This is just a little tag at the end. Not very memorable, not very long, just a proper ending. I wanted to wrap it up properly. You'll see. I… *sniffle* I'm so happy and sad that this is the end… I love you guys!

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CHAPTER 42

I walk up the platform briskly, to make up for the fact that I'm late.

"Ange!" She's waiting for me by the remains, and turns and smiles when she meets my eye.

"Sweetie!" Old nicknames die hard. I'm not really sure that's the correct expression, but something like that, anyway. "This is Jane Doe 4560."

I walk next to her and she gives me a light kiss on the cheek.

"Where's Booth?"
"Until I rule this a murder, he's in his office buried in paperwork." I say lightly. Over the years the ache of not having Booth close has faded into a calm sense of belonging, because I know that no matter where he is, we're together.

"Again?"

"Ange, this isn't like the old days."

She laughs, and for an instant her face looks ten years younger, just pure, undiluted fun. "Believe me, I've noticed the difference." She's obviously referring to those first five years when Booth and I had the strangest partner dynamic in the FBI. I smile back, remembering too: how blind I'd been, how stubborn he'd become.

"I meant that we don't have all the time in the world anymore. We are needed so many places… we can't work every accidental death." I nudge her playfully. "And our team of world-renowned scientist sidekicks are invaluable to help us solve the unsolvable, you know."

"It's been so long, Brennan. Since this all began, do you remember?"

"Yes." I allow myself a moment of nostalgia, that time would pass so quickly. "It all seems a blur now." I admit. "When Goodman was still here. I was sad he left, but Cam came and we… Sweets… and then Zack…"

I spent a year trying everyone, everything, anything to fill the void Zack had left. No one did, no matter how much they wanted to meet my expectations, no matter how reasonably intelligent they were.

But the memory of Zack isn't so painful now. Since he was declared fit for expert consultation work five years ago, we've seen quite a lot of him. It's been mostly video streaming from his detention facility, however, he comes to the lab in person very rarely. When he does, it's only if he needs to examine a set of remains himself after all else has failed (including Angela, Hodgins, Cam, Booth and me), with two armed guards watching his every move. Not that they need to, Zack never killed anybody. I've always known this.

But I miss him, of course, I always will because it's not enough to see his pixelated smile, but it's so much better than nothing.

"He's talking to Hodgins right now. In the Bone room." Angel says gently. I start, remembering what I'm supposed to do now is work, not reminisce.

"Zack?"

"Yeah. Complaining about the low quality of the picture." She scoffs. "As if! My video streaming is of incredible definition!"

"It's great, Angela. Don't worry, Zack just wants perfection."

"Oh just perfection, is it? Well, if it's just perfection, that's easy…"

I smile and look down at the person lying in my examination table.

Clearly a Caucasian female, she was in her forties or early fifties when she died. Few occupational markers, but my eyes are instantly drawn to the marks on her ribcage.

Angela points to it, over the years she's picking up some things.

"That looks bad. Cuts, not breaks, right?"

I nod, and lean in to look closer. "Deep and irregular… a sharp blade. Probably a knife." I murmur. They spark a memory, something stored deep inside which I hadn't thought of in a very long time.

"He was furious…"

"Bren?"

Suddenly my eyes lose focus, and I take a step back. It can't be. I have no proof yet, no evidence, I don't even have a facial reconstruction! It's not necessarily her!

But I know. Somehow, some impossible instinct is screaming at me that I can't deny this, that it is her.

"Brennan." Angela's voice is firm and strong. "What's wrong, sweetie?"

"I… need to…" I take a step back and breathe calmly. "I think this is Margaret Stoker." My voice is cold, low, almost blank. I realise with some surprise it's been a while since I've spoken like this to my friends.

"What?"

I shake my head. "Okay, no. It… it might not be. The markers make it likely… and the cuts, and… and her age, the bone structure…" An image suddenly makes me close my eyes. Of Angela tied to a chair, her chapped lips bleeding, and it takes her two attempts to stand.

"Angela, I'm sorry."

She has a hand clamped over her mouth in shock. "It's okay… I'm okay, Brennan. Are you?"

"I'm fine."

We both look at the woman who I can still see, after all this time, walking with the air of elegance and superiority around her apartment… but also cowering from my partner's questions about her daughter… I watch her crying behind a glass pane and I want to help her, to defend her, to protect…

"People, who died?"

It's Cam. I can't believe her joke is so tasteless, I almost yell at her in anger until I realise I'm laughing. I'm laughing and Angela is too, thank God, it's all so sad and funny and terrible…

I stop laughing abruptly, and I feel a little light headed. I wish Booth was here.

Cam looks appalled. "I'm sorry." She says, wide-eyed. "I'm so sorry, what's wrong?"

"We think this is Margaret Stoker." Angela says.

Cam reacts with practised instincts. She's shocked, but she nods gravely. "It's not a confirmed match, though, am I right? This is our first day with that set of remains."

"Yes." I say. "Of course, it was a baseless hypothesis… no, it wasn't even a hypothesis, it was a wild guess. Nothing more." I'm myself again now.

"Okay, first we need confirmation. Then we'll deal with the results, if you're right. Making such leaps will lead us nowhere."

"I'll call Booth. This is definitely a murder."

As I'm walking away to use my office phone, Angela catches up with me. "Wait, Brennan… if it is her…? Do we know where Anne is?"

We'd met Anne one more time after the night we saved Angela's life. Her aunt had brought her to my office, to say goodbye (Louise lived in Ohio). Anne had managed a goodbye, but I'd been sad to see her so reserved, so cold, like ice. She looked more like me than ever before, like my young self: heart encased in metal, unfeeling, uncaring and… old.

Louise was a good person, and I remember wishing time would help bring Anne back to life. Wishing I could somehow be a part of that. Now… ten years have gone by and I don't know what to expect, if she'll have healed or will remain broken.

Angela is waiting for an answer.

"Yes. Of course, we have her number. Booth works for the government, remember?"

"Right."

I get to the phone in my office the moment it starts ringing.

"Hello?"

"Bones!"

Suddenly I feel a little better. "Seeley!" I say loudly and cheerfully, even though I know how he reacts. I can hear him groan from the other end of the line.

"Honey, it sounded weird before, it sounds weird now. We met and you've always called me Booth. Don't call me Seeley!"

"Annoying you is my passion."

"I'll call you Temperance all the time." He warns. But it's an empty threat, and I was just teasing him: we'd tried the whole first-name thing, but it had felt strange and forced. So it's Booth and Bones now and always. The kids think we're the lamest people on earth, but I think they'd find it strange too, if we suddenly said Seeley and Temperance. Those names are for night time, or special occasions.

"Booth, I need to ask something, so what did you want?"

"I was just calling to say hi." He admits. "Your voice sounds… uh, what's wrong, honey?"

"Nothing yet. It might be. Well, not wrong by definition, but perhaps by situation, you see…" I'm about to launch into a useless explanation to win some time, but he's too familiar with the tactic. His voice is gentle when he interrupts me.

"Hey. I can come over if you need me."

"I might, yes. But not because I'm emotionally incapable of dealing with this. As Dr Brennan, I might need your help with a murder case."

"Murder?"

"Yes. Margaret Stoker's murder."

The silence after I speak is ominous. Is he also recalling the night the world exploded into flames and I thought he'd died? Frank Bram's final words? Anne's tear-stained face? That first day, that first stakeout right outside Margaret's WP flat, when he asked me to kiss him…

"Do we know it's her?" He asks heavily.

"No. I had… It hasn't been confirmed, or even properly studied. I just… had a momentary feeling of… certainty."

He doesn't laugh or make a joke about it. He knows me too well, now. But I no longer feel an instant of panic, of wanting to flee anymore. Instead, I'm glad of his knowledge.

"You instinctively felt it was her?" He says.

"Yes. Not without basis, of course. But… mostly, yes."

"Okay. Well, I'll see you in a few."

"Bye."

"Love you."

"I love you too."

I hang up.

"Angela! Where's Hodgins?" She's standing on the platform talking to Cam, and she doesn't hear me. "Angela!" I shout again, getting up from my desk. This time she turns in surprise and shouts back: "What is it, Bren?"

"Where's Hodgins?" I repeat.

"I told you before, he's talking to Zach in the Bone…" Understanding dawns on her face. "He's on his way to talk to you after I ask him to."

"Great." I give her a thankful smile and get back on the phone to dial Limbo. Yes, even I'm calling the storage room that. After so many years, I decided to just go with it.

"Hello?"

"Yes, hello, this is Dr Brennan, I'd like the artefact bag for a Jane Doe number 4560. Brought up to my office, if possible."

"Right away, Dr Brennan."

"Thank you." I add as an afterthought.

"No problem." I think I recognise his voice, it's Josh something… but I don't dare guess and get it wrong. He got Phillip Black's job a few years ago. Black was the security guard who knew Bram and who planted the camera on railing in the lab and shot Booth. Josh (I'm almost sure it's him) was young and (what Booth likes to call) "geeky", and he fell in love with Angela three seconds after meeting her. Hodgins made his position clear soon after that, though, seeing as how she was already married to him by then.

So now I jus sit and wait, I suppose. Time hasn't changed the fact that I despise inactivity, such as waiting. I console myself thinking that Booth is on his way. The thought makes me smile in anticipation. My husband is on his way to see me. Yes, well, me and a dead corpse, but mostly me. And he was calling just to check on me. Ridiculous, silly little things like these make me inexplicably happy. I can't rationally explain why, but I've embraced the way my heart-rate increases and dopamine and serotonin levels in my brain rise.

The feeling doesn't go away. The feeling of belonging to something and to someone. Of secure stability, which I'd never had before, never since I was a little girl…

That feeling doesn't go away.

So we may have another case ahead. And it will mean more work and challenges and difficulties… I think I'm up for a challenge, even if it's just the end of an old one.

I'm ready. We're all ready.

Bring it on.