she had commandeered his SUV. Brennan frowned as she thought about how annoyed Booth would be once he found out she had snatched his keys. On a scale of one to ten, he'd score a nine, perhaps even a ten. Brennan had seen him fuss about his car before. The only times she had seen him more agitated was when either Parker or she was in danger.
Eventually, because her eyes were starting to water from all the strained staring at the sliding doors, Brennan looked away. Instead of eyeing those doors suspiciously, she willed herself to pull herself back together. Without allowing any second thoughts to invade her mind, Brennan grabbed her bag and scarf and got out of the car. As she buttoned up her jacket and wrapped her scarf around her neck, she cautiously took a few steps in the direction of the entrance. Inwardly groaning because of her hesitance, Brennan firmly clutched her bag and set off towards the sliding doors in a purposeful stride. Never, not once, did she back down from a fight before. This time would be no different.
Tap, tap, tap...
The rhythmic clacking of her heels was first muffled by the pavement, next intensified by the hospital floors. Brennan held her head up high and her eyes focused on an unknown point in the distance as she strode across the parking lot, through the doors, and down a hallway. After a quick check of on what floor she had to be, she got into an elevator and rode up to the fifth floor. She was met by the sight of a man pacing around, surrounded by what appeared to be relatives. An agonizing scream sounded from a nearby room resulting in a nurse ushering the pacing man inside. Brennan fought the urge to roll her eyes and set off towards a room further down the hall. The moment she laid eyes on four rows of wiggling blue and pink bundles, she was frozen into place.
Babies...an entire room full of babies. Some were a day old, others close to a week. The only thing separating her from a room full of small human beings she didn't know how to handle was a large window. Once the initial shock wore off, Brennan tentatively raised her hand intending on tapping softly against the window. She halted herself instantly. Tapping the window didn't only remind her of the "Do not disturb the animals" signs in the zoo, it wasn't like the baby she was looking for would jump up, wave, and call out her name.
A quick survey of the hallway told Brennan there wasn't a nurse in sight. Her movements were dilatory and hasty at the same time. One last moment of hesitation and then Brennan stepped across the threshold. Immediately she walked up to the first row of babies. No sign of her brother's name. She started going over the second row as she wondered what name Russ would have used anyway. Keenan or...The third cradle on the back row was the one she was looking for. Brennan stared at the newborn, not uttering a single sound, barely breathing.
There she was...little Annabel Brennan, Russ's little girl. Brennan tried to swallow the lump in her throat away as she studied the infant of almost two days old. Tiny feet, tiny hands, facial wrinkles that still needed to be smoothed out, the skull that still needed to set and harden...Hesitatingly Brennan lifted her hand. It all seemed like a dream, standing here in front of Russ's offspring. She needed to touch the baby, if only with one finger, to make sure this was real. Her hand hovered over the child for several long instances. Did she want this to be real? No-one had seen her so far; she could easily turn around and go back to pretending her unstable relationship with her brother was just fine.
"You can touch her if you want to." Brennan's head whipped around while she pulled her hand back as if she had burnt herself.
"Russ," she breathed. Her brother briefly raised an eyebrow before turning to Annabel.
"How's my little girl doing," he mumbled, carefully slipping his hands under the baby's back so he could properly lift her.
With a small sigh Annabel nested her head against his shoulder. Russ goofily smiled as he patted the child's back. Brennan couldn't believe her eyes. Was this the same man who had abandoned her twice, who had spent some time in prison, and who had helped out a criminal who happened to be her father? Unconsciously Brennan sought the edge of the cradle to grab a firm hold of. Seeing Russ treat his daughter so tenderly transported her back to the past. For a minute she was that little girl again, Russ's sister silently begging him not to leave her behind. What she wouldn't have given for him to have held her when the loss of their parents cut through her like a razor sharp knife in the middle of the night. The longing must have been visible in her eyes because suddenly Russ gestured at her.
"Do you want to hold her?"
Brennan swallowed, hesitated briefly, and slowly let go of the cradle. With the utmost care Russ deposited the baby in Brennan's arms. Annabel stirred for a second because of being moved around, but she soon settled her head again, this time against Brennan's shoulder. Brennan wordlessly stared at the warm bundle of joy resting against her. Because of her staring, she missed the tender smile on Russ's face. Then, slowly but surely, Brennan relaxed. Annabel kept perfectly still. The only sounds that could be heard in the room were Annabel's sleepy mumbles, typical for a newborn baby. A sudden urge to gently stroke Annabel's back and mumble incoherent nonsense herself was slowly awakening in Brennan when, unexpectedly, a familiar vibration was felt in the pocket of her jacket. Brennan's eyes widened and she tried to hand Russ the baby back as quickly and carefully as possible, but it was no good. Not a second later, a shrill ringing tore apart the comfortable silence hanging in the nursery. All the babies stirred and some of them woke up, but it was Annabel who was frightened the most. Without any hesitations she opened up her mouth and began crying for dear life.
"I'm sorry," Brennan shot at Russ as she frantically grabbed her cell phone out of her pocket. One look at the caller ID made her groan in frustration. She flipped her phone open and hissed, "What?! I am in the middle of something here!"
"Yes, you certainly are in the middle of something. Does the term 'carlifting' mean anything to you, Bones?" Brennan rolled her eyes. She had been wrong. Booth didn't score a nine or a ten; he scored an eleven, maybe even a twelve on the scale of annoyance.
"The SUV is doing just fine," she snapped back. "I only borrowed it to go see my..." She was cut short by Booth.
"I don't care if you went to see the President. You took my car!"
"Yes, I took your damn car. You can take mine next time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go back to holding my niece."
"Your niece?!" Booth exclaimed. Brennan didn't give him enough time to say anything else. Without further ado she ended the call by snapping her phone shut. When she turned around, Russ was staring at her as he murmured unintelligible words into Annabel's ears. Brennan slid her phone into her bag, sighed, and eventually looked up again to meet Russ's stare.
"Sorry about that," she apologized.
"It's alright. Booth is only looking out for you. Dad would be pleased." Brennan tilted her head to the side.
"About dad..." she cautiously began. Russ shook his head.
"We'll talk later, Tempe. Just not here...in front of Annabel. For all she is concerned, we are a happy family."
"She's a baby," Brennan said in a surprised and somewhat edgy voice. "She can't possibly understand us." Russ shook his head again in disagreement. He gently placed a snoozing Annabel back in her cradle and draped the soft pink blanket over her tiny legs. For about two minutes, he silently stared at his daughter opening and closing her little fists as she slipped away into a peaceful sleep. Russ tenderly brushed Annabel's cheek and then looked up.
"Babies are a sensitive bunch. Annabel can feel the tension." Brennan sighed.
"Fine, then she can feel the tension. But that doesn't mean you can so easily postpone our talk. We need to talk, Russ. I'm sick...and tired...of worrying about you and wondering why I have kept you at a distance for so long." She stared intensely at him as she folded her arms. "I worried about you when you were gone, Russ. You took off without so much as a word of goodbye. All I had to go on before you moved to D.C. was something dad told me and that wasn't a lot. Hearing 'you were fine' wasn't enough."
"I know," Russ murmured. "But dad was telling the truth. I was doing fine...I still am." He quickly glanced at Brennan's niece sleeping peacefully. "Tell you what," he said slowly, "I'll take you to Local 16 on the corner of 16th and U-street tonight. We can talk there." He gave Brennan his most earnest look. "I want to get this sorted out just as badly as you, Tempe. Trust me."
Brennan nodded, as did Russ. They briefly smiled at each other before going back to staring at Annabel. Brennan imperceptibly nodded again, satisfied. Before the day was over, she would sit down and talk with her estranged brother. If Russ had proposed this half a year ago, she would have turned him down without a second thought. But now, as she watched his daughter sleep so peacefully, she felt the need to become a family again. She wanted her brother back.
Brennan reached out to pull Annabel's blanket a bit higher. She was an aunt now. It was her responsibility, both as an aunt and as an older sister, to repair her shaky relationship with Russ and maybe even try to become a part of what Russ considered as his personal heaven---his new family. Brennan stiffened and relaxed again immediately. That was exactly what she was going to do. She was going to do her utmost best at becoming part of Russ's paradise, his Eden.
And to think I don't even like babies...