Daughter's father watches, quietly we assume
He's no longer with us, but he left this dusty room
In your name and it's an honor, it's a shame but it's your honor
Take it on your shoulder 'til you can find another
That's enough for now, he should've never left you broken
He should've held you, things your father never could do
That's enough for now, he would've never left you broken
He would've held you, things your father never told you...
- Enough for Now, The Fray
It was already late afternoon when the big black Toyota came to a stop in front of the old brick apartment complex. The sun had already dipped beneath the top of the building, light breaking into two beams that wrapped around it like arms, but unable to touch around the middle. The engine ticked as it cooled, and it was the only sound between them. Booth rubbed his hands against his pants legs and ground his teeth anxiously, in the way he always had when he did not know what to say. That was all they heard, the ticking and grinding, but it was her silence that was most maddening.
"You don't have to do this today," Booth finally said. The words came out funny, choked, like his throat was too dry. He swallowed. She swallowed.
"Yes I do," she replied, opening the car door and stepping out. A warm summer wind blew down the narrow strait between buildings, ruffling the hem of her black dress. The image of her standing there, blowing in the breeze with that lost look she wore so well, was both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sad. Booth rubbed his face in his hands and also stepped out of the car, following her up to the worn building. Mortar and brick could only last so long, and his apartment showed it—all walls fall eventually.
His death had come suddenly and unannounced, much in the way he had come back into her life three years previous. Also, it came in the form of a phone call, like he had. He was a man of habit, it seemed—without even meaning to, he came and went in the same way.
She was in Limbo when the call came, trying to identify a difficult set of remains. They had been there for years, and it seemed like every time she picked them up to start working on them, something else got in the way. Since the afternoon was mild and it was a Sunday and nobody had been murdered that she knew of, she was determined to finally put a name to the face (or rather, skull) and put him away for good.
It was that determination that scowled at Angela when she came through the doors of Limbo, distraught look on her face like the one she usually had when she and Hodgins had been arguing about something. It must have been a bad argument, Brennan thought briefly as she determinedly looked back down at the spider web of fractures on the unidentified skull. A bad argument that, as much as she loved Angela, she didn't want to hear about right now. She rarely had days like that one, where she could just work quietly and consistently for hours at a time. She liked these days; she relished them.
"Sweetie," Angela said. Brennan did not look up. "Russ is on the phone." A wrinkle sprouted up between Brennan's eyebrows—her brother very rarely called her at work, and if he did, it was on her cell phone. Usually she didn't pick up, because she was busy, and he would leave one of his trademark Russ messages: "Hey Tempe, it's me… you know, me… Russ… anyway uh, I don't know, call me back." They were never useful or informative but she always called him back, usually late at night after she collapsed on the couch with her tea and a copy of The American Journal of Physical Anthropology. They would chat idly, about the girls or their work, but she suspected the calls were mostly his way of making up for fifteen years of silence.
"What does he want?" Brennan asked, her eyes tracing the paths of the hairline breaks like a roadmap.
"It's your dad," Angela said, and her voice finally fell through at 'dad'. Brennan finally looked up from the skull, and saw that Angela was quietly crying. When she picked up her office phone, she heard more crying, and was stunned when she realized it was Russ. He never cried. Never.
It had been a heart attack, quick and actually merciful—it snuck up on him in the night while he was sleeping, and stole him away before anyone could know. Max's neighbor, a lonely woman ten years his senior who stubbornly refused to give up her independent life, worried for him and called 911 when she heard his alarm go off for a thirty minute stretch. The walls were thin between units, always had been, and she always heard him hit the snooze twice in the morning. Once at six, once at six-oh-five, then he was up for the day.
By six-fifteen the alarm was urgent, whining, and by six-thirty she felt it in her hands; she knew. You don't get to be seventy years old without knowing things like that. The EMTs found him with his arms wrapped around his pillow, and despite ten minutes of compressions and breaths, the emergency room physicians pronounced him DOA—Dead On Arrival. He never stood a chance.
When Booth got the news, via Angela, he dropped his half-eaten sandwich in the trash and headed for the Jeffersonian. He didn't know what to expect, but somehow the image of his partner in Limbo, methodically placing bones back into a box with what was almost a grim smile, was less surprising than one might think. She didn't speak, or even acknowledge his presence really—it was like she didn't see him at all.
"Temperance…" he started, planning to finish the sentence with something like I'm so sorry or I heard about Max or even something terribly clever like I don't know what to say. He didn't get the chance to, though.
"Terrance Miller," she proclaimed. Booth's mouth opened slightly, then shut.
"What?" he asked.
"No, who," Brennan said, gesturing towards the box. "Number one-eighty-seven, the nineteenth century male I've been trying to identify. I finally ID'd him. Terrance Miller." The way she spoke turned Booth's stomach; her pitch was an octave higher than usual, and she moved her hands wildly as she spoke.
"Okay," Booth said uncertainly.
"They found him in a mine shaft, in California. They thought he was just another forty-niner, during the gold rush, but he wasn't. He was actually a sheriff, and someone killed him and dumped his body in the mine. You can tell by the fracture pattern here—"
"Okay, Temperance," Booth said, gently wrapping his hand around her upper arm and tugging her away from the underlit table.
"He's just gone all these years and nobody knew who he was," she said, her voice beginning to crack. "Nobody, nobody knew. Now I know, Booth. I finally figured out who he is—I know who he is."
"I know you do," Booth said, forcing himself to look his partner in the eye when he really just wanted to look away. "I know. We all know now."
She flipped through her keys one by one, looking for the one that matched the lock on her father's apartment door. Her house, Russ's house, the lab, Limbo (which, since Zack's incident, had been kept under lock and key with one sole key holder—herself). Finally she found the fat brass house key in question, which turned easily in the lock. It hadn't the week before, when she had come to visit—he must have oiled the lock since then. It was amazing what a little WD-40 could do.
His apartment was the same way it had been last week—she didn't know why she had expected something about it to change. A small part of her had expected to find the place ransacked, his belongings strewn across the floor, papers shredded, the couch set ablaze. Maybe that was just how she felt. She paused in the doorway, her eyes very slowly and thoroughly touching on every object in the small living room and adjoining dine-in kitchen, and Booth looked back at her.
"You don't have to do this today," he repeated. "You just came from—"
"I want to get it done," she said resolutely, shaking her prior hesitation and walking fully into the apartment, closing the door behind her. "The sooner we box everything up and get rid of it, the sooner it's over."
"If you waited, Russ could help you," Booth pointed out, unnerved by her unfeeling façade—not by the façade itself, but by what he knew lay dormant underneath.
"Russ can't do it," Brennan said in what almost sounded like gentle reprimand. "He's too attached, he's too emotional about it. It's hard for him."
"It's hard for you," Booth said, and he watched her tense from behind as he said the words. "You know, you're allowed to be sad too. I know this is hard for you."
"It's harder for him," she said unaffectedly, surveying the room as if it were a dig site, rather than her father's home. She turned to face Booth finally, arms crossed across her chest. "The office manager told me they have several cardboard boxes in the utility closet that we can use to move his things out. If you'll go downstairs and get them, I'll start sorting through dad's things." Booth nodded, knowing it was better than arguing the point anymore, and went to retrieve said boxes.
After she knew she was alone, Brennan let herself fall back into the couch cushions, resting her head against the back of the seat. She turned her face and inhaled the smell of the cushion—it smelled like him still. This was his favorite place to sit in the house; this was his throne. It was where he did the crossword, and where he read and re-read her books, he told her, because they were so good and he was just so proud of his little girl, all grown up. It was where he watched her as she sat in the chair opposite, shaking her head at him and smiling.
This was also where he sat every night, alone, eating his dinner in front of the TV. It was where he wondered what his two children were doing, who they were with. It was where he regretted having to leave them to fend for themselves, and where he came to understand that if they seemed distant, it was only because he had taught them to be that way. He had taught them just as much in his absence as he had during their time together. This was where he knew that, and accepted it. This was where he understood.
She sighed and stood, knowing there was work to be done. She hesitantly entered his bedroom, not wanting to disturb anything but knowing she would have to disturb everything. By the end of the weekend it would all be in boxes, or trash bags, and it was only now, in this moment before she touched anything, that it would remain his.
Slowly, but surely, she got to work. She unrolled a trash bag from under the kitchen sink and began tossing out shampoos, conditioners, soaps, razors, essentially emptying the bathroom. She took one brief moment to inhale the scent of his cologne before she threw that away, too. With the contents of his bathroom in one bulging Hefty bag, she set it outside of the door and began working on his bookshelves.
Her father had four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the apartment, two in his bedroom and two in the living room, as well as assorted piles of magazines and newspapers that never made it to the recycling bin. She would, she decided, separate them three ways—books for Russ, books for herself, and books to donate to the library. She could throw away the magazines, but she didn't have it in her to toss out a book—books were to be passed on, not thrown out. A book was never garbage.
The books-for-Russ stack grew exponentially faster than the books-for-herself pile did—she knew Russ's attachment to her father, and everything that belonged to him. Because of this, nearly every book that passed through her hands she felt should go to Russ, even if only for sentimental value. He was big on that kind of thing.
The science books—mostly circa-1980 college textbooks of biology and chemistry, with a few more recent editions—went into her pile, with one she set aside in a new, fourth pile: books for Parker. It was a book designed for children, of simple science experiments meant to illustrate key scientific principals, and she thought the little boy might like that. Now that he didn't have his afternoon science teacher anymore, he'd have to keep learning on his own.
On the third shelf, she finally came across a book she did not know what to do with. It was a copy of her first book—not one of the ones he had on display in his living room, signed by her at his request, but an older copy. The cover was pre-movie release, and when she flipped it open, she saw the front page had nothing written on it by her. She thought she'd signed all his copies of her book, just like he asked her to. How did she miss this one?
She fanned through the pages, not knowing what to do with it. At first her hand hesitated over the books-for-Russ pile, but why would Russ want a copy of her book when he already had one? She could keep it for herself, but what did she need with a copy of her own book? She wrote it, she knew how it went.
She could give it to the library, but something about the book tugged at her. Holding this book in her hands, she knew he'd had it for longer than three years. He'd had this book before he called her, before he stepped back into her life. Even before he knew her again, he had her book, and still had it.
As she held it in her lap, flipping pages and debating what to do with it, something fell out of the center of the book. It was two sheets of lined paper, folded down the middle and placed near the back of the book.
She bit her lip, laying the book beside her (in a fifth pile: books I don't know what to do with) and picking up the papers. They were not old or worn; the paper was still fairly white, the ink bold, the creases fresh. This was not an old love letter, or a last-minute will and testament, or a grocery list or an essay or a drawing of a polar bear. At least, she didn't think so—she wouldn't know for sure until she unfolded it.
It was a letter, in her name. The date at the top right-hand corner was a little less than four months previous, around the time they had moved him into the apartment. She hesitated to read it, then decided that since it was unmistakably intended for her (the Dear Temperance at the top was a pretty clear indicator), that her father had wanted her to read it, and she should. She took the letter into the living room, sitting in her father's seat on the couch with her legs folded beneath her, and began to read.
They had just left, the four of them—Tempe, Russ, Amy, and Booth—and the apartment was peculiarly quiet. Max Keenan was not accustomed to silence. His entire life had been a noisy one. It began in his childhood, in a New York City tenement building, where hot water boilers and loud Nuyorican neighbors could keep anyone up at night, until they got used to it. Then there were his teen years, during which one's ears could hear the strains and groans of a country as it stretched and settled to give blacks room, in the front of a bus or a white child's classroom, even if grudgingly so.
When he turned eighteen, he heard the sound of his mother praying quietly at night, rosary in hand, that her young son would not be sent to die in Vietnam, and her whispers haunted him until he intentionally stepped in front of his friend's slowly-moving VW bus. It broke his femur clean through and ensured him the relative safety of American soil, and her choruses of alternating You're so stupid and Thank God gave him rest at night.
The following years he heard little other than the voice and intentions of his girlfriend-turned-wife-turned-mother-of-his-children. Her happiness, her anger, her sorrow, and then mostly her worry. Hers was the voice of reason, of conscience—he was a man of action, of quick retaliation and passion. She was the whisper in the back of his mind that said, Think twice. When Russ was born, then Tempe, it was her voice, not his, that yelled into the night, "This ends now."
Then, after their many years of loud and boisterous childhood—echoes of Daddy, look and I love you amid sticky faces and soccer trophies and school plays—it was her voice that very gently but firmly said, "Let them go."
It was her voice he heard early that morning, as he peered into his children's bedrooms, tears falling quietly as he whispered what he was terrified would be his last I-love-yous, words they would never hear and later would probably not believe. He touched Russ's head, telling his son to be the man he had grown up to be, to take care of his sister.
Then he bent over Temperance's sleeping body, touching his lips to her temple and tucking her hair behind her ear. She stirred, eyes fluttering open as she looked up at him. She smiled and immediately fell back asleep, as she was used to this—her mother or father coming into her room just to kiss her cheek, to smile at her, to secretly wish she was four years old still and would draw them pictures and crawl up into their laps and fall asleep there, where it was safe.
There had been many more sounds in many more years, but it was these he reflected on in the silence that afternoon. It was these he remembered the loudest, the clearest. Beyond that, there was a lot of static, until now. He watched out the window as Amy and Russ left, then as Booth stood with his daughter outside of his SUV, the two of them chatting. Max smiled as he watched her lean into his parting embrace, the both of them tired and dusty and reeking of bleach. She left, and Booth stood with his elbows resting on the hood of the vehicle, just staring off into the distance. Max wanted to open the window, to yell out to him, but instead he watched quietly. He was quiet now. His life was quiet.
It was then he realized he needed to write this letter. If he didn't, she might never really know. She might never truly understand—even if she believed she did—why they had to leave, and just how incredible the pain was for him. How it felt, leaving her and Russ behind, like he had ripped his soul in half and left it there. How he kept that feeling, that half emptiness, for fifteen years. How he finally felt like he'd found the other half again, every time he saw his children, but in particular his daughter. Even after he found Russ, he had never felt right until he had Tempe back in his life. She had been the missing piece.
He wrote that, and a few other things, scrawling on and on for two front-and-back pages. When he came to a point where he felt he was just being long-winded, he decided to wrap it up.
I don't know if you will ever find and read this letter, but I hope to God you do, Tempe. I hope you do because I need you to know these things, but saying them to you has never been something I could do and make you really understand it. That's my fault, and I'm sorry for it. Maybe one of these days I'll get up my guts and actually tell you these things in person, and maybe you'll finally understand. But just in case I can't, I still want you to know all the things I couldn't tell you in person. I want you to hear it, one way or another.
She set the letter down in her lap, wiping the profuse tear tracks from her cheeks. It didn't matter—they kept coming anyway, so she finally let them. They were of sorrow, but also something bittersweet, something long awaited. This was what she had been missing all these years, even since her father's return. This was what she hadn't been able to grasp, to believe, to accept.
This was where she remembered, before the loss and anger and emptiness, all the Daddy look's and I love you's and early mornings when she would wake up and look over her shoulder, to see her door quietly shut, and know one of them had just been there. This was where she remembered the loss and heartache, and the burying it. This was where, almost twenty years later, she realized that she didn't just think she loved her father; she truly loved her father.
This was where she knew that, and accepted it. This was where she understood.
A/N: I don't think there's a whole lot to say after this, except that this is dedicated to my dad. He couldn't help leaving either, it just happened. It's been 15 years this spring, and I still think about him every single day, and miss him, and love him.
Please review and let me know what you think.