A/N In S7E4 we see David Boreanaz's powerful depiction of Booth experiencing the death of his estranged, abusive, alcoholic father. How can anyone follow that up? We can't. We can only gather what we know, fill in the holes, and hope we haven't strayed far from Bones canon in imagining what must have happened. That is what I have attempted to do here.
This story, told from Booth's point of view, is a more detailed version of a Chapter 63 of The When and the How: A Bone to Pick. It is a fictionalization of what COULD have happened that summer Booth and Jared were abandoned by Ed Booth, and how Booth stood up to his father.
Canon: Booth was 11 during the summer of 1982 when Ed Booth abandoned his boys.
Canon: Booth and his father have not had contact in twenty years.
Canon: Booth and Jared were brought up by Hank Booth, affectionately know as 'Pops'.
The rest is conjecture.
~ MoxieGirl (PS. I'm changing my name soon on to MoxieGirl44 so it's the same as on Twitter!)
~ MoxieGirl44 on Twitter
"This is how it happened," Brennan recalled Booth telling her. She sits in their living room remembering the day she and Booth spent the afternoon locked in an elevator with a section of spectator seats from Veteran Stadium. The seats had reminded Booth of what he called, 'the one perfect day' he shared with his father.
Discussion of that monumental day had lead to Booth's admission to her about two cataclysmic events that changed Booth's life. Both events involved the two most influential men in Booth's life: his father, Edwin Booth, and his grandfather, Hank 'Pops' Booth. Brennan recalls the first part of the story which Booth told her in a detached, monotone. But then, when he started to talk about the second event, it was as if he were watching it happen all over again.
PART I: Live and Let Die
In July of 1982, Pops' Rescue, which is how Booth thinks of it now, put an end to the tumultuous days and nights of never knowing what the next day would bring Never knowing when or what Booth and Jared would have for breakfast … or for dinner, for that matter. It wasn't that their family couldn't afford food. Dad just brought home strange combinations of food. Doughnuts and ketchup. Cheerios, butter, and canned beets. Beef jerky, a gallon of orange juice, and cigarettes. What Dad never forgot to purchase was his case of Old Mil.
The only recourse the Booth boys had for the unreliability of the food supply was to wait until Dad passed out on the couch every night, then rifle through his pockets to find his wallet. Not once did Dad rouse from his inebriated stupor during his filial mugging, and not once did the boys get caught or questioned about the lightness of Dad's wallet. Having already 'wet his whistle' before leaving the shop, Dad was half in the bag by the time he stopped at the Food-A-Rama to pick up groceries. As a result, he couldn't keep track of how much money he took out of the bank, and he never remembered what he'd purchased from the grocery store each night.
Each night, Edwin Booth's unsteady gate as he traversed the floorboards of the front porch on his way into the house, three hours after quitting time at the barbershop, announced his return home for the day. He always dangled the case of beer from the second and third fingers of one hand. A smaller, paper-wrapped bottle would lay cradled in the crook of his opposite elbow. Like a scene in a play repeated over and over, Dad always tossed the car keys toward the couch where Booth and Jared sat slumped, mesmerized by the cockeyed and colorized cinematography of a Batman and Robin fight scene. POW! BAM! SMACK!
"We're having a guest for dinner, boys," he'd slur toward the elder of the two in a gravely voice pitted by over twenty years of cigarette smoke. "Earn your keep, son. Go get the groceries."
The guest, the Booth boys always knew, was Johnnie Walker. If it was payday Friday, Dad usually brought along Johnnie's best friend, Jim Beam, as well. "This here's Beam, James Beam," Dad always said as if he were introducing "007" from Live and Let Die.
It was on a night like this that Booth's world came crashing down. In the middle of the night, Booth had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom and found his father sprawled on the living room floor. In his attempt to help Dad get up off the floor, an argument had ensued.
"I don't need your help, boy," his father had slurred. "I can get up by my own damned self!" At this point he was on his hands and knees, but semi-collapsed and in an inebriated stupor.
"What? Are you going to tell me you want to be down there on the floor? And you can get up anytime you want? By yourself?" Booth sputtered at his father. Dad's drunkenness emboldened Booth. While in this state, Dad couldn't move very fast and his fists regularly missed their mark. Booth had also become quite adept at parrying the blows by quickly ducking and swooping out of the way. Booth tried to help his dad up once again only to be forcefully shrugged off.
"Did you just sass me? Are you sassing me, Seeley? Laughing at your old man? You know, I fought in a war. I saved lives. Won a medal even. I deserve your respect ... even when I am down on the floor!" By this time, Ed had made it into a sitting position and was teetering on the edge of his ivy green sculptured pile upholstered BarcaLounger*.
At eleven years of age, Booth had enough experience in his young life to know that Ed could be unpredictable in his current state. Anything could set him off, send him into a rage. This particular night, however, Booth had had enough.
"You are drunk, Dad –" he said in a disgusted tone, his hands defiantly hanging low off his hips.
Before Booth knew what was happening, Ed sprang at him, grabbing him by his pajama top. The weight of his father's body on the pajama fabric cut a searing indentation across the back of Booth's neck.
His father smacked him across the face so hard that Booth at first thought he must have been hit with one of the World Book Encyclopedias Booth had left lying on the floor while doing homework that afternoon. If it was one of the encyclopedias, it had to be one of the thicker ones, the 'S' probably, he thought. While that absurd thought whizzed through his brain, Booth was broadsided by a smack across the other side of his face. Stunned, but still standing, his face on fire and heartbeat jumping at the chance to burst from his chest and beat the shit out of the elder Booth itself, Booth realized he was being hit repeatedly about his mid section and head. Unable to bring himself to hit his father back, Booth wrested himself free from his father's grasp, dropped to the floor, and curled up into a protective ball. When he hit the floor and started to cover his face, he thought he might have lost his sense of hearing because he was met with total and complete silence. He jammed an index finger into his ear and wiggled it around.
"I can hear fine," he said, his ability to hear his own voice confirming his statement. So what happened to his dad?
Sitting up, he realized that there actually was some screaming still going on, but it was outside the house. Two voices. Dad's and one other Booth couldn't quite make out until he scrambled to the picture window and peered out. There, on the front lawn, hunched over with his hands on his knees in puking fashion, stood Dad. In front of him stood a familiar form. It was Pops. He wasn't screaming, but he was hopping mad. Booth couldn't hear what he was saying to Dad – all he could hear was a low rumble and see the angry and dejected shoulders of Ed Booth.
Pops stood straight, fearless, despite the fact that his son was a good six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than he was. Ed Booth, gaining what little composure he could muster, leveled several scathing remarks at his father. Pops face was ashen, even in the late night lamp light, his expression one of shock and disgust. he was speechless. Finally, Ed stomped off toward his car and sped away, driving on the wrong side of the road. Pops stood in the front yard, unmoving, facing the direction Ed had waked and then driven away from him. For a moment it appeared that Pops was waiting for his son to return. When it was clear this was not going to happen, Pops turned toward the house, spit a loogie into the bushes, and walked onto the wood porch to see Booth, stunned and bleeding from his nose, standing in the living room picture window.
"Lets get you cleaned up and back in bed, son," he said, walking across the threshold into the house and holding his arm out to Booth.
"I wish I was your son, Pops," Booth choked out, only to be met by a heavy sigh and a solemn pat on the back by his grandfather.
Brennan had learned more of the truth about that fateful night from Pops himself the first time they had lunch alone.
"I never had the nerve to tell Seeley that it was my fault his father left," he'd said in an emotional and shaky voice. "Maybe if I was a better man, I coulda figured something else out but when I saw my son hitting Seeley, beating that little kid, that was it. I said "Get out you don't deserve to be a father. Get out!" He never came back so I was left with the two boys. I didn't know what else to do. He was beating my grandson. Look when the time is right, you'll tell him, and if he needs it, you'll hold him, okay?"
"You are a good man, Hank," seemed to be the appropriate response.
The days and months following July 1982, though tainted by a haze of wary watchfulness for their father's return, was filled with blue-sky days, base ball games, and bingo down at St. Catherine's. From then on, evening meals were served precisely at 5:50 at a table rather than on plates balanced on little knees hunched on the couch or floor. The menu was varied and filled with what Booth and Jared at first thought of as 'old people food': Beanie Weenie casserole, tatertot hotdish, French toast and scrapple, lasagna, fried chicken and smashed potatoes, potato salad, baked beans, sandwiches with Miracle Whip and mustard, VEGETABLES.
The growing boys started drinking milk with every meal. They drank from tall, cold, glasses filled almost to the rim. Booth never knew how good milk tasted until he drank it out of a heavy, clean glass at Pop's house. He'd forgotten a stomach could feel that good just from drinking one thing.
"A milk mustache is a sign of a healthy growing boy," pops told the boys, ruffling their crew cuts. "You keep at it, and before you know it, something real will start to grow there; something that won't wipe off with a napkin, something you have to shave off." That was all the encouragement the two boys needed to get them to empty their glasses and ask for seconds.
Part II: Absence of Malice
Brennan recalls this second part of Booth's confession most vividly. She recalls watching his silhouette, her eyes riveted to his face, as he recounted the story with an eerie calmness as if it were happening again, right in front of him. He speaks in first person, his eyes fixated on the invisible sepia-toned imagery of a past which floats before him, safely outside of reach.
"It's a September afternoon in 1982. The first week of school. Jared and I are waiting on the steps at the front of the school. We're waiting for Pops to come pick us up. All the other kids have left on the bus or have already been picked up by their folks."
Booth had blinked and looked over at her for a moment as if undecided about sharing this story. He made eye contact with her and held it for a moment. She remembers swallowing and blinking, then nodding ever so slightly. If it were possible to give someone a gentle hug without ever touching them, then that is exactly what she did. Booth had returned his gaze to the still images in front of him. It was as if he'd pressed the pause button on his memory, and now that he knew he was going to continue, he pressed the play button and the images sprung back to life.
"Today," Booth begins, swallowing, "instead of Pops, it's Dad that comes around the corner. He drives up in his beat up old 1969 Aztec Aqua Torino with the velvet seats and the cigarette burns all over the carpet in the front."
Booth chuckles half-heartedly at the memory of that old car.
"When I see that Torino, I put my arm around Jared and pull him over next to me. Dad parks the car at the curb and starts to walk up the sidewalk toward the front of the school."
Booth extended his arm as if he was pointing down the paved walk where his father approaches.
"Daddy! Screams Jared, and he runs to Dad, throwing his arms around his waist. It's like he thinks this is the best dad in the world, picking his kids up just like all the other parents on any other day. But I'm on the steps at the front of the school and I don't move. I stare at him. I'm shaking. I'm just … shaking … inside."
Booth had explained this, shaking a clawed fist in front of his chest, his eyes wide. He looks to Brennan for a moment, then continues.
"I was so … angry … and I was just pissed, you know?"
He shakes his head, flexing his jaws and squeezing his lips into an angry pucker.
"Dad, I say. No emotion. I am not going to let him see how scared I am. Because I am scared. Last time I saw him he was screaming at me and hitting me. And then he disappeared without a word. Not a call. Not a word. Nothin."
"Son, I've come to take you home, he says."
"Like hell, I think to myself. Like hell you are going to walk over here and tell me what you've come to do. You lost that right when you walked out on us. But I can't say that, so instead I calm myself as much as I can and I just talk like we're two guys having a talk, you know?"
He'd looked up at Brennan, then continued after receiving a single nod from her.
"Pops will be here any moment. He'll be expecting to pick us up, I say."
"Pops ain't commin', son. You're stuck with me, dad says."
"I can't believe my ears. Can't believe Pops would abandon us like that. I swear to you on my grandmother's grave, Bones, it was like someone had thrown a barrel full of ice water at me. I got this feeling of … terror … maybe? There was this cold, sheer, cloud of explosive thunder right here in my chest. Then a thought occurs to me. What if something's happened to Pops? He was fine when we left the house that morning, but had something happened?"
"What's wrong with Pops? I ask my dad, sounding a hell of a lot calmer than I feel."
"Nothin's wrong with your Pops. He just knows when it's time for a man to take up his responsibilities and rear his own kids. A boy's place is with his father. And you belong with me, my dad says. Pops said I could pick y'all up and take you back home with me."
"I haven't moved, but Jared's gone back to tossing pebbles into the tall grass beside the school steps."
"We like it at Pops' place, Dad, I say."
"Looks to me like your bother has a different opinion, he says in this authoritative voice."
"Then Jared stops playing, drops the pebbles, and stands completely still."
"I gotta be with Seeley, Jared says, in this tiny little voice, staring wide-eyed at both of us like he's watching a shoot out in a cowboy western. You can almost hear the tumbleweeds blowing across the school yard in front of us."
"I never look away from Dad. I want his attention on me, not my brother. I go down the three steps, and I stand in front of Jared, moving him behind me. Jared doesn't move a muscle. He may have even stopped breathing."
"We live with Pops now, Dad. We're staying with Pops, I say. Then I smell it. The stench of sweat, carburetor oil and Johnnie Walker. Hell no, I think to myself. Hell, no! This gives me the courage to say what I say next."
"Dad. Dad, we love you … I say."
"I am your father. You belong to me, he says, cutting me off."
"Dad, we love you. But we live with Pops now. And we need to stay with him, I say. There. It's out. I said it. Let the chips fall where they may."
"Little man, you think you're all grown up, but you do not have the right to talk to your father like that. I will tell you where you live. And I will tell you who you are, he says."
But I knew he was wrong, because Pops had made it clear to me that summer that I was the one who got to decide who I am, no matter what my dad said or did. So I know Dad is wrong, see? I know it, so I take a step closer to him and I say it again."
"I decide who I am. And I live with Pops. Jared goes with me. Then I wait to see what he'll do. I don't know why I didn't just grab Jared by the arm and start running toward Pops' place. Probably sheer stupidity."
"It wasn't stupidity, Booth. It was courage. Bravery," Brennan had quietly spoken to Booth's profile as he continued to watch the story unfolding in front of him in slow motion. Booth picks up as if he hadn't paused, and she hadn't spoken.
"Never to disappoint, Dad smacks me right up the side of my head with his fist, but I don't flinch. I'm not backing down. My ear is hot, feels like it's dripping blood down my neck. But I've been here before, so I know there's no blood, it just hurts like hell … and there will be a whopper of a head ache later. I start to see stars, but I'm used to this as well, so I wait it out."
"Then what happened, Booth?" Brennan whispered, clearing her tightening throat when Booth pauses for longer than sixty seconds.
"Dad stands there, watching for my reaction, but I'm not giving him the satisfaction. He's looking at me like he doesn't know who or what I am. Before I can stop myself, I say it again."
"I decide who I am. And I live with Pops. Jared goes with me, but it's louder this time, and it comes out sounding like a challenge. Inside, I'm flinching at my own statement, but I don't blink, I don't reach up to touch my burning ear. I just stare straight into his eyes. We're like two freight trains playing chicken, coming toward each other on the same track. One of us is going to have to move, and it sure as fuck isn't going to be me. Sorry Bones ..."
Booth apologized for the course language. Brennan had grimaced a refusal, shaking her head, her gesture clearly letting him know no apology was necessary.
"So I pray that there won't be another blow, but I'm ready to stand my ground if there is."
"After a moment, Dad walks backward three steps and sways a bit, as if he had been the one clobbered, not me. I'm on a roll, high on the fact that I didn't just get killed, so I declare it one more time, louder than the other times."
"I DECIDE WHO I AM. I LIVE WITH POPS. JARED STAYS WITH ME."
"Dad doesn't move for a couple of long minutes. Then he nods at me, his eyes falling to the ground. He nods at Jared and gets in his car. He squeals the tires as he speeds away. Then I drop to the cement steps and exhale the fear, the anger, the disrespect, and the rage that I'd been feeling in my chest since he first walked up. Probably even longer than that - longer than I could remember. Jared sits next to me on the steps and neither of us say anything."
Pops had told Brennan the rest of the story. He had been watching from a block away, fairly confident that Booth and Jared would be coming home with him. When he saw his son hit Seeley, he just about drove his car right up onto the school lawn and ran his own son down. But Seeley was holding his own, so Pops let the scene play itself out, his foot poised above the accelerator, ready to slam it down if necessary.
Not two minutes later, Pops had pulled up in front of the school. Without saying a word, the boys had clambered into the car and Pops, never looking at either one, drove away, whistling quietly.
Back at Pops' house, Jared had climbed out of the car, just like any other afternoon. Booth had sat in his seat, unmoving, the full impact of what he had just done finally hitting him, a thunderous head and ear ache making themselves known and heard.
Pops, still sitting in the driver's seat, slowly turned the key in the ignition, and left it hanging in the steering column. Staring out the front windshield, Pops had said to Booth, "Today, son, you became a man."
Pops sneaked a sideways glance at his grandson, disengaged the car keys, and got out of the car.
Booth had remained in the car alone for a moment. Pops said Booth needed a moment alone to collect himself. Ten minutes later Booth joined Jared on the front porch for a game of marbles. Jared won at marbles, but Booth knew that that September day of 1982, they had both become winners.
This is my version. Who knows what really happened? HH and the SquareChicken do.
Neither of them is saying anything, which is their right.
That's fine, roll it out at your own pace, boys. In the meantime,
I'm going to keep filling in the blanks, and writing dialog, and helping
these two B&B souls reveal themselves to each other.
And you, Dear Reader, you get a vote as well. You vote with your voice,
and your keyboard. You vote by sending in a review of the fictions you
appreciate. So, if you feel so inclined, review this story.
HH and SquareChicken may not listen to you, but I will.
Until next time ... ~ MoxieGirl44