Hey, guys! This will be the last chapter of this story. Thanks so much for all of your comments and reviews and for joining me on my first adventure into case fics! It was really fun!
If you need help understanding/visualizing what Angela's doing during both the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this one, think about the test they did in "The Mother & Child in the Bay" where they all stabbed the dummy to figure out whose dimensions were closest to those of the killer. Angela's essentially doing the same sort of tests here, just all on her computer.
Cam pressed the power button on the speaker phone in Angela's office and dialed Brennan's number. Brennan, who was still standing outside the Florida interrogation room with Booth, answered almost immediately.
"It wasn't Justin," Cam said.
"Are you sure?" Brennan asked.
"Yeah, you might as well let him go," Cam said.
Booth groaned as Brennan sighed. "Look, Cam, things are a bit tense right now since we have no clear evidence and two suspects who seem equally guilty…"
"Or equally innocent," Booth interrupted. "This is America, Bones. Innocent until proven guilty."
"We need a reason," Brennan said.
"Angela just ran a scenario through her computer. Justin isn't a match for the force used to cause the micro fractures on the skull," Cam explained.
"Okay," Brennan said.
"No, wait…where does that leave us?" Booth asked.
"Angela's reverse engineering the scenario to determine the approximate dimensions of the attacker right now," Cam said.
"Oh," Angela muttered as her program finished its calculations.
"What happened?" Booth asked.
"Well, according to this," Angela said, stepping over to the phone. "Billie's attacker was less than 160 centimeters and weights about 49 kilograms."
"What's that in American?" Booth asked.
"Five foot three and 108 pounds," Brennan translated. She leaned back into her cell phone. "So the injuries are congruent with…"
Brennan was interrupted as Hodgins strolled into Angela's office with a very satisfied grin on his face and declared, "Hand over that scepter. I am so this case's King of the Lab!"
"What'd you find?" Cam asked.
"Billie's killer was a female," Hodgins said.
"The computer just told us that, dear," Angela said. "But what else did you find?"
"That blonde hair I found on the victim was from a wig," he said. "A Walt Disney World Cinderella wig, to be specific."
"She was killed by Cinderella?" Cam snickered.
"Yeah, but there's more. Upon further inspection of both Billie's clothes and the tarp used to hold her down in the water, I found identical traces of ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, and trimethyl pentanyl diisobutyrate," Hodgins explained.
"Nail polish," Brennan said.
"Right," Hodgins said. "Crystal Mist in color...number 435."
"I hate to break it to you, but wigs and nail polish, even at Disney, do not necessarily mean female," Angela grinned.
"Oh, but there's more," Hodgins said. "I remembered that our victim's roommate said she did mostly character greetings in the park. Guess who played Cinderella in the evening light parade the day of the cast member event?"
"You checked her employment records?" Booth asked.
"Yeah, I lied and said I was FBI, but it gets better," Hodgins said. "I asked about her previous assignments, and they told me she started her performing career with them as an assistant in the Pirates League Show right outside of the Caribbean ride."
"So she would have at least a basic knowledge of what the ride is like when it's not operating," Brennan said.
"Yeah, but the best part is I found three partial fingerprints on the tarp, as well as a tiny bit of nail with that polish, so if Cam can extract DNA, we could potentially match that, the prints, and the polish to the roommate," Hodgins said. He smiled and turned to leave Angela's office. "King of the Lab!"
Cam and Angela looked stunned as Booth and Brennan shared a grin.
"Did you get all that?" Cam asked.
"Yeah, we got it," Booth said.
"Tell Hodgins he did a great job," Brennan said. "Though Booth looked very displeased at the impersonating a federal agent part."
"Thanks," Booth said, disconnecting the call on Brennan's phone. They shared one more look and then walked back into the interrogation room to let Justin go.
Angela walked out of her office to find her husband. He was still grinning at his work station, and she placed her hands on his shoulders when he turned to face her.
"That was incredible," Angela said.
"You think?" he asked.
"Very impressive," she said. "You just solved our impossible case."
"Well, they don't call me King of the Lab for nothing," he bragged.
"You know nobody actually calls you that, right?" she asked. She lowered her voice and added, "Though…if you want…I'm willing to call you the King of Egypt for the next hour or so."
"Storage room?" he asked in a low voice.
"We haven't been since we got married," she said, a wicked gleam in her eye. "Now seems as good a time as any to go properly christen it."
"Oh, I'm right behind you," he said, happily following her out of the lab.
After flashing his badge to gain them entrance to the park, Booth and Brennan headed for the fairytale gardens next to Cinderella's Castle. Joanna Kent, dressed as Cinderella herself, stood in the center of the gardens next to cast members dressed as Belle and Snow White. Little girls, many of whom had visited the fancy princess boutique Angela had gone crazy over, were delighting in meeting their favorite princesses, and a line of families waiting for their photo opportunities stretched around the garden.
"Oh man," Booth groaned as he witnessed the scene in front of him.
"What?" Brennan asked.
"I have to arrest Cinderella," he said.
"No, you have to arrest Joanna," Brennan said. "It's just a costume, Booth."
"I know that, but these little girls don't!" Booth said. "They're just going to see some big scary man taking away their idol."
"Well, then you're doing them a favor," Brennan said. "There are dozens of extraordinarily better and more appropriate female role models for little girls."
"Still…arresting Cinderella…that just puts me one step above the people who like to murder Santa the week before Christmas," he moaned.
Brennan's voice softened in sympathy. "You have to do it, Booth."
"I know," he said.
They stepped into the gardens through the exit and were stopped by a cast member with a professional camera.
"You guys need to get in the end of the line. It starts over…" she started to say.
Booth pulled out his badge. "FBI," he said. "We need Cinderella."
"Right now?" the photographer asked.
Joanna finished with the little girl she had been talking to and walked over to Booth and Brennan, an apprehensive look on her face.
"Look, I'll go with you, okay? No resisting," Joanna said. "I promise, just…can you not cuff me here? The kids…they don't need to see that."
"I don't know if we can do that," Brennan said, glancing at Booth.
"You wouldn't want your child to see…I don't know…the Easter Bunny get handcuffed right in front of them, would you?" Joanna asked.
"I don't have children," Brennan said.
"Please?" Joanna asked, appealing to Booth this time.
"You stay right with us. You do not stop for anything or anyone, and the handcuffs go on the second after we get out of this park," Booth bargained. Joanna nodded. Booth grabbed her arm and headed out of the gardens, Brennan right behind them.
Joanna sat in the police station's interrogation room some time later that afternoon. She still wore Cinderella's dress, but she had removed the wig and make up. Booth and Brennan sat across from her, waiting for her to start talking.
"Billie introduced me to Justin shortly after we all started working here," Joanna said. "I knew he could be a jerk, but I fell for him anyway, you know? He thought I was cheating on him over break. I wasn't, but he wouldn't believe me. I knew he had been with another girl, but I figured it was just some random woman he met at a club or something. My plan was to just pretend it had never happened, but then Billie told me he had slept with her."
"So you planned to kill her at the cast member event," Booth said.
"No!" Joanna cried, tears streaming down her face. "I tried to forgive her! I didn't know I was going to hit her. I didn't plan to hit her."
Booth and Brennan shared a look. Brennan leaned forward and said, "The security cameras…the weighted tarp…it all seemed very planned."
Joanna shook her head. "Riding Pirates at the end of the employee parties was kind of our thing. It was our favorite ride and had been since we were both little. One of those crazy coincidences…" she said. "Anyway, sometimes when we were down there at four in the morning by ourselves, we would hop out of the boat and pretend we were part of the ride, which is why I always asked my friend who operated the ride to turn the cameras off for us. We definitely would've gotten in trouble for that. It's stupid, I know, but it was fun."
Brennan grinned a bit as she thought of Angela hopping over to the middle of the scenery to take a photo with one of the ride's Johnny Depp figures. "It's not that stupid," Brennan said.
"Everything I told you about Space Mountain was true. Just…when she got done with that, she really did meet me by the castle, and we headed over to Pirates…like we always did in the last five minutes of cast member parties," Joanna explained.
"So why did you hit her?" Brennan asked.
"She was talking about our plans for the rest of that morning…four a.m. burgers with Justin. We were also thinking about going to the beach together that Sunday. I didn't really want to hang out with Justin and Billie at the same time, but he didn't know that I knew about the affair, and I didn't want to tell him, so I had to keep up appearances," Joanna said. Her tears increased again. "She just kept talking and talking, and I was still trying to forgive her for sleeping with my boyfriend, and I just couldn't take it, so I just grabbed the toy and hit her at the bottom of the waterfall…just to shut her up. I didn't mean to kill her! I swear I didn't know that would kill her!"
"Then what?" Booth asked.
"She wouldn't wake up, so I…I panicked! I pulled her out of the boat, and her leg broke when it slammed against the ride tracks. I didn't know what to do. I knew there was a storage closet…and the tarp…I didn't know what to do," Joanna cried.
"Did you know Billie was pregnant?" Booth asked.
Joanna's head shot up, a stunned look on her face. "What?"
"With your boyfriend's child, but you didn't just kill your best friend," Booth said. "You killed her baby, too."
"Oh my god," Joanna muttered, a new batch of tears streaming down her face. "You're serious? Oh my god…"
As Joanna was being processed by the local police, Booth and Brennan climbed back into their rental car. Booth tossed the case paperwork into the backseat and then stared out the windshield, making no move to start the ignition. Brennan was mimicking his position in the passenger seat next to him.
"Booth?" Brennan said after a few moments of silence. "Why didn't you tell her that Billie actually drowned and didn't die from the blow to her head?"
"She'll find that out soon enough," Booth said sadly.
"But why did you tell her about the pregnancy but not the fact that Billie might have had a small chance of survival if she had gotten help rather than dragged her into the water?" Brennan asked.
"People can only take so much, Bones," he said. "I wasn't sure she could handle everything at once."
Brennan nodded, and the two fell back into silence for several more minutes. "So what now?" she asked. "Takeout and paperwork at the hotel?"
"We could," Booth said. "But I think I have a better idea."
The convertible car carrying Booth, Brennan, and four other passengers looped around the banked track at sixty-five miles per hour, the wind whipping against the passengers' faces. After riding back into the building and passing under a thermal imaging scanner, the car pulled back into the ride station, and Brennan grinned at Booth.
"You're right," she said, climbing out of the car. "This is more fun than paperwork."
"Yeah, we've got the rest of the night to do that," he agreed.
Brennan took his hand in hers as they walked out of the building that housed the Test Track attraction and back into Disney's Epcot Center theme park. Booth curled his fingers around hers, but he knew he couldn't wait any longer to talk to her. They walked towards the center of the park, and Booth sat them down on a bench by the large fountain behind the towering Spaceship Earth.
"We have to talk, Bones," he said.
She pursed her lips and nodded. "I know."
He kept her hand in his as he spoke. "I love kissing you," he said. She grinned, and his face grew more serious. "But I can't keep kissing you. You know how I feel about you. I told you I believe in giving us a shot, and I…I mean that, Bones."
She nodded again. "I know you do."
"Last time I tried to kiss you, you pushed me away because the more that I was asking for wasn't what you wanted. Have you changed your mind?" he asked.
Her eyes began to fill with tears. "It was what I wanted," she said quietly.
"Then what happened?" he asked.
"I'm scared," she admitted. "I'm afraid either choice I make will eventually end with me losing you and crushing both our hearts."
Her voice caught at the end of her answer, and she pulled her hand away from Booth's. Booth sighed quietly in frustration.
"Why do you think a relationship between us would be so disastrous?" he asked.
"Because I still don't know how to change," she said, trying not to cry. "I don't know how to be what you want."
"I want you, Bones," he said, saying the words he knew he should've said that night several weeks ago. "I just want you to keep being the woman that you are right now. That's the woman I want to be with."
"So you're saying nothing would change?" she asked.
"Things would have to change, Bones," he said. "But not necessarily in whatever bad way that you're expecting."
A single tear spilled down her cheek. "The last time we talked about this, I said no because I thought it was what I needed to do to protect both of us."
"And now?" he asked.
"Now I can't decide which would hurt worse…giving us a chance and failing or never taking that risk," she admitted. "I just fear that I'll end up really hurting us both. I'm not really built for love or long-lasting relationships. You're the heart person. I'm not like that."
"It's okay that you're scared, but I know you can love, Bones. I've seen it," he told her. She was quiet, looking at him with her tear-filled but still mesmerizing blue eyes. "But you need to make a decision. If you want to give us a shot, we can take it slow, and I'll try to help you not be scared, but we can't keep making out like we did in the hotel this morning. If I don't stop kissing you now, I'm going to want to kiss you always."
Brennan didn't say anything for a long time. She looked down at her lap, lost in thought, as a few more silent tears left wet trails down her slightly sunburned cheeks. Finally, she looked up at Booth and whispered, "Okay."
Booth, who had been a bundle of nerves as she silently processed her thoughts, felt his stomach instantly tighten after her single whispered word. "Okay as in you understand or okay as in…" he began.
The edges of her lips curved into a small smile, and she cut him off with a whispered, "Kiss me always."
His face lit up and he reached for her hand again. "You're ready to try us? For sure?"
She nodded and then said, "Just…don't promise me anything you might not be able to keep. I know you're a romantic, but please…"
"Okay," he nodded, understanding her request. "And if you get freaked out, talk to me. Don't shut down and try to push me away."
She chuckled a bit and nodded, leaning towards him. He met her in the middle, their lips connecting in a sweet kiss. They brushed their lips against one another's a few times before they pulled away and Booth used his thumbs to gently dry her cheeks. Both leaned back against the bench, looking at Epcot's huge Spaceship Earth landmark, and Booth separated their hands, slinging his arm behind her shoulders.
"So…" Brennan finally said. "Since the case is over, I guess we should go home."
"Yeah…" Booth reluctantly agreed. "Or…"
"Or?" she repeated, intrigued. They glanced over at one another.
"We do have a couple more days left on those tickets," Booth pointed out. "There's no way we'll see all of Epcot before closing today."
"We haven't even been to Animal Kingdom," Brennan added.
"So we could…stay," Booth suggested.
"Take a few vacation days…" Brennan continued.
They locked eyes, both with slight smiles on their faces.
"We should stay," Booth said.
"I concur," Brennan agreed. "I'll call Cam after dinner and let her know."
"Good, I'm starving," he said. "What do you want to do about dinner?"
"I'd like to go to Morocco, if that's alright with you," she said, referring to the restaurant at the Morocco pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.
"Dinner in Morocco?" he teased. "I know you're made of money, Bones, but that's kind of elaborate for a first date, don't you think?"
"No, it's right across the lagoon," she said before glaring at him and adding, "You weren't being serious."
"No," he grinned. He grabbed her hand and stood, pecking her lips as she stood behind him. He laced their fingers together, and they started heading for the boat to take them across the lagoon.
"Hey…this," Brennan said, gesturing between the two of them. "It's more than just Disney magic, right?"
He clasped her hand just a little bit tighter and pressed a kiss to the side of her forehead. "So much more than Disney magic."
Thanks for reading! Hope you all enjoyed the conclusion.
Also…any interest in a sequel? A character-driven sequel, that is? I've kind of been planning on (or at least considering) doing one, but I want to see if the interest is there first.
How about one last review before you go?