She slowly climbed out of the cab and leaned back into the window slightly, "Wait for me?" she asked the man behind the wheel. In her hands she clasped a yellowed and folded piece of paper.
"Sure Ma'am, I'll wait." He replied. Something about the woman spoke of great pain and sadness. She was still very lovely; he could tell that she had been beautiful in her youth. Time hadn't taken anything away from her physically; instead it had only enhanced it. He watched her carefully maneuver the steps leading to the museum. Backing into a shaded parking spot, he turned off the engine and then the meter and waited for the woman to return.
Dr. Brennan walked into the Jeffersonian for the first time in 25 years and gasped aloud at the feelings that rushed back to her. She knew where everything in here belonged and although the exhibits had been updated over the years, they were still the same to her. They gave ordinary people a glimpse of history, something they would never see again in most cases; dinosaurs, gasoline automobiles, presidential history, an entire world behind glass to be admired and wondered over time and time again, by old and young alike. She left the museum proper and turned to go down the short hallway leading to the Medico/Legal lab.
She walked inside the main entrance to the Medico/Legal lab and stopped just inside the door to look around the spacious entry. It had been a very long time since she'd been in here and although the décor had been updated to a more modern look with new furnishings, new potted plants, however all the new were in the same old places. Pausing before the great glass doors she fought the urge to turn around and leave. She'd heard people say 'you can't go home again', and she'd never understood it until just now. She could always go home, she had many times, but now, she understood that just because you could go there, you wouldn't really be there. You'd just be a memory. She started forward again towards the glass doors but turned when she heard, "Dr. Brennan?"
Looking over her shoulder she saw the man hurrying towards her, she recognized him slowly as he neared. Twenty five years older, but still with the same unsure gait and demeanor she remembered fondly from the limited experience they'd had with each other, "Charlie?"
His face broke into a wide grin, "Yes, you remembered me. Wow, it's so good to see you! It's been a lifetime Dr. Brennan." He stepped towards her, unsure whether to shake her hand or hug her. She seemed so frail to him. She answered his dilemma for him by stepping closer and lifting her arms to hug him, she ran her hand over his back and said, "Charlie, I'm glad you are still here, I wondered if I would know anyone still. You look wonderful." She pulled back and smiled at him. In her smile he glimpsed briefly that spark that had made her the object of Booth's affection from the very first time they met. She's still beautiful, he thought.
"So, Dr. Brennan,"
"Tempe, please Charlie."
Taken aback slightly, he said, "Tempe, what brings you here?"
What had brought her here? She thought to herself. When she'd gotten the news and seen the proof herself, she'd gone home packed a bag and left. She'd never looked back. After a few days she'd called Cam and Max and made necessary arrangements for her job and apartment, and she'd called Angela and Jack and told them what had happened. They'd come back briefly from France and they had all met and spent the weekend together, but then when she decided she wasn't coming back, they too took their leave and went back to France. She heard from them randomly throughout the years as they traveled, but they'd moved on with their lives, where she had tried, but only succeeded in running from hers.
Tempe turned back to the large glass doors, longing to see the lab, but afraid of what may actually be there and then she answered Charlie, "I bet you didn't know it," she said pointing to a minor chip towards the top of the wall they faced, "but I broke out a piece of that wall right there, and he helped me fix it so no one would know. I was throwing some piece of medieval weaponry to try to show him how it was used, when I really didn't know myself and it hit the wall…" she stopped speaking and staring at the imperfect patch job said quietly, "we laughed the whole time we were fixing it."
Shaking her head she looked back at Charlie with an absent smile, "You think I'll be able to look around the lab? I'd like to see what's become of it."
Nodding his head, he understood that need, he put his hand on her back and indicating with his other arm towards the doors he said, "I'll make sure you have all the access you want Dr…uh Tempe." He escorted her through the doors and told the guard standing just inside to let her go where she pleased. The guard nodded at the FBI liaison and smiled at the woman, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you Ma'am, my name is Parker."
She looked over at him sharply and said, "Parker?"
Confused the guard said, "I'm sorry Ma'am?"
"Did you say your name was Parker?" She asked moving closer to him.
"No Ma'am, its Tucker."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I misunderstood. Thank you Tucker, I'll let you know." She moved away from him and Charlie, afraid she might begin to cry. She hadn't seen or heard from Parker Booth in many years. She didn't know if he was still here or not. At first, they'd tried to stay in contact, but she'd been traveling so often and then he and Rebecca had moved to Missouri for her job and aside from attending his high school graduation, she hadn't heard from him.
She walked around the elevated platform and saw the gurneys, steel tables and computers she remembered from when she worked there, they were all the same. Only the faces were different. Temperance entered the office areas and noticed the lights were out in what had been hers. She pushed open the door and walked in, it was someone else's space now, and the décor was much too cold and futuristic for her tastes. She stood just inside the doorway and closed her eyes to take a deep breath, when she opened them, it was hers again. The mummy in the case in the corner, the long, low couch by her desk, photo's of her and Angela and the rest of them lined the wall. She saw the office the way it was when she and Booth had gone over case after case after case, sometimes so late into the evening that they slept in here, he on one couch, and she on the other. It was the office where he'd taught her how to read people, how to look beyond the obvious when it came to emotions, where he'd made her laugh and held her when she'd cried.
She smiled remembering his ridiculous dance impression because of something he'd seen in a pizza, but at the same time her heart clenched slightly remembering the expression on his face when he'd put the egg on her desk. She'd hurt him before in her ignorance, and he'd always helped her to apologize and make it better, it was then that she'd seen what he'd felt for the first time. She loved the lab, loved the bone storage area, or 'limbo' as it had been called in her day, but this room, this space was what she loved the most, it was more than an office, it was where all of her secrets and hopes and fears were buried, and only he knew exactly where.
She thought if she could touch this place, or feel it, the brokenness inside her might start healing. In her life it was like she was someone else, she was a mother, a grandmother and she still wrote occasionally, but here she thought she could find herself. She just wanted to come in for a moment, taking nothing but a memory of what had been. A memory from the house that had built her, and molded her and made her the woman she'd been. Before.
She turned back to the door; the room had once again reverted to the current owner. She tucked away the memory she'd wanted and exited, closing the door behind her. She wandered down the hall towards the main exam room, the door was closed and there was a sign on the outside now that said, "Secure Area No Unauthorized Admittance." Knowing that now that meant her, she walked past it to circle around to the other side of the platform, to where Jack and Zach and the 'squints' had done so much to save so many. Their faces streamed through her mind in succession, she'd personally selected each and every one of them for their individual strengths. Slowly over time, she and Booth had made them all friends and then eventually family. It had always been her dream to be Dr. Temperance Brennan, she'd gone into Anthropology to get much needed answers about her own history as much as the world at large, however until she met Booth, her dream was only partially fulfilled. He had truly given life to her and her dreams.
She sat down on the bench leading to the upstairs and break room and thought that she was right to come back here. Just touching it and feeling it may be enough to help the brokenness inside her to start healing. She had a good life out there and she wouldn't trade it for anything, but part of her was missing and she was hoping she could leave here with that missing part of herself. A guard walked by and asked, "Are you all right Ma'am?" concern in his voice as he paused in front of the bench. Staring into the past and not seeing the guard she said softly, "I won't take nothing but a memory, from the house that built me."
"Ma'am?" He said, kneeling in front of her, and putting his hand on her shoulder. Tempe blinked rapidly to stop the tears that were starting to spill over her lashes, she looked into his face and saw him briefly, his dark brown eyes, so full of strength and love and determination, his easy going grin and she smiled dreamily, "I'm okay Booth."
The guard spoke into his radio on his shoulder and Tucker and Charlie trotted over to the bench, stopping in front of her she came back to where they were and seeing the concern on their faces said, "I'm sorry, I must have drifted off there for a second, I do that sometimes, I'm sorry for any confusion." She stood and looking at Charlie said, "I think I'm ready to leave, I have the memory I came for, thank you Charlie, and you too Tucker." She smiled at the guard.
"Yes Ma'am." He said nodding solemnly. He and the other guard turned to go after confirming silently with Charlie that she would be okay. He nodded sadly at the two of them and offered his arm for support, "Do you have a car Tempe? Are you staying here with anyone?" he didn't want her to be alone.
"Yes, I have a cab waiting for me, and Seelah is meeting me at the hotel tonight, so I'll be fine Charlie, thank you for your concern." The two of them walked out of the lab and although she wanted to, she didn't look back. Charlie walked her outside of the museum, where the late afternoon sunshine was heading towards early evening. "Are you sure you'll be okay?" he asked again as the cab driver pulled out and met them at the bottom of the stairs.
"Yes Charlie, I'll be fine, thank you again, you were very kind. Booth always had nice things to say about you, I'm glad you are still with the bureau, they are smart to keep you." She leaned over and kissed his cheek and then slid into the car, the cab driver shut the door and went around to slide into the driver's seat. "Take care of yourself Tempe and thank you for coming back, it was really good to see you." He told her as she smiled and waved, the cab pulling away from the curb. Charlie watched them drive away and felt sad, he hadn't thought of his mentor in years although Booth was a legend at the bureau. In the short time that he'd worked there both before Dr. Brennan and after, he'd always been the one agent that people knew would always come out of everything okay and without any lasting harm. He was that guy and Charlie had revered and respected and feared him all at once and then had modeled his own behavior after his. When they were out of sight, he turned back to head into his office, well, her old office. He didn't have the heart to tell her that after the dissolution of their partnership, the FBI had assigned the liaison an office in the lab itself.
"Where to Ma'am?" the cab driver asked, catching her brilliant blue eyes, slightly red rimmed now from tears in the rear view mirror.
"Arlington please," came her soft reply. Somehow, without being told he knew the Arlington of which she spoke. He pulled into the parking area of the hallowed site a short time later and stopped the car, opening her door he helped her out. "Would you like me to wait Ma'am?" he asked as she looked towards the long sloping fields, the white crosses immaculately standing at attention like the thousands of soldiers they represented had stood.
"What? I'm sorry?" She said turning to him, already her mind tracing the steps to the one cross she needed to see. "Do you want me to wait?"
"No, thank you, you can go, what do I owe you?" she asked.
The cab driver looked at her, and saw the woman that she'd been and knew that someone here meant the world to her, and he admired the strength it had taken to bring her here, alone and he said, "No charge Ma'am, and I'll wait as long as you want me to."
She smiled up at him and patted his shoulder, "Thank you, I won't be long."
"Take your time Ma'am, do you need some assistance?" he asked, wanting nothing more than to protect her for some unknown reason.
"No, I know where I'm going, thank you." She turned and started to walk towards the entrance to the cemetery, her steps purposeful although slow. Tempe found his cross as she had so many times in her mind; she'd only been here once before. Shortly after his services she'd come here to try to talk to him and all she could do was rail against his god and him and knowing that it was just a way to make her not hurt so much and wasn't the way she really felt, she'd left. Now, she stopped in front of the marker and knelt to touch the words etched for all time.
Seeley Joseph Booth
May 16, 1969
May 21, 2011
US ARMY SPECIAL FORCES
Rangers Lead The Way
She traced each letter individually and then realizing that she wasn't going to be able to keep her footing for long, she sat down in front of the headstone. She unfolded the wrinkled yellow paper and began to read aloud, "Sergeant Major Seeley J Booth died as a result of a suicide bomber in an undisclosed location while serving in Afghanistan. Sergeant Booth was returning from active duty to resume his position as a Special Agent in the Washington DC branch of the FBI. Seeley is survived by his brother Jared Booth, sister in law Padme Booth, and his son Parker Booth. He was preceded in death by his beloved grandfather Harold 'Hank' Booth. Seeley was a great man and was a personal hero to many, many people. He sacrificed everything to do what he believed was right and he will be greatly missed. His partner at the FBI says this of Seeley, 'He was what every man should aspire to be, he was my best friend, my partner and I will love him for the rest of my life.'"
She stopped reading; the obituary was short and said everything that could be said about him on paper. It didn't say how when he was really happy his smile showed his dimples, and how his hands could gently cradle a baby, hold her tightly and bring someone to their knees, it didn't mention how handsome he was, how intelligent, how he smelled and how he was bigger than life. Nowhere did it mention his love of Thai food, Foreigner and old muscle cars, or how he was afraid of clowns but loved the circus. That short paragraph that was meant to sum up his life didn't say anything about his heart, his giant, giving heart or his warm soulful eyes and how they always twinkled at her. She put her hand over her mouth to hold in a sob and leaning back against the headstone that was his, said "You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can…I got lost in this old world, and I forgot who I am, I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, I might feel you and this brokenness inside me might start healing. Out there…out there it's like I'm someone else, I thought maybe I could find myself…Oh Booth, I don't have anything but memories."
She allowed her eyes to close as she remembered him in flashbacks, her memories coming alive as she imagined his touch and smelled his skin, she reveled in his nearness and when the memory came, the one where she found out, she shuddered at the emotion that it was still tied to, but allowed it to wash over her nonetheless.
She'd hurried after her flight to the bench by the coffee cart, outside of the reflecting pool, just as they had planned. She waited all afternoon, at first unsure that he was going to show, and then impatient when time kept creeping by with no sign of him. Her rational side told her that he'd missed his flight or he'd been moved to another returning airline. The irrational side that she struggled to hide began to whisper something was wrong. Just as she had begun to gather her things to leave, she saw him. He strode towards her, his tall, muscular frame encased in the same fatigues he'd been wearing when she last saw him. Except that when this man got closer, she could see that it wasn't him after all, the dusk and shadows had played tricks on her.
"Dr. Brennan?" the soldier asked stopping in front of her.
"Yes, I'm Dr. Brennan."
"Ma'am, I'm Lt. Colonel Francis Doyle and I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." He paused and reached for her hand, taking his hat off with his other hand he said, "Ma'am, Sergeant Major Booth was killed yesterday on his way to his flight offsite. He was found with this on his person and we thought it best to give it to you right away, given the personal nature of it Ma'am. On behalf of the United States Army I offer my sincere condolences Ma'am, and would like to offer our personal services to you in this time of sadness." He handed her a small envelope. On the outside it said, 'Please deliver promptly to Dr. Temperance Brennan, by the coffee cart outside the reflecting pool, Washington DC'.
She simply stared at him and as he adopted a parade rest pose, she opened the envelope. A plain gold band slipped out, along with a note,
If you are reading this, the unthinkable has happened. I'm sorry I couldn't meet you to tell you in person, so I made arrangements beforehand. A psychologist may say that I had foretold my own fate, but I don't believe in all that stuff. I wanted to tell you so many things when we met today Bones, first and foremost, thank you. Thank you for believing in me, for challenging me, for helping me to understand and for helping me to forgive. I wanted to tell you also, I love you Bones. I have from the first time I saw you. I want to tell you that I was going to marry you, whether you knew it or believed it or not, this ring is proof. Please tell Jared to be the man I know he can be, and tell my son I loved him above all else. I'm sorry for the things out of my control, but Bones, I believe now that I was a good man and I'll be coming home now, and I know that you don't believe it, but someday Bones, you'll come home too.
I love you,
She carefully slipped the note into her pocket and the ring onto her finger and then she said, "Thank you soldier, I'll be in touch." There had also been a business card with his personal contact information.
Her last memory of him followed the one where her whole world changed and she held on tight, him holding her hand, looking into her eyes, telling her silently what he'd told her a million different ways and she always chosen not to believe.
The cab driver made his way to the woman, crying softly and silently leaning against a fallen mans cross. Helping her to her feet, he walked with her carefully in the early evening twilight and took her to his cab. Silently she said her goodbye's to the man whose ring she still wore, whose heart she still loved and whose memory she'd never let go.
*Based loosely on the song "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert