Author's Note: This was a writing prompt from adangeli- (because we've decided to torture each other). Her writing prompt is only loosely linked to what actually came out of my fingers, so I'll spare you the disjointed logic.
(It's complete crap – turn back now…)
They had spent twelve hours at the farm, combing through piles of manure, following riding trails deep into the woods, looking for any soil that had been recently disturbed.
They had spent twelve hours at the farm, walking fence lines, examining horse-stalls and instructing the FBI forensic technicians to collect the pounds of shavings -clean and used- as well as the various containers of horse feed.
Anything. Anything could have been evidence.
The longer they spent on the six-hundred acre farm, the more dumping sites they realized were available to the serial killer who was hired as the farm manager just a year earlier.
With twenty missing people in the nearby counties, Booth's gut had been on high alert and he was sadly convinced they'd find the remains of at least half those missing on this farm. The disappearances were too well-patterned to be coincidence and now that they had found the first body, it was just a matter of time until they unearthed the second. Then the third. Then the fourth.
No matter how long he worked this job with her, two things would never stop shocking him: how much the bones of small children still made his stomach roll, and how she became so focused on her work that she would forget her surroundings.
The rain started as a light drizzle only an hour after they arrived and, while it was rare to see, he noticed the concerned look settle across her features.
He didn't have to ask what was bothering her; evidence could be compromised.
He had barked orders as the FBI techs, trying to spur them into quicker movements. But he knew as well as she did that the sheer size of the property as well as the exacting nature of their evidence-collection meant this was not a task that would end quickly.
He watched as she hunched over a pile of composted manure, sifting through with gloved hands.
He watched as the rain continued to pour, plastering her hair closer and closer to her head until she well and truly resembled a drowned rat.
He settled his trench over her shoulders, and she looked up with shocked blue eyes. Booth acknowledged she looked like a cute drowned rat.
She smiled, slipping her arms through the too-big sleeves and returning to work with a muttered, though sincere "Thank You."
The evidence had been returned to the Jeffersonian. The team had been standing on the platform, eagerly awaiting the delivery.
They all looked bright eyed and well rested and Brennan knew she looked like she'd been hiking through manure for a week.
Which was, of course, an exaggeration. She had been sifting through various farm products not limited to manure. And it certainly had not been a week – more like twelve hours.
Between the length of time on site ensuring all evidence was collected and no stone – or stall- was left unturned, as well as the commute to and from the site, she had been at this case for almost fourteen hours.
And it was fourteen hours spent fighting the elements for every ounce of evidence she could get her gloved hands on.
The minute she staggered wearily onto the platform, she felt her elbow seized by Angela and she was summarily steered away from the bones she was so intent on examining.
"You need to lie down before you fall down," Angela said, wrapping a firm arm around her shoulder and leading her off the platform and to her office.
Brennan felt a small amount of the tension leave her when she stepped foot into the reassuring atmosphere of her office. The various bones and skeletal artifacts scattered around made her feel instantly at-home.
"I don't need to rest, Angela," she started, protesting as her friend pushed her shoulders until Brennan was forced to sit on the sofa. She ignored how her shoes were swiftly removed, followed quickly by the saturated socks. She spared a glance down at her feet to note how pruney her skin had become, exposed to water for such a length of time. "You all are out there working, I can be, too."
"Bren, hon, we went home last night and got some sleep when you and Booth were on your way to the crime scene. The reason we're here looking so refreshed is because we haven't been up for forever," Angela said, her voice gentle but firm. She reached forward and pulled Brennan's arms out of the trench coat before tugging her friend's saturated sweater over her head, leaving her sitting on the couch in her camisole and damp slacks.
"Between your full day yesterday, being up all night searching the farm for evidence, your lecture the night before, you're running on about 4 hours of sleep in two days. You're taking a nap. Hodgins, Cam and I have it covered, Sweetie. We can handle it for a few hours while you catch some shut-eye."
Brennan opened her mouth to protest, but her words were immediately silenced as a yawn took control.
Angela grinned and pulled the trench coat out from under Brennan. "See? Can't deny it! You need to sleep."
"Hey!" Brennan protested, reaching out for the trench, leaving her wet socks and sweater draped over Angela's arm.
"I'm just going to throw it in the dryer," Angela chuckled. "I'll bring it back, I swear!" The staff-room had long since gained a small washer/dryer unit for the times when they were there overnight.
"No," Brennan replied softly, pulling the trench to her and stretching down on the sofa. "It can stay here," she said as she draped her body in the warm trench, using it as a blanket.
Brennan had closed her eyes long before Angela made it to the door to flip the lights and pull the blinds.
She didn't notice how her friend watched her briefly from the doorway with a knowing smile.
She didn't notice how the knowing smile spread when she pulled the trench tighter around her and sighed as she drifted off.
The remains had been identified.
All fifteen of them. All fifteen sets of human remains. Ages ranging from seven to seventeen.
Bronson Mitchels hadn't been picky in his perversion; young but not too young. Smart enough to make his abduction a challenge, not smart enough to get away. Children who would be missed, but whose childhood had been rough-enough that running away wasn't at all out of the question.
He thrived on the risk. He had gotten off on seeing the 'Missing' posters on bulletin boards. He had loved hearing about the Amber-Alerts, knowing that the young girl's corpse was buried under the stall mats in the newly refurbished barn.
She had watched as Booth had swallowed his wave of rage and nausea as they identified skeleton after skeleton. She watched as he blinked repeatedly, trying to erase the image from his mind, when they had identified a young boy Parker's age. And she saw his shoulders square with determination as he realized they finally had enough evidence to have Caroline formally press charges.
She saw the small, malicious glint in his eye as Booth made arrangements for Mitchels' holding-cell until his trial date. She heard him insinuate to the guard that becoming 'roomies' with a very specific cell-mate was a great plan.
And Brennan knew that an overly amorous or overly violent cell-mate was the only amount of personal justice Booth would ever inflict on a serial killer.
Booth had released his grip on Mitchels' arm, turning him over to the custody of the deputy and warden.
And, for now, their job was done.
Of course it wasn't her job to accompany him to the jail. But she had seen how this case wore on him, just as did all cases with children. There was no thought, no question, about her 'job' when she learned he would be escorting the prisoner to jail. She climbed into the truck and buckled into 'her' seat.
Nothing was said on the way there. No words were exchanged at the jail.
But the minute she buckled in for the return trip, he sent her an amused look. "They make those in your size, you know," he said, looking pointedly at the trench coat dwarfing her delicate frame. The trench coat he had draped across her shoulders over a week ago
She lay sprawled on her own sofa that evening, the sound of music floating like a ghost through the background of her thoughts.
She fingered the khaki material that covered her legs; the trench had been used yet again as an impromptu blanket.
It was no warmer than the woolen blanket that draped the back of the couch in her office.
It was no more waterproof than her own black rain-coat.
It was no more able to stop the chilling wind than her own parka.
But when she wrapped herself in the trench, her hands hiding in the too-long sleeves, she felt warmer, drier and more protected than she ever had before.
Brennan felt her lips twitch and her nose wrinkle slightly as she thought. It was a trait she knew possessed her as she studied bones on the table on the platform. She knew because Booth had teased her about the 'cute nose wrinkles' more than once.
It was just a coat.
But it wasn't just a coat, she knew. She had spent enough time being picked-apart by Angela and enough time being analyzed by Sweets that she wasn't uninsightful.
She knew it wasn't just a coat.
The feeling of comfort, the feeling of security, the feeling of warmth and safety were the same feelings that overwhelmed her when they shared a 'guy-hug.'
The human body sheds thirty to forty thousand skin-cells a minute. It was no surprise to her that there was an 'essence of Booth' that surrounded the coat he had worn for so many years.
Perhaps she was picking up remains of pheromones latent in the skin cells he had recently shed.
Perhaps she was – grasping at straws.
Perhaps it wasn't just a coat after all.