"If I could have a moment with Dr. Brennan and Dr. Hodgins alone?" Caroline ushered Booth, Cam, Sweets and Angela out of the conference room at the Hoover, closing the door tightly behind them.
Outside in the bullpen, Angela looked at Booth curiously. "What do you think they're talking about in there? We all know what happened when they were buried by the Gravedigger, why can't we be there for them?"
Booth dragged his gaze away from the shuttered windows of the conference room where he had been trying to get a glimpse of what was happening inside. "I don't really know, Ang. Maybe Caroline thought it would be easier to go over the more…gruesome aspects of their ordeal without all of us there." Booth didn't really believe this, but none of the other options he considered made any more sense.
"But we were all there when it happened…well, except Sweets. What could they have to hide? We know everything." Cam was just as confused as the others.
Inside the conference room, Caroline Julian pulled two evidence bags out of one of the numerous boxes containing evidence for the Gravedigger trial littering the room. Each bag contained one sheet of dirty, crumpled paper. Brennan and Hodgins exchanged a look, both fully aware of what the papers were and what they meant.
"Listen, cheries….I know that this is difficult, but I also know that you two are scientists and can handle this in the context that it needs to be handled. But I wanted to offer you a deal." Caroline leveled her gaze directly at Brennan as she spoke.
Stomach rolling in fear, Brennan regarded Caroline dubiously. "What kind of deal, exactly?"
Hodgins stayed quiet and let the scene unfold. He already suspected what Caroline was going to offer.
"You both know what these letters,' She waved them in the air as she spoke, "contain. And we all know how personal these letters are. We also know that, as evidence, the defense had access to them." Taking another deep breath, Caroline decided that this was going to have to be like tearing off a band aid. "Ms. Taffett's attorney is going to insist that you both read these letters in open court in order to show that any evidence collected was done without objectivity and that you all might have manipulated said evidence in order to secure a conviction out of a sense of revenge."
"What?!?" Brennan was incensed. "We collected all evidence properly and within proper protocols!" She studiously avoided the personal nature of Caroline's statement and chose to focus on the implication that she, of all people, could not be objective.
"Dr. Brennan." Caroline sat down and stared at Brennan intently. "Your part of the case aside, we all know that encouraging Agent Booth's brother to steal a body from the FBI was anything but an objective act on your part."
"That's nonsense. I simply utilized the tools at my disposal. Getting Jared to appropriate Vega's body was the most rational course of action in order to find out where Booth was being held. Nothing more." Brennan huffed and crossed her arms in irritation.
"No offense, but that's bullshit, Dr. Brennan." Caroline was one of the few people on the planet who was not intimidated by the scientist.
"Please try to remember that I've read the letter you wrote to Agent Booth, Dr. Brennan. I can read between the lines." Caroline tried not to roll her eyes.
"I didn't write anything between the lines. It's all right there." Brennan pointed at the letter still enclosed in the plastic. "This is ridiculous!"
"Dr. B." Hodgins said softly.
"What, Hodgins? You approve of this kind of manipulation?" Brennan glared at her colleague, daring him to take Caroline's side.
"No. Of course I don't. But even you can see that because of how close each of us is to this case that challenging our objectiveness is the most rational course of action in order to defend the client." Hodgins waited for the inevitable Brennan Logic Storm that he was sure was headed his way. He was shocked when, after a moment of contemplation, Brennan spoke.
"You're right, Hodgins. I apologize, Caroline."
Brennan shook her head. "I may not like it, but that is how the justice system works. I accept your explanation, Dr. Hodgins."
Caroline stood again, picking up the letters and placing them in front of Brennan and Hodgins respectively. "Good. So, now here is my deal. Since these letters are so personal," She looked to Brennan, daring her to protest. When none came, she continued. "I suggest that you both speak to the people you addressed the letters to. Let them read them in private, so they don't have to hear all this in open court for the first time."
Brennan and Hodgins looked at each other, both wearing identical expressions of wariness. After a moment of silent communication, they agreed.
"I would like to accept that deal, Caroline. Thank you for your consideration." Brennan nodded at the prosecutor.
"Yeah, thanks Caroline. You didn't have to do this." Hodgins agreed.
"You're right, I didn't. But for some godforsaken reason I like you squints and I really like Booth, so anything I can do to ease this case for you I am more than willing to do." She almost smiled, and then moved to leave the room. "Should I send in Ms. Montenegro and Agent Booth, or do you need a few moments?"
Once again reaching a silent agreement, Hodgins answered for both of them. "No, send them in, please."
When Caroline exited the room, everyone stood and ganged up on her.
"What is going on?" Cam asked.
Booth grabbed Caroline's arm. "Is Bones okay?"
"How's Jack?" Angela looked like she was going to cry any second.
"Everyone, calm down! You people are completely overwhelming, sometimes!" Caroline shook her head in mock exasperation. "Ms. Montenegro, Agent Booth…your presence is requested in the conference room. Everyone else, please wait out here." With that, Caroline headed off to the pantry to grab a cup of coffee, leaving the group to stare after her.
Booth looked at Angela in confusion. "Do you know what this is about?"
"No, but I guess we're about to find out. Let's go, Booth." Angela opened the door and led him in.
When they entered the conference room, they found Hodgins sitting alone at one end of the large table, while Brennan sat at the opposite end, far away. They both looked up and indicated the seats next to them. Booth and Angela separated and took their seats, both knowing instinctively who to go to. Hodgins took the lead.
"Okay. I know you're both confused, but this is easy to explain." He took a deep breath and looked to Brennan, who nodded slightly. "When we were…um, underground in that car, we both wrote a…well, a goodbye letter. Saying the things that we wanted to say in case we didn't…in case, um. Well, anyway, apparently the defense counsel is going to read them in open court, and Dr. B and I decided to let you both read them in private first."
Shooting a confused look at each other, Booth and Angela turned to Brennan and Hodgins in anticipation, effectively cutting the other couple off and creating some privacy in the large room.
"Bones?" Booth placed his hand on Brennan's knee and indicated the letter still sitting untouched in front of her. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"I have to, Booth. Otherwise, you'll have to hear it in open court, and I do not wish for you to hear it that way. This is the most rational way to handle this…situation." Brennan continued to look down at where Booth's hand rested, not questioning the intimate contact, even drawing comfort from it. Pushing the letter towards him, Brennan nodded to Booth. "Please. Read it."
Booth picked up the plastic-covered letter, his heart in his throat. Flashes of the horror of that day flew through his mind….everyone standing on the edge of the quarry looking for any indication of their tomb, the puff of smoke that led Booth to run like a madman to find them, digging in the dirt like a man possessed, seeing her small hand reaching through that premature grave to clutch his…all of it swamped him like the remnants of a nightmare relived. Taking a deep breath, Booth began to read.