By razztaztic

Mystery / Fantasy


Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.
John W. Gardner

It took him three days. The rest of that day and two more passed before Booth had the answers he wanted, before the final bit of information he needed was put in front of him.

He wanted everything, he explained, when Dr. Brennan asked why he still waited after the first pieces of the puzzle started to come together.

"They're like cockroaches," he said. "At the first hint of trouble, they'll find a crack in the wall and disappear. I'm not going to let that happen. We'll get all of them, all at once, so they won't have time to hide."

She appreciated his logic.

So I had the remainder of that first day.

Dr. Brennan kept Abe's book and the box from TJ and refused to let anyone at the FBI do more than look at them. She held them on her lap on the way back to the museum and stroked the corner of the box the whole way, like she was petting it. Or comforting it. I'm not even sure she realized what she was doing.

The people at the lab were waiting. When the double glass doors swished open, they all stopped what they were doing and, one by one, got in line and trailed behind her up the steps to her office. She set everything on her desk and then turned to see them crowded together in the doorway.

Angela pushed through first.

"Well? What happened?" When Dr. Brennan's eyes dropped to the floor, Angela gasped. "No! The brothers did it? From her foster home?"

Dr. Brennan was quick to correct that mistake.

"No, no. I'm sorry, I apologize if I gave you that impression. Abe and TJ are not suspects." She waved everyone inside. "Please sit down and I'll explain what happened. We have some work to do."

As a group, they settled on her sofa and in the chairs around the low coffee table. Wariness put a sharp edge on the way they looked at the box when Dr. Brennan picked it up.

She told my story in bare prose. Without embellishment, she repeated what Abe had shared about my last day, Miss Justine's behavior, and the aftermath. She incorporated a few of the details gleaned from Ms. Clyde, but otherwise my story was Abe's and TJ's story.

I was grateful that she left out most of what Abe and TJ had heard from Marcus. I didn't want to hear those words again and I didn't want her to have to say them. As it was, what she told them was enough to outline the nightmare I had endured. When she mentioned the long swath of my hair hanging by a nail on Marcus' wall, Angela turned her head into Dr. Hodgins' shoulder.

"'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn,'" Dr. Saroyan murmured quietly.*

"TJ and Abe were incredibly brave to meet with Booth," Dr. Brennan said. "They both believed they were going to be arrested because they'd withheld this information but even so, they came in."

"Because they loved her," Angela whispered. Her eyes were wet.

"Yes," Dr. Brennan agreed. "They loved her." She looked down at the box. "These things belonged to Anne Duncan. I promised TJ that I would take very good care of them."

She pulled a pair of gloves out of her pocket, put them on and opened the box. The people around her, the ones who had claimed me as theirs, leaned forward. One by one, she lifted the items inside. My hairbrush. My book. The photo of my parents. The drawing TJ had done for me. No one else wore gloves so she refused to let them touch anything, but she held the photo and then the drawing for a long time, letting them lie flat in the palms of both hands while they looked their fill.

"Oh, Brennan," Angela breathed softly. "Oh, this is so sad. They created their own little family and . . ."

And then it was all gone. My whisper fell into the silence of the room and for just a moment, the words hung there. As if they could hear me.

"Yes." After a minute, Dr. Brennan cleared her throat and described Booth's argument with Caroline. The laughter was a welcome relief from the earlier tension.

"Is there any chance someone recorded that?" Angela asked with a wide grin. "I just love it when Booth goes all FBI macho man."

"Husband! Sitting right here!" Dr. Hodgins nudged her playfully with one shoulder.

"I wouldn't mind seeing him go toe-to-toe with Caroline, either," Dr. Saroyan said. "I'm surprised the furniture didn't catch fire."

Dr. Brennan switched gears and assumed a brisk, professional air. "Booth has several agents trying to identify the men Abe mentioned but we have our own work to do. Mr. Bray, please double-check the case notes and make sure every detail of our examination is cataloged and ready to be presented to Caroline Julian. Angela . . . ."

"I know," Angela grimaced. "This is where you don't really need me."

"We always need you, babe." Dr. Hodgins leaned over and pressed a kiss against the bare skin of her shoulder.

"Suck up," she teased, with a laugh that caused the light around them to hiss and sparkle. "I'll just go with Wendall and see if I can help review the case notes."

When Angela was gone, Dr. Brennan held out Abe's book.

"Dr. Hodgins, I would like you to examine this book. Please let me know if you find anything unusual."

"Okay." He pulled a pair of gloves out of the pocket of his lab coat before he took it from her. "What am I looking for?"

"I would rather not compromise your objectivity by making any suggestions. Just . . . please tell me what you find. If you can date the ink used without destroying any of the pages, do so but if not, let me know what else you find before you do anything that might damage or destroy any part of the book."

"All right." He was curious, I could tell, but he didn't ask any other questions. Dr. Brennan's voice halted him on his way out of her office.

"Dr. Hodgins." When he turned around, her face was grim. "Don't let Angela read that book."

His eyes narrowed as he looked down at the marble cover. Then he gave her a brief nod and left.

Dr. Saroyan was the only person still there. "What's in the book?"

Dr. Brennan closed her eyes and when she opened them again, they were wet and shining and her sadness was palpable.

"He wrote it all down. He thought of her as his sister and when he came home from listening to her attackers describe what they had done to her, he wrote it all down so he wouldn't forget. So that one day, he could tell someone. But we have to be sure the story he told us is true. We have to be sure there's nothing on that book that contradicts what Abe told us."

She crossed her arms over her chest, above the rounded swell of her abdomen and looked at her feet. After a moment, she sighed heavily.

"I don't like having those thoughts, Dr. Saroyan." Her head shook again. "I believe him. I read every word and . . . and I don't know how I'll ever forget it. He and TJ have lived for a year with the knowledge of what happened to their sister and now that I've read that story, and I don't know how I'll ever forget it."

"You won't," Dr. Saroyan said softly. "We never forget. That's what makes us the good guys. I always think I've seen the worst of what man can do and, unfortunately, I'm always surprised with something even more horrific. I just have to believe that what we do here makes a difference."

Both women wiped tears from their cheeks.

They did make a difference. I wanted so much to be able to tell them that.

That night, I went home with Dr. Hodgins and Angela.

I went because I could. Because I was curious. Because I knew that like Booth, Dr. Hodgins and Angela would always return to her, to Dr. Brennan.

There was a daycare in the museum and it was there Angela went to pick up their son. I sat next to him as we traveled to their home. He was awake and his little hand waved at me in a tiny fist and he was beautiful.

Their home suited them. It was warm and inviting, with splashes of bright color on the walls from the artwork I knew Angela had created and on one wall, a long glass tank filled with plants and wood that I refused to get close to. Dr. Hodgins worked with bugs, that was all I needed to know about that tank.

They laughed a lot, the two of them, and they teased each other. He watched her when she didn't know it - when she held the baby or fed the baby or when she stretched out on the floor for yoga. He stood in the doorway of their son's nursery for a long time before she knew he was there, lost as she was sketching their child as he slept.

"We have a camera, you know," he finally said. Softly, so he wouldn't disturb their baby.

Angela had a way of smiling before she smiled that was soft and pretty. "Wait until you see the one I did while you slept."

He crouched beside her and looked at the pad on her lap, at the moment captured in charcoal, a sleeping infant shown through the wooden bars of his crib with his head turned toward them and the fingers of one hand in his mouth.

"The luckiest day of my life was when Brennan met you at that street fair," Dr. Hodgins whispered. His eyes were moist when he looked at her and the light around them danced and sparkled and filled the room with a golden haze.

She reached out and cupped his cheek, leaving a trace of black under her fingertips, and kissed him until he straightened and took her hand and led her from the room.

I sat on the floor next to the crib, watching the baby sleep and listening to the sound of him breathe and coo and murmur. When he woke up in the middle of the night, I slipped my fingers through the bars of his crib and wiggled them near his face. He could see me. His little hand batted at mine and as he stared at me, I sang to him in whispers until his eyes drifted shut again.

And that was the end of the first day.

*Robert Burns, Man was Made to Mourn, A Dirge. 1784

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