A/N: I know it has been a while since I penned a Bones story, but rest assured that this will not be the last. I have another one shot, written months ago, that I have never posted, and a short story started but not completed yet. However, I have a new rule where I don't like to post fics until they are finished. As for this particular tale, it's a general future fic. Everything you need to know will be provided for you as you read. Sorry that this is technically late. I wanted to have it up closer to the actual holiday it references, but, between other holiday pieces, I simply didn't have enough opportunities to write it. Also, for a one shot, it's long, so be prepared to be reading for a while. Other than that, enjoy, everyone, and I hope 2010 is off to a great start for all of you! ~Charlynn~
The Prize in the Baby
A One Shot
She didn't answer. Several minutes passed.
In a sing song voice, Booth tried to cajole, "Doctor Brennan."
Still, she didn't answer.
On his third attempt to capture her attention, he yelled, "Temperance." Booth never called her by her given name.
She didn't even blink.
"Tempe." She was so quiet, if one listened carefully enough, they might have been able to hear the digital numbers on the dashboard clock change. "Joy." Really, Booth was just ridiculous. If she wanted to answer him, she would have, no matter what he insisted upon calling her. "Rude woman sitting across from me." As she continued to ignore him, out of the corner of her eye, she could see his grip on the steering wheel becoming more and more tense and taut. Finally, he exploded, "Mrs. Booth!"
Calmly, Brennan stated, "that's not my name."
"It should be."
It was like she was spending time with Parker – all the grumbling, and whining, and pitiful attempts to monopolize her time and attention... only Parker was a child and, on him, those traits were adorable. On his father, though....
"How many times do I have to ask you not to call me Mrs. Booth? Even if we ever do get married..."
"Oh, we will, Bones," her partner assured her. "We will."
"Really, I see no reason whatsoever," she protested, "as to why we ever should, especially if you can't wait patiently for me to finish what I'm doing before you try to engage me in conversation. That's just rude, Booth."
"And so is ignoring your partner when he needs to tell you about your new case." Before she could reach out and grasp the much safer topic he had started for them, he cut her off by saying, "and the fact that you're pregnant with my kid does mean that we should get married."
"Ha, if you were so concerned about adhering to the sexually stifling, hypocritical Catholicism standards you were raised to believe in, then you wouldn't have had pre-marital intercourse me, hence I wouldn't be pregnant, and then we would not be having this conversation."
Pausing momentarily in thought, he finally posed, "so, what you're saying is that you think the only reason I want to marry you is because we're going to have a baby together?"
"Exactly," Brennan responded immediately only to frown, slam her laptop shut, and then glare at her partner. "No, that's not what I meant." Of course, it would have been too much to ask for Booth to ever see things her way. After so many years of working together, she should have known better than to think he might actually understand her position upon something. "What I'm saying is that you can't now insist upon me following the beliefs of your religion and consenting to marry you when you have been disregarding them yourself for so long."
"Because you're already having my child, we shouldn't get married," he questioned. Taking his eyes off the road, he glanced in her direction, smirking widely. "But, answer me this, Bones, what comes first: the chicken or the egg?"
"That has absolutely nothing to do with anything! You can't use a childish, evolutionary conundrum to..."
"To what," Booth challenged her, "make my point? I beg to differ. From where I'm sitting, you're arguing against the order of our relationship's progression based upon a set of ideals you don't believe in, so why can't I use your own principles – those of science – to counter?"
Frustrated, annoyed, and, as he kept reminding her... not that she could forget, very much pregnant, Brennan yelled, "because the chicken came first!"
"So, would you have married me if I'd asked you before you got pregnant?" Her silence was the only answer either of them needed. "Yeah, I didn't think so."
"This is pointless."
"I don't even know why we're fighting over this."
"Because you started it," she accused hotly.
"Really," he said dryly. "And just how exactly did I do that?"
"By calling me Mrs. Booth."
"Well, get used to it, Bones," her partner told her, "because, once we're married, and, I don't care what you say, someday we will be, that's what your name is going to be."
Brennan laughed. "If you think I'm going to change my name... I mean, you're more than welcome to become Mr. Temperance Brennan if the tradition is that important to you, but my name is too important to my career to change. Besides..."
"Look," Booth interrupted her, using his free hand to reach up and pinch the bridge of his nose in a valiant yet completely hopeless attempt to lesson his tension. "I only said it in an attempt to get you to listen to me. I wanted to know what you were working on."
"Oh," she responded, smiling. "I was just proofing my latest book."
"Doesn't your editor pay people to do that?"
"Probably," Brennan admitted, "but no one knows my characters, my writing, or forensic anthropology better than I do."
Booth chuckled. "I think they're mainly supposed to catch mistakes – you know, typos."
"Uh, but I don't make mistakes."
"No, of course you don't," he exclaimed, mocking himself. "What was I thinking? The great Doctor Temperance Brennan couldn't possibly be capable of accidentally hitting the wrong key!"
"There's no need to act so defensively, Booth," she informed him. Before he could comment, though, that time, Brennan took the initiative and steered them back towards safer territory. "Anyway, I've been really pressing myself to get the book done before the New Year. I just... with my work at the Jeffersonian, and with you, and with the baby coming, the last thing I needed to be worried about what finishing my new novel. While, under normal circumstances, I might be fully capable of excelling at three different jobs at once, I am eight months pregnant." Putting her laptop away in its case, she further explained, "it's just getting too hard to comfortably find a way to type."
"And after the baby's born?" She could tell that he wanted to say more, that he wanted to refute her claim that the only reason she was rushing her book was because it was difficult for her to reach the keys while she was writing, but she appreciated the fact that he, apparently, bit his tongue and held back.
"What do you mean? I won't have another book due for almost a year after the baby's born. You know my publishing schedule."
"No," Booth argued, "what I was thinking was that maybe you could cut back a little – you know, not do quite so much."
"Well, I can't stop my work at the Jeffersonian, because then I wouldn't be able to work with you, and, if we don't work together, we won't spend any time together that isn't centered around either the baby or having sex, and my book deal is simply too lucrative to give up. Besides, I don't want to stop doing any of my jobs. Why," Brennan asked. "Don't you think that I can handle three full time careers and motherhood?"
"So, this case...," Booth began, completely ignoring her question. While he might not be a genius like she was, her baby's father wasn't an idiot either, and he knew when he was in an impossible situation and needed to just walk away, figuratively speaking, of course, given their particular disagreement that morning.
Pulling up to what was obviously the crime scene, the maelstrom of flashing red and blue lights always giving away the fact that a dead body had been found nearby, Brennan climbed out of the SUV, observed her surroundings, and waited for Booth to approach her. He had yet to explain to her the few known facts pertaining to their current case, and she didn't want to approach the body until she was in possession of all the evidence, no matter how slight. As always, though, she didn't have to wait for long. He rounded the front of the vehicle quickly, slowing his jogging pace to a halt once he was standing next to her.
"A local snowplow driver found the body this morning," he said, nodding towards a man in civilian clothes perched against the side of the only non-federal authority vehicle parked along the one lane, country road. "When he called the local authorities, they immediately sent the case to us... well, because, you'll see."
Despite the cryptic nature of his remarks, Brennan questioned why she was there. If the case held some sort of importance that demanded the FBI be involved, that was one thing, but, based upon what she had heard so far, she had no business being there and had far too much to do back at the lab to waste her entire morning driving to and from the out of the way, rural crime scene. "Booth, if the body has been buried under the snow all this time, it should be well preserved. Perhaps Cam will be able to help you, but I..."
"This road is seldom used," her partner interrupted her. Nodding towards the horizon, he told her, "look around. There are no houses in sight, right? That's because this is a private access lane to a small group of very swanky summer homes. There's a main road that takes the residents to the front of their community, but this path here gives them a quick route to the lake, woods, and local fields in case they want to explore nature. Anyway, most of the time, the road's only used during the summer, but one of the owners wanted to come down here for New Year's, wanting to take hid kids sled riding and cross country skiing, so he paid the snowplow driver to clear the path for him. As far as we know, that body could have been out here since September."
Glaring at him, she complained, "I don't know why you couldn't have just told me that in the first place." Needing to see the body for herself, Brennan took a step forward only to pause, waver, and reach out to grab hold of Booth's arm in order to steady her suddenly unsure feet.
"Hey, you okay," he asked, concern flooding his words. "Do you need to sit down? Is this too much for you? I knew it was too much for you!" Chastising himself, Booth harshly swore. "You're eight months pregnant. You have no business being at a crime scene, let alone one as gruesome as this."
"I'm fine," she reassured him. "Just a touch of heartburn, that's all."
Though the momentary pain she had experienced was nothing like the heartburn she had been plagued with throughout her pregnancy, it was gone so fast that Brennan didn't want to pay it any more attention than was necessary. Whatever it was, she was sure that she was fine... like she said. After all, the doctor had done nothing but sing praises about how her pregnancy had been progressing since she had first discovered that she was with child, and there was no reason to suspect that anything had changed. If nothing else, Booth's concerns that she could no longer handle the sight of a dead body were ridiculous. Bones were her specialty. That wouldn't change just because she was one month away from giving birth.
Pulling out of his grasp, she immediately set to work. "First thing first, all the show within a one hundred yard radius of where the body was found needs to be loaded into dump trucks and taken back to The Jeffersonian. Once it melts, Hodgins can go through it. Also, have this entire lane sectioned off. I don't want anyone to have access to it. If we don't find anything with the first load of snow, we'll have to send the trucks back for more. The body wasn't always unrecognizable, and, whatever it was about it that gave it its identity is still here. We just need to find it."
Walking away from her partner, she was already aligning tasks out in her mind for everyone back at the lab. Despite the fact that it was New Year's Eve, she was going to need their full cooperation and attention focused upon the case. Usually, she wasn't one to mind working on a holiday. In fact, Brennan preferred it. However, despite the earliness of the day, she was already feeling exhausted, her body, no matter what she said, incapable of its former levels of productivity due to her pregnancy, and the last thing she wanted was to spend another late night at the lab. Whether her coworkers liked it or not, they were solving their latest case that afternoon. She would make sure of it.
& + &
By the time she performed her cursory examination of the body, gave instructions on how to load it, and then watched to make sure that the evidence wasn't compromised at all, Brennan had been completely drained and none too eager to remain at the crime scene while Booth questioned the snow plow driver and the authorities who had been the first on the scene. Her back had been sore – still was, and it took all her strength and energy to pretend otherwise. So, offering her partner the excuse that she wanted to get back to the lab and started as soon as possible, she had skipped out of the questioning she normally enjoyed and returned to the temporary haven of her office.
"Did you know that some people drink the urine of pregnant women in order to build up their immune systems?"
Hodgins snickered, Angela groaned, and Cam asked, "are you feeling ill, Mr. Nigel-Murray?" Before he could protest, she interrupted him, causing his voice to fall into nothing more than a dying squeak. "Because, to me, that sounded like a proposition."
"No one is drinking my..." Shaking her head, Brennan stopped herself from continuing. "Listen, it's New Year's Eve..."
"At least somebody around here is aware of the fact," Angela griped. "Why are we working again anyway? We're talking a national holiday here, people, which means we should have the day off."
"One that's not officially recognized," Hodgins argued. "Besides, why do you care? It's not like you're in a relationship or anything."
"It's because I'm single that tonight is so important."
All that was needed to stop their bickering was a discreet cough from Cam. Taking advantage of the momentary stretch of silence, Brennan started to issue orders. "The dump trucks of snow collected at the crime scene should be arriving shortly, Hodgins."
"Right," he agreed. "Melt, sift, examine. I'm on it."
As he left the room, she turned to her grad student of the week. "Mr. Nigel-Murray, I want you to begin sorting through the remaining body pieces. Determine what's there and what's still missing, and, while you're cataloging, I need you to also keep an eye out for any injuries."
"I should help with that," Cam said. "From what I saw of the body when it was delivered, there are still some pieces of flesh and tissue present. Perhaps I'll be able to find something we can use to identify either the corpse's identity or his cause of death."
"Good." Standing, she went to reach for her phone, intent upon calling Booth to see where he was and how quickly he would be returning to the lab. Though she had been too tired to assist him with his questioning, she was still curious as to what he found out - if anything - and what his next step in the investigation would be. For now, her people were handling their end.
"Uh, sweetie," Angela's voice stopped her. Glancing up, she realized that she had forgotten her best friend. "What exactly do you want me to do? There's nothing for me to work with yet, so I can't construct a face, and we don't even know how the man was killed, so I can't work on reconstructing the crime to fit the injuries."
"Sorry, Ang. I guess I'm a little distracted."
Without needing further explanation, the artist winked. "I think we can let it slide just this once.
"Anyway, I do have something for you to work on. I need you to study the impact of the snow plow on the body," she informed her. "I sent pictures of it to your email, so you can determine the make, model, and size. We're going to need to know what injuries were possibly caused postmortem this morning. Take into account the recent weather patterns, so you can calibrate how frozen the remaining body parts were, the amount of snow cushioning the body, and the fact that, from my initial examination, I believe the date of death to be somewhere near the first week of... Oct..."
Grimacing, her words fell away, and, as the sound of liquid sloshing against the floor filled the room, her gaze immediately swept to her feet. Angela was the first to remark. "Oh, that's not good."
"So, hey, sorry I'm late." Adding sarcasm to his voice, Sweets explained, "Booth said that he accidentally forgot to tell me that you guys got assigned a new case this morning. What do you need me to..." His words trailed off as he, too, looked to the floor. "Doctor Brennan, why are you standing in a puddle?"
"You idiot," Angela yelled. "Her water just broke."
She wanted to protest, she wanted to scream and deny the fact, but, before she could, Cam and Mr. Nigel-Murray, followed closely behind by Hodgins, ran into the room, joining the fray. While her grad student seemed to be biting his lip near the point of causing injury in order to prevent himself from saying something inappropriate, Cam just stared in horror at Brennan's rug. It was Hodgins who spoke first. "Did you just say that Dr. Brennan's in labor?" Strolling into her office, he was cool and calm, smirking in fact.
Reaching out to hold the edge of her desk, she met the wide range of expressions before her one at a time before finally saying, "it's just heartburn." There was no way she was going to have her baby that day. She was only eight months pregnant, and, more importantly, she had a case to solve.
"And the puddle...," Sweets wanted to know.
Glaring at the psychologist, she hissed, "false alarm."
Cam was the one who approached her first. "Just in case you're wrong, though, I think we should call the hospital." She reached for the phone, but Brennan did as well, hoping to grab it before the other woman could. For several moments, they struggled over the device with, eventually, Cam winning. As she dialed, she soothed, "I know you're worried about the case, but we can still keep working from here." Glancing in Sweet's direction, she said, "and Doctor Sweets can perform any questioning necessary for Booth."
"What? Why's that," said FBI agent inquired, stepping into the room. "I can handle..."
"Watch where you walk," Hodgins warned him. "There's amniotic fluid all over this place. Your baby mama over there's in labor."
"I'm fine," Brennan bit out. Still unable to let go of her desk, she watched as Cam walked away, still talking on the phone, and as all thoughts of the case vanished entirely from Booth's mind. She could see his attention become completely riveted upon her. "Look, labor can last a long time."
Shouting as if he were about to burst, Mr. Nigel-Murray stated, "although there is no official record of the longest birth in history, women have been known to be in labor for as long as three weeks."
"Helpful," Angela snapped. "Can't you see that she's already freaking out? She doesn't need you scaring her even more."
"I'm not scared," Brennan argued, "just realistic. I know that there is no reason to panic. Yes, alright fine, so my water broke, but my contractions are still, at least, twenty minutes apart."
Narrowing his gaze in her direction, her partner challenged, "I thought you said that was just heartburn."
"So I was wrong, excuse me. You know, in case you've forgotten, I've never actually given birth before." He was about to interject a point, probably about how he had been through the experience with Rebecca and Parker or how, given her same reasoning, there was no way for her to know that she didn't need to be in the hospital, but she stopped him, holding up a single index finger in protest. "However, that does not mean that I don't know my body, nor does it mean that we can just ignore this case. So, this is what we're going to do. I will agree to go to the hospital, but you, Booth, are going to continue on with the investigation. Sweets can help. When... if I get closer to giving birth, I will call you. Also, you're all going to have to help by both calling the hospital to keep me updated and by bringing over the case's pertinent evidence. Because I won't be here, though, I think we should call in another grad student to pick up the slack."
"Well, we know that Clark's not an option due to his aversion to anything related to our personal lives," Cam stated as she hung up the phone. "The ambulance should be here within thirty minutes," she added.
Hodgins smirked, sneaking a glance in Angela's direction. "And the whole idea of an inner-office romance producing a child might be too close for comfort for Wendell."
"What about Daisy," Sweets suggested brightly. "You know she'd love to help out, and, seeing as how she is a girl..."
"No!" The resounding answer, yelled by everyone other than the psychologist, immediately silenced the suggestion.
"Call in Fisher," Hodgins recommended. "Maybe witnessing the joy of new life first hand will be a reaffirming moment for him, start his New Year off with something happy and hopeful." Shrugging, he also said, "plus, if nothing else, it might scare him into being less of a manwhore."
"Alright, so it's settled then," Cam announced. "Why don't you sit down and relax until the ambulance gets here, Doctor Brennan. In the meantime, everybody else should get back to work, and I'll go and call Mr. Fisher."
She and Sweets were the first to leave, followed by Hodgins. As Angela and, of course, Booth stayed, Mr. Nigel-Murrary hovered in the doorway, something obviously on his mind. "By chance, Doctor Brennan, you aren't particularly attached to yams, are you?"
"No." She was afraid to ask why.
"Oh, good, that's a relief," the grad student stated, sighing. "It's just... seeing how big you are, despite the fact that I've been told you're only eight months along..." It was Angela clearing her throat which made him backtrack. "Not that you don't look extremely lovely, mind you, but I was just concerned that you might be carrying twins. You see, it has been documented that Nigeria has the highest twinning rate in the world – nearly 4.5%, and some experts attribute this statistic to the large number of yams consumed by Nigerian women. Anyway," he nodded, already walking out of her office. "I should... the body's not going to examine itself, right?" And, with a slight chuckle, he was finally gone.
Silence, at last, greeted her, but it didn't last for long. "Booth, go." When he went to protest, she continued, "go flirt with Caroline until she agrees to get you a search warrant."
"I don't know," Brennan replied. "Whatever you need one for."
"Bones, we don't even have the victim's identity yet."
"But we will," she stated.
Pouting, Booth protested, "why doesn't Angela have to leave?"
"Because she's going to help me change before the ambulance gets here, so, unless you want to deal with my amniotic fluid..."
"Uh, yeah, I'll just... Caroline, and Sweets, and... Keep me posted."
The soft chimes of Angela's laughter further chased him out the door. "It doesn't matter that he's partially responsible for your amniotic fluid. One mention by a woman of something that came from inside her body, and a man always runs off." Shaking away her humorous thoughts, Brennan's best friend asked, "do you have any spare clothes here, or do you need me to run back to your place and get some?"
Finally moving away from her desk, she said, "oh, I've had a hospital bag packed and ready here since I started my third trimester." Lowering her voice, she whispered, "what I actually wanted to talk to you about was the case." As Angela went to complain, she beat her to punch and continued talking. "I know you guys, especially Booth, are going to try to keep me from working, but I need the distraction. Work keeps me calm. Plus, if nothing else, I won't be able to focus on anything else until I know we've solved this murder."
"So, basically, you're saying that your health and the health of your unborn child relies upon us keeping you firmly in the loop." Shaking her head in disapproval, Angela said, "oh, you're good, Bren. You're really good."
"I know." Smiling confidently, smugly, she went into the small bathroom off her office and changed.
& + &
"Did you know that the first known contraceptive was crocodile dung, used by the Egyptians in 2000 B.C.?"
Without looking up from her, so far, rather scant notes, Brennan said, "hello, Mr. Nigel-Murray, and come in."
"Sorry about the random fact," the grad student apologized. "Doctor Saroyan has been attempting – and obviously failing – to impress upon me the importance of only informing others that I work with of the facts pertinent to the case at hand, but I find that trivia relaxes me, helps me to think."
Despite her best intentions, she couldn't dislike the younger man simply because of his odd habit. Though she would have liked to blame her leniency upon the stirred hormones of her pregnancy, Brennan knew it was her innate thirst for knowledge that tolerated the random bursts of inane information. Granted, at times, what he said could be distracting and even quite disturbing, but....
"And, as it happens with this situation, I find myself constantly aware of your pregnant state which makes me recall anything I know about human reproduction. I must admit that, when I first learned of your impending motherhood, I was rather shocked, but then I remembered Agent Booth's rather arcane belief system, and I found myself wondering if, perhaps, he prefers similarly outdated forms of birth control, hence the crocodile dung factoid."
"No," she surprised herself in answering. "Booth has no problem with the concept of using condoms; he just sometimes fails in the actual execution."
"Aw, I see," Mr. Nigel-Murray stated, nodding his head in understanding. "Anyway, I'm sure you're curious as to what brings me to your bedside."
"I must admit that I am rather desperate for some information. From where we are at now, this man could be anybody who died from anything... even, oddly enough given his corpse's location, natural causes."
"Not any longer," the grad student revealed. "Due to the sheer amount of injuries I've located upon the remains – the number of fractures and contusions and the fact that he was found on a road, I believe the deceased was struck at high speeds by an oncoming vehicle."
"Are you sure that the fractures weren't caused by the snow plow?"
"Yes, Miss Montenegro has determined that the body was too cushioned and too frozen to have been impacted by this morning's disruption of the crime scene."
"Very good," she complimented. "What about the size of the vehicle necessary to cause such damage upon the body?"
"I cannot determine that conclusively without taking into consideration the speed in which the vehicle was moving. However," the younger man brightened considerably. "I can inform you that the deceased was a Caucasian male of 55 to 60 years of age, five foot, eleven inches tall, and approximately 200 pounds."
"So, he was a large man."
"Yes, and that should aid us in determining the size and traveling speed of the vehicle. Speaking of size," Mr. Nigel-Murray prefaced. "Did you know that the largest baby ever born weighed twenty-three pounds, twelve ounces?"
"No, but, if nothing else, you just convinced me that my decision to have an epidural was the correct one."
The grad student bowed slightly, jokingly. "I'm pleased to be of surface, Doctor Brennan."
Clearing her throat to dismiss the slight levity of the moment, she asked, "have you determined anything else about our victim?"
"Actually, I have." With a pleased grin, he admitted, "from the stress and wear of the bones, I've determined that, whoever this man was, he sat for prolonged periods of time. He was not very active. Based upon his size and age, we can safely assume this might have been because of his job. Also, there were several fragments of teeth brought in with the bones, and I've given these to Angela in the hopes that she will be able to somewhat assemble them and use dental records to identify the victim."
For the first time in hours, Brennan smiled. "That was actually more than I had hoped for at this point, Mr. Nigel-Murray, given the amount of time you've had to work. Excellent job." The pleasure quickly vanished, though, as she was hit with her first contraction since the younger man arrived. Fisting the sheets laying upon her lap and clenching her jaw, she struggled through the pain, never once moaning, panting, or losing her control.
As she labored through the contraction, though, she could hear him saying, "during pregnancy, the average woman's uterus expands up to 500 times in normal size."
When the last vestiges of discomfort disappeared, she taunted, "that's why kegel exercises were invented, Mr. Nigel-Murray."
Without another word, her grad student ran away, his face still coloring in embarrassment as he fled out her hospital room door.
& + &
"The road where this guy was found has to be the most boring road in America."
Frowning at Hodgin's statement, Brennan turned towards the door to see the bugs and slime expert entering with the largest balloon and flower arrangement she had ever seen. "Are you trying to soften the fact that you have no relevant information for me with a ridiculous bribe?"
"Who said I didn't find anything," he countered. "All I meant was that even June Cleaver wouldn't have been able to find fault with this one lane path. After all that snow melted down, there were only two pieces of litter: a wrapper for sugar free, teeth whitening gum and a small section of the New York times dated back about eight years. No beer cans, no cigarette butts, no used condoms. It was despicable. What the hell is happening to America's youth today?"
"The road isn't used much," she told him in an attempt to sooth.
"Yeah, well, I guarantee you that Robert Frost traveled seedier paths than this one."
Folding her hands in her lap, Brennan attempted to get him back on track. "Instead of focusing upon what you didn't find, why don't you tell me what you did."
"Sure," Hodgins agreed, shrugging. "There was a partial school ID/security key pass from the area's local high school, but, of course, the part where there was once an image was gone. I gave it to Angela, and she went through the town's missing people records, but nobody matched. Hell, there wasn't anybody even reported missing within the last three years. Then she went and checked with the school's records to see if there were any suspicious firings or if a disgruntled employ had quit recently. Again, she came up with bupkis."
"That's a start, though, especially if our victim worked at the school. The important thing, at this point, is to identify who this man is. Has Angela gotten any further with using the fragments of teeth Mr. Nigel-Murray found?"
"No," he admitted, wincing slightly. "We've all been sort of demanding of her time this afternoon, but, when I left, she was getting started on them."
"Alright, did you find anything else?"
"I found some crushed stainless steel particles, some larger than others, and, because of how common the metal is, I wouldn't have been able to narrow it down any further, especially since there weren't any particulates left on it thanks to the snow it had been buried under, but then I recognized one of the larger pieces." Smiling smugly, Hodgins revealed, "it was from a Jaguar car hood emblem, probably a large model sedan. Because we've determined that the cause of death was vehicular, I'm thinking that the emblem was knocked off during the accident then run over, either accidentally or on purpose if the driver realized what had happened before fleeing the scene. So, that's another thing Ang is working on. She's running a search to see if anybody in the area purchased and had a Jaguar car hood emblem shipped to them.
"As for the clothes still stuck to some of the bones," he sighed, crossing his ams over his chest and leaning against the wall. "They weren't too helpful. I found slight traces of ink, cleaning solvents, wood varnish, leather, chalk, and laundry detergent, all of which fit with our knowledge, so far, of who this guy was."
For several moments, Brennan remained quiet while she thought over the information brought and presented to her. "Instead of looking into the suspicious, focus on what could easily be overlooked. If no one has been reported missing in the area, and there hasn't been any investigation so far about this man's death, that means that no one probably suspects that anything is wrong with him. Have someone check to see if there were any recent retirements at the high school. If the community thought that this man simply decided to enjoy his retirement, say by going on a lengthy vacation or even moving away, they might not even realize anything has happened to him."
Offering her a cheeky salute, Hodgins said, "will do. In the meantime, if you get bored...." He hooked his thumb over his shoulder towards the embarrassingly obscene arrangement. "Open up the balloons and suck on the helium for a while. I'm sure baby Jack would appreciate hearing his mother sounding like a chipmunk."
"We're not naming the baby after you," she yelled down the hallway towards his retreating form.
"But I'm king of the lab," he protested, chuckling.
As a contraction ripped through her body, hardening her distended stomach, Brennan blamed the pain upon the bugs and slime expert, knowing it was her child's way of protesting Hodgins' suggestion and joy at their expense.
& + &
By the time Angela arrived nearly an hour and half later, her labor was steadily progressing – the contractions narrowing in time and allowing her only eleven instead of nearly twenty minutes of relief between bouts of tension, and the sun was beginning to set on the last day of the year. Immediately, she felt relief wash over her as her best friend pressed a cool, damp washcloth against her sweaty, glistening brow.
As if knowing she needed something to distract her – just as she had warned the artist she would, Angela started discussing the case with her. "I gave up on the teeth. The pieces were too jagged, and they didn't seem to fit together at all, but, with the information Hodgins found and the suggestion you gave him, I'm pretty sure we've identified your victim."
"Really," she questioned, already her mood improving.
"Yeah, I think it's the former high school principal. His name was Mitchell Shaker. The town and school loved him. He was good with the kids, but, at the same time, knew how to be a leader and not just their friend. The school's ranked one of the best in the state, and the whole community accredits the distinction to Shaker. When he, all of a sudden, decided to retire this past fall, they were devastated but understanding. Although he wasn't particularly revealing about it, a few of the parents seemed to know that he'd been having some health issues recently – arthritis, high blood pressure, cholesterol, so, after word spread, everyone just assumed he was forced to quit because of medical reasons. When they found out that he and his family had left town, they were happy for him, hopeful that he'd find someplace warmer for his arthritis, someplace more relaxing."
"You mentioned a family," Brennan prompted.
Sighing, Angela answered, "he was married. His wife, Pauline, was ten years younger than he was, only 47 to his 57. Before they married, she was a science teacher at the school. From what I've been able to read about them online, she was well liked as well. Quieter than her husband, not as outgoing, but she still did everything a popular principal's wife would be expected to do. She organized bake sales, raised money for boosters, participated in several community organizations. She was also extremely involved in their only child's life – a daughter, Kiley, who, just last May, graduated from the same school where her father worked. She, too, was favored by the community. She was smart, talented, a soccer star. Everyone expected her to do great things in college."
Narrowing her gaze suspiciously towards her best friend, she asked, "what aren't you telling me? I can hear the disgust in your voice."
"Well, it's just... there are three options here. One, the family's dead somewhere, too, and we just haven't found them yet. Two, they're cold blooded killers who got rid of their husband and father, respectively, or the final option, and I don't like this any better either, but maybe this guy wasn't as nice as everyone thought, and they took matters into their own hands, because, let's face it, Brennan, if this guy has been gone since October, his family, unless they, too, are dead, would know about it and would have reported him missing."
Despite the fact that she knew Angela had a point, she still felt the need to remain as object and rational as possible. So far, there was not a single shred of concrete, physical evidence that pointed to the family being involved. So, instead of agreeing with her, Brennan argued, "there are a lot of other options. First of all, just one of the victim's family members might have been involved, and the other is either unaware or too scared to go forward. Plus, what if he lied to them and said that he needed to leave town for a while, or maybe he and his wife were separated without the town even knowing. Yes," she conceded, "what you have discovered is helpful, but we cannot jump to conclusions. However, I would think it wise to inform Booth so that he can locate and question both Pauline and Kiley Shaker. Also, you should have him check into whoever replaced Mr. Shaker as principal."
"Will do," Angela responded, standing from her chair. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you?"
"I'm fine." At her best friend's dubious look, she clarified, "well, I'm as fine as I can be givin the situation. I just want to solve this case as soon as possible, so, once the baby is born, I don't have to worry about work for a few days."
"Make a few weeks, and you'll have yourself a deal."
Although she rolled her eyes at the artist's insistence, she nodded her head in concession anyway, and, as a response, Angela slipped out of the door, allowing her to prepare for her next contraction in peace, quiet, and privacy.
& + &
"So, get this," Sweets started by way of introduction. "The mother and daughter both check out, and the new principal was an out of town hire without any former connections to the deceased."
Watching as he took a seat and wondering where Booth was, for it was surprising that he allowed his first chance to check up on her to slide to someone else, Brennan dismissed her own thoughts and, instead, refocused upon the case. "The Shaker women have alibis then?"
"It's deeper than that," the psychologist revealed. "After the daughter graduated from high school, she left early for college. She got an apartment off campus, started training for soccer for in the fall, and, a month later, her mom moved in with her. According to the both of them, the Shakers' marriage wasn't a happy one, but they stayed together for their daughter, for his career, and agreed to slowly start the separation process this fall. If she would shoulder the majority of the blame, he was willing to, essentially, quietly pay her off. However, once she got out from underneath his thumb, she got another job teaching and didn't really care whether or not she got her alimony payments, so she didn't go back as planned. Neither of them knew that he'd been missing, and, when the checks stopped coming, Mrs. Shaker assumed he was exactly his revenge for not living up to her end of the bargain."
Needing more information, she asked, "what exactly did they say made the marriage so miserable?"
"Their age difference, the daughter said, was a big part of the problem, and the second part was her father's ambitions."
Now, that was interesting. Sitting up in bed as much as she could, Brennan leaned towards the younger man only to fall back immediately when she was wracked with a contraction. As the late afternoon had bled into night, her labor had steadily increased as well. Her contractions were now coming only seven minutes apart. Breathing through the discomfort, she posed, "what ambitions? This is the first we've heard of something like that."
"Well, it seems that the victim had hopes of a political career. Everything he's done for the last twenty years has been geared towards eventually running for office. That's why he got married, that's why he insisted upon having at least one child, and that's why he tried to be everybody's best friend. His retirement, according to his wife, was staged... along with his supposed health complaints. Booth and I looked into those, too, and she was right. Despite his size, Mitchell Shaker was perfectly healthy."
"So, the arthritis and the heart disease were meant to garner him sympathy?"
"I guess," Sweets answered, "especially when coupled with the fact that his plan was to say that his wife left him for a younger, more physically fit man."
Absorbing everything he had to say, she wondered, "what about any extra-marital relations on the husband's part?"
"His wife claimed that he was loyal to her, if for no other reason than he feared discovery, but the daughter didn't seem as trusting. She seemed to believe that her father was capable of just about anything as long as he felt he benefited from the risk." Opening the file folder he was holding, the psychologist removed several grainy security photos. "These we took from the Shakers' apartment building's security cameras. It shows them both coming and going from the apartment during your estimated window of time for the murder." She flipped through the stack of photos, clearly seeing the date and time listed to cover the entire first week of October. "Even if we're wrong on the time of death, there are more where those came from to go either back further or ahead. Oh, also," Sweets added, removing another stack of information, that time a copy of divorce paperwork. "Mrs. Shaker filed for divorce at the end of August. There's no record of the victim ever being served papers. According to the attorney, the deceased was a very difficult man to locate. If she had plans to kill him, why spend the money on filing for divorce?"
Needing one last piece of information, Brennan asked, "what about their cars? What do they both drive?"
"They share the daughter's graduation gift – a brand new Prius. Putting aside Hodgins' discovery of the Jaguar emblem, given the conditions of the road on which the body was discovered, it's highly unlikely that a car as light as a Prius would have been able to reach the speeds necessary to pulverize such a large body. Plus, we looked it over anyway, and it still has the original bodywork and paint job."
Quirking a brow, she teased, "you and Booth discovered that, huh?"
"Okay, so maybe he had to take the ropes on that part of the investigation," the younger man admitted. Distracting her from her amusement, he continued, "we also questioned Mrs. Shaker about any of the vehicles she may have had access to that her husband owned. She said, knowing the deceased, he probably would have changed the locks anyway, but, even if he hadn't, Mr. shaker didn't own a Jaguar. He personally drove a Cadillac, and she, when they were still together, drove a Chrysler Pacifica. Again, though, Booth's going to have them looked at... if they're still in the Shakers' garage... to see if there are any signs of recent auto work, considering both would be big enough to have killed the victim.
"However," and, with that one word, she could hear the smugness appearing in Sweet's voice. "Remember how I told you Mitchell Shaker had political aspirations, you'll never guess what kind of car the current Representative from their district drives. That's right – a Jaguar."
"So, that's why you're here," she finally realized. "Booth went to see the U.S. Representative."
"Yes, he did," the psychologist confirmed. "And this same Representative also just so happens to be the very same person who requested the little one way path to be plowed this morning. I'd hate to say it, Doctor Brennan," Sweet remarked, standing up and getting ready to leave, "and I know this is usually Hodgins' area of expertise, but this case is looking more and more like a government conspiracy."
"Or a really good set up," she said. "It all just seems too easy, and I'm going to go ahead and say that the Representative's car has probably had a new emblem put on during the last few months, and, knowing a few politicians myself, he probably won't have an alibi. He'll say that he was working late every night that week, but, when it comes right down to it, it won't be him."
"You think he's our red herring," the younger man inquired.
Without answering him, Brennan offered her own question. "What's the daughter studying in college, Sweets?"
"Uh, I don't know. It never came up," he responded, immediately moving to flip through the suspects file he was carrying around. After several moments, he looked up, shock clearly expressed upon his face. "Computers."
"I'd tell Booth to go and check through the Shakers' credit card statements, see if either Pauline or Kiley charged a rental car back during the first week of October."
As he left her room, Sweet's admiration was clearly expressed upon his youthful face, but her satisfaction was short lived, for she was quickly thrown into the grips of yet another contraction, one that, if she didn't know better, felt so much worse than the last one.
& + &
"Knock, knock," Cam announced as she stepped through Brennan's doorway. It had only been thirty minutes since Sweets had left, but, obviously, they had some new information. As the other woman took the very same seat that others had filled and then vacated earlier in the day, she smiled and asked, "first thing first, how are you doing? Other than the obvious, of course, because, despite the fact that I've never given birth, as a woman, I can, at least, sympathize."
"It wasn't too pleasant before, but I just received my epidural, so things are much better now."
Doctor Saroyan laughed, nodding her head in understanding. Good," she remarked. "Anyway, as to why I'm here, I just got off the phone with Booth. He's had his people working just as much as we have been, and they've discovered a few things he thought you might want to know. As you predicted, the Representative's car did recently need a new emblem. According to the Representative himself, he left a party one night and discovered that the emblem had been removed from the hood of his car. Also, again, as you said, his only alibi was that he was working late at the office every night during the first week of October. However, what's truly interesting is that one of Booth's assistants found a rental agency a few hours south of here, approximately half way in between where Mr. Shaker's body was found and where his daughter and wife now live, that had a luxury Jaguar returned heavily damaged and with its front emblem missing on October 3rd of last year. When the credit card receipts were traced, it came back that the card had belonged to an elderly woman from South Dakota, someone with absolutely no connection to the deceased. She also filed credit card fraud on that very same card a month later when she received her statement."
"What about the Shakers' own vehicles?"
"Booth said to tell you that they were clean," Cam informed her. "Also, as soon as he left here, Sweets called Angela and asked her to check the security footage from the Shaker women's apartment building. Before, when we were fairly certain that they weren't the culprits, we assumed it was accurate. Besides, from watching it, Angela couldn't pick up on anything that looked doctored, but then she went back and took a closer look and realized that the shadows didn't fit with the time stamp. The entire tape had been made from scratch; they didn't just loop in a different feed."
"While it's probably safe to think that it was the daughter who replaced the security footage and who perpetrated the credit card fraud, we still don't know who was behind the wheel of the car," Brennan said. "Is anybody..."
"Mr. Nigel-Murray, accompanied by several FBI techs, is on his way now as we speak to the rental car agency in order to run tests upon the inside of the vehicle. Despite the fact that it has since been fixed and, undoubtedly, cleaned numerous times, we're hoping for some DNA evidence that either of the Shaker women used it. I wanted to send Hodgins, felt he was better suited for such work, especially since he's always so eager to assist with field assignments, but he insisted that he remain here for when the baby is born later."
"You're all going to spend the night waiting outside my delivery room, aren't you?"
"Mr. Fisher is supplying the entertainment, Angela is handling party hats and decorations, I'm responsible for food, and Hodgins is sneaking us in some champagne from his own private collection."
"You do realize that I've had nothing to eat or drink but ice chips since this morning, right?"
Standing, Cam was quick to hold her hands out in defense, backing away from Brennan instead of turning to flee. She waited until the other woman was out of the room before smirking. Her irritated words had been nothing more than a smoke screen. After all, she had drugs. What was a little champagne and chips and dip when one had an epidural instead?
& + &
She was nine centimeters dilated, Booth still hadn't arrived at the hospital which, granted, was her own fault considering she had been the one to insist he work for as long as possible, but, given the current state of her pain – the epidural no longer seemed as magical and wonderful, she wasn't entirely charitable towards the father of her baby. Add to that the fact that she just knew they were still missing one key piece of information, and Brennan was in a slightly foul mood.
"Forget everything we already know about this case," Mr. Fisher yelled, running into her hospital room, entirely out of breath. "Throw it all out the window... just like my ex-girlfriend did with all of my stuff when she broke up with me without any warning whatsoever."
Beetling her brow in concentration, she inquired, "what do you mean? What have you discovered?"
"The angles of the injuries do not match with that of a man standing up. No matter how I figure it, whether he was walking along the edge and was clipped, thrown in the air, and then run over, walking down the center of the road and hit square on, or even dropped from the sky, which, albeit, would be slightly far fetched, the evidence doesn't fit with our explanation of the crime. His body had to have been nearly perpendicular in the air with the car when it struck him or flat on the ground and then kicked back up to land, again, perpendicular against the grill of the car." Triumphantly, the grad student summarized his findings. "I believe he was probably unconscious when struck, because, let's face it, a guy that ambitious and intelligent would not have been taking a nap in the middle of a dirt path, no matter how infrequent the road might be traveled."
"Drugged," she questioned.
"Probably, considering that I didn't find any blunt force trauma to the portions of the skull we recovered. Granted, we're missing several centimeters of cranial bone, but both Shaker women are petite, one could say even short, and, in order to render the victim unconscious long enough to transport him to another location so they could lay him onto the road and then run over his body, it's highly unlikely they would have been able to strike him with anything to cause such damage. Unfortunately, though, we didn't have enough of the tissue to test for possible poisons, so, at this point, it's all conjecture."
Before she could comment, the younger man was already turning to leave, and she found it odd that he seemed so uncomfortable being near her. Yes, she was in labor, but Fisher was anything but shy, often even going so far as to brag about his sexual conquests and complain about his disastrous relationships. She had no doubt that he had narrowly dodged becoming a parent several times already at that point in time.
Perhaps it was the drugs or maybe she was just bored, but Brennan found herself asking, "is everything alright, Mr. Fisher?"
"Yes, I just find the entire idea of childbirth to be even more cruel and vicious than the rest of life's journey, especially for a man. Think about it," he posed. "For nine months, a male child exists happily in a woman's uterus. Sure, it's his mothers, but does he know that then? I highly doubt so. And, while it's no wonder that so many male children grow up to have Oedipus complexes, it's still disgusting to consider how such a happy being is thrust so painfully, so maliciously into the harsh, violent world we live in. I luckily survived such treatment once in my life already. I have no intentions upon witnessing it a second time."
"So, then, why come back here later with everyone else to celebrate New Year's Eve?"
"Do you know nothing about me yet, Doctor Brennan," the grad student questioned. "Four words for you: lonely, independent, hot nurses."
And to think that Hodgins thought the other man would find the birth of her child to be uplifting, hopeful. It looked like someone better prepare to abdicate the lab's throne of glory. In her estimation, Hodgins was no longer King of the Lab.
& + &
Rubbing his hands together, her doctor then reached for a pair of gloves before sitting down in the stool positioned directly in front of the sheet draped over her spread and lifted legs. "Alright," he announced perkily. "Let's see what we have here."
She had just been wheeled into labor and delivery. Booth had arrived just shy of eleven o'clock, only sitting by her side for a few minutes before the nurses decided it was time for her to see the doctor. And, now, without asking how she was doing or how she was feeling, her OB-GYN was examining her as casually as if he was about to play a round of golf or read his favorite book. His chipper demeanor was unnerving, and the fact that she was unnerved set Brennan's already prickly disposition into overdrive.
"Oh, yes," he informed her. "The baby's definitely crowning."
Like she couldn't have told him that.
While he was late for the action, hour by hour, minutes by minute, she had been forced to remain in bed while her son or daughter oh so slowly made their way into the birth canal, taking their sweet time as far as she was concerned. Whereas twelve hours ago, she had been dismissing her early stages as labor out of concern for her most recent case, now she just wanted the kid out of her – the Shaker murder solved or not. Despite that, though, the facts and evidence pertaining the homicide (and she had no doubt it was just that, for suicide simply didn't fit with the victim's profile) kept ricocheting their way through her mind. The swirling, sometimes contradicting vortex of information would not let her be.
"So, Temperance," the physician started only for Booth to interrupt him.
"Yeah, I know you've had your hand inside of Bones here, but, unless she tells you otherwise, you better refer to her as Doctor Brennan."
And that was why she was willingly having a child with the man standing beside her.
"Alright, alright," her OB-GYN conceded. Looking directly at her, he said, "your father warned me you'd be a handful when it came time to deliver."
Instantly, the last thing on her mind was either the case or the fact that something approximately the size of a bag of sugar was infinitesimally working its way out of her body. In a cold voice, she asked, "you know my father?"
"As a matter of fact, as soon as he found out you were pregnant, your father came to my office and officially introduced himself to me. Never before have I seen such initiative from a grandfather, such protectiveness."
"Or such boundary crossing," Brennan hissed under her breath, but the doctor simply ignored her.
"Since then, we've become good friends. In fact, when I got the call that you were being admitted earlier, I immediately sent him a text, told him to get here as soon as possible. Knowing how parents can sometimes forget to call their relatives, especially first time parents, I didn't want Max to miss out on a single moment of the birth."
Without a second thought, without blinking, she stated, "you're fired. I want another..." Her words trailed off as the most searing pain she had ever experienced ripped through her body. Though she had been able to listen to and return comments with the physician since he had walked into the room, despite her near constant contractions at that point, they had been nothing compared to what she felt in that moment. The pain, though, made her think of Pauline Shaker giving birth to her daughter, how that bond between parent and child could be so powerful, so strong, and, suddenly, the murder was crystal clear. She was just ashamed that it had taken her so long to piece all the clues together.
"Pushed," she screamed out just as her own body started to perform the same action.
"Yes, yes," the doctor soothed. "It is time to push. Excellent, Doctor Brennan."
"No, no, no," she sobbed, reaching out and fisting the end of Booth's scrub shirt. "Shaker was pushed!"
"Bones, now is not the time..." Her partner began to say only to stop when he, too, realized the impact of her words. As though a light bulb was going off inside of his mind, he gasped, "they were both there; they were both just as guilty as the other. One drove the car, while the other one lured the victim there and..."
"Pushed," she screamed again. Panting after the effort she had expelled, she told him, "go out and tell the others. Have Cam call Caroline, explain all the evidence, and have Sweets go down and interrogate them. Tell him to trick them into rolling on each other or even themselves by..."
Apparently, they were good at interrupting each other. "I think I know how to do my job. And it can wait until after the baby's born."
"Actually," the OB-GYN spoke up. "You'll be fine. Doctor Brennan here still has several minutes of pushing left before this little guy or gal is born."
Instead of leaving, though, as she expected him to, Booth asked, "what time is it?" However, when he only received weird glances from the hospital staff, he let the question fall away unanswered.
With one last look down in her direction, Booth took off running, making sure not to touch anything with his sterilized hands as he left the delivery room and only cringing slightly when she immediately started yowling in pain once more as another mind-obliterating contraction took possession of her exhausted, dripping with perspiration form. Even in the shadows of her immense discomfort, though, she was still aware enough to smirk. No matter what, she was still the best damn forensic anthropologist in the world, and, if she said so herself, a mighty fine detective, too.
& + &
As Brennan held her newborn baby in her arms, she smiled tiredly. All she wanted to do was go to sleep, but, at the same time, she didn't want to close her eyes and not be able to see the tiny miracle resting peacefully against her chest. Though the first few minutes following the baby's delivery had been quite noisy, the doctor and nurses, after a quick, cursory exam of both mother and child exited the room to give she and Booth some privacy, and her partner had quickly run out after them, intent upon telling their friends, coworkers, and her father the good news.
Listening carefully, she waited to hear what he would say. "She did it," Booth announced joyously. "She held that baby in until just thirteen seconds after midnight. No one in this city is going to beat that time."
"Uh, while I'm sure the kid will appreciate having double the reasons to get wasted the night before it's twenty-first birthday, as a parent, man," Hodgins teased, chuckling softly, "I'd think you'd be a little more concerned about his or her liver."
"Speaking of his or her, what is it?" This time it was Angela who spoke up. "Did Brennan have a boy or a girl?"
"More importantly, what did she name it," her father wanted to know. "Max can be used either way, you know, if you just add a couple of letters."
Frustrated, she eavesdropped as Booth sighed. She had to stifle a laugh, both so that no one heard her and so that she wouldn't aggravate her tremendously sore body, at the thought of him glowering at each and every person assembled outside the delivery room, taking up far too much space in the hospital hallway than what was advisable or safe. "You don't get it," he complained. "I'm talking free diapers for a year here, people!" The silence that followed his announcement was almost overwhelming after the sheer level of volume their friends, family, and coworkers had been making for the past hour. Explaining himself, Booth said, "every year, the city of D.C. gives away the prize of a free year's supply of diapers to the first baby born. This year, my kid won."
"Yes, but, Seeley," Cam pointed out, "that still doesn't tell us anything about your kid."
Now, her partner's earlier distraction and oddly asked question about the time made so much sense. Leave it to Booth to be so concerned about something that, for them, didn't even matter. Despite what he thought, the diapers they won would be donated to charity. Between the two of them and their four jobs, they could surely afford to diaper their own child.
Dismissing the antics being played out in the hallway, Brennan instead looked down and focused upon her newborn infant. "Your daddy is the real child in this family, isn't he, Christen? Instead of being concerned about you, he was more worried about the potential prize he would receive in having our baby. But we'll let it slide. Do you know why?" Why she was talking to and asking her daughter questions when it would be years before she could actually answer her, Brennan wasn't sure. "Because you're daddy loves us. Plus," she admitted, grinning mischievously. "It doesn't hurt matters any that he's pretty easy on the eyes, too."
That still didn't mean, though, that she was going to marry Booth. At least, not yet...