Wow. 700 reviews guys. I'm kind of floored. And also really kind of sad this is coming to an end. I've loved this fic…it's my baby. My extremely angsty baby haha. I also love the epilogue. I came up with it pretty early on, and went ahead and wrote a brief version as a draft. So I always knew where I was going with this story. I think it fits the tone. Romantic, sad, sweet. Thanks to everyone who's reading it, and please review. Haha, I'm already sure I'm going to miss getting reviews for this one, so this is the last chance. : ]
Chapter title from "Long Ride Home" by Pattiy Griffin. This is one of the chapters that I think the song would enhance it. Plus, it's a really really good song. So here's the best version I could find on youtube. Open a tab, give it a listen. watch?v=p6hpwl9rTL0
Epilogue: Long Ride Home
Long black limousine I've had some time to think about you
Shiniest car I've ever seen
The back seat is nice and clean
She rides as quiet as a dream
Someone dug a hole six long feet in the ground
I said goodbye to you and I threw my roses down
Ain't nothing left at all in the end of being proud
With me riding in this car, and you flying through the clouds
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I've had some time to think about you
On the long ride home
I've had some time to think about you
She thinks, later, that maybe she would have been alright if she hadn't gone to the funeral.
Forty-seven years and she had never forgotten this feeling. The crushing weight in her chest that made it hard to breathe, the constant, gnawing ache, the way the entire world seemed bleak and unfamiliar without him. The way it still didn't feel real.
It was the second funeral, the second coffin, the second grave. The second time Temperance Brennan lost the love of her life.
The honor guard captain handed her Booth's flag, the second flag, and Brennan took it with trembling hands.
Parker, Sophie and Ben stood around her, their spouses and children close by as well. Angela and Jack's daughter had driven them up for the funeral.
Her children, though grown and married, lived relatively close. She had seven grandchildren. She saw friends. She did charity work. Brennan was not, objectively, alone.
But her husband, her best friend, was gone, and Brennan was at a loss for how to do this.
It had been three days. Three days Brennan hadn't talked to her husband. Three days she hadn't seen him. After forty-seven years, that was absurd.
Brennan's piercing blue eyes found the coffin and she thought, suddenly, of the first coffin, the empty coffin from years before.
She wanted to believe it was another mistake, but it was irrefutable. She'd been there, in the hospital, holding his hand, when he died.
He'd gotten sick six months ago. Colon cancer.
Their post-retirement life had turned, instantly, from traveling, from being with their grandkids, from leisure to a life of hospitals and surgeries and chemotherapy.
Then a week ago, they'd found a tumor in Booth's liver; the cancer had metastasized.
The surgeon said he could live for several months with the tumor. They said the surgery was risky.
He was eighty-two years old. He had had a good life, one to be proud of. Nearly fifty years with the woman he loved. Three successful, beautiful kids.
But Seeley Booth had taken one look at his wife. Seventy-seven years old and, to him, just as brilliant and beautiful and stubborn as they day they met. His wife who had aged so gracefully, who had spent six months by his side through all of this, helping him fight.. Who hadn't flinched or faltered no matter how ugly it got.
Who had already lost him once, years ago. And who looked stricken at the suggestion of taking his death sentence.
So he covered a weathered, shaky hand over his wife's, and informed the doctor he couldn't live months with a tumor feeling this bad. That risks were part of it all. That he would keep fighting.
He made through the surgery. But, as the surgeon had tried to explain, there were complications. He'd flat lined on the table. His brain had been without oxygen for two long.
He wasn't going to wake up.
Brennan had been numbed into silence following this announcement. Their children handled it better. They knew what their father wanted; they knew he wouldn't want to be kept alive by machines.
Brennan knew it too. This was, after all, the person she knew better than anyone else in the world. Whose sentences she could finish without thinking.
But it had taken two days; two days she didn't leave the hospital room, two days of her children's coaxing and comfort, two days to agree to let him go.
She hadn't said goodbye. She never did, before surgery. She refused. Booth, though, had done what he always did before surgery. He'd kissed her gently in the hospital room then, before they wheeled him away, he'd lifted her hand to his lips and said, "I love you, my Bones."
For she was still Bones, even after forty-seven years of marriage. She was Temperance, too, but more often she was still his Bones. When they were little, Sophie and Ben had thought it was their mother's real name, leading to some interesting moments with teachers and friends' parents. As teenagers, they'd groaned and asked why Booth couldn't just call their mom something normal. And as adults they merely rolled their eyes and smiled.
Brennan was Bones to Parker. She was Grandma Bones to the youngest grandkids. But she had always been his Bones.
And she hadn't said goodbye.
It took hours after they unplugged the life support for his heart to fail. And she was there.
She held his hand. She rested her forehead against his temple, touched his thin, pepper gray hair, imagined the sparkle that had never faded from his warm brown eyes. She whispered that she loved him.
And she watched him die. Her children around her in the small hospital room, tears working their way slowly down her face, Temperance Brennan felt her husband's heart stop.
And she did not understand why her own was still beating.
She hadn't wanted a funeral. The kids had arranged it all; Brennan wanted no part in it. She even told Sophie, who had insisted on staying with her for a few days, that she had been to his funeral once before, and shouldn't be required to do it again.
But she'd gone. Of course she had.
So now, as Brennan stood at the second funeral, she realized that one thing hadn't changed in the forty-seven years that separated them…she still couldn't survive without him.
There was a sharp, throbbing pain in her chest. She remembered this, the unexplainable physicality of grief.
His coffin was being lowered into the grave. The coffin that actually held his body, the grave next to a tombstone that had more than his name. The coffin disappeared, and Booth was gone.
He pulled her hand from Sophie's and covered her face, not watching, a low moan escaping from her lips and tears slipped down her cheeks.
She didn't know what she was supposed to do. They'd been in the hospital for three weeks without leaving, in and out for five months before that. Six months before had been about taking care of Booth. Forty-seven years before that had been about being with Booth.
They wanted her to talk. Her daughter, her sons, Angela. But the only person she wanted to talk to was Booth. He was who she talked to, who she complained to, who she argued with, who she ran everything by. She hadn't talked to him in three days, or seen him, and she missed him. Brennan felt hurt and hollow and exhausted.
When it was finally, mercifully over, Ben wrapped an arm around her on one side, and Parker looped a hand through the crook of her elbow on the other. Together, they walked to the limo that would take them back to the house for the wake.
Brennan moved away from her sons when they entered the house. She locked herself into a small bathroom, away from rooms that seemed to make his absence all the more conspicuous.
The house filled with people. She could hear the muted chatter from the living room. The house was full, but later they would leave. The house would be empty, and Brennan would have nothing but time and emptiness, long days without him. In this place that was no longer her home. He'd taken that with him, yet again.
The doctor had talked a lot to Booth, toward the end, about the treatment options, about how much time he could have without it. They were at the age where it was a real question, where or not you wanted to fight whatever was trying to kill you. Whether you were ready to just let it come.
Brennan knew that, to an extent, Booth had been fighting for her. Because the memory of the months, even the years, that followed his fake death, was still there. And because even now, his eightieth birthday had terrified her. And Brennan had never let him talk about the end coming.
But now Brennan was the one who didn't want to fight.
Her fingers were trembling as she twisted the wedding ring around her finger. Her breaths were shallow and harsh. Her lungs ached, and the sharp ache in her chest was back, now constant. She closed her eyes, trying to conjure his face, imagine his voice…
Breathe, Bones. Just, breathe for me.
Then everything went black.
Sophie Booth was sick of hospitals.
For most of the months when her father was sick, she and her brothers rotated shifts through the hospital. Her mother was stubborn; she rarely left. But she and her brothers usually took turns being there, sometimes with their spouses and kids, sometimes without.
But during the last week, they'd all been there all the time. From the diagnosis to the tumor from the surgery and the hard, painful decision to take him off life support.
And then, a half an hour into the wake, she'd heard the thud in the bathroom. Knocked, called for her mother. Then her older brother had quickly picked the lock and swung the door open; her mother was lying on the floor, barely conscious, clutching her chest and struggling to breathe.
Three hours later, she was trying to get used to the sight of her mother, not her father, lying in a hospital bed, looking old and frail and sick.
Her mother was active, brilliant, shrewd, lively. Her mother had never appeared old to Sophie until the day her father was diagnosed with cancer.
They all knew the story. When she was a young girl, Sophie had thought it was incredibly romantic. Her parents had been best friends, in love but not acknowledging it until that month. That month when her father's job had forced him to fake his death, when she hadn't been told, when she realized she couldn't live without him.
It was what Brennan had always told her daughter. Sophie idolized her mother, her intelligence and drive and independence. Sophie had gotten a doctorate young, like her mother. Sophie had kept her name after she got married, like her mother. Sophie had spent a long time trying to be independent, like her mother.
But her mother had always told her to find someone who loved her; someone she couldn't live without. And as in most things, Brennan had meant that literally.
They thought it was a heart attack. Now, after a few hours, they'd diagnosed stress cardiomyopathy. Also called Takotsubo.
But Sophie knew the other name. Broken heart syndrome.
It meant, literally, the weakening of the heart muscle triggered by some sort of stress. They said it was treatable, once you diagnosed it, but Sophie wasn't so sure. There was a calm in her mother's eyes that hadn't been present since Booth's diagnosis.
Parker walked out of the hospital room and patted his sister on the arm. "She wants to see you."
Sophie drew a breath and walked into the room. "Hey, Mom," she said softly, drawing up a chair to the bed and taking Brennan's hand. "The doctor says you should be fine. It's a simple treatment-"
"…it isn't," Brennan told her quietly. She reached over with her other hand and covered her daughters. "It's time."
Sophie's eyes filled with tears. She had lost her father. To an extent…she'd been prepared. She'd had to be, and her brothers had to be, because her mother hadn't been. Her father had talked to her about it. In the brief moments she had alone with him, he'd talked to her about it, and her brothers, because Brennan wouldn't let him.
She wasn't prepared for this, too. To lose both of them. She was forty-two years old. She was a wife, and a mother, but she didn't want to stop being a daughter.
Her voice trembling, Sophie protested, "Mom…you're upset, it's…it's still fresh. But you'll be okay. You will. Dad, he wouldn't want you to do this."
"Seeley would…he'd understand."
Frustrated, Sophie informed her, "No, he wouldn't! He told me, he told me to make sure you went on with your life. With the kids, and us…" She swallowed.
"I know," Brennan's eyes drifted shut as she began to speak, her breathing labored, "He told…he that, too."
"Mom, you…you and Dad taught me so much about making a marriage work. Growing up, I would watch you two, and listen to Aunt Angela's stories and think that it was exactly what I wanted. But…you taught me about being independent. And accomplished and being my own person. I love Chris, so much, but I hope…I hope that if something ever happened to him, no matter when it was, that I have enough…to keep me going."
To her surprise, Brennan laughed quietly. "Honey…when Chris went on that business trip…to Florida last year you called me approximately three times the usual amount. You visited at least twice as much. And that was two weeks. You were… depressed the entire time." She paused. "It changes everything, losing the…person you love. I know what I have…to look forward to, Soph. I've been through this before. I'm…not interested in repeating it." She settled back, a look on her face almost reminiscent of the way she looked she'd win a debate, logic trumping every time.
Sophie's jaw tightened defiantly. She earned the comparisons to her mother for more than her intellect. "We're starting you on the treatment. I already signed."
"That won't matter," Brennan told her, eyes opening, and suddenly she looked every minute of her seventy-seven years. "I learned this…forty-seven years ago. I won't survive a…world without your father, honey. You can't live long without a heart."
Biting down her lip to keep from crying, Sophie repeated one of her mother's favorite phrases, "I don't know what that means."
"It's a metaphor. But it's…valid." She squeezed Sophie's hand weakly. "I love you, sweetheart. But I've been Booth's wife for…forty-seven years…and his partner for…three before that. And I don't know…what else to be."
The kids were in and out all afternoon. Angela and Jack came by. Angela had only to look her best friend in the eye and she knew. She squeezed her hand, nodding silently, her eyes filling with tears.
Brennan was patient. She was patient with Sophie's frustration, Parker's assurances, Ben's comfort. She was patient with the doctors who told her Stress Cardiomyopathy was relatively simple once diagnosed. She was patient; she waited.
For days she had waited. Waited for an out. Waited for a way back to him. There was no mountain to climb, for obvious reasons. No serial killer to pursue.
She wasn't surprised, honestly, that her heart had simply taken care of it. It was scientific, after all. The heart weakened, it couldn't function.
Brennan leaned her head back on the bed, closing her eyes, and waited, just once more.
It was late that night, her chest hurting, her breathing strenuous and painful. There was an erratic beeping of the heart monitor. Sophie, next to her bed in the chair, yelled for a doctor. There was chaos.
"She can't breathe…"
"Dr. Brennan, we're taking care of you-"
Then, she heard, the sweetest word she knew, the voice that meant she was finally, finally going home.
"Charge the paddles."
"Get her out of here…Charge again! 400."
This was how she knew she was dying.
He was there.
Everything, the doctors, the hospital room, her daughter…all of it was fading. Everything but him.
He held out his hand.
"Time of death, 11:43."
Sophie Booth was sick of funerals.
She and her brothers had made the arrangements for her father; her mother hadn't wanted any part of it. And here they were again, days later, meeting about coffins and headstones and funerals.
She was in her parent's bedroom, looking through her mother's closet to pick out the outfit they would bury her in, one of the many tasks you don't think about until someone dies, when she found it, unfolded and lying on her mother's bed.
A letter from her father, dated forty-seven years ago, the day after their anniversary. Sophie sat down on the bed and began to read.
The next day at the funeral, she felt a hand on her back, turning and facing Angela, her mother's best friend. She'd grown up thinking of Aunt Angela and Uncle Jack as family; they spent holidays together, frequented each others houses. "Aunt Angela…"
"I'm so sorry, honey." Angela said, hugging her.
Sophie nodded. "I'm sorry, too."
Angela nodded slowly. "To be honest…it didn't shock me. Those two…they were a set. One couldn't function without the other, even after all these years…especially after all these years.
"My mother was an extremely accomplished woman. Everyone here probably knows that…I could spend time listing her awards and honors in the scientific community. I could talk about the success of her novels, or the number of murderers she and my dad put behind bars. I could tell you about the methods she pioneered and the history she changed. I could tell you about her charity work, like the Foster Child Advocacy Society she founded fifteen years ago that's going national."
"But you all know all that. And though you'd have to catch her on a very specific day to make her admit it, science didn't define my mother's life. Neither did success, even though she had plenty of it.
"My mother's life was about being in love with my father. And vice versa."
"My parents taught me about love. Unconditional, unfailing love. The kind that most kids have to see in movies or television shows. They were best friends, partners. Through everything. I grew up hearing stories of all the times one saved the others life, with no thought to their own. That's how they got together, actually…Dad took a bullet for mom, and, long story short, ended up having to pretend to be dead for a month. Mom didn't get the message, and the short version I heard as a kid was that that was when she realized she couldn't live without him.
"Only later did I realize that, like most things my mother said, she meant it literally. That's why we're standing here today. . Because she needed him."
Sophie reached into her pocket and pulled out the folded up piece of paper with shaking hands.
"When my parents got married, it was only a few months after Dad essentially came back from the dead. Mom was terrified of losing him. And what my dad was scared of was leaving her behind, something he promised never to do. Just in case, he wrote this. He wrote this to her on their wedding night, for her to have in case something happened to him. His last attempt to protect her, even if he couldn't be there. That was forty-seven years ago. As far as I know, my mother never read it until a few nights ago, and as far as I can tell it hasn't been altered."
"'To my Bones,
We got married yesterday. Less than twenty-four hours ago, you and I got married. And a part of me still can't believe this is real. I can't talk too much about it, because then all this letter will be is me telling you how beautiful you looked in your wedding dress, and how lucky I am to be your husband…and how the word still makes me grin like an idiot. But that's not why I'm writing this.
I don't want you to have to read this until you're ninety years old, and we've had a lifetime together. That's my plan; that's what I'm going to do everything humanly possible to make happen. I won't say I hope you never have to read this, because that would mean I lost you. And I can't think about that; maybe I'm selfish, Bones, but I'm older and, as you've reminded me, women generally outlive men. So I get to hope to go first. Because that could still be when I'm ninety-five and you're ninety and we've had sixty years of being husband and wife.
But no matter when it happens, whenever you're reading this…I want you to be okay. Because you've said you won't survive it. But I need you to survive, Bones. The world deserves you in it as long as possible, and you can do so much for it. You don't need me to be amazing, Temperance. You're that all on your own. And I know you don't put much credence in it, but I firmly believe people we love never really leave us. And if anyone loved anyone enough to stay with them, it's me.
I love you, Bones. And no matter when you're reading this, no matter how long we had together…I can say with confidence that I have no regrets. Because you changed my life for the better. I couldn't ask for more. And no matter when you read this, no matter why you have to read this…know that if love were enough, I'd be there.
Again, I know you don't believe there's anything waiting for us after death. But I think I can believe enough for both of us (or maybe you've changed your mind by now…it's starting to look more and more possible). Because I'm going to wait for you. And I want you to take as long as you can. I'm a patient man, Bones. I can wait.
I love you.
Wiping her eyes, Sophie raised her head from the letter. "My father was a patient man. But my mother was not a patient woman. She spent less than four days on this earth without my father, and she already knew she couldn't handle it. My dad raised us to believe in heaven. I think…I think he was my mom's heaven. And that's why I believe that he waited. That they're together.
"My mother was many things. She was Mom…a loving and selfless and strong mother. She was Dr. Temperance Brennan, the world renowned anthropologist. She was Bren, to her closest friends. She was Grandma." Sophie paused. "But more than anything else she was…my dad's Bones."
Phew. So. I hope you enjoyed it. Though maybe that's the wrong word, as it made ME sad to even write this. I still consider that this story had a happy ending. But I had to make this a little bittersweet.
Please review! You guys are seriously amazing, loyal and helpful readers. I'd love to see what you thought of the epilogue.
I'm pretty proud of this story, and I want to thank everyone for sticking with it, no matter when you discovered it. I've got some new things in the works, so look out for all that. More love and angst to come, I'm sure, haha.