Okay, Okay, I know I said that I wouldn't post this until January, but I just sat down and actually wrote out the first chapter and I wanted to get some feedback. Consider this a teaser of sorts. I don't expect to update for a few weeks, but I would love to know what you think! Oh, and I've heard the name "Adanna" pronounced several different ways, but in my mind Adanna's name is pronounced "Ah-DAN-nah", just FYI. Enjoy.
"Dad, let's roll!" 12-year-old Adanna Booth shouted from the front room. Booth walked out to join her.
"Yeah, yeah, hold your horses!" he teased her playfully. Even now, every time he looked at her a lump caught in his throat. She was the spitting image of her mother. Her eyes are what killed him the most. They were identical to Brennan's. As was the way her delicate auburn curls settled around her shoulders. The ninth anniversary was rapidly approaching. Booth kept waiting for the pain to fade, but it never did. There were still nights he didn't sleep at all and just stared at the empty half of the bed, expecting her warmth and her comfort while he slept soundly in her arms.
Booth dropped Adanna off at school and headed to the Hoover. Having long ago given up field work, Booth climbed the ranks of the FBI and was currently Executive Assistant Director Seeley Booth. He liked his new role as a desk jockey, for the most part. He did miss being out on the streets, chasing down the bad guys, but this was rewarding in its own way. He also wasn't getting any younger. He was currently 53 years old and had to admit to himself years ago that his body was giving out on him and he just wasn't capable of being the agent he once was. And, most importantly, he was safer this way. The last thing his already damaged daughter needed was to be an orphan.
He took the picture off his desk and stared at it for a moment, just as he did every morning. It was the last picture of the three of them together. Adanna was in Brennan's lap, just over three years old. Booth was standing behind them, wearing a goofy grin. He couldn't remember what they had been so happy about, but the joy on their faces never failed to bring tears to his eyes. "I miss you today, Bones," he said quietly, then chuckled softly despite himself. "I miss you every day, but next week it'll be nine years since you were taken away from us. And lately I've realized that I'm starting to forget things. Things I promised I would never forget. When was the last time I told you I loved you? I know it wasn't that day; I'll never forgive myself for that. So, how long before that was it? A day? Two? I can't remember anymore. How does it feel when you kiss me, Bones? What does it feel like when your knees go weak and you get butterflies all the way up to your ears? That's starting to fade too. I don't want to forget. Help me remember, Bones."
A few hours passed uneventfully. Booth had long ago traded his gun for his pen and spent most of his day filling out paperwork. He was pulled out of a trance when his phone rang. "Booth," he answered.
"Mr. Booth." He sighed. This voice was all too familiar too him.
"Yes, Mrs. Thompson," he said, trying to put on the best positive voice he could muster. He did not need this today.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to come down here immediately. Adanna has instigated another fistfight. This is the third strike, Mr. Booth. She's been suspended for fifteen days." Booth sighed and rubbed his forehead with his free hand.
"Thank you, I'll be right down." He hung up the phone and buried his head in his hands. Adanna had been getting into trouble at school for about a year now. It was quite a change from what he used to expect out of his little girl. When she was young, she was a star student. She got good grades and had a strong network of friends. Her teachers thought the world of her. Now at parent conferences all he heard were words like 'disrespectful' and 'aggressive.' Only in the last few months had she gotten into actual physical altercations. This was her first out of school suspension, and Booth was steaming.
He charged into the principal's office, not bothering to check in with the office worker outside. He spotted Adanna sitting in a chair a few feet from him, giving him a look of utter terror. He practically growled as he took her by the arm and pulled her into a standing position. "Daddy, I…"
"Don't 'Daddy' me, young lady," Booth warned in a low voice. "You have never seen the kind of trouble you're in. We'll discuss this in the car. Now move it." He glanced at the principal, Mrs. Thompson, who gestured that it was okay to leave. Booth guided Adanna out of the office with a firm hand on her shoulder. "Okay, you mind telling me why I had to leave work in the middle of the day to pick you up because you were suspended?" Booth snarled when they were en route home. He had a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel, and he was careful not to look at Adanna for fear of exploding.
"It's totally unfair, Dad!" Adanna protested. "It was the other girl's fault! She was getting on my nerves and I warned her that she was going to get it, but she didn't listen!"
"So you punched her in the face?" Booth finished the thought. "I raised you better than this, Addy." Addy was the nickname Brennan had given her soon after they agreed on a name for her. She always insisted that it was just a shortening of Adanna and not a tribute to her former assistant and friend, but Booth knew better.
"You don't know what she was saying to me!" Adanna shouted.
"Fine, then enlighten me. What justified you hitting someone because she was irritating you?" Booth waited with a glaring expression for Adanna to answer. "Well?" he finally added. Adanna sighed.
"She told me that Mom killed herself because of me, okay?" There were tears in Adanna's eyes, and now there were in Booth's too.
"Addy…" he began apologetically. He had no idea what to say. He was expecting anything but that. "Addy, you know your mom didn't commit suicide."
"Why do you always say that, Daddy?" Adanna implored. "That's what the police report says!"
"First of all, what the hell are you doing reading the police report? And second, it says apparent suicide. There's a big difference." There was definite hesitation in Booth's voice. Even he wasn't sure it wasn't just denial talking when he declared so definitively that Brennan hadn't killed herself.
"Nobody has ever found anything to suggest anything else." Booth glanced to his daughter, his expression soft and sympathetic now.
"Your mother didn't commit suicide," he said again. "I know it in here." He placed a hand over his chest. "She loved you more than anything in the world. I tell you that every day. There's no way she left you on purpose, no way. She'd never do that to you. To us."
"How do you know?" Addy asked so quietly, Booth could barely hear it. "Prove it to me." Booth couldn't help but smile a little bit. She was just like her mother that way. Always needing that tangible, irrefutable evidence to back up any claim. Even the claim that your own mother hadn't committed suicide because of something you did to her as a three-year-old.
"I will," Booth promised. "I will."
A week passed without incident. Adanna took her punishment gracefully and was doing extra chores around the house as a penance. But there was a cloud looming over both of their heads. This was the day they dreaded most each year. Booth remembered the day so vividly that every time he thought of it, he broke down just as he did that first night…
"I'll see you at home later," Booth promised Brennan and gave her a quick kiss. "Don't be here until the crack of dawn, okay?"
"Okay," Brennan agreed. "I'll be home before Addy is put to bed." Booth nodded in agreement and turned to leave her office. It was such a normal, benign exchange between the two of them. Neither of them would have ever imagined that this would be the last time they ever spoke to one another. Booth thought about this three sentence conversation every day. He should have said 'I love you.' He should have made her wear that damn mace keychain she always deliberately left on the counter when she left for work, making sure it was in plain view so she would get her point across.
He should have stayed.
Adanna's babysitter wouldn't have minded the extra few hours' pay. If he had just stayed with her while she finished up the paperwork, he would have been there. He would have been able to save her from whoever had decided to take her from him and their beautiful, bright-eyed baby girl.
The first hour after Addy was put to bed Booth wasn't worried. She had probably lost track of time. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Two hours after Adanna's bedtime, some anxiety began to rise in his stomach. He called her cell, but it went directly to voicemail. Another hour passed, and he figured it was time to check on her. He called Angela to come over to watch Adanna and he made his way to the Jeffersonian. Her car wasn't in her parking space. Now he was really starting to panic. He called her cell again, but was once again greeted by her voicemail message. "Shit," he muttered to himself before calling the police.
It took three agonizing days. Three days of Addy asking where her mommy was. Three days of not knowing how to answer her. Three days of sympathetic words and looks he didn't really want to deal with. Three days of hope slowly slipping through his fingers. Then, on the fourth day, he got the call. They had found a body, and they were ninety percent certain it was Temperance. He couldn't breathe. He was certain his heart had stopped. He was brought in to identify the body. When he saw her, and there was no doubt left in his mind that all of his prayers were in vain, he died. He died and there would be no resurrecting him. He would never be the man he was before this happened. He would merely be a ghost of him, existing but having no being. On that day, Seeley Booth ceased to live.
The next nine years were consumed with taking care of Adanna and Parker. He had never been a full-time single father before, and matched with his grief, it was a nearly impossible task. He had made mistakes along the way, he knew this. But Adanna knew that she had his love, and for now, that was all that mattered…
Father and daughter stood at the gravesite, hand in hand. Adanna clutched the bouquet of daffodils and daisies while her father spoke of love and partnership and loyalty. The words were different from year to year, but the sentiment was always the same. When he finished, Adanna placed the flowers at the base of the headstone. A lone tear rolled down Booth's cheek as the epitaph stared back at him.
HER LEGACY WAS ONE OF LOVE
Booth knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep that night, so he didn't even attempt it. Instead, he rummaged through the attic, where he had put everything that was too painful to remember. He allowed himself to look at it on this day and this day only every year. He reminisced and cried, but there was one thing he knew he had to save for last. He found the blue shoebox in its usual place, and placed it in his lap. With trembling hands he opened the lid and put it beside him. There were upwards of a hundred pieces of paper folded neatly and precisely in the box. They were organized by date, most recent in the back, oldest in the front. His fingers went directly to the letter he loved most, having long ago memorized its position among the identical pieces of paper. He unfolded it and began to read…
You're only feet away from me now, but I feel that I would be unable to put what I need to say to you into words at the moment. You are not yet aware, but I discovered today that I'm carrying your child. When I learned this, I experienced a myriad of emotions ranging from shock, to fear, to absolute, unequivocal joy. I believe that I felt the lattermost the strongest. I know that I shouldn't be afraid, because you're going to be here with me as I go through this. I've never been a mother before, Booth, you know that. It's a terrifying concept for me. I'm unsure whether or not I will be what this child needs and deserves.
But I know you will be.
You're already a fantastic father to Parker, and you will be the same to this child. I know that you will be strong in the areas where I am weak. That's why if this child is a girl, I would like to name her Adanna. Adanna is Nigerian in origin, and it means 'her father's daughter.' Because that is what she will be. You'll be able to teach her everything I cannot. You can teach her to relate to her fellow human beings and how to be compassionate. Of course, there is a fifty percent probability that this child is male. The situation would be the same, I just haven't thought of a suitable name for a boy yet.
I don't know how I will tell you of this development in our relationship. I imagine that it would not be wise to simply hand you this letter when I've completed it. I think I'm happy, Booth. I'm happy because you're in my life, and you'll be in our child's life. I love you in a way that I will never fully comprehend. I understand now that my feelings for you cannot be considered rationally. I only have one request. If you are to teach our child only one of the lessons you have taught me, let it be that loving someone is worth it.
My Love Always,
Booth sat reading the letters for hours, until he had digested every word. Most of the letters he had committed to memory, but they never ceased to move him to tears. His love's heart was in these letters, these love notes to him. Her soul was bared here in a way even he had never seen. It was then, as he got up to leave the attic and try to sleep for perhaps twenty minutes before he had to go into work, that he knew what he had to do.
He opened Adanna's door quietly, although he knew she would be wide awake. Neither of them ever slept well on this night. He approached her bed with the blue shoebox in hand. He handed it to her, and she took it gingery, knowing instinctively that it was very important to her father. She gave him a questioning look, and he nodded. She opened the box and carefully traced her hand over the row of perfectly placed paper. "What is this?" she asked in a soft whisper. Booth leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head.
"Proof," he said simply, and turned to leave his daughter's bedroom.