The clear, piercing tone of a bugle cuts across the foggy damp of a spring morning. Mourners in black gather in a half-circle and huddle against the cold, wet grass tickling against sensible black pumps and penny loafers and shiny military-issue shoes. But there, off to the side of this miserable group, stand a woman and a boy. If an observer does not know her, they would call her eyes cold; those that know her called them dead. Only two years of being a wife; she will have the rest of her life to be a widow.
The boy next to her is on the cusp of manhood. Thrust there, some would say, by a childhood rife with instability and the early death of a father who had lived recklessly, fully.
But then again, some are idiots.
The bugle's echoes come to a close and the priest, dressed in funeral robes, steps forward. Today he inters one of his flock: a good man.
Today he buries Seeley Booth.
Guns crack. One right after the other with brief pauses to aim and fire. The mourners bow their heads in respect as the country he died for pays tribute to the corpse that holds the last vestiges of his mortal coil.
They move forward – a silent, purposeful group of soldiers in sharp uniforms. Their faces set in dignity, in appropriate sadness, they fold with military precision the flag that covered the mahogany casket. One man breaks away from the group, presents it to the widow.
She takes it with shaking hands. In this, at least, she is like all other widows. The flag meant something to Seeley; more than it meant to her. It is important. She clutches it to her chest.
“Remember,” the priest intones, “that we are dust. And unto dust we must return.”
The casket begins its slow descent into the ground. The boy next to her takes her hand and squeezes it. She has already said good-bye. There is nothing of him left here. If she is right, the energy that once made him such a beautiful man will be preserved in the life that will grow above him, from him. If he is right, his soul ascends unto Heaven, where he promised in the last moments to find a spot next to a coffee cart and wait for her.
“Come on, Bones,” Parker says, in that voice that so startlingly like his father's sometimes. “He's not here anymore.”
She starts, but nods. “Yes, of course.”
Like his father, he walks with his hand in the small of her back. It is caring; it is gentle. She catches Rebecca's eyes and nods her thanks. Today, at least, Parker is allowed to be fully Seeley's, to care for that which his father cared for, to be with Bones. Tomorrow he will return to Rebecca's house, Rebecca's life, Rebecca's family.
And Bones will be all alone again.
She stops at the road, her hand on the car door, and for the strangest reason, fights breaking down. Her knees are weak. The world is going dark. Parker's voice.
“Bones. Jesus, Bones. Stay with me.” He shakes her a little.
“Sorry, Parker, sorry.” She is numb inside. Can't feel anything.
“Bren, sweetie?” It is Angela's voice. “Do you want me to go back to the house with you?”
It will smell like him. It will look like him. His socks will be there. His dirty underwear will be there. She won't be able to find the remote to the big-screen TV he insisted they buy. He is gone, but the things that were his will remain.
What will hurt worse?
“No, Angela. I think I will be fine with just Parker and myself.”
Angela looks concerned, but nods. “If you need anything, call.”
“Of course. Thank you.” She is uncertain of what, exactly, she is grateful for, but she is. Very, very grateful.
“I don't think you should drive, Bones.” Parker is seventeen. Booth lets him – used to let him – drive everywhere.
“Be careful,” she says, and hands him the keys. She rides all the way home with her eyes closed.
He drives her home, opens the door for her. He stands in the living room, staring at a picture on the mantel piece of himself, his father and Bones at a Flyers game.
“I am... uncertain of how to proceed. I know, in times like these, adolescents seek guidance from the adults around them,” Bones says in awkward way she has.
“Nobody knows how to grieve, Bones.” Parker shrugs his shoulders. “That's what Dad told me when Pops died, and he had most of that stuff figured out, didn't he?”
Bones looks like she might cry. Parker has never seen that before and doesn't quite know what to think. “I am unable to discern exactly how to live my life without him.”
“I don't know either,” Parker says, but he picks up the picture and straightens his shoulders. “I guess I'm just going to act like he's still right here, you know? Like he's still around, showing me how to be the kind of man he was.”
“I told your father once that I would visit his grave when he was gone,” Bones says, sitting on the couch and removing the chunky earrings she'd worn. “Because I imagined that looking at myself through his eyes would help me live more successfully. Booth was a very good man, Parker. If you do the same, I imagine it will help you as well.”
“Yeah,” Parker says. “I know.”
The weeks pass. Parker comes to see her twice a week, as though Booth were still around. One day, they pack up Booth's clothes and send it to charities for veterans. Another day, Brennan explains the trusts and the life insurance money that will become his at eighteen and twenty-five. On still another day, he watches a Flyers game and does homework while she works on a book.
He can see in her eyes that she is marking time. She can see in his that he's moving on.
She's not quite his step-mom. Not quite a friend. Not quite a mother. But she's the one who cheers the loudest when he gets into John Hopkins and she's the one who helps him study for Anatomy exams.
When he meets Jenny and they think they might be pregnant three months later, she is the one he calls. She talks to him about his father, then. About how he talked of the early years of Parker's life, how he wished he had been there more, but how he always insisted that stepping up was the only thing any man who wanted to look himself in the mirror would do.
When the test comes out negative, he calls Bones again. She doesn't lecture him, doesn't congratulate him. All she says is: “I understand emotions at this time can be extremely difficult to navigate.”
She is right. She usually is.
He brings Lindsay home to meet her three years later when they're calling him Doctor Booth. He wears a military uniform and he's just come home from overseas. He's spent the last six months digging bullets out of boys too young to be considered men and Lindsay is warm and beautiful and makes him feel alive again.
Bones and Lindsay get along just fine, but when he calls the next day, Bones says, “Your father was twenty when they captured him; I can't say where, he never told me. They beat the soles of his feet with pipes until the bones broke.”
Parker is silent.
“War is horrible, Parker. Do not rush into a relationship because it makes you feel better. Wait until you're a whole person again.”
Bones is usually right... Often painfully so.
Lindsay is gone within two months. He is alone again.
He gets a phone call that she has collapsed. He rushes across the country to see her, holds her hand as they diagnose her with cancer.
Two months later, they're both bald. Bones laughs about how they match in an effort to cheer him up. Her oncologist is Doctor Marie Thomas, and the good doctor is beautiful.
Bones doesn't say anything this time.
His children have a grandma and a Bones: just like he had a mom and a Bones. She spoils them dreadfully with experiences: trips to the zoo, to museums; opportunities to touch and feel and see that other children do not have.
She is fading away. She's still young, by the standard of the day, but she spent most of her youth in countries far away and she's worked too hard and too long. The cancer comes back and she doesn't have as good a chance to fight it.
That's when the reporter calls him.
Your father, he tells Parker, was a national hero – sniper, FBI agent – died taking out a terrorist intent on murdering thousands of innocent Americans. His life was extraordinary. His life should be remembered.
Parker agrees, and the reporter asks to interview Bones. She says she will; as long as Parker is there too.
It is a long interview, in-depth and full of details Parker had never heard before. At the end, the reporter asks: “Do you keep your promise? Do you go back to talk to him?”
“I have discovered,” Bones says, “that the marks Booth left on me are permanent. They do not fade. I do not have to go to his grave to call up the pieces of himself he left inside of me. Yes, I talk to him. I watch his son grow. I watch his grandchildren come into the world he made a better place for them. I keep my promises.”
“An extraordinary woman,” the reporter says, as he prepares to leave.
“Dad always thought so.”
“You're extremely dedicated to his widow.”
“In all of the world, Dad loved her and me.” Parker shrugs. “We take care of each other cause that's how we remember him.”
There is no bugle.
There are no officers in uniform, no American flag a grieving spouse can take with shaking hands.
There is only a man, his wife and his children. Colleagues, friends... they gather round, silently, as Temperance Brennan is laid to rest, practically and without fuss, next to the man she loved.
The stone that had begun 30 years before is finally complete.