Disclaimer: I own neither Angel or anything associated with him, and "Bones" is equally out of my reach control-wise
Angel of the Bones
"It's getting thicker and thicker in here," Bones said as they continued to walk through the woods that were the scene of their latest crime, just behind the forest ranger assigned to direct them to the location.
"That's why a forensic team got lost," Ranger Edison explained. "I've sent somebody back to find them."
"Look, you sure you know where you're going?" Booth asked, looking apprehensively at his surroundings; time may no longer be a factor in his work now that sunlight wasn't an issue for him any more, but that didn't mean he wanted to get lost in here.
"I still have trouble and I've been here for three years," the ranger said. "That's why we advise hikers to stay away."
"I know, I'm pining for concrete," Booth said, glancing back at his partner as he continued walking. "You just, uh, you stay close, alright Bones? I don't want you to get caught out here when it gets dark, OK?"
Turning around, he was only slightly surprised to see that she'd wandered off; Bones might be intelligent, but she was too damn independent at times…
"Bones? Bones?" he called out, as he began to hurry back the way he'd come. "Where the hell are you, Bones?"
"I'm right here, Booth," Bones said, her voice too low for Booth's taste.
"Don't do that, all right?" Booth said, walking around the small gathering of trees to where his partner was standing.
"What?" Bones asked, turning to look at him.
"Take off like that, OK?" Booth said. "You heard the guy."
"I saw this," Bones explained, indicating a strange, vaguely oval-shaped object, made of a disturbing combination of bone, wood, and something in the middle that he couldn't quite identify visually as either a piece of wood or a leaf, hanging on a tree branch above them. "It's some sort of talisman. These are bones from a bird and the colouring on that ornament looks like dried blood. There are more of them, too."
"Geez, they look like eyes," Booth said, his mind briefly attempting to compare them to something in his experience before discarding that effort as pointless; he just didn't know enough about witchcraft to know for sure if these were real or not.
"OK, this is weird…" he said, noting some of the other ornaments scattered around the trees before he looked back at Edison. "You see a lot of these?"
"Not me, but I've heard some other folks have come across some pretty strange stuff in here," Edison said. "Word is, it's Maggie Cinders."
"There's a woman who lives out here?" Bones asked.
"Did," Edison replied, his previous apprehension making it clear that they were talking about more than an old local recluse even before Edison continued his story. "Died in 1780. Folks around here thought she was a witch and beheaded her. Legend is, she still haunts the woods, looking for her severed head."
"And you believe this, Ranger Edison?" Bones asked, even as Booth quickly went over what he knew and remembered of witches; the scenario described wasn't impossible, but he was fairly sure ghosts didn't hang around looking for missing body-parts unless they were Egyptians who'd convinced themselves that they should remain…
"Look, I'm just telling you what I've heard," Edison said.
"Yeah, I'd prefer we keep moving, OK?" Booth said, wanting to get the conversation away from ghosts as they continued along the path for a few more minutes until he saw the distinctive yellow of crime scene tape in a more open area.
"This is one of the only clearings around here," Edison explained as he lifted the tape to allow them access. "The pit was covered with sticks and leaves. One of the hikers fell in on the body, freaked and ran. Maggie Cinders did say she'd kill anybody who dared to look for her."
"So you talked to Ms. Cinders?" Bones said, looking bluntly at Edison. "That must have been difficult since she doesn't have a head. Bag the eyes. Give me a hand."
"You want me to go down there with you?" Booth said, Bones advancing towards the central pit as he briefly noted the additional eye-talismans around this area.
"No," Bones said. "I don't want the remains compromised."
"Right," Booth said, glad for the excuse not to get in the hole- it was too grave-like for his tastes-, helping his partner in before he turned the conversation back to Edison. "So, how'd she kill them? You know, in the legend?"
"Like she was killed," Edison replied. "She cuts off their heads."
"Iliac crest and pubis show it's a male," Bones said, her voice giving Booth something else to focus on beyond unpleasant recollections of other ghosts as she searched over the body before her. "Epiphyseal fusion puts him between eighteen and twenty-five years old. He's on a- a video camera."
"OK," Booth said, filing the camera away as something to consider later. "Cause of death?"
"Well," Bones said, her torchlight examining the corners of the pit, "since I can't find a skull, I'd say… his head got cut off."
Great, Booth thought with a frustrated groan.
So much for an easy case; he was going to have to spend some time checking this over with his remaining magic-based 'tools' in secret just to make sure that there wasn't an actual ghost involved in this mess…
Sitting opposite Lori Mueller, Booth tried not to think too much about his past experience with this kind of institution; Drusilla was the most obvious example of someone who should have had better treatment, but then there were the likes of Sir Andrew Landry and other enemies of Angelus, driven mad because he found it more fun than just killing them…
"I checked back in because I couldn't sleep," Lori said, the young woman's long red hair framing an attractive yet haunted face. "I haven't slept for days."
"Thanks for meeting with me, Lori," Booth said, trying to sound warm without being too pushy.
"Sure," Lori said, smiling slightly at him. "There's not much else to do in here."
"Hey," he continued, trying to find the kindest way to phrase this, "do you mind if I ask you what happened that night in the woods?"
"I've told the police everything," Lori said. "But Graham is the only one that can make things right. He just got a little lost in there but when he gets back, he's going to make sure that I'm safe again."
"Graham," Booth said, his hopes for her condition already faltering; she was talking as though a guy who'd been missing for this long was still going to just show up. "He promised to take care of you?"
"Well, sure," Lori said, a slight smile on her face. "He's my boyfriend. He doesn't want anything to happen to me."
"Your boyfriend?" Booth repeated.
"We keep it a secret," Lori said, leaning over and whispering to him. "Other girls get jealous. Everyone loves Graham. Did… did you… go into the woods? Is that why you're here?"
"Yeah," Booth said.
"You found Graham?" Lori said, her expression becoming more urgent as she continued to speak. "He said he was going to talk to Maggie. Is that where you found him?"
"He wasn't with Maggie," Booth said, stuck for a better way to phrase this.
"Oh no," Lori said, her expression becoming increasingly horrified as she repeated her denial over and over, knowing what he was about to say without him needing to say it.
"Lori?" Booth said, looking anxiously at her. "Lori, calm down."
"She killed him!" Lori said.
"Lori," Booth said. "Lori, we need to know what happened."
"That's what happened!" Lori said.
"We need to know what happened to him," Booth said; maybe if he focused on the facts, he'd manage to get through Lori's mental state…
"Did she take his head?" Lori said, Booth's silence once again answering the question. "Oh God, no! The blood! I- I called for help, but Brian wasn't there!"
Even as an orderly hurried over to try and restrain Lori, she continued to scream about blood and call for help from Graham, leaving Booth helpless to do anything more than sit and look at her, regretting how circumstances had forced him to bring up such a horrific memory for a clearly traumatised girl…
Sometimes he forgot how far people could fall without the real supernatural involved.
"Lori was not Graham's only girlfriend," Bones said as she examined Graham's remains in one of the site rooms, speculatively discussing the recent information she'd found out from Graham's brother. "He had lots of girlfriends, but he somehow managed to keep them secret from each other."
"So what would happen if a very jealous Lori found out?" Booth said contemplatively.
"I don't know," Bones said as she continued to examine the bone in her hand. "That's more your territory."
"What?" Booth said, looking at her inquiringly. "What? What; am I cheating?"
"I just meant that you use psychology," Bones said, smiling as she looked up from her work at him. "You're very touchy. Perhaps because of all your skulking around…"
"I am discreet, OK?" Booth said. "It's different; a gentleman is discreet, OK?"
"What are we talking about?" Zack asked, looking bemusedly between the two of them.
"Nothing that concerns you," Booth said, glaring at the intern.
"But I'm quite literally in the middle of the conversation and it seems very interesting," Zack said, before Booth folded his arms and glared at the younger man. "However, your glaring indicates that I shouldn't press for further information."
"Good genius," Booth said, nodding at Zack before he looked back at Bones. "So, Lori loves Graham, thinks he loves her but finds out that he doesn't, so she goes all O.J. on him. Ah, that's a perfect cover, right? 'Headless witch did it, not me'. The whole insanity thing might be an act."
He didn't completely believe that assumption- he'd seen insanity, and Lori was definitely not fully corpus mentus-, but for the sake of his impartial investigator status, he had to at least consider it.
"But the victim sustained extensive defensive wounds," Zack said. "This was a very powerful attacker."
"Oh, you know," Booth suggested, trying to sound more casual than he really felt, "when a woman finds out that a man has been cheating on her, she can get pretty mad."
The attention he received from the two squints after that statement was more than he needed to realise how they had just interpreted what he'd said.
"That's what I heard," he said defensively; he'd never cheated on anyone as Angel, girls knew what they were getting into by sleeping with him when he was Liam, and Angelus had operated on a completely different set of social standards that didn't incorporate cheating as an issue. "OK, look, we got motive and opportunity; it fits."
"No, it doesn't fit," Bones said firmly. "Graham Hastings was 5' 10" and 176 pounds. Lori is 120, tops. The injuries aren't consistent with a woman Lori Mueller's size."
"Of course, "Cam said as she walked into the room, "people on PCP have been known to exhibit extraordinary strength."
"PCP?" Booth said, his mind flashing to the old Sunnydale PD excuse for vampire attacks before he pushed that aside; Cam and the rest of the team would not go in for 'Sunnydale Syndrome'. "Who was on PCP?"
"Hodgins' report on the organic matter from the baggy found at the scene showed that it contained psilocybe mushrooms injected with phencyclidine," Cam said.
"Whoa," Booth said; he couldn't recall the last time he'd encountered a PCP case that was actually a PCP case. "What a trip."
"Well," Zack said, "if Lori ingested those, it's possible she could've caused Graham's injuries."
"Not to mention," Cam pointed out, "combining dissociative anesthetics with hallucinogenic compounds can have a devastating effect on people with fragile brain chemistry."
"So her mental condition is probably genuine," Bones said.
"You know what," Booth said, taking the presented opportunity to end this particular discussion, "I'm going to go talk to my good old buddy Brian; see if he knows anything about the Magical Mystery Tour that Lori might've been on that night."
At least he had further evidence that he wasn't dealing with an actual supernatural crisis this time around; that just left the question of what he was dealing with here…
As he finished his phone conversation with the forensics team about where to look for the missing clothing, Booth only had to look in his partner's direction to be reminded of what he was trying to avoid.
God, relationships as a human were complicated…
"What?" he said, trying to act as though he didn't know what Bones was trying to prompt him into talking about. "He was being a baby."
"I didn't say anything," Bones said.
"But you're looking at me like…" Booth began, before he came up with the appropriate phrase for someone his physical age. "I'm in trouble and you're a teacher."
"You're very touchy lately, Booth," Bones said, looking at him with slight concern.
"Look, Bones," Booth said- they'd come to this point, so he might as well just go along with it-, "I don't know why I didn't tell you about Cam."
"Did I mention Cam?" Bones asked,
"I just… didn't want it to get weird, I guess," Booth said, feeling the inadequacy of that statement.
"Weird?" Bones repeated.
"We're partners, you know?" Booth said, feeling uncomfortable about this topic even as he tried to define what had eluded definition for him practically since he'd started working with her. "Together all the time, right? You're a woman and I'm a man and I never had a relationship like this where we were - like two guys, except you're not… ya know… a guy. Yeah."
It was a complicated way of saying it, but it was true enough; discounting his female associates as Angelus, his long-term history of friendly female acquaintances since he regained his soul consisted of brief conversations with Willow who was more Buffy's friend than his, a few dates with Nina, the complicated relationship with Buffy, his developing familial-then-romantic bond with Cordelia, his older-brother-esque relationship with Fred once she got over her initial crush, the not-quite-real relationship he'd had with Dawn (He remembered seeing her as a second Kathy before losing his soul and had tried to put things back together after returning from Hell, but he also knew that he'd technically never actually met her then)…
"No," Bones said, slightly bemused at his turn of phrase. "No, I'm not. Should I feel odd about… wanting to hang out with Will?"
"No, of course not," Booth said. "You know, because essentially… I mean… you're a guy like me. But not really."
God, he was starting to sound like Xander in the early days of the Scoobies; he was talking a load of crap because he had nothing more sophisticated coming to mind right now…
"That would mean that, to me, you are essentially a woman," Bones said, pausing to ponder that scenario. "Yeah, I can see that."
"No, no, no," Booth said, inwardly cursing this vivid demonstration of how his ramble had left him in more trouble, even if it was just ridiculous rather than emotionally dangerous. "I'd prefer not to be a woman, if you don't mind."
"I'm merely trying to follow your reasoning, Booth," Bones said.
"OK, fine, what do you say we just, you know, we'll drop it for now?" Booth said, unbelievably grateful when his phone rang with further news on the case; at least it gave him something else to talk about other than this increasingly embarrassing conversation…
Walking into the restaurant, Booth wished that Bones didn't look so happy when he saw her sitting opposite the man he'd come here to arrest; he might be confident that the evidence had led them to this point, but that didn't mean he wanted to hurt his partner after she'd found someone who made her feel that relaxed…
"Booth," Bones said, looking up at him with a smile that was evidently because of whatever she'd just been talking about. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry," Booth said, leaning over briefly to talk to her before focusing his attention on her date as he sat down at the table. "You're under arrest for the murder of your brother, Graham Hastings."
"What?" Will Hastings said.
"You have the right to remain silent," Booth continued.
"What is this, Booth?" Bones said, looking sharply at him.
"He did it," Booth said, looking directly at his partner to ensure that she understood how serious he was being in this situation. "Cam found his blood on the axe and Hodgins found chemicals that only a firefighter would have access to."
"I didn't kill Graham," Will said, even as Bones's horrified expression confirmed that she believed his story. "We fought, that's all."
"You were out there in the woods that night?" Bones said.
"Please don't look at me like that," Will said, holding up a defensive finger. "Please… I was just helping my brother. He said the film was going to make him famous."
"So you got the animal bones, the blood, and you made the chopping sound with the axe," Booth concluded; he could almost appreciate the guy wanting to help his brother if it wasn't for what happened afterwards.
"He wanted me to stay out of sight," Will said, Bones's eyes shimmering with unshed tears as she listened to the story. "But the girl, Lori, he slipped her drugs and she was screaming and I said I wasn't going to help anymore. And I said I wouldn't throw the blood on her, so he did it, and she went crazy and you saw her. Graham did that to her."
"Will…" Bones said, horror growing as she stared at him.
"I had to stop him, OK?" Will said. "I can't be responsible for raising a monster like that."
"So you hit him with the axe," Booth said, his sympathy for Hastings' plea virtually non-existent; he might have killed Penn for the same reason, but there was a difference between killing a demon who could never change and killing a screwed-up human being who might have been redeemable with the right kind of therapy whose only real 'crime' was getting caught up in his work…
"He was just lying there, and I was waiting for him to move," Will continued, a desperate edge to his voice. "And I've never… I never even hit him before, no matter how difficult he got."
"And then you chopped off his head and you buried him to make it look like some witch did it," Booth finished.
"No," Will said firmly, a fanatical gleam in his eyes at this part of his story. "She did it. She did it. Maggie Cinders was out there that night and she made me do it. She told me never to tell anybody. Maggie Cinders made me cut off his head. That's the only way it could happen. You know me. He was my brother. I could never kill my own brother. It was her."
The tears in Bones's eyes would have been all that Booth needed to confirm what he had to do, even if he hadn't known that the scenario described was impossible; ghostly possessions didn't work the way that Will was describing, and the ghosts definitely didn't leave messages like that afterwards.
"What are you waiting for, Booth?" she asked, standing up to leave as Booth moved to stand behind Will, reciting his usual speech about the victim's rights almost on automatic as the man continued to call after Bones while protesting his 'innocence'. He didn't know if the guy genuinely believed the crap he was sprouting about Maggie or if he'd just convinced himself of it to cope with his guilt, but the fact remained that the guy was mentally unstable and clearly needed to be put away for a long time.
As much as it hurt his partner, this had to be done if justice was to be served; he'd just have to talk to Bones about this relationship mess later…