AN: At last, we come to the end of our episode... and we have to finish tying up those loose ends of Brennan development I promised so long ago, don't we?
Many of you of course wanted resolution with Max. Many also were keen for Parker ("Who's this 'Parker' you speak of, Casket? I scarcely remember!" *wink*). A few wanted Christine to make an appearance of cuteness. But one of you has caught the Fisher bug and asked for him, too. For the record, Fisher is the most 'Brennan' of the bunch, especially as we learn more about her in this season. Well, of the ones alive, anyway.
In any case, I deliver all of the above in one lovely chapter. Are we ready?
Shocker: I still don't own Bones. I also don't own anything by Shakespeare, including one last Hamlet quote (sorry, NCISVILLE!).
They agreed to meet in the Jeffersonian's gardens – hardly neutral territory, but Brennan felt it better to have what Booth called "home earth" for this discussion. She intended on it being a discussion, anyway; arguing would hardly solve a thing. In reflecting upon their relationship since he'd emerged from the shadows, Brennan had come to realize that her father and she thrived on a combative, yet loving relationship.
There had been enough fighting to last her a lifetime in the previous few weeks.
True to form, he was suddenly there – forever possessing the element of surprise. She recalled her childhood, how he'd always seemed to know exactly where to find her during Hide and Seek. Hiding in plain sight was something she'd inherited from him, or so she believed. No one had truly noticed her until Angela, and then Booth.
"Hi honey," he said quietly.
He shuffled closer, Brennan noting the abnormality in his gait tracing back to his injury two years prior. She studied the wrinkles in his face, the laugh lines and furrows of worry, and was acutely aware of his mortality.
"I'm glad you called," he prodded gently. "Look Tempe, I've been doing a lot of thinking–"
"No," she interrupted firmly. "I've always listened to you, Dad. For six years, it's been about you: your reasons for leaving; your well-meaning actions; your need for a family Christmas that completely overrode a comforting coping mechanism I'd relied on for years – a means of coping with the pain of you and Mom leaving us! For once, I need you to listen to me, really listen. If you can't do that, turn around and leave now."
"Okay. Okay, Tempe."
She longed suddenly for Booth: the security of his hand upon the small of her back, guiding her safely to their destination. He was her touchstone, her foundation. No matter how rocky things had been between them over the years, she could always rely on him when she needed him most. In that sense, her father had made great strides. Without the blinding, confusing neurochemistry of anger and betrayal, she could see the good mixed within the bad.
"I don't think you fully appreciate what leaving did to Russ and I," she began quietly. "You say you know, but you don't, Dad. To survive, I pulled my heart deep inside of me, shielded it from everyone in my life, because people couldn't be trusted. Emotions couldn't be trusted. Even Mom told me that once," she added wistfully. "But in opening myself up to Angela, to Booth, I've found those walls falling down. For you – for myself, too – I'd kept them up, kept them sturdy as best I could. But they're gone now, Dad. I can't keep pretending what you and Mom did was okay with me."
"It wasn't okay, Tempe. I've never said it was a good decision; it was just the best decision in a shitty situation," Max replied.
"I was beaten, Dad," she confessed, her voice shrinking away. "Locked in the trunk of a car, left to dehydrate and soil myself. Starved for not completing my chores. Russ left me and I was hurt by people, hurt and then told I was a liar, that I was making it up, that I should be grateful to have a home at all!" She hugged herself tightly, turning away. "I worked a bar when I was underage, was followed home once and nearly raped. I should have had a father to call for a ride! I shouldn't have needed two jobs!"
She heard him sob, just once, but she couldn't face him. Not yet.
"I believed you were dead, knew statistically it had to be so, yet I needed the answers all the same. The one positive thing that came of the hell you put me through was my commitment to anthropology, my aspirations and achievements. I do incredible work. I give families answers. I gave myself answers. Mom..."
"I miss her," he gasped. "Tempe, I miss her so much. I missed you both. I... I thought that Russ would stay."
"Russ was a kid!" she snapped, spinning around. "It took me so long to understand that, but he was just a kid, just a victim of the same horrible circumstances. He knew something was wrong, knew we'd changed our names, but he was your son. Your child. The two of you just left us!"
Max nodded. "You're right. What do you want me to say? I've apologized so many times. I'll do it again if it's what it takes."
"Was it truly Mom's idea to leave us behind?" she asked.
Max hesitated. "I made a choice, Tempe."
"You did. You chose her. Answer the question."
Sinking onto a bench beside them, he nodded. "I wanted to take you kids. I kept telling Ruth that Russ knew enough to understand, that you would simply come if asked. But she insisted teenagers were too difficult, that they would come at us and leave you two alone if we separated. She said... She said I failed to make us disappear the first time, so it had to be her way. But I went along with her."
"You did," Temperance concurred. "But I've held you responsible for the anger two parents created, not one. For that, I'm sorry."
"I was always happy to play the villain, honey. Your mother was wonderful, and I wanted you to remember her that way. I'm the killer. I'm the bad guy."
"You made me the bad guy this summer. I... It was rational. But I started to question whether rational decisions were best this summer. I thought of Booth, and I could see myself, locked inside my bedroom, and he... I love him so much. To inflict that pain upon him..."
"It's a heavy burden to bear, honey. I know. I know."
Slowly, she sank to the bench. "I'd forgotten how complex emotions can be, when consumed by them. But Fisher helped me understand why I'd found myself incapable of resolution."
"Fisher? The depressed weirdo squint?"
"He's actually wonderful. We're very alike, Dad. And yes, he was of great help to me." Drawing a deep breath, she continued. "Dad, you have to accept that I have half of my lifetime to be angry about - that's how long my life was altered by what you did. Whether it was a wise decision or not, your criminal past was the reason it had to be made. Russ and I suffered the consequences of your actions. I may always hesitate to trust you, although I strive to weigh the evidence of recent years against your betrayal and adjust accordingly. But I'm still your daughter. I'm..."
The tears began to fall in earnest, and when he embraced her, she didn't resist. She needed her father, needed his assurance that all would be well. She was still angry, still hurt, but also tired of the mask she'd constructed.
Roles were for plays, not for life.
"I love you so much, Tempe. I wish to God I could take it back, take back what people did to you – what we did to you. All I can do now is be a good father, if you'll let me."
"You have to let me be angry sometimes," she whispered into his shoulder. "You have to understand that some days, I won't care to be near you. But I do need my father. Christine needs you."
"That's fine by me. Whatever you need, sweetheart. Dish it out, I can take it. Just talk to me, alright?"
Brennan nodded. "Okay. I can do that."
They remained on the bench for several minutes, her head resting on his shoulder as it had many times in the summer. His strength had been the closest thing to Booth she could imagine, and within it, she found the courage to wait, to bide her time.
"You know, your mother was the only real family I ever had, aside from you and Russ," Max told her. "She was the first person to love me for myself."
"She was your Booth," Temperance said.
"Yeah, baby. She was. It was how I knew he was good for you."
She nodded, smiling fondly as Booth's words echoed in her mind: "Right from the beginning..."
With a dinner invitation tendered for the upcoming Saturday, she bid her father farewell and returned to the lab. Without active cases, the offices were quiet. Cam often encouraged half days as a reward for the overtime the team put in during active investigations. Brennan's only company was the intern in the Bone Room, assembling the remains of a Jane Doe from Modular Bone Storage. At her approach, he glanced up with concern.
"Are you alright, Dr. Brennan?" Fisher asked.
"I am, although I'm certain I look somewhat disheveled," she replied. "Mr. Fisher, I wanted to express my gratitude to you for your assistance."
He shrugged, smiling faintly. "I'm here to work and learn. Although, I have to admit that I never anticipated the use of Shakespeare in the forensic anthropology field."
"Your work was of great value, but that wasn't what I explicitly wished to thank you for."
Without conscious attention, she had moved the right femur into its correct anatomical position upon the steel table. Her hands had sought their familiar comfort. Home. When she'd had nowhere else to go, the lab had become her refuge. Change the place – a school; the Jeffersonian; a tent overseas – but the feeling never changed.
"Your words of wisdom were a framework within which I was able to analyze my confusion and find peace," she continued. "You made the irrational less so. I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to express yourself to me. I know that many find me aloof and unapproachable."
"I never have," Fisher said warmly. "But then again, I'm crazy, so perhaps I'm not the wisest one to assess what is normal and what is not for others."
"I don't find you crazy, Mr. Fisher. You are a gifted anthropologist, burdened with the weight of emotions and painful memories. Where we differ is the ability to compartmentalize. While it's certainly a skill worth developing when working in the field, in one's personal life, it can be problematic." With a soft chuckle, she shook her head. "In a way, I envy your emotional lability."
"You really shouldn't," Fisher insisted. "You've never tasted what passes for food in an institution."
"You feel what you feel. You live. Good, bad, you experience it all. And while the bad isn't necessarily good to dwell upon, aren't the positives worth the metaphorical climb back up?"
He contemplated this for a minute. "I suppose so."
"I'm sorry your mother refuses to see what a truly great son she's raised," Brennan told him. "I know what it is to grow up without praise and support, albeit in different circumstances. But I promise you this: whenever it's darkest, return to the bones. Come back to them. Hear their stories. We're never alone."
He nodded vigorously, his eyes moist. She reached out a hand to squeeze his shoulder, a gesture of comfort her mother had often shared with her as a child.
"'This above all else: to thine own self be true'," she quoted, smiling.
"Go home," she urged gently. "It's been a long case."
"But I am home," he replied.
With a wistful smile, she gestured to the bones. "Well, then, let's begin: what can you tell me about our Jane Doe so far?"
He reached for the skull. "Caucasian female, mid-thirties, yet nulliparous. Cause of death appears to be a single, strong blow to the occipital..."
"Hey Bones, we're home!"
Parker tossed his bag to the floor and ran through the house in search of his sister and "second mom", as he'd explained to his father on the drive from the airport. Booth chuckled, following behind him in anticipation of Parker's impending request to call Temperance "Mom". He could already picture her face lighting up in surprise, even as she gently informed his son that he didn't need to feel obligated to attach a title to their relationship.
Rebecca had been a pain in his ass, refusing this visit for weeks. Work, school, blah blah blah. Booth had lost his summer with his family – his entire family. Fearing Pelant, he'd had to explain to Parker over the phone that they couldn't have their two months together, which had gone over less than optimally. He'd refused to speak to Booth for a month out of fury.
But now, he understood why. It was something Booth had preferred to explain in person, and Parker had appreciated that it was a choice made out of love.
"You still should have let me come, Dad. You were alone," Parker had insisted.
Booth had shook his head firmly. "Your safety comes first, pal. You, Bones, Christine - I can't lose any of you, not ever."
They found mother and daughter in the yard, curled up on a blanket in the sun. The chill of Fall had abated for the weekend, leaving a late summer's glow to grace their weekend. Glancing up from the picture book she was showing Christine, Temperance beamed.
"Parker! You're growing at an accelerated rate!"
"I'm going through puberty, Bones. You're supposed to grow," Parker replied, grinning.
"Get over here. I've missed you!"
Her arms opened and into them Parker fell. Booth grinned, inhaling the fresh air and admiring the perfect scene playing out in front of him. He was their son, without question. Bones had always embraced him as family, long before they'd untangled the knots of their messy love and found happiness together. Finally, he'd honoured his vow on the steps of that church.
I have my family back.
"Christine's so much bigger!" Parker gasped. "Do I seem to grow that fast to you, Dad?"
"Yeah, pal. Even now, it feels like you've grown a foot since we last saw you."
"Actually, he's grown approximately two inches – "
"Bones," Booth interrupted, laughing. "Not literally."
"I know." She smirked, enjoying teasing her partner with intentional obtuseness.
"So Bones, I wanted to ask you a question. A serious one," Parker added, sitting beside her.
"Of course, Parker."
He picked up a nearby stuffed animal, dancing it for Christine before making it kiss her cheek. She burst into giggles, clapping excitedly.
"Parker, that's right," her mother encouraged her.
"She's learning my name? Awesome!"
Booth nodded. "Bones shows her your picture all the time. You may not be here in person, but you're always in our home, Parker."
"That's why I wanted to ask you my questions," Parker replied, smiling.
"Questions plural? You only told me one," Booth replied.
"Because one is a surprise for both of you. Now stop interrupting me!" Parker demanded, shaking his head. "Is my Dad always like this?"
"Yes!" Bones agreed.
"Oh sure, gang up on Dad..."
"Bones, if my Dad would ever stop talking, I wanted to ask... well, I call you Bones, because that's what Dad's always called you, and because it's been this special thing."
"It is special. Only Booth men get away with it," she agreed with a smile.
"Well, I wanted to know if... Well, empirically, you take care of me, teach me, encourage me and love me, that's all evidence of you being a mother to me," Parker explained.
"Oh, Parker. You don't have to feel obligated to call me anything but – "
"But you're my Mom. I mean, aren't you? To me, you are."
Her eyes darted to Booth's, seeking reassurance. He nodded and grinned, affirming that their son knew exactly what he was asking, and that it was of his own volition. As he'd predicted, she pulled Parker into a tight embrace, tearing up.
"I am so proud to be your Mom," she whispered. "If you would like to call me that, I would be honoured."
"Hey, anyone home?"
"Grandpa Max!" Parker shouted, rushing around to the front gate.
Christine squealed at the flurry of chatter and activity, thumping her bunny against the blanket. Booth hoisted her into the air, dancing her around.
"Look at all these visitors!" he cooed. "And your brother's here for a whole week!"
Brennan found her way to her feet, leaning against Booth with a wide grin. "He wants to call me 'Mom'," she murmured.
"Yeah, he does. Because you're a great one, Bones. The best."
"I sometimes worry," she confessed.
"Don't worry," Booth whispered, kissing her cheek. "Our kids are the luckiest, Bones. I mean that."
Max rounded the corner of the house, clearly in a good mood. "What's this I hear about my grandson finally returning home?"
"Grandpa Max! They don't know!" Parker stomped his foot.
"What's going on, pal?"
Parker sighed. "I was going to ask you later on, but someone has a big mouth."
"I'm guessing you want to live with us, Parker?" Brennan asked.
"Yeah. I love soccer, but I told my Mom I was tired of missing you, and that my friend Jonathan got to choose what parent to live with when he was my age, and I chose you guys. She's only got one more year over there anyway, but I miss you all. Plus, I need to teach Christine all of the Booth tricks."
"I'm certain Rebecca's not thrilled," Brennan whispered in Booth's ear.
"Yeah, I'll have to sort her out." Louder, he replied, "Well, you know we'd love to have you here! Let me talk it out with your Mom, alright?"
"Which one?" Parker asked.
Max smiled at Temperance knowingly as she answered, "Your biological one. I very much support your moving back to live with us. Although, I'm wary of these 'Booth tricks' you mentioned..."
"Well, there's the grin," Parker began.
"Uh uh, bud. Trade secrets," Booth interrupted.
"I think I know this grin very well. Your father's an expert."
"And then, there's the patented batting of the eyes to get ice cream..."
Booth shooed Parker inside, Christine amused by chasing her brother, as Temperance hung back to embrace her father.
"You have a beautiful family, Tempe."
"We do, Dad. They have a good grandfather, one they can rely on when there's trouble."
Max nodded. "Always. And so can you. I'll keep on proving it to you."
"I know you will."
Slipping her arm through his, Temperance Brennan was neither mother nor daughter nor life partner. She wasn't a scientist, nor an author.
She was simply Temperance and at the moment, she was at peace with that.
And that's a wrap! Bam! Max, Fisher, Parker and Christine! Take that, writers! I mean it - take that idea, pay me for it (I write cheap) and make it so.
Thank you so much for reading, reviewing, PMing me, prodding me to post, keeping me sane and/or amused on Twitter... You're a wonderful group of loyal readers.
I set you to explore Brennan and Max, play with Shakespeare, have a few laughs as well as tears, and make everyone see Fisher just a little differently. Did I succeed? Only you can tell me!
While you're leaving your final thoughts, put me on author alert and then check out my other stories if this is your first. As always, my Bard readers get sneak peeks and intel, so one last time, here's what's coming at you:
1) Over on The Mixed Tape this week, a very special season four edition. Here's the deal: everyone who reviews this chapter and requests a tease will receive a tidbit or hint about the next chapter. If you're all clever and chatty, you may just put together a cool picture. If you don't already read The Mixed Tape, it's my favourite Bones story to date and it's full of the sort of character exploration I've done here, so go see!
2) Over at The Bites of the Partnership Pie (my series of assorted one-shots and prompts), I'll be posting the Vegas story eventually, I freaking swear. I'm also mulling a missing piece of The Shot In The Dark.
3) Once I have time, oxygen for my brain and a few chapters written in advance, I'll be posting a new casefic, prompted by a dare. What sort of casefic? Why, one where a personal effect of Booth's is found on the victim! Gasp!
4) For those who dig femmeslash, I have been sworn to eventually write an unusual pairing for a one-shot... God, I have a lot to write!
Again, thank you for reading, reviewing, and sharing this story.