Title: all the pretty little horses

Fandom: Bones

Character: Zack, Ensemble

Summary:'Heart in a box, Zack', you think, and out loud you say, "Doctor Saroyan, the small intestine is removed."

Warnings: The description is a bit graphic, at places.

Genre: Horror.

Disclaimer: "Bones" is not mine, nor will it ever be.

Notes: I thought for a show about murder victims and bones that there were far too few supernatural fanfics. And I don't just mean the crossover kind. That, too.

all the pretty little horses

It's an ordinary day.

As ordinary as they can get, anyway. It is difficult to quantify the correct application of ordinary; is it determined by the job or by the people? By the weather or position of the stars or any number of variables? Ordinary is subjective. Perhaps it wouldn't be considered normal to anyone else to be wrist-deep a cadaver's abdomen, pulling out the rotted small intestine and setting it in a nearby container, all the while muttering vague observations under your breath. But you can remember last week, piecing together a skull (Female, 37, died from multiple injuries to the head) and placing tissue markers for Angela to sketch, all done as methodically as your work now.

So, yeah, it's a pretty ordinary day.

Sucks that the dead body used to be a ten-year-old girl, though.

Heart in a box, Zack, you think, and out loud you say, "Doctor Saroyan, the small intestine is removed."

--

Stop.

Fast-forward.

Dr. Brennen is arguing with Agent Booth in the way they do that denotes possession; no one interrupts them, except in cases of new information about the case. It is never a open discussion about the case when Dr. Brennen starts attacking Booth's Catholicism or Booth accuses Dr. Brennen of being too scientific. They have learned, as a group, that at times like this, Dr. Brennen and Booth are the partners and they are the team, like kids crowded around at the dinner table while their parents discuss taxes.

In this case, they're arguing about the new body.

"She's dead," Dr. Brennen says. You look back to body on the table, which Dr. Saroyan is currently examining. Yes. Definitely dead. "Her mother just dreams that her daughter is happy? That she wanted to die? That's impossible. Because she's dead."

"Look, I know it's weird, Bones," Booth argues back, "but sometimes people believe things they can't explain. Maybe she did have a dream. I've heard stranger things."

"She's just trying to stop feeling guilty for leaving her ten-year-old by herself at the park."

"Probably, but her alibi checks out, so she's not the murderer," Booth counters. "Why shouldn't she try to let herself have some peace?"

"I just think that convincing yourself you've heard your dead daughter through a dream is irrational. We should have her alibi checked out."

"Why, in case she was dreaming about talking to her friend, too?"

"At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised."

Angela and Hodgins are watching this with amused grins, glancing at each other and trying not to laugh. It's all circles with Dr. Brennen and Booth, you realized after observing them for awhile; they never quite reach a conclusion, and neither one really wins. It's a game, each side scoring points little by little, never reaching the end. Like when you were little and your oldest brother would play basketball with you. Rationally, you know he let you win. You were eight and he was seventeen; even then, you knew he was letting you win. But it didn't matter, because Thomas was your favorite brother and every time you scored a basket, he would smile and congratulate you, and even that little attention was a lot in a family of seven.

Dr. Saroyan is rolling her eyes at Dr. Brennen and Booth, but she's smiling while she does it.

You stare down at the dead girl on the table.

--

You are a rational empiricist. (And a Lutheran, if your mother asks.)

You are a believer in science; in the sheer tangible nature of things; in the ability to figure everything in the whole world out, if only you had enough time.

You are a computer, a genius, a scientist, an alien-or-something.

You do not believe in anything that cannot be proven with fact.

So when the dead girl comes to life in your dreams and whispers, "He made me bleed," into your ear, you're not sure what to think.

--

Hodgins invites you over to watch 300 on the big-screen television set in his house. It's the first time you've been to the main house, and you might feel honored if Angela wasn't along as well. But you like Angela, and the three of you watch the movie with Hodgins keeping a running commentary while Angela switches between shrieking at the violence and admiring the graphics. You add in facts occasionally, correcting where the movie got it wrong, and Hodgins throws a pillow at your head.

Afterwards, you ask, "What sort of particles did you find on the girl's clothes?"

"Oh, c'mon man," Hodgins replies with a moan. Angela's left to grab some more drinks from the kitchen, and there's a gradually decreasing indentation on the couch where she had been sitting. "We're not at work, Zack. Suicide girl can wait until tomorrow."

"She was ten," you reply simply. "Statistically speaking--"

"You should never say 'statistically speaking' during a normal conversation, dude."

"Statistically speaking," you repeat, "Ten-year-olds are not at high risk for suicide. It makes more sense that she was murdered and then dropped off the cliff."

Hodgins shrugs and gives in to the subject. "I haven't found anything to suggest she was anywhere else when she was murdered. Everything matches the scene at the cliff. She had some drugs in her system, but her mother claimed that she stole them from their medicine cabinet. Cam is still trying to get a read on them. Still, it doesn't change the fact that we don't actually have a suspect yet."

You don't even think to mention the dreams. They are not rational arguments.

"Besides," Hodgins continues before you can refute his argument, "since when do you determine conclusions before the evidence is compiled? Bad Zack! You need to be objective, remember?" He's grinning, like it's a game. It's not, and you both know it, but it's easier when you're outside the lab. It's easier to breathe.

Angela returns before you can continue, and you stop, because you and Hodgins have always debated cases outside of work, but Angela always looks hurt discussing the deaths, and you don't like it when she's sad.

--

"He made me bleed," the dead girl says.

Her name is Melinda Martin, age ten. She's a gymnast and likes ponies, and she is so quiet that her mother thinks, after she's dead, that she would kill herself.

Her eyes are wide and green, gray hollows forming under them, and she's dressed in a bright pink sun-dress covered in daisies.

Dr. Brennen and Booth are disturbed by her mother's conclusion of suicide, but they have nothing else to go on. Then Dr. Saroyan discovers evidence of rape in the discomposing tissue. Dr. Brennen and you examine the bone and determine the same, and then it's not a question of suicide anymore. It's clearly murder.

She has curly blond hair and scrawny shoulders, and she looks like your niece Amber. Objectively, you know that's not true; there are too many differences in facial structure and skin tone for their appearance to be truly similar. But it doesn't change the fact that she looks at you and cries bloody tears, and you think, "Oh, Amber."

She has an older brother named Oliver, and a mother who chain-smokes two packs a day. Her father is an attorney, his brother is a surgeon, and there's a teenage neighborhood boy who was harassing both her and her brother at the time of the murder. Other than that, no one can remember anything strange at the park. She was found at the base of a cliff, three miles from the park where she had been playing, bones shattered. She had been alive when she fell.

"He made me bleed," she sobs. She's sitting on the ground (where she died, you took pictures), arms wrapped around her knees, and the tears of blood drip down her bare arms. If you look closely, you can see that her dress is stained.

You don't look closely.

Dr. Brennen and Booth are agitated with the case; there's not enough information, even with the evidence collected from the body. There wasn't enough DNA left to get a sample: bleach had been poured into the wound. From the bloodstains on the bone that resulted, you conclude that it happened while she was still alive.

Angela's face crumples and Dr. Brennen's becomes a blank slate.

She looks back at you, and now she's a skeleton. Blood leaks from her empty sockets and maggots scurry in and out around it.

"He made me bleed," she whispers. Her jaws smash a maggot to death when they move. "Make me stop bleeding."

You throw up in the third floor bathroom when the briefing is finished.

Then you return and start examining the rest of her bones.

--

"Zack, are you feeling all right?" Dr. Saroyan asks, changing topics from the victim's spinal cord to your mental condition as easily as breathing.

"I'm fine, Dr. Saroyan," you reply immediately. You pick up a nearby bone and begin examining it intensely, wondering if she was commenting on your work ethic. You and Dr. Saroyan have gotten along quite well in the past, better than others, but she is still your boss. It wouldn't do to be unprofessional.

"You just seem," she begins, then pauses. You look over the bone to stare at her instead, and she's watching you with a concerned expression on her face, reminding you of your mother whenever you'd come home from college on break with five different textbooks in your arms. Dr. Saroyan hesitates a bit too long, and it sounds out of place when she finishes, "tired. You seem tired."

"I've been getting enough sleep," you reply simply.

Dr. Saroyan won't stop staring at you, and you fidget.

"Zack," she begins, but you interrupt.

"Nothing seems incongruent with the conclusion that Dr. Brennen arrived at earlier," you say, staring determinedly down at the skeleton. It wasn't moving.

There's a long stretch of silence before Dr. Saroyan concurs, "I agree, Dr. Addy."

Before she can say anything else, you mutter something about helping Hodgins in the lab and remove your gloves. You can feel her eyes on your back as you leave and you know she doesn't believe you, but you do go to help Hodgins. It helps better to be teased than to be alone, because every time you close your eyes all you can see are maggots crawling all over Melinda Martin's face.

--

"He made me bleed," she cries, and you watch her shudder and shake in silence.

"He made me bleed," she whimpers, and you listen to her gasping screams.

"He made me bleed," she murmurs, and you can't quite bring yourself to touch her rotting body when she cries blood into your shirt.

Finally, you've had enough.

"He made me bleed," she whispers.

"What did he do?" you ask in return, and you reach out a shaking hand to pat her matted hair.

She tells you.

--

You wake up at four a.m., screaming and shaking and drenched in sweat.

But that doesn't matter; you grab a change of clothes and are out of the apartment in two minutes. You catch the bus (Hodgins is going to wonder where you are, but this isn't the first time you've taken the bus to work, and you can't think of anything right now), and an hour later you're at the Jeffersonian, staring at the array of bones before you. This time, you know what you're looking for.

By the time Dr. Brennen and the others arrive, you have what you came for: a small hole in the base of the skull, indicative of a needle. After that, the case falls together easily; the drugs and needle were from the hospital where Melinda's uncle worked as a surgeon. Hodgins runs tests to match the drugs, confirming the conclusion. By the end of the day, Booth is leading the man away in handcuffs and everyone is relieved that it's finally over.

--

When Dr. Brennen asks how you knew, you say something about the subconscious and intuitive understanding. Those are facts, provable and undeniable, and Dr. Brennen smiles and nods, because she of all of them knows your language the best. She created the language, loves the language, and loves that you love it too. So you smile in embarrassment when she congratulates you on your discovery and leave it at that.

But the dreams stop after that. Gone, like they never were, except that you can still remember them.

And for all that you really do believe the dreams were nothing more than your subconscious, the next day you call your niece Amber and talk to her for an hour about ponies.