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See part one for series info.

Story: Phoenix
Rating: T for emotional angst, except for a M+ part (for the adult version only)
Summary: As Alex prepares to become a surrogate, Bobby learns his long-absent father has died. Ashes, a symbol of devastation, have been part of Bobby’s life since childhood, and the pile seems to endlessly grow... Will anything come to life from those ashes?
Classifications: strong G&E friendship, G/E
Note: I didn’t know the Year 2 time line when I first wrote this, but after seeing all but one of the episodes – not to mention S5's two-hour episode – I had to go back and make changes. I originally had set this a month before Year 3’s “Undaunted Mettle,” but looking at the time line based on about when Alex gave birth told me that UM is probably set after “A Person of Interest.” For part of part 1, I took inspiration from Kyllikki’s “Signifying Nothing.” Thanks, Kyllikki, for writing that collection of missing scenes from “Phantom.” It helped fuel my imagination.

Spoilers (in no particular order): “The Insider” (1-13), “Anti-Thesis” (2-3), “The Faithful” (1-4), “The Good Doctor” (1-9), “Phantom” (1-16), “The Third Horseman” (1-11), “Chinoserie” (2-5), “Badge” ((1-20) I noticed how Alex commented over Bobby’s failure to notice from papers that Terry Randolph was a woman, and guessed that – given her nickname – something like that happened when Bobby first heard about her), “My Good Name” (4-22), “Legion” (2-18), “A Person of Interest” (2-23), “Cherry Red” (2-19), “The Pilgrim” (2-8), “Jones” (1-5), “Faith” (1-21), and “In the Wee Small Hours” (5-6 & 5-7).


Part One / Part Two / Part Three


PART FOUR

Bobby watches the cemetery workers respectfully lowering his father’s casket into the ground. His hands are clasped in front, as most of the others are doing. The priest’s words are the traditional words for when a person is buried, yet they go in one ear and out the other. Bobby’s grateful he didn’t have to give a eulogy; what would he have said? Talk about how his father had failed his family? That abandoning them left scars that look too deep to ever heal?

With the casket settled and the workers starting to cover the grave, Bobby moves to stand to the side to accept the condolences of the few who attended the funeral. His father’s words were accurate: just a few friends around his age, and a few people from his apartment building. Bobby supposed that was a blessing for himself; it meant he wouldn’t have to be here too long.

However, it also re-enforced what the apartment told him, that his father had died a lonely old man. But, Bobby keeps asking himself, did Dad regret his choices? Did he wish he’d stayed with Mom through her illness, no matter what it cost him? Did it finally occur to him what burdens he put on David? Or me? Did he... even think... kindly – just for a split second – of me...? Did those papers mean anything, or... was he in disbelief that I made something of myself?

Growing up, it hadn’t mattered what he’d learned to do, what project he’d completed, or what athletic prowess he showed. Nothing ever got his father’s praise or attention. If he did get looked at, there was always a loud yet voiceless message that Bobby heard clearly for as long as he can remember... Even before his father actually said it to his mother, neither realizing that their children overheard any of their arguments...

Mommy and Daddy are yelling again. The voices are hard to miss, given they’re in the kitchen and the boys are in the next room. Eight-year-old David tries to ignore them, focusing on the math book their father gave him to work on. But three-year-old Bobby’s eyes are fixed on the kitchen door, hands clutching the blocks that his mother gave him for his birthday. A complex little building is forming from his efforts, but he can’t put the last ones in place with the noise; hearing them argue makes his ears and head hurt.

Paul,” their mother pleads, “Bobby is your son as much as David is. He deserves your time and guidance. You ignoring him isn’t doing any of us favors!” She never yells, except at their father.

Both boys clearly hear a glass slam on the counter. Bobby got a glimpse of their father pouring something from a bottle when he got home from the factory. Whatever it was, its strong smell drove Bobby to cover his nose at the time. A harsh, slurred voice blares, “Nothing will come of that sensitive runt of yours, Frances. I’d be wasting my time.”

Bobby knows the word “sensitive” because his mommy taught him it when he asked not long ago. She told him that being so aware of what’s around you and so affected by it is a gift, something that he’ll benefit from. But his daddy... His daddy’s words just hurt.

How can you say that?!” Their mother’s voice is usually soft and soothing, but around their father, her voice has become harder. She has to get his attention when dinner’s waiting for him, when his signature is needed for some bills that he fails to notice... Bobby’s vocabulary is growing fast from listening to the arguments, including some words that Mommy refuses to explain to him...

Because a boy that sensitive will never become a man,” their father snaps. “If he were the girl you were supposed to give me, then that behavior would be wanted!” He storms out, not looking down. Bobby scrambles to get out of the way, but his project is knocked down by his father’s foot. Paul scowls, but doesn’t stop moving. “Pick that up, Bobby,” he grunts, heading to his room.

Bobby stares at the ruin, and trembles, tears falling as his throat chokes on a cry. Suddenly, his mommy scoops him into her arms, whispering an Italian lullaby to soothe him.

The movement of the apartment neighbors snaps Bobby’s mind out of the past, and he takes a slow breath to compose himself, actually grateful for the distraction. The condolences aren’t taking long, and they quickly blur together in his mind. Few of them know anything about “Leo,” the nickname coming from his middle name. When the name began or stuck, Bobby doesn’t know.

The final neighbor – a woman with short, dark blond hair who looks at least ten years Bobby’s junior – stops in front of him. Her eyes contain the look of someone who either wants to talk a bit, or is just curious about her late neighbor’s son. Sympathy flows from her face. “I lost my dad a few years ago. It’s quite a shock, isn’t it?”

Bobby’s not sure how to answer. This woman – whose name he doesn’t remember despite her introducing herself earlier and then sitting nearby during the service, and he can’t bring up the energy to ask again – has no clue what hot buttons she’s dangerously close to pushing, or that he wants to get this over with. Never mind that she reminds him of the woman he wishes were here, the woman who made herself available for phone calls or visits every night since Tuesday. The woman who is right now demonstrating her infinite selflessness by giving her sister a priceless gift...

Um, y-yeah, it is.” He can’t think of anything else to say. He wants nothing more than to flee and find some way of forgetting for the rest of the day, of hiding from all the memories that have been hitting against his head since that day last week. But he can’t. Not when he believes that every death deserves acknowledgment, and when he feels an obligation as the only family around.

A faint smile ghosts on her face, like some memory slid into consciousness. “I’m sure by now you’ve heard enough about how he was no trouble as a neighbor, so I’ll spare you.”

Even to the women in the building?” The question is flat, escaping his mouth before he can stop it, suppressing a flinch a second later. The complete lack of evidence of any female setting foot in there didn’t prove to him that his father’s habits had completely lost all opportunity to be active. As Professor David Canter, when defending his belief in the existence of Erika Windemere, said, quoting Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, “Every axiomatic system will contain truths that cannot be proven. But the absence of proof can be proof.” Therefore, the questions would continue hounding Bobby.

The woman shakes her head. “All the women there are much younger, and... prefer ‘em closer to our ages.” She clearly counts herself among them, her behavior showing gentle interest. Gentle because any other kind would be inappropriate for a funeral.

That interest makes the urge to flee and hide stronger. It makes the yearning for Alex greater, and he’s not sure when she’ll really be up to being around him. He spent some time reading on IVF, and how the retrieval itself tires women out. When he’d brought that up with her yesterday, before they both left work, she promised she’ll be alert enough. “I see,” he mutters bringing his attention back to the present. He numbly extends his hand to the woman, hoping to politely indicate that he’s in no mood to chat. “Well, take care.”

She returns the handshake. It’s not a loose grip, but it’s nowhere near Alex’s firm grip. “See you around,” the woman says, finally picking up that she’ll get nowhere with him even in a few weeks, and walks away.

The relief over her departure increases with the sighting of the one person he’s met through this ordeal who he’s glad he met. “Ferdie,” he quietly greets the man, extending a handshake and a tiny smile. Ferdie is someone his father met at a horse race several years ago, and they also went to pubs together. He must be the closest to his father of all the “friends” here; he was named the executor of the will.

Which basically meant what was left after the expenses were paid, and that was a pittance. Bobby had been expecting to hear that everything was left to David, but the will only said that the division of the possessions was up to “my sons.”

One more thing that hasn’t done his peace of mind any favors...

But Ferdie seems like a good man, and has treated Bobby with kindness and respect from the get-go. It made their meetings – always at Mulligan’s, Ferdie’s favorite pub, after seven at night – go easier. Especially since Alex was unable to accompany him on any of the occasions.

Ferdie, astutely guessing that Bobby isn’t up to talking, simply clasps Bobby’s extended hand with both of his, a soft understanding of loss in his eyes. “If you want to talk, you know how to find me.”

The willingness to leave him be is a relief, and Bobby knows it shows in his face. He can’t talk, but he smiles in gratitude, whispering, “Thank you.”

Ferdie manages a small smile. “Good luck, Bobby,” he wishes as he releases the younger man’s hand and walks away. To work, home, or Mulligan’s, Bobby’s not sure.

The remaining friends mostly say a quiet “I’m sorry,” offer a handshake, and then leave. A few mention a brief, innocuous anecdote about horse races or the pub. They all blur in Bobby’s mind, and he’s forgotten the details within seconds of the last one departing.

Then Bobby finds himself alone. The workers have finished covering the grave, and are picking up their equipment. They nod to him as they carry or wheel away everything. Bobby stays still until they’re out of earshot, watching the whole time. He shivers as the winds blasts in his face, and fastens his overcoat, suddenly cold despite the suit and coat. When the workers move out of his line of sight a few seconds later, his eyes drop to the fresh earth covering his father’s remains. The remains of a man who, in Bobby’s mind, has always been both an enigma and a transparency. Never at the same time, though...

He remains perfectly still, unable to go forward, yet unable to leave. Why won’t you move, feet? I’ve done my “duty” as a son, since David’s nowhere to be found apparently, and there’s nothing else here. So what am I doing standing still? Since he left his cap in the car – knit items aren’t considered appropriate to wear at funerals – he should be moving to warm himself, but taking the best care of himself isn’t something he’s diligent about.

Footsteps drift into his ears, coming from behind. A man’s, if he’s not mistaken. Years of cautious instincts push him to turn around, and his body turns solid.

A man about his height and size is walking toward him. Short brown hair tinged with gray at the temples, a face weighed down by the past and present, and eyes... that Bobby knows well. Holding his arm is a tall woman. Dark hair flows in waves below her shoulders, shorter strands framing her gentle face. Her soft blue eyes allow the world to float into them, focusing when she notices the direction she’s being led.

The woman is a stranger to Bobby, but the man isn’t. Even if it’s been almost thirty years... It takes several tries before he can make a whisper come out of his mouth, and by then, the two are a few away. “David.” He barely keeps his voice flat, controlling the shock.

David clears his throat. “Bobby.” Guarded, cautious, careful... Anyone would know that they’re brothers with that same tone of voice, despite the differences in their actual voices. David stops after speaking, staring at the ground as though avoiding meeting his baby brother’s eyes. He takes a breath before quietly adding, “This is my wife, Rebecca. Rebecca, this is my brother, Bobby.”

Rebecca’s eyes brighten in genuine pleasure – tempered by the gravity of the moment – as she extends her free hand. “Hi. I’m glad we finally got to meet.” Bobby – stunned that his brother actually showed, and floored that he brought his wife – does the only thing his manners allow: he extends his hand. “I wish it could’ve been under better circumstances,” Rebecca adds, quietly.

Bobby scans her as discretely as he can, allowing his senses to wake up to gather information. Every vibe she’s giving suggests that kindness is her middle name, that she might be the type who doesn’t say anything bad about anyone. How did my brother get her? He just nods, and clears his throat. “So... How long have you two been together?”

Rebecca answers, voice still gentle yet clearly audible. “We’ve been married seventeen years, and known each other for nineteen.”

Usually, Bobby’s fine with letting silence dominate; it drives the other person or people he’s talking with to fill it. But somehow, he needs specific answers, and questions are needed for that. Rebecca’s apparent ease around him makes it easier to talk with her. David’s stony expression says that he hasn’t changed since they last talked, so answers probably won’t be forthcoming from him. “You met in Tacoma?”

Yes,” Rebecaa answers, apparently fine with filling the silence. Her voice is open, friendly. Like David hasn't told her anything about me, Bobby suspects. I doubt anything he might have said would've been nice toward me... “David had just joined Norris and Brown, a firm in the city, and their office was in the same building as the editing company I work for. We saw each other regularly, and it grew from there.”

Bobby lets that float in his mind. Mom said that she and Dad met at the library where she worked, which was on the way home for him... “Are you both still there?” He asks her, hoping to kill time, to delay having to speak with David.

He is; David’s a senior partner now.” Her eyes and voice shine with pride, telling Bobby that his brother is making a name for himself with his work. “I still work for the same company, but I started freelancing after our oldest child was born. Gives me more time with the kids.”

Oldest child, Bobby’s mind repeats. I’m... I’m an uncle... He holds back a swallow. And I didn't know... “How many and how old?”

Rebecca smiles, memories clearly flowing through her consciousness as she lets go of David’s arm to sift through her large purse. “Mia’s fourteen, Stephan’s almost eleven, Paige is six, and Zoe is nineteen months.” She pulls out a small photo album and hands it over. “Here, I put this together for you. It’s yours to keep. We would’ve brought the kids, but David couldn’t afford to be away long, Mia and Stephan had tests, and when you’ve got a toddler...”

Yeah, Bobby notes numbly as he accepts the album, I can imagine that toddlers are tough to travel with. Alex mentioned a number of horror stories her siblings had... He opens it, and finds memory after memory that he’s missed out on. He marvels at how Mia reminds him of his mother, how the younger girls look like Rebecca, and at how Stephan looks like a blend of his parents. He also notes how Paige seems a bit detached from her surroundings, and how... hyper Mia’s eyes seem. Yet in other pictures, Mia's eyes are deeply sad, withdrawn... Uh, oh... Bobby feels another weight added to his mind. Signs that Mom's... curse... is influencing the family... But, his memory tells him, Mia's too young...

Silence dominates the area. Bobby can’t hear the wind, the distant traffic noises, or his own breathing over his jumbled thoughts about his previously unknown family. Then again, Bobby generally isn’t aware of breathing. Unless he’s under lots of stress, in which case he forces himself to breathe so he doesn’t pass out. David seems just as tense, and Rebecca is watching their movements, visibly puzzled by what she sees. Of course, the two haven’t spoken in years, so no wonder they’re not comfortable. Yet Bobby has to wonder, but does she know why? It doesn't sound like it from what Rebecca's said...

Putting the album in a coat pocket, Bobby takes a deep breath. “Why didn’t you show up sooner, Daivd,” he quietly demands, unable to stand the silence for once. He finally raises his eyes to look at his brother, challenging him to answer. “Why didn’t you answer any of the calls about this?” Why did I have to shoulder this alone, he harshly thinks. Why did I have to make the final decisions for that coward?

David shifts, almost imperceptibly. Like it invites questions he’s not ready to answer. “I quit speaking with him when Rebecca got pregnant with Mia.” His voice is somewhere between a whisper and conversation level, but the tone is flat. “He said things I couldn’t forgive about her, and I told him he could forget about seeing me or any of his grandkids until he took it all back. He never did.” His eyes never leave the fresh earth before them as he speaks.

This is the first I’ve heard anything about any of this,” Bobby comments slowly, to maintain a semblance of calm. “Including your marriage and your kids.” He goes back to staring at the grave – hoping that their father got some humiliation over his actions – as he tightly remarks, “Must’ve been bad for you to cut ties with him.”

I don’t want to think about it,” David hisses, apparently not noticing that Rebecca starts at his vehemence.

Bobby wonders what triggered that anger. He’s remembering something, he notes. Hope Rebecca’s not surprised by such behavior... unlike Mom... Taking a deep breath, he demands, “Then why show up? Why didn’t you answer any of the calls about his death?”

David shifts his hands inside his pockets. “I didn’t want anything to do with him after those remarks, and I told the people I work with to not forward any messages.” His voice is tight, like when their father was telling their mother to back off on whatever she was talking about. “My secretary ignored my instructions when she heard from the funeral home. I didn’t believe it at first, but hearing your message drove it the message through.”

And showing up this late?” You might as well have not shown at all, and just called...

Still staring at the ground, David's face tightens. “I didn’t want to have to say anything in eulogy.

You didn’t? Imagine how I felt, Bobby’s brain growls. “I escaped it,” he mutters “by telling the priest that I had nothing to say.”

Lucky.” The flat tone fails to convey anything except indifference.

A tone very familiar to Bobby. “Yeah.” His voice is quiet as his eyes on the ground. Now Bobby feels a weight on and inside his chest, like he’s he constricted inside and out.

Silence passes, a long one Bobby’s very aware of. He doesn’t feel like breaking it; he’s not sure what he could say or how they might react.

Rebecca finally can’t stand the silence, and asks, “What about you, Bobby? You have a family?” Her voice is unguarded, filled with curiosity.

Bobby shifts uneasily, the constriction growing tighter. “No,” he whispers. Don't think I ever will...

No?” David finally speaks, eyebrow raised and his tone up a notch from indifference. He finally turns to face Bobby. “You were always good with the younger kids in the area. Why no family?”

Rebecca’s eyes go wider, as if her body’s been shocked and she can’t figure out where this is coming from. Bobby takes a breath to compose to his answers. The ones his mind normally would think of are inappropriate to say in front of Rebecca. Starting with how come David even noticed what my interactions with kids were like... especially given how he didn't notice Mom's delusions unless they were extreme... But a number of things demand explanations... He rubs his face, letting some warmth back in, as he prepares his questions. “When you decided to have a family,” he drawls slowly, struggling to keep his voice even, “did you stop to consider the hereditary issues?”

Both of David’s eyebrows raise, an unconscious shock reaction, but it’s another reminder to Bobby of their father. A gesture – albeit on a smaller scale – that he gave Bobby when he did pay attention to him... conveying how little he thought of his younger son. David’s posture rapidly turns defensive, body language loudly declaring, I don’t have to explain myself to you, little brother. “It’s not a problem on my side,” he tightly contends. “Why should I have let fear run my life?”

Bobby snaps around, facing the man he’s considered possibly as unfeeling as the man who... sired them both. His voice raises, anger seeping in. “You are as much Mom’s son as I am, yet you’ve never thought about the chance that you might carry whichever gene or genes contribute to it?” Memories of past arguments rush in, and his current circumstances feel like deja vu.

Rebecca's eyes widen, but don't look like they'll pop out, suggesting that she knows something. David simply glares, declaring, “Because I’ll never have to worry about it; she was fine when I was born.”

And wasn’t after you were. The words might as well have been spoken aloud. Angered and stung, Bobby glares, his voice dropping to a harsh, low level. “How can you be that ignorant of the realities of genetics?” Part of him wonders about the relative sanity of his sister-in-law, and why she chose David. Softening his face as he turns to her, he asks, “Did he tell you about our mother?” He turns back to David, hardening. “I remember you putting off telling people about a lot of things about you and the family, but this...” Sure, Bobby does it, but when you live a largely solitary existence, it’s no problem.

Unwilling to answer that, David pounces back before his shellacked wife can utter anything. “She knows that there’s nothing for her to worry about,” he snaps. “Our children are, and will be, fine.”

Damn you for being like him, Bobby’s mind hisses. You're not even seeing that two of your girls are soon gonna need help...! In the throes of the memories of childhood hurts, his eyes fail to notice an odd look in Rebecca’s eyes at David’s barb. “At least I’m taking care of Mom, which is more than could ever be said of you or Dad.” It takes all his self-restraint to stop anything else from coming out, from frightening his sister-in-law, who his instincts tell him is basically an innocent in this mess.

David’s eyes look as cold as absolute zero. “Mom never had any problems till you were born. Mom and Dad never argued until you were born.”

The words silence all noises around them.

Staring into the eyes of his father’s favorite, Bobby’s body goes numb. Pushing down the boiling in his chest, the pressure in his sinuses, and the weight of the past. He pulls his eyes away to nod a small goodbye to Rebecca, and walks off before the glare in David’s face triggers more words, which would only provoke more jabs. Too mush of what David hit close to home...

Now he’s glad Alex couldn’t come, that her gift to her sister took priority over her loyalty to him. At least she didn’t see that, he thinks. Didn’t see the open wounds I carry, that I’ll always carry. But, maybe that wouldn’t have happened with her here... No, he decides, he would’ve still behaved the same. I hope his wife can cope with that... She almost seems too nice to stand up to him...

The further he gets from the grave, the faster his legs take him. He no longer feels the cold. In fact, he can’t feel much of anything. All he wants is some other place to be... He’s starting a familiar pattern of coping: when the world starts overwhelming him, he shuts down, preventing himself from feeling. It’s always been easier to do.

He reaches his car, a smaller and faster vehicle than the SVU Alex drives, and leaves. He and Lewis found the dark blue Porsche heading for a junkyard when all it needed were some skilled repairs. Expensive ones, but Lewis had the skills, so Bobby helped him with the repairs – working some extra hours at Lewis’ shop to compensate his old buddy – and bought the needed parts bit by bit. The car gets great gas mileage, and is as healthy as can be. He’s a careful driver, despite what some might think from noticing that Alex always drives. She drives because she likes to, and he doesn’t mind the extra time to think.

As he navigates the streets of New York, he focuses more than usual on his surroundings; he wants the distraction to keep his mind occupied. Still, no destination is in mind. He comes across a parking area nearby Central Park, and sees open spaces. He cruises into one, gets the receipt, and starts walking. A little exercise might clear my head a bit, he reasons.

Bobby wanders around for a while – fighting to think about random facts to deflate his tension – before a wish to hear Alex’s voice enters his thoughts. Pushing aside his clothing, he’s shocked to realize that it’s past one. She said she’d be done by now, he remembers. He pulls out his cell phone, and dials. Please, Alex, answer. Please let the appointment and lunch be over...

An automated female voice informs him, “The customer you are trying to reach is unavailable.” Sighing, he hangs up before the message finishes. Who am I to take her away from her family if they want her around...? So he puts the phone back and keeps walking in random directions.


Part Five

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