Disclaimer: I own neither Angel or anything associated with him, and "Bones" is equally out of my reach control-wise
Angel of the Bones
As he sat opposite Howard Epps, Booth was almost surprised at how quickly he felt the urge to pummel the guy's face in returned with a vengeance.
He'd faced down most of Wolfram & Hart's chief lawyers and satisfied himself with threats when he was in a good mood- his attitude towards them during his 'dark phase' didn't really count, and cutting off Lindsey's hand had just been done to save Cordelia rather than any specific desire to cause Lindsey pain himself-, but just being in the same room as this handcuffed sociopath, who'd killed at least three women and found it amusing when he was meant to have a soul...
"Who's this?" he said, removing a photograph from the file he'd brought to the interview and pointing at the girl shown in it; the best way to get anywhere with the likes of Epps was to hit them with the situation as directly as possible.
Despite his best intentions, he smiled as Epps's attempt to stand to look at the photo more clearly was cut short when his handcuffs and other assorted chains stopped him from rising more than a couple of inches out of his seat.
"Ohhh!" he said, grinning before assuming a mockingly serious expression as he sat down opposite the serial killer. "That's right, you're chained."
"How about removing these shackles?" Epps asked, bending over so that his face was close to Booth's despite his bonds remaining intact.
"The new, Howie," Booth said, refusing to acknowledge a request that Epps would have known wouldn't be granted anyway. "The name."
Staring at the photo, Epps didn't even bother to answer for a moment, but simply sat back down in his chair, staring blanking at Booth.
"You know," he said, squeezing his wrist slowly as he spoke in a sickeningly nonchalant tone, "those hack doctors and the prison infirmary... did a miserable job setting my wrist. It aches all the time, and I don't have a full range of movement. And let me tell you, when you're stuck in a prison cell for twenty-three hours a day, there's really only one thing you can do to pass the time. And I need my wrist."
"Well," Booth said, staring back at the prisoner, "I'm sure Doctor Brennan will be happy to... re-break it for you."
With that said, he picked up the file folder and tapped it on the table, deliberately drawing Epps' attention to it.
"What's that?" Epps asked.
"What, these?" Booth asked, his tone level. "These are crime scene photos, the ones you like. Tell you what. You, ah, you tell me the girl's name, I'll, uh, let you take a look."
"Everything you need to win the game is right there in front of you," Epps replied, a slight smile on his face that was only visible if you had experience with that kind of grin.
"Game?" Booth repeated, trying to ignore the disturbing implications of that particular term- especially when his own past as Angelus was taken into account- as he looked at Epps, his tone carefully chosen to make it sound like he'd been expecting this news. "You're bored, huh? Are you playing us?"
"When Doctor Brennan figures it out," Epps said, leaning towards Booth with an impassive expression, "come and see me again. But bring your lady scientist. Otherwise... I don't say a word."
"Next time you see either one of us," Booth retorted coldly, "they'll be giving you a lethal injection."
With that said, he stood up and walked out of the door as the guard opened it for him, leaving Epps to sit in his chains and wait for nothing to happen.
Booth might have operated on a principle of giving people second chances when he'd been Angel, but they had to deserve those chances before he offered them, and so far Epps was lower scum than Lindsey as far as he was concerned...
Walking into the 'M' Salon as another customer departed, Booth tried not to pay too much attention to the photograph of Caroline with Howard Epps that he could just see sitting next on one of the shelves; the thought that anyone could actually want to marry that guy, knowing what he'd done...
"Hi," he said, smiling politely at Caroline as she registered his presence, flipping the sign on the door behind him to indicate that the store was closed; this was definitely a conversation that should be held in private.
"Is-is Howard OK?" Caroline asked.
"Howard's fine, Mrs Epps; you don't have to worry about anything," Booth said, leaning against a nearby glass shelf as he smiled reassuringly at her. "I couldn't help but notice the 'Help Wanted' sign in the window. Did you recently lose one of your employees?"
"It's, uh, hard to keep help that doesn't steal from you," Caroline said, walking out from behind the desk to place some items on a stylist's station.
"Sarah Koskoff steal from you?" Booth asked, after glancing at a bottle of hair product to give a more nonchalant impression about the question.
"No," Caroline replied, looking at him in confusion through the mirror before she returned to her work. "Why? What did she do?"
"She died," Booth said, carefully watching her reaction as she turned to look at him. "You know, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you... but when was the last time you saw her?"
"Uh, three weeks ago," Caroline replied, looking at him in confused shock. "She just... stopped coming to work. She-she died?"
"Did you ever, uh, talk to Howard about her?" Booth asked, sitting down in a nearby chair as he watched Caroline's reaction.
"Uh... I don't know," Epps's wife replied uncertainly. "Maybe..."
"Howard ever see a picture of Sarah?" Booth asked before Caroline could finish thinking about that last question; rapid-fire questions encouraged honest answers.
"I-I don't like this," Caroline said, looking at him in confusion. "What's going on?"
"She was found buried face down in an abandoned mine," Booth replied, staring intently at her. "Back of her head bashed in; wrists, ankles tied. Your husband's M.O."
"Poor Sarah," Caroline said, turning away to look at the mirror, an expression of sorrow that Booth couldn't determine the nature of; it could be genuine, or it could just as easily be that of a good actress...
"But Howard..." Caroline said, turning to look at Booth after staring at her picture of Epps. "Howard has been in prison for the last seven years; how could he kill anyone?"
"He has an accomplice," Booth informed her, allowing her to draw her own conclusions regarding his reasons for mentioning that fact.
"You think it's me?" Caroline asked, clearly shocked at the idea.
"You love your husband," Booth pointed out.
"I love the good in Howard; I reject the evil," Caroline replied, with a smile of almost disturbing joy (Booth wasn't sure if he should be disturbed at the reminder of his relationship with Buffy; she might have been able to see past Angelus's sins, but at least they'd both known that he wasn't the man who'd done those things and was working to atone for his past). "I reject the evil. We're going to have a child together. I've petitioned the court to let Howard donate."
"Yeah," Booth said, clearing his throat- he wasn't touching that topic any more than he had to- before he returned to business. "I have a search warrant here for your home and your shop."
"You don't need a search warrant," Caroline said. "You can look anywhere you want, because you won't find anything."
Once again, her expression- although slightly grimmer towards the end of her statement- gave no indication whether she genuinely had nothing to hide or if she was just really good at keeping secrets (And the fact that she was at least slightly mad for being interested in a psychopath like Epps in the first place didn't exactly help him come to a conclusion one way or the other).
As he walked into the abandoned post office, Bones carrying a flashlight behind him, Booth made a mental note to take Hodgins out for a drink or something later on; the guy might be able to easily afford to buy his own bar if he wanted, but the essential sentiment of getting out for a bit of R&R after a very difficult experience wasn't something that should be overlooked.
Hodgins might have been operating far outside of his usual comfort zone when making that deduction/guess for them earlier, but he'd pulled through in the end- with Angela's help, anyway- and would hopefully be better prepared to make that kind of assessment in future if this kind of situation arose again (Not that Booth wanted to be in this position again, and he fully understood Hodgins' reasons for freaking out- the guy was used to finding information in the aftermath, not having to make a potentially life-or-death decision on his feet-, but it was best to be prepared for the worst).
Now the only challenge was if they'd find Helen Majors in this post office sorting centre before everything came to the kind of conclusion that he really didn't want; even if Hodgins was right about this place, he'd probably still have trouble forgiving himself if it turned out that they'd arrived here too late to help their would-have-been victim...
Still, the abandoned sorting centre idea made sense based on what Hodgins had told them and what they knew of this new apprentice; all they had to do now was find their victim in this mini-maze.
"All right," he said, reaching down to pull a small pistol out of his ankle holster and handing it to Bones; considering the potential danger of the current situation, it would probably be best to get the whole argument about whether or not his partner should have a gun out of the way and give it to her now. "Here."
"I didn't even have to ask," Bones said, taking the gun automatically.
"Yeah, well, just be careful, all right?" Booth said, glancing around himself as he and Bones walked slowly through the centre, searching for some sign of the woman they were here to help or the killer they were here to stop. "Don't shoot me, don't shoot Helen Majors; otherwise-"
The sound of chains rattling prompted that discussion to come to a halt, Booth exchanging a glance with Bones as they evaluated the possible source of the sound before progressing along the makeshift corridor they were currently in. Finally reaching an entryway a short distance down the corridor, they glanced inside and found themselves looking at Helen Majors, crying softly as she hung upside-down with a chain around her ankles.
"Please..." the girl sobbed, seemingly saying the word automatically as she hung facing away from the window that allowed them to see her. "Please..."
Booth glanced at Bones before hurrying around the corner, quickly finding a more direct route to the hanging girl than crashing through the door; right now, the clearly terrified girl didn't need more shocks than she had to receive.
"Helen?" Booth asked, holstering his gun as he hurried up to her.
"Please..." Helen said, still crying despite the sound of a new voice. "Please help me..."
"All right," Booth said, Bones switching on a nearby light as he walked over to Helen and picked her up from underneath, supporting her as Bones helped to lower the chain holding her in place until she was lying on the ground. "OK, take it easy; I got you... I got you, I got you, all right? Where is he?"
"He just left," Helen said, still sobbing in terror. "I don't know where he went."
"Bones, stay here with her," Booth said, looking up at his partner as she finished lowering Helen's legs to the ground. "Stay right there."
With that instruction issued, he pulled out his gun and left the room, Bones and Helen's voices quickly becoming nothing but background noise as he walked through the abandoned storage centre, flashlight aimed in various different directions as he searched for the killer that was the focus of his current efforts. He was just turning around a corner near what looked like an old printing press when something leapt on him from the shadows, striking his arm with a crowbar and forcing Booth to release his gun and flashlight from the shock of the impact, the following attack only just missing Booth as he rolled away. His reflexes slower than they would have been if he'd been attacked as Angel, Booth could only roll out of the way to avoid the second attempted attack, but quickly found himself pinned and out of space after avoiding a third attempt. For a moment, he could only stare up at the man who could only be Lappin, dressed in what looked like a brown leather apron and a dark shirt, as he raised the crowbar for a final time, before a gunshot brought the attacker to a halt.
Lappin turned just enough to see Bones staring at him, the gun and a flashlight in her hands and her eyes wide with horror, before blood oozed from his mouth and he dropped the crowbar before collapsing to the ground himself, leaving Booth to slowly get back to his feet as Bones slowly walked forward, the gun and flashlight still held out in front of her as though frozen in position.
"Is he dead?" Booth asked, looking up at his partner before processing that she was currently too shaken to check herself, prompting him to reach over and check the other man's neck for himself.
"Yeah, he's dead," he said, finding no sign of life at the pulse before he fell back to the ground with a groan; the last blow to his arm had been more effective than it had initially seemed.
As though those words had been a cue, Bones's arms dropped, visibly relieved, even as her mouth opened in shock at what she had just done, simply staring at Lappin's vacant expression.
"Good," Booth said, nodding at her as he sat up, cradling his injured arm as he leaned against the printing press beside him.
"I had to shoot him," Bones said, sounding more lost and shaken than she had ever expressed in his previous experience.
"Yeah," Booth said, nodding at her with all the reassurance he could spare while still trying to process the shock of recent events. "I'm glad you did."
He felt the inadequacy of that statement as soon as he uttered it, but there was nothing else that he could do right now to console his partner's reaction to what had happened.
He'd helped his friends in Sunnydale and Los Angeles train, but he'd never been there to help the first time they'd had to kill something (Mainly because they so rarely tried to kill anything they'd actually have to feel guilty about killing)...
Standing opposite Howard Epps once again, Booth wondered what made him more frustrated; that Epps had set all of this up while in prison, or just how goddamn smug he was about the whole thing (The fact that he was in a cast didn't help matters; it might be a hangover from the time he'd spent as the supernatural healer, but Booth hated showing weakness even if he couldn't control something like how long he'd take to heal).
"Well done," Epps said, almost sounding approving of their actions. "Really."
"Game's over, Howie," Booth said firmly.
"Yes," Epps said, smiling faintly in what Booth didn't need Angelus's expertise to tell him was self-satisfaction. "I won."
"Only if you wanted your accomplice dead," Bones said, sitting down cautiously in front of Epps to better look him in the eye.
"Lappin's dead?" Epps said.
"Shot resisting arrest," Booth confirmed.
"Who shot him?" Epps asked. Booth said nothing in response, but a faint mumble from Bones was apparently enough to answer Epps's question. "It was you, wasn't it?"
Bones lifted her chin in slight defiance, but otherwise said nothing to confirm or deny the killer's assessment.
"You shot him?" Epps asked, still staring at Bones for clarification. "Did he take long to die?"
Bones continued her silence, simply clenching her jaw.
"Did he suffer?" Epps asked, Booth's eyes automatically narrowing at the tone of the other man's voice as his gaze briefly shifted to Booth. "This is better than I thought; I thought it would be you."
With that comment he turned his attention back to Bones, not even bothering to wait for Booth to respond to his comment. "How did it feel? Dirty, yes? But there's also a rush... of pleasure. Part of you liked it."
Looking back, that was one part of Angelus that Booth sometimes found himself missing; the belief that everyone else was just as twisted as you were made it so much easier to kill the other guy when you were really angry at them...
Angelus could do that.
Hell, even Angel was willing to go that far when faced with some of his foes.
It was the downside of facing humans when he himself was only human; you constantly felt obligated to give them a shot to make up for what they'd done because it was what you'd like people to do for you, even if people like Epps made it constantly clear that they didn't deserve it.
"This whole game was to have us kill someone?" Bones asked, his partner apparently ignorant of his attention or thoughts as he looked at her.
"Who's going to tell Lappin's mom?" Epps asked, nothing on his face but a morbid curiosity that once again reminded Booth of expressions he'd felt his face assuming as Angelus; even the sympathetic tone of his voice was too mocking to ever be considered remotely sincere. "She loves him very much, you know. Without her son, she'll be completely alone in this sad world."
Nothing the sudden sympathy on Bones's face, Booth stepped forward firmly; he wasn't going to let his partner feel regret for killing someone who'd been willing to torture an innocent girl for kicks.
"We're done with you," he said, refusing to continue this conversation as he glanced down at his partner, wanting to get her away from this monster's presence. "You're never going to see us again; come on."
"I'm pretty sure you're wrong about that, Agent Booth," Epps said as Bones got up to leave after a last hard stare at the serial killer.
Stuck for ideas about the best way to verbally respond to that statement, Booth simply glared at the other man for a few moments before he followed her out of the room, leaving one of the few living men he'd ever met who was as twisted as Angelus to his lifetime sentence.
If he never saw that bastard again, he'd consider himself lucky...
Looking at Bones as she sat in the upper level of the lab that night, hunched over on a couch with a glass in her hand, Booth couldn't recall the last time he'd seen his partner so shaken.
She'd had to deal with a lot when she'd learned the truth about her parents, but none of that had really changed who she was; she'd just had to definitively kill another living being and face up to the part of herself that was capable of something like that...
"Vodka?" he asked, maintaining a slight distance in case she preferred solitude right now but remaining close in case she wanted company.
"It's water," Bones replied, shaking her glass slightly to indicate the ice inside it. "But it's on the rocks."
"You know, Bones, I'm not sure you grasp the basic theory on how to get drunk," Booth said, wincing as he hung his coat over his injured arm before pulling up a chair and sitting down in it as he continued to speak. "What you need to do is order a shot of hard liquor from a barman named Shaky, and tell him to, uh, leave the bottle in the bar."
"I'm fine, Booth," Bones said, even as he stared at her, Booth simply nodding slightly in an idly indulgent manner at her oh-too-casual tone. "I'm sitting here thinking about it, and... I'm fine."
"OK," Booth said, looking thoughtfully at her. "So what I'm gettin' from you here, Bones, is that you're fine."
He didn't need his years of experience of human nature to know that Bones was anything but fine, but he simply sat and looked at her as she reached over to pick up a photograph of Sarah Koskoff from the investigation file that they'd been consulting earlier.
"He murdered Sarah," Bones said, as she looked at the photograph. "He was about to murder Helen. You know, why should I feel upset about shooting him? You know, I mean, if I was going to be upset, which I'm not… it would be because Epps thinks he beat us, so-"
"He didn't," Booth said.
"I know," Bones said, looking down as she spoke.
"You're upset because you think he beat us," Booth said, letting Bones look up at him as he nodded in resolution, as though having just come to a decision. "You know what? He did."
"Beat us?" Bones asked, looking at him in surprise.
"Yeah," Booth confirmed.
"Well, you just said that he didn't," Bones said, looking at him in confusion.
"Well, I changed my mind," Booth said.
"What, in the last three seconds?" Bones asked, looking at him in shock.
"You know, you're afraid that Epps turned you into him; into a killer," Booth said, looking firmly at his partner as she looked at him, a vulnerability about her manner that he had never seen her express; quite frankly, in this moment, she reminded him more of Fred and Willow in the early days of his friendship with them, rather than the Buffy or Cordelia-esque confidence she'd always demonstrated in the past. "You have to... come to grips with the fact that you killed another human being."
He paused for a moment as he looked down, lost in his memories of his own past sins; he'd never killed as Liam, and he'd more than paid for any responsibility he might bear for Angelus's crimes- he was still the person who'd let Darla turn him, even if he couldn't have known what she was offering-, but the questionable things he'd done as Angel, to say nothing of the people he'd killed as Booth...
"Because when you kill someone," he continued, looking back at her solemnly, "you know, there's a cost. It's a steep cost. I know. I've done it."
He'd done it so many times he sometimes didn't know how he'd ever manage to feel like his hands were clean again, but what he'd done in the past in no way compared to what Doctor Temperance Brennan had done to Gil Lappin, and she needed to understand that.
"I did the right thing," Bones said after a moment's reflection, her tone weary despite the positive nature of the statement.
"I know," Booth said, looking her in the eye as she looked back at him, the faint gleam of tears in her eyes, the woman who had always been so strong unconsciously seeking reassurance about the rightness of her actions as they exchanged brief smiles. "I was there."
"Oh," Bones said, looking down shamefully as a tear fell on the photograph that she was still holding. "Look what I did."
"It doesn't matter," Booth said, looking solemnly at her.
"It does," Bone said, and Booth knew she wasn't just talking about the teardrop. "It matters."
Looking at her, Booth knew that it was going to take his partner a while to reach full comfort with what she'd done, but progress was being made; as with everything worthwhile, the journey was necessary so that the end result could be appreciated, but Bones was never one to back down from the hard road.
Of course, he thought to himself, as he felt the small plastic pig in his pocket, that doesn't mean I can't remind her of she is before anything else...