Author's Note: Nine months and 225,000 words later ... it's finally finished ... and I am ambivalent as I post this final chapter. At times it has been a burden, caused levels of panic, smiles, tears, headaches, heartaches and quite a few instances of me asking myself, 'Why are you doing this?!'
There were moments when the only reason a chapter got posted was because I knew you dear readers were waiting for it. So as I end this, let me take a moment to say thank you to all who are still reading this many chapters in. You are dedicated! Thank you for the follows and favorites, because just knowing you're out there waiting was a motivation to keep going.
Thank you especially to the ones who have reviewed regularly, or at least frequently, because those encouraging little notes and thoughtful remarks are truly the greatest reward. The desire not to disappoint any of you lured her back those few times when my muse went wandering.
And last, thank you (?) to Casket4mytears for pushing me off the cliff and making this story come to life. I definitely would not have done this without you. :D
~27 Sep 2013~
There be some sports are painful, and their labor
Delight in them sets off. Some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone. And most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task
Would be as heavy to me as odious, but
The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead
And makes my labors pleasures.
The Tempest, Act III, Scene 1, lines 1–7
The melodious word drifting through her office lifted Brennan's head from her preliminary notes on the bones found in the greenhouse, and she swiveled with surprise to face her unexpected visitor.
"Avalon." The urge to follow up with a blurted 'what are you doing here' was hastily subdued just in the nick of time, accomplished mostly by a rapid pinching of her lips over unruly bluntness.
Angela's psychic still possessed the pale, straw-colored hair of years before, her pale skin contrasting sharply with heavily penciled brows and a classic 'baby face.' Those rounded cheeks had lifted into a warm smile at the exchange of names. "You remember."
"Of course," Brennan offered with her well known alacrity when told something she perceived as obvious. "You were involved in one of our cases."
"That's not the only reason," Avalon admonished. "You remember when we last spoke."
It was a declarative statement, leaving Brennan to wonder if she was supposed to confirm it. Their gazes held for a moment, one patient. One, not so much. Finally, Brennan nodded succinctly because it seemed Avalon did indeed expect a verbal response. "You said everything worked out eventually."
"And it did," Avalon noted with a gesture that took in the general environment, "but that's not all I said to you."
A vague assertion that something would 'work out' proved utterly useless as a means of prognostication, unless the definition of 'worked out' was worked out in advance and explicitly recorded for later verification. So no matter what resulted, Avalon would always be able to point to it as the inevitable 'working out' she'd always had in mind.
More than likely, this was not what Avalon was waiting to hear. Brennan pushed back from her desk and approached her with an almost resigned sigh. "I'm certain you intend to remind me."
"I do," the psychic agreed and then leaned forward with a conspiratorial wink. "I told you that only your top layer was rational but underneath you're as crazy as I am. That's still true, now more than ever."
A soft chuckle, and Brennan shook her head. "And I still don't know what that means."
"It means your gift is the same as mine."
"I'm not a psychic. I'm a scientist."
She persisted as if the objection hadn't been voiced at all. "I've been following you, you know."
When the younger woman furrowed her brow in confusion (surely Booth would have noticed if anyone was following her), Avalon gestured to the small table off to the side and helped herself to one of the chairs flanking it. "I do readings for you occasionally; you're not aware of them of course, but I do them. That's how I knew it was time to seek you out."
"I still don't believe in the Tarot," Brennan assured her.
Avalon merely raised a mysterious little smile because she'd witnessed Temperance reacting to that reading with Angela and then of course there had been that visit the night she was stabbed and medicated, wherein Avalon had assured her, "he knows the truth of you, and he is dazzled by that truth." (For all the good it did, because Brennan then reversed herself and refused to believe it afterwards and then look what happened.) So all of this passed through Avalon's mind and it made her laugh a gentle tease. "Some people don't believe in evolution; does that make it untrue?"
Of course evolution was true, Brennan frowned. "There's empirical evidence of evolution in the form of measurable change over time. Fossils and fruit flies..." Not the point, she supposed, since Avalon was already moving on to argue her next point.
"There was evidence in the cards. You saw the readings I gave you. You knew they were true." The gentle persuasion continued with surprising confidence, as if this supremely serene psychic had no fear of how she would be received. Dr. Saroyan had urged her to stay out of Dr. Brennan's way, but Avalon knew she would be welcomed politely, even if not enthusiastically. And the best way to engage Dr. Brennan was to embark upon a duel of wits with science as the rapier. Swords and science were the tools of Temperance's trade, did she but know it.
"I know that it's human nature to seek meaning and patterns in our environment. The cards are symbolic and therefore readings are a matter of subjective interpretation."
"That doesn't make it wrong."
"No. It means that I'll see what I want to see."
Avalon smiled like a proud High Priestess imparting arcane knowledge to her eager acolyte. "Exactly."
Brennan frowned, quite certain she hadn't expected Avalon to agree with anything she might think regarding the accuracy of the Tarot deck as a tool of divination.
By now Avalon had reached into her handbag and pulled out the ever-present cards, which she began shuffling as she spoke. "Your subconscious mind sees what it wants to see, what it needs to see. The Tarot and your bones both work the same way."
The protest was immediate. "No, bones provide empirical data in size, shape, texture, degree of mineralization, isotope content, not to mention damage caused by disease, injury and post-mortem taphonomic alterations. They provide objective facts."
"Objective and subjective are two halves of a whole. Objective facts are meaningless without subjective interpretation." Smiling serenely still, Avalon set the deck down and gestured. "Draw a card, Temperance."
Impatiently, Brennan reached forward and flipped. The same beginning as that first Tarot reading stared up at her: Temperance. The statistical odds of drawing that card first twice out of three times were merely unlikely, not impossible, Brennan grumbled to herself as she slapped it down onto the table.
Avalon sat back with satisfied smile. "Objectively describe that card for me."
And that surprised her: Brennan had been expecting an immediate 'reading' which she would have immediately rejected. She found herself speechless for a moment, uncertain she'd heard correctly. At Avalon's second request, however, she gazed down on it, noting the romanticized, antique style of the drawing resembled early Twentieth Century Art Nouveau images Angela was fond of sketching free hand. Gamely, Brennan began to relay the facts of what she saw. "The card is made of laminated card stock, approximately eight centimeters by ... twelve and a half centimeters..."
Her companion shook her head lightly, redirecting Brennan with the gentle refusal of mere physical attributes. "I was looking more for a description of what is on the card."
Even more impatient now, Brennan rolled her eyes and tried again. "At the bottom of the card the word Temperance is printed in bold typeface, as well as the Roman numeral fourteen. The art style appears to be a lithographed reproduction of an Art Nouveau print. There's a stream, mountains in the background, and the sun is just over the mountains on the left side of the picture. An angelic figure of indeterminate gender is standing at the edge of the water. The angel holds two cups of water, pouring the contents of one into the other. There appear to be yellow irises growing in the water."
Now that she'd described it, Brennan found herself studying the image for a moment, trying to recall the significance of Irises. Faith, hope, and friendship, she thought; and a moment later thought of Angela. Avalon shifted forward. "Wonderful. Now ... what does it mean?"
"I have no way of determining that."
"Yes you do, Temperance. The symbols are universal. What is happening in the picture?"
Irises mean faith and hope. She thought of Angela again, but then faith made her think of Booth and all Brennan could muster after that was a confused shrug. "The angel took water from the stream and is pouring it back and forth. I don't know why."
"What if I told you that some versions of this card feature water and fire in the cups?"
That earned an immediate explanation of how fire and water interacted chemically. "A fire is an exothermic oxidation reaction. Assuming the fuel is carbon-based, water would quench the fire by reducing the temperature."
While this was too literal in some ways, Avalon knew science was the best way to explain the meaning of the card to the very scientific Dr. Temperance Brennan. So she went with it because sometimes you just have to do things the hard way. "Water and fire are ancient symbols thought to represent the four basic elements. Of course we know there are far more than four elements today, but the basic idea is similar to atoms, you understand. Different combinations form different substances. You might prefer to think of Temperance as a chemist seeking the elemental ratio that balances the atoms she has, so that she can become the substance she needs to be."
Skeptical still, Brennan shook her head and chuffed a disbelieving laugh. "So, this card is about balancing chemical equations?" Highly unlikely, unless the declared psychic was attempting to use a science-based metaphor. That idea, at least, was rather intriguing.
Avalon reached out and slid the card toward the center of the table. "This card describes your general situation at this moment. You are seeking to balance your disparate elements: you are in the process of becoming what you were always meant to be. And I know you don't believe in fate," she added with a wink. "This isn't about fate, it's about potential. Draw again."
"Look, Avalon, I'm sure there's a more polite way to tell you that I've got work to do but at the moment it's not a priority for me to find it."
"I know. All your worker bees are busy as we speak, working under their noble Queen." Avalon raised an impish brow and offered the deck.
Brennan huffed and drew, flipping over a card decorated with a regal woman on a throne, holding a sword aloft.
A delighted laugh burst out and Avalon took it, placing it down on the table directly below the Temperance card. "The cards know you, even when you don't believe. This is the Queen of Swords, a noble woman, wise in science and with words. She knows oh, so many things. She is cool and rational, possesses discerning judgement, but often closed off from her emotions. This card tells me who you used to be."
"You stacked the deck," Brennan accused.
Deliberately, Avalon handed it to her. "You saw me shuffle it a few minutes ago but by all means, shuffle it again."
Quite thoroughly, Brennan ensured every card had been moved several times before handing the deck back to the psychic. "Is that all? Because I really—"
"Take another card," Avalon proffered.
The next card Avalon took from her and placed it to the left of the first two, forming a triangle. "Two of Pentacles. You've been trying to juggle two, opposing forces within yourself. You believe it is necessary to make a choice between them, but you can't decide. What you cannot reconcile within yourself is the objective versus the subjective when it comes to the truth. You believe they are mutually exclusive."
"Objective facts are necessary if I have any hope of winning a court case. Subjective stories or opinions cannot be verified independently." And when she got too subjective, the defense always used it against her.
With a slight shake of her head, Avalon disagreed. "Objective facts mean nothing in and of themselves. They require interpretation, subjective meaning. When you see a cut mark—"
"Kerf mark," Brennan corrected.
"—A kerf mark, you describe how long it is, how deep it is. Those are objective facts, but what do they tell you? It is only when you interpret the marks for your partner or for a jury, when you give them subjective meaning, that the facts have a voice."
"But first based on empirical data." She always had objective observations to back any stories she told lest anyone accuse Temperance Brennan of making it all up. She braced herself for another argument.
"That is correct, you find subjective meaning hidden in objective data. Draw again," Avalon suggested in lieu of continuing their skirmish.
This card went to the right of the others, forming a diamond shape. "Two of Swords," she noted. "You have been alternating between objective and subjective, unable to settle for one. Now there is a temporary peace but no clear decision has been made."
It was picking up speed now. Brennan decided she would simply draw when Avalon indicated, reasoning it would all go much faster if she simply cooperated. Avalon was quite similar to Angela (and Booth) in that regard. Letting a river carry her downstream to a shallow place was more efficient than fighting the deep currents. That didn't mean she was crossing this river willingly, however. She refused to believe laminated cards with pretty printed pictures could spell her life.
"Now, the next card shows what you've learned on your journey, Temperance. Draw." She was unafraid of that chilly, direct gaze with the mirror-like eyes.
Holding Avalon pinned while one hand reached, Brennan finally flipped the card stock over and dropped down to look. Her head swam with dizziness, as if she'd suddenly been hung upside down. "My whole world turned upside down. I can adjust." Her hand trembled slightly as she moved the card towards Avalon and dropped it above the others.
Avalon serenely moved it into place above the third card. "You know what it means," she said.
"A change in perspective." The Hanged Man, dangling upside down by one ankle, seeing the world from a different point of view. What Avalon had spent the last few minutes arguing now whispered reminders in Lauren's voice. Getting subjective wasn't so bad; in fact, she'd have never discovered Lauren's truths without the help of Lauren's voice on the CDs of dictated case notes. Without the help of Lauren herself.
"From terrible loss and personal sacrifice, you gained wisdom," Avalon intoned gently. "From the blending of you and your partner's approaches, the stories you tell are more complete. Your gift is stronger as a result."
"It's weaker now," Brennan found herself admitting, she wasn't quite sure why. Ever since she'd become Booth's mate, the bones were silent. Until today...
Soft sympathy wrapped her up in Avalon's soothing accents. "Only because you think you have to make a choice, Temperance. This next card shows you the challenge you've already faced. Draw again."
A sigh, while she chastised herself for playing along too well. This card was one she'd seen before: Strength.
It went above the first card while Avalon commented, "Your rational mind tamed the power of your emotions but you've been afraid to use that power. You've doubted your own strength until recently."
Uncomfortable, Brennan shook her head again and declared, "Angela told you that."
"This card in this position tells me that," Avalon countered. "It's just as empirical to me as a chip on a bone is to you. That is the point I'm trying to make to you. I interpret cards and make them mean something for you. It's no different than what you do with bones."
"Why are you really here," Brennan asked abruptly. Though tunneling under outward behavior to reach the motivation hidden inside was Booth's strength, nonetheless she had at least improved upon the ability to discern a hidden motive existed. Her ways of reaching it relied upon a straightforward assault, but the verbal battleaxe usually worked for her.
For example, Avalon didn't hesitate to answer directly. "Collin needs you to listen to him."
"Who is Collin?"
"You know who he is." Every bit as tenacious as Brennan's best friend, Avalon refused to back down from Brennan's frosted refusal to concede the point that she did, in fact, know who Collin was going to end up being.
They regarded each other silently for several minutes. Finally Avalon was the one who shrugged lightly and proffered the Tarot deck again. "The seventh card shows you the metamorphosis, the final result when you just believe in the power of your own name."
That card was another that she'd seen before, during that first reluctant reading. The Ten of Cups. Family again. Brennan let it go and watched Avalon slide it into place above the fourth card.
"You feel what others feel, forging emotional ties and building a family. You feel the subjective truth that your bones continue to whisper to you even now, when you are happy in the arms of family and you think they stopped. You feel the subjective truth of the families who lost a member. And yet you never lose sight of the objective truth that science requires. You can do both, Temperance."
Like she did with Lauren Eames? Like Avalon was suggesting she do now, with a boy who might end up being named Collin.
"There's something else this card tells me about you and Seeley. The love that brought you together will keep you together through all of the challenges ahead. Remember that when the time comes."
"You can't predict the future," Brennan refuted with a stronger spark of conviction and the first shivers of dread. What did Avalon think was coming...?
"Life is full of challenges, this is me being realistic here. Having loving family, a man who knows you like Seeley does, will make your path in life smoother. Are you gonna argue with experience?"
"Just as long as we're clear that I do not believe in prophecy or prognostications."
"Perish the thought," Avalon quipped. "Just three more cards."
Rolling her eyes, Brennan snatched the next one and studied it. "The King of Cups is a family man," she remarked, and frankly wondered if it meant Booth. No, she immediately backtracked, don't read things into it. That's what she'd been doing, reading her own life into the cards, making it entirely subjective and form-fitting despite the generic platitudes inherent to every card.
The psychic took that card and placed it at the bottom of all the others, just slightly off the left side. "These last three cards are the foundation of who you are becoming. This card represents the one who helps you the most: a compassionate man, a good leader who understands people very well."
Booth. It couldn't be anyone else, and yes she knew she was falling into the Tarot trap.
The Tarot deck was proffered suggestively, luring her back despite her better judgement and once more Brennan drew and found herself turning over The World. She recalled it meant completion, the end of a journey or project.
"This card represents you," Avalon explained and set it beside the card Brennan instinctively felt meant Booth even if her rational mind was still telling her it was human nature to seek patterns and meaning from the meaningless. "You've come full circle on this journey and now you're back at the beginning."
Which beginning, exactly? The idea of doing any of this all over again sounded exhausting. "Are we finished now?"
Down it went, next to The World. Brennan studied The High Priestess with mild interest, noting the feminine figure was standing between a black and a white pillar with a full moon floating behind her. Finally finished. Now, maybe, Avalon would let her return to work. She didn't bother to hide her relief.
"The High Priestess possesses arcane knowledge. She travels between worlds, bringing the stories of the dead back to the living. Do you see the pomegranates in the background there? They are symbolic of death or the afterlife. She passes her wisdom to others, as a teacher might. The High Priestess is who you are meant to be."
Taking in the entire set of ten cards, (unconsciously seeing a flower growing up out of the ground from the layout, just further proof that a human brain sees patterns and meaning in random sensory input), she pursed her lips and finally resigned herself to go ahead and ask. "What is this supposed to tell me?"
A slender white fingertip gently connected to the High Priestess card. "Listen to Collin. Listen to all of them. There's no decision to make, no sacrifices to endure. Everything you need is already present within you."
Faintly frustrated and trying not to show it, she pushed herself up with a shake of the head. "I still don't know what that means."
"It means that you've finally earned your name, Temperance."
Brennan halted at the door, feeling a burst of epinephrine and norepinephrine at the sound of her name this time. Why should hearing something so familiar suddenly invoke a physical stress response that pushed her pulse and made her fingers tingle? Why should she suddenly feel prepared to face anything?
"I told you before that you'd gained something," Avalon told her. "I also recall telling you that he knows the truth of you. You're not going to lose anything by listening. Maybe now you'll believe me."
Escaping at last, Brennan didn't pause to wonder why the next place she ended up was Angela's office, or that the burst of hormonal preparation for fight or flight brought her to her best friend itching for an argument that instinct assured her would restore her rational equilibrium. A Socratic exchange with her very spiritual best friend seemed the most likely source of soothing discourse and Angela didn't disappoint.
The moment Brennan walked towards the rounded young skull and peered into the orbits, Angela's sardonic observation started the engine of their longest-running conflict. "You see his ghost, don't you?"
Angela hadn't missed the way Brennan kept pausing earlier when examining the skull, the way she would often turn toward it as if movement had caught her eye and she was attempting to catch him in the act.
"Of course not," Brennan snapped quickly while stress-sourced restless movements carried her across the floor and then back again. "How could I possibly see something that does not exist?"
Never one to give up easily, Angela smirked and shook her head. "Because his soul is here and you know it."
All she received for that remark was a long-suffering sigh.
"Come on, Bren. If consciousness is caused by electrical energy in the brain, then where does all of that energy go when somebody dies?"
"Decomposition is the process whereby energy is transferred to consuming organisms and heat."
Not to be deterred, Angela adjusted a variable and ran her imaging program again, all the while noting the young skull watching them both with wide-orbited interest. "And sometimes, some of that energy is left behind in the form of a soul."
"Outside the decaying brain?" Temperance retorted.
Angela shrugged elegantly.
"The notion of a soul, of a spirit that transcends the body and time and..." she halted speaking just long enough to scoff slightly "...the laws of physics, has been integral to every single culture. It is a myth that transcends race. It is an abiding tenant of humanity." She resumed her pacing and arguing with Angela, who was so busy concentrating on reconstructing the face with a digital scan that she only half paid attention, until this last bit.
How many times had they run this argument between them? Angela raised an amused brow, noting that the tone of Brennan's argument had shifted. She sounded like she didn't believe her own end of it at all, or that she no longer wanted to believe it.
"So, it's true," Angela quipped.
"Not in the least." Belief has no bearing on reality. Objective proof of souls has never been obtained. She could not prove souls existed. She stopped, feeling a lump rise in her throat as she turned to face the face flickering over the bones. What if Avalon was right...? Could something be true even in the absence of proof? Was objective truth a double-edged sword, making the presence of Collin's essence a truth that did not depend upon her acceptance of it?
Before she could launch another offensive, Booth walked in bearing size eight shoes with blood on the soles. Hodgins followed him in a moment later to announce he had dated the death to autumn two years previous, based on the wasp's nest in the skull.
The fact that this boy died around the same time as the Lauren Eames case from autumn 2010 brushed through Brennan's consciousness but she dismissed it as an all-too-typical coincidence. When investigating long-decomposed remains, there was bound to be some coincidental overlap. Look what Avalon had done, she fretted silently, infecting her with suspicions and superstitions, seeking connections where none existed. This had to stop.
There was no proof for any of this.
Abruptly, she resumed her one-sided argument with Angela despite the presence of the others because Booth sort of knew and Hodgins knew to stay out of her squalls with the artist. "There is absolutely no empirical evidence that ghosts, or spirits, or the human soul exists. There is no evidence that our consciousness survives our corporeal death in any way." Though Brennan had often envisioned faces and saw them flicker and move, this face held a steady presence. She couldn't explain it as mere intuition or her mind filling in musculature over bone. She couldn't layer it away with science, or ignore the moving lips shaping the words the way that Lauren's had.
The skull was whispering to her after two years of hard, boney silence. Though Brennan had spent most of her years convincing others her talents had always been based on her own knife-sharp observations coupled with an imaginative understanding of the physiology of pain and human morphology, inwardly she'd always feared otherwise. Once again she was seeing something that could not be explained with empirical support, knew facts she could not justify to her peers. It was staring her in the face, to borrow a more than appropriate cliché. Or rather, she was staring at his face. Collin's face.
Blue eyes, short blond hair swept back a bit with gel, a dimple that winked into existence when his cheeks drew back and he begged her to listen. Make her listen.
The Angelatron, (the latest invention born of Angela's technical talents), chirped and flashed the photo image of a cherub-cheeked boy named Collin Gibson and his was on the skull as well. Angela gasped at the sight of the name, recalling what Avalon had uttered earlier. "Oh, my God, Avalon kept saying she heard someone, Collin."
Reliably rational Hodgins disagreed immediately. "No, she meant calling. But still, wow, that's gotta make you think…."
The mention of Avalon threw Brennan into an even more stressed state. The psychic with her Tarot cards, who knew things and told her "underneath you're as crazy as I am." I'm not psychic, Brennan thought frantically. It's ... I'm just very good at my job. She almost shuddered, trying to redirect them all away from supernatural remarks. "We are scientists. Let's concentrate on the facts, and numbers, and logic."
I'm a scientist.
She was empirical. She hoped she would be fine until Booth confirmed her unnatural talent. "Get this, he's 14 years old."
Of course he was, she'd said as much in the greenhouse. She'd spouted off the memorized markers for age estimation of an adolescent even though she'd known his age from the face she saw. (But not the gender: his pleasingly symmetrical face could just as easily have belonged to a girl.) It was science that told her how young he was, but science could not explain his face or the whispers that filled her head. She saw him, she heard him; he was moving his lips again and asking her to listen.
"Collin needs you to listen to him."
It broke a wall, pouring through the hole so fast she was momentarily stunned by it.
She didn't listen. A wave of sadness and hopeless despair flooded into Brennan, his pain pouring deeply into her until she reached capacity and tears welled outwards. It wouldn't stop, the pain pouring out and Tempe began crying, releasing his sorrow in front of an unaccustomed audience. "Sorry," she gasped, knowing it would hurt them all but there was no holding it back now when the power escaped her hold.
Why didn't she listen? All he wanted was to be heard.
More tears, more pain than she could contain and Booth gathered her close to soothe while Brennan instinctively pressed her blazing eyes into his shoulder and shuddered under the onslaught. Listen! Please make her listen.
Booth promised her, "It's okay to be sad, Temperance."
The shock of her name sent shivers over her, coming on the heels of what Avalon had told her and churning the floodwaters of Collin's pain and Tempe's power. He knew her truth, but did he know what her name meant? Why now, she wondered desperately. In seven years, he'd only called her 'Bones' because she'd asked him to and he listened to her. Why Temperance now?
Why didn't she listen, Collin begged.
"It's all right. It's okay to cry." Booth's fortifying embrace tightened around her, plugging the breach.
She didn't listen to him, after all that he'd done for her. She should have listened. Brennan agreed with Booth at last, haltingly saying what Collin needed to know she'd heard. "It is sad. It is sad."
She rolled her head to the right, meeting Collin's hopeful face with the promise of a tempest brewing in her stormy grey eyes.
I'll make her listen. She'll hear you.
Discovering the hastily hidden accidental death and the part Collin's two friends had played in it should have been enough, but Avalon Harmonia betook herself back to the Jeffersonian when the cards called her back. Collin was still there, still asking for help. She turned to Angela, insisting, "Dying isn't what made him sad."
Angela regarded the skull thoughtfully for a moment before suddenly making a decision. She told Avalon to stay in her office while she took up Collin's skull.
"Where ya goin'?" Avalon asked, knowing the answer already.
"Around here, when there are impossible questions, there's only one place to go for the answers."
They both knew it was Brennan. And she started carrying Collin through the lab, gathering an entourage as she made her way to the High Priestess.
"Hey, where are you going with Collin?" Hodgins asked when he ran into her alongside the Platform.
"Collin is going to be cremated in the morning, and I think he should be gone when that happens."
"Gone?" Cam inquired, joining them and noting their destination appeared to be Brennan's office.
"Avalon says he's still here."
Cam groaned. "Oh, Angela, you're not going to talk to Dr. Brennan on the word of a psychic, are you…?" Anyone who knew Brennan also knew that sounded very must like a suicide mission despite what they all knew she was capable of.
With complete faith, Angela reminded them. "Brennan always comes through. Given the opportunity, she always rises to the occasion." She pushed ahead, walking into the scientist's lair without a lick of hesitation and set Collin's skull gently down on the corner of her desk.
"I don't understand," Brennan said immediately. She was looking at the skull, completely mystified not by Angela, but by the skull itself and the dissatisfied face still flickering at her.
"Sweetie, Avalon says that Collin's spirit is still here."
Brennan laughed just a bit, skeptical (or nervous) and demurred, "I don't know what that means."
"It means that it was never about finding his killer."
It never was, not for the bones. They always wanted something else, Brennan had learned over the years. Cleo Eller wanted her parents to know she fought for her life and the life of her baby, even though she was depressed. Lyle Little wanted Ivy to know he never abandoned her. Lauren Eames wanted her peers to know her death was an accident. The bank-robbing Santa wanted people to know he'd only answered the call. "Collin wants you to listen."
"What is it?" Brennan asked directly. What else did Collin want her to hear?
"Honey, do you think you could just trust me here, and help?"
Brennan started to object, "Angela, finding killers is all that I do," but it wasn't always the only thing that she knew.
Before she could elaborate Angela had cut her off. "I know. I know you don't believe in ghosts, or spirits, or souls but, Collin needs our help. And, I could use yours."
Turning back to the restless boy, Brennan insisted, "We've uncovered everything there is to uncover. Except…." She trailed off thoughtfully.
"Except what?" Angela asked.
She didn't listen!
"What was that noise at the end of Collin's mix tape?" The mixed musical collection CD that Collin had made for a pretty girl named Miranda.
Angela's eyes lit up. "Oh! The loud … yeah!" There was a loud burst of electronic noise at the end of the CD. Brennan had played the entire mix at home because listening to Collin entailed a careful consideration of all the subjective evidence. That was what Avalon had intended with her Tarotic urgings and since she'd given in to her subjective urges, Brennan knew the answer would be a subjective truth that she couldn't prove.
The noise that no one else heard. The noises that only she ever listened to.
Angela had discovered the source of the noise during audio playback was actually a web page design ready to be uploaded to the internet. It was Collin's last message to the girl he liked. He couldn't rest until he was able to tell her that he'd loved her by performing a special song he'd written for her himself. "I just feel like I was going to die if I didn't tell you how I really feel. Now you know."
It took her backwards two years, to the bleak days when Brennan held felt buried alive under the same truth. Not telling Booth how she really felt. Lauren not telling her helicopter pilot had given Brennan the bravery to finally speak. Collin was braver still, had tried to tell Miranda through the CD, but he'd died and she never had the heart to listen.
Brennan looked to Angela and gestured to the smiling boy on the computer. "If I believed what you believe, I might believe this is the answer."
"You might believe it...?"
"I have no proof," Brennan admitted. "Only what I feel. When it was me, I wanted him to know."
Author's Note: Finding the right words to end this final chapter was not easy. There were so many possibilities, but in the end I found it when I wrote the name Miranda just a few paragraphs up. She's the singular female character in The Tempest. This chapter's opening quote is also from the Tempest and then of course there is the fact that The Tempest was the play that provided the most behind-the-scenes guidance to this story. The hidden themes of magic, justice, balance, and a magician making everything right have perfumed everything. Therefore, let me conclude by saying, the magician Prospero's final words to the audience speak best for me as well.
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
The Tempest, Act V, Epilogue, lines 1–20
Everything he does is intended to restore balance and bring about the justice he feels is necessary. Prospero, as any author or artist might, reveals the hidden qualities of the other characters clearly to the audience. It is through his magical manipulations of them that the audience understands 'what really happened.' Once everything is set to rights, the magician sets aside his tools and then begs the audience's forgiveness, because he only wanted to please them.
And with this, he takes his bow and exits, stage left.