Once again, a group of Bonesology writers have gathered together to continue with our own personal Bones story line. You don't have to have read the previous season (Season 6.5: The Satisfaction in the Summer) to follow along, but it would be helpful in order to understand certain new story arcs and characters.
We will be continuing this series through the current winter hiatus, once again posting here and at every Thursday.
Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoy what we have planned for you!
~The Bonesology Writers Collective~
and TheValiumSofa once again stepping in to keep us all in line!
Bones Season 7.5x01: Falling Down, Falling Down ~ Written by Squinttoyou and NatesMama
"Parker, where are your shoes?" Brennan's question as she turned from the large kitchen island ended up being directed at the boy's back. "We have to leave in twenty minutes, and you cannot be late."
An eye roll he would have never been brave enough to try in front of his father accompanied the whiney reply. "Boooones….I'm ready! I just…" He looked around the room again; his focus diverted by the television and his naturally short pre-teen attention span. "I, uh…."
"Parker Matthew Booth, get your shoes on." The low voice of his father from the entryway was enough to spur the boy into action, and the missing Converse were located and pulled on as Brennan pressed a toasted bagel into his hand to eat on the way to school.
She watched as Booth's son idly collected the rest of his belongings, packing them haphazardly into a duffle bag that was sitting on the sofa situated in front of the large plasma that dominated the living room of Booth and Brennan's house. Brennan hadn't expected to fall into this picture of domesticity so easily and so willingly, but if the previous year had taught her anything, it was that she had to grab her happiness when she could and hold onto it tightly, with both hands. And the added surprise of her pregnancy had only served to make her even more committed to making her relationship with Booth work. For both them and their collective children. So when they had stumbled onto the fixer-upper home in Rockville, Maryland, with its large, fenced-in yard, gorgeous tree line, hand-carved fixtures and four spacious bedrooms, they took it as a sign and put in a bid almost immediately. Booth claimed he could do most of the work needed to make the house into the home they wanted on his own, and not a few of his weekends lately had been spent in the attached garage sanding molding, mounting wainscoting and finishing fireplace fixtures. In almost no time, the place where Booth and Brennan had chosen to raise their family began to come together just as they had imagined.
"We have got to start getting up earlier, apparently." Booth moved to lean against Brennan's shoulder gently, grimacing as he surveyed the damage to their normally-tidy kitchen. "This morning rush is killing me."
Brennan shook her head. "I've tried to change the time on the alarm clock, and you just hit the snooze button over and over until the original intention becomes moot."
"So this is my fault?" Booth tried to sound truly offended, but Brennan saw right through him.
"Yes. It is." She took a small sip of herbal tea and reached for her bag. "Now, if we hurry, we can-"
"Dad! Bones! You have to see this!" Parker's voice, sounding almost panicked, pulled them quickly from the kitchen to the large family room.
The television was turned to the local ABC station, where a somber reporter sat behind a desk talking about "massive loss of life" and "suspicions of terrorist attacks", and it took Booth a moment to grasp what he was seeing in front of him.
"Booth…" Brennan breathed. "Is that…is it…"
"Yeah, Bones. That's what it is." He gave her a sideways look as both of their cell phones began ringing at once. "It looks like the Delaware Memorial Bridge collapsed."
Brennan watched from the safety of the SUV as Booth talked with a Delaware National Guard private stationed just outside ground zero with several other members of his unit. The soldiers were initially tasked with keeping the general public at bay, but now, hours after the initial disaster, they were simply trying to maintain some semblance of order.
Booth had immediately jumped from the car and attempted to get a situation report from the armed men stationed determinedly in front of a bank of wooden construction horses and various rescue vehicles, but he was turned away until his credentials could be verified, which gave both he and Brennan enough time to stare in disbelief at the ruins of what was once the world's second-largest twin suspension bridge.
One span was completely collapsed, while the other was sloping sharply towards the Delaware River on the Delaware side. The New Jersey side of the right span was, from their viewpoint, the only structurally-intact portion of the bridge. Cars, trucks and buses littered the ground and river under dangling chucks of steel and concrete, some of which continued to fall into the dark, swirling waters. Search and rescue teams from the Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland state police systematically moved from car to car and body to body as they tried to pull as many live victims out of the horror of twisted metal, smoke and fire. More National Guard troops circled the area, directing rescuers to the correct tents while simultaneously moving the less gravely injured to triage areas.
Neither partner spoke, the visual before them stealing any words either could form. The silence in the SUV seemed to stretch on for hours, when the private finally moved a barrier and waved Booth through. They glanced at each other, and Brennan sighed heavily before they faced forward again and mentally prepared themselves for the task ahead.
Once they had secured the vehicle and removed Brennan's gear from the back, they were in complete and total work mode. They separated when Booth spotted a group of suits he assumed were in charge while Brennan made her way over to a tent bearing the Jeffersonian logo, set up just outside the green zone, where Cam and Hodgins moved around, preparing their equipment.
"Dr. Brennan!" Cam shook her head as she crossed to brief her colleague. "I'm relieved you're here." She looked over Brennan's shoulder at Booth, who was speaking to the men in charge. "Right now, it's a complete mess. DEMA and FEMA as well as Homeland Security are fighting for jurisdiction, the Governor called us in via the FBI and now they're trying to insert themselves…" Cam sighed. "And all we want to do is get in there and help."
Brennan nodded seriously. "Booth is speaking with whoever is in charge so we should be permitted to begin shortly." Turning to Hodgins, she continued. "Dr. Hodgins, are you prepared to collect evidence beyond your usual scope of expertise? I do not feel comfortable allowing interns to assist in the recovery, if we can at all avoid it."
"Absolutely, Dr. Brennan." Hodgins made a show of looking more confident than he felt, knowing that the situation called for their absolute best as expediently as possible. "And your interns have all been assembled in the lab, awaiting the arrival of the remains and evidence."
"All the interns?" Brennan asked, eyebrow raised.
Hodgins let himself smile a bit. "Yes, even Miss McDaniels." He glanced at Cam as she let out a soft snort. "I say we leave that as a surprise for Booth."
"Poor Seeley." Cam murmured. "At least he takes it in stride. I think he even likes her almost as much as he likes Wendell."
Brennan moved to the makeshift exam tables and began cataloging their supplies. "Although I find Miss McDaniels' affection for Booth to be slightly unprofessional…" A small grin crossed her face. "I certainly can't fault her for finding him pleasing to look at."
The trio were interrupted in their conversation when Booth came striding into the tent. "Hey Cam, Hodgins. You guys are cleared to begin transporting the…the bodies that have already been recovered." He winced, rubbing the back of his neck in irritation. "We have to coordinate with DEMA as far as evidence collected that isn't, you know…a body. But they've acknowledged Bones as the ranking expert so they'll at least get off our backs on that."
"As well they should. I am the ranking expert, as is Cam." Brennan picked up her kit and motioned to the triage area where the casualties were being placed. "Are you ready, Cam?"
"As I'll ever be."
"Hodgins, you need to take an emergency response tech with you before you do anything. They'll be able to show you where you need to be and where it's safe for you to be." Booth pointed at the scientist, serious expression never wavering. "I'm not kidding, bug man. Things are still unstable, and probably will be for awhile. You need to listen to the experts."
Hodgins nodded. "I will, man."
"I'll be speaking with the survivors who are mobile and trying not to shoot any of these idiots from Homeland Security." He held up his phone to the three. "Text me if you need me, and I'll find you." As they passed, Booth reached out and lightly gripped Brennan's wrist. "Bones." Her eyes locked with his at his dark tone. "Please be careful. Don't lift anything too heavy, watch where the structural crews are working and please ask for help if you need it. Please?"
Battling against her innate need to declare her independence and realizing that in this untenable situation Booth needed to hold onto some semblance of normalcy and control, Brennan acquiesced. "Alright, Booth. I'll be careful." She reached out and squeezed his hand on her arm. "Now let's get to work."
"The destruction is really unbelievable," Sweets muttered as he surveyed the scene. His eyes moved along the damaged bridge, each ruptured segment making his gut twist in regret. A few cars, trucks and even one bus still dangled from the edge of the structure and he hoped those commuters had managed to escape their fate completely. "Are they sure it only took one explosion to cause all this?"
Booth shrugged, the movement of his shoulders crisp as he worked to retain the horror he felt. Years as a soldier and federal agent had hardened him to sights of destruction, but that didn't mean he could ignore them. "Witness reports tend to suggest one explosion. Homeland Security doesn't buy it, but I'm inclined to wait for some test results."
Sweets nodded trying to meet the standard Booth was setting. "Good idea. How long before Hodgins can give some answers?"
"Day at least," Booth answered. His phone buzzed and he answered immediately. "Booth." The terse tone of his voice softened immediately. "Hey, Bones." Sweets watched as the big man rubbed a hand across his forehead. "No, I'm fine. It's just tough to see. You know?" Booth turned slightly and saw the approving look Sweets wore as he eavesdropped on their conversation. "What?" he demanded all the tenderness gone as he addressed his companion.
"Nothing, I just think it's good you talk to Dr. Brennan about those kinds of things. This is a stressful and traumatic situation and talking about your reaction is the best way to work through it."
"Mind your own business." Booth's attention was diverted as Brennan asked him a question. "He thinks it's good I was talking to you about the crime scene." He paused to let her speak and then nodded as he continued. "I know! Who else does he think I'd talk to?"
Sweets rolled his eyes and gave a sigh of frustration. He wasn't sure why he made the effort any more. He knew better, knew the mention of a psychological evaluation of their relationship, even in passing, resulted in an immediate closing of ranks, the two of them protected each other fiercely. They always had, but it was far more pronounced now that they were truly together. He knew it would happen, but he just couldn't help himself. They were too damn tempting. Booth turned to face him and he spoke quickly to signal his surrender. "I didn't say anything!"
"Shut up and listen," Booth ordered and Sweets realized Brennan had called with information.
"I'm concentrating on the burned and dismembered bodies," she continued. "Victim number one was badly burned, but easily identified by dental record. He was Aaron Box, the tug's co-pilot. Victim number two was also a tugboat crewman, a twenty-six year old ex-con named Tyler Star."
"That's quick work, Bones," Booth praised.
"The flesh on Tyler's left hand undamaged and while the upper two-thirds of the arm were defleshed to the bone it was still attached to the bulk of his torso. Fingerprints were easily matched with his parole records."
Sweets swallowed noisily as the mental image Brennan was providing recalled the memory of bodies, and parts of bodies, being pulled from the river. Booth looked slightly pale himself, but he sounded more in control of his reaction. "The boat crew is a good place to start. Turner and I will get on it."
"Tugboat crews aren't the kind of unit to bond as a group of sailors might," Sweets theorized. "But if this was politically or emotionally motivated they might have acted as a team."
"Triple suicide bombers?" Booth scoffed.
"Unusual," Sweets admitted.
"Conjecture," Brennan scolded. "I have sixty-three more bodies to examine," she reminded them. "Further information should be gathered before we assign a motive."
"Right," Booth agreed. "Keep on it, Bones. Turner and I will see what we can find at the freight company."
Sweets was opening his mouth to suggest he spend some time working up a profile on potential suspects when movement diverted his attention. His eyes widened slightly as he watched a tall woman pick her way across the riverbank with determined steps. "Is that… " Sweets squinted to get a better look at the woman, "I can't believe it…What is she doing here?" he asked.
Booth followed his gaze and groaned. "Damn Homeland Security, they are all over this thing and throwing their weight around. I already had it out with this one over Hodgins' access to the boat. Now what does she want?"
"Homeland Security?" Sweets repeated.
"Booth, what's wrong with Sweets?" Brennan asked. "He sounds panicked."
Booth looked at the younger man and had to admit Brennan was correct. The kid not only sounded panicked, he looked it. "Sweets, what's wrong with you?"
"Stephanie Roberts," he answered his words stunned and soft. "The Homeland Security agent is Stephanie Roberts?"
"We went to high school together."
Brennan's voice held understanding. "Isn't she the girl you said was unattainable and whom provided you with masturbatory fantasies as a teenager?"
Sweets' eyes closed and he silently cursed Brennan's perfect memory. He really should watch what he revealed in those after-case celebrations. "Yes, Dr. Brennan."
Booth's look held both amusement and sympathy and he took pity on the profiler. "Bones, I'll call you when I have something. Keep me updated on your progress."
"Of course," she agreed and they heard her end the call.
"We've all got one," Booth said voicing his sympathy to the still struggling Sweets. He waved a hand to acknowledge Roberts' call and turned to face her standing shoulder to shoulder with his friend. "Play it cool," he advised.
"Yeah, right, cool," Sweets agreed. "I can do that."
"Agent Booth," Roberts called while she was still several feet away. "I thought I made it clear that this was not your investigation."
"Oh, yeah, she's a peach," Booth muttered to Sweets. "I can see why you wanted her." Roberts was joining them and he stepped forward as if to confront her claim physically. "The words 'joint operation' imply it is, Roberts."
The tall brunette's eyes flashed with anger but she bit back her immediate response. Her hands moved to her hips and she shook her head. "The FBI needs to retrain you people. Maybe a little remedial instruction would help you remember you are no longer the big dog."
"Remedial!" Booth snapped.
Sweets tried to intervene. "I think what Agent Roberts was trying to express is that national security concerns allow her agency a broader scope."
"I can speak for myself there, junior," Roberts sneered at him before turning to Booth. "But you should listen to your sidekick, Booth."
"I'm not a sidekick," Sweets objected. "I'm a psychologist, Dr. Lance Sweets."
"Psychologist?" Roberts said dismissively. "Why don't you run along and counsel some of these civilians and leave the matters of national security to the professionals?"
"National security my ass," Booth growled. "Don't make this more than it is, Roberts."
Her eyes flashed again and she took a step forward. "I want that evidence you stole turned over to my forensic team immediately."
"Wanting it won't make it happen," Booth answered. "I didn't steal anything. That evidence belongs with my team."
"This is a national security issue!"
"It's a disaster," Booth snapped back. "With nearly seventy badly damaged bodies and no lead on who is responsible."
"We'll find who is responsible."
"Not without my team you won't. The Jeffersonian lab is the finest in the country and the use of its services comes only with FBI involvement. You need us, Roberts. No one can find answers in those bodies the way Dr. Brennan can. Your forensic team can't come close to discovering all that Hodgins and our team will be able to learn from the wreckage. This is a joint operation, Roberts, so just cool your jets and when we have some answers for you I'll let you know."
Roberts stepped back and her voice dripped with malice "Non-cooperation won't do your career any favors. Don't say I didn't try and save you when this rolls back on you."
Booth shook his head. "Come on, Sweets. We have work to do and I'm tired of playing the 'my jurisdiction is bigger than yours' game."
Sweets followed as Booth walked away leaving a fuming Roberts still standing on the river bank. He looked over his shoulder as they neared Booth's vehicle. "I don't think she remembers me," he said sadly.
The lab was not designed for this kind of mass casualty examination and they had been forced to improvise. Angela walked past the row of gurneys awaiting Brennan's attention with her eyes averted. They had seen their fair share of victims pass through the lab since they began their work with Booth, but having this many innocent victims cued up like a line of patient shoppers was almost too much for her. The burned, crushed and dismembered people lying here had done nothing more than start their day and been caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. One tiny hand peeked from beneath a blanket draped gurney and tears pricked her eyes. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. Clutching the notes in her hand Angela promised the child they would find out who did this.
The platform was crowded. Brennan had trusted her senior interns to triage the victims and those bodies most likely to hold clues to the explosion occupied the tables. The interns worked in teams of two to catalogue the injuries of each body. As they worked toward identification their conversations were intense bursts of shared information that filled the air with the sound of tension. At the first table Brennan worked alone, her attention focused on a charred body burned beyond recognition. The bubble of silence that seemed to surround her was an oasis of calm in a cacophony of activity. Angela stepped to the table and welcomed that sense of peace.
"I sent what I had on the first two victims to Booth and Turner," the artist reported. "Star's conviction was for auto-theft when he was seventeen. He used to boost cars off the street for his uncle who ran a chop shop. Baltimore PD busted the uncle and the kid went down too. He's been on the straight and narrow since he got out. Box looks like your everyday blue collar family man."
Brennan's eyes lifted to look at her friend as she hunched over the body. "You believe they are not responsible?"
Angela sighed and shrugged. "I think they are like every other victim here," she said through sudden tears. "None of them deserved this, Bren."
"Someone is responsible," Brennan answered coolly. "Where is Hodgins?"
"Ookey room," Angela supplied. "He's sorting through what he could salvage of the boat."
"I have something for him," Brennan said as she carefully pried something from the blackened wrist of her victim.
The twisted metal and plastic glob Brennan placed on a collection tray intrigued her and Angela bent forward. "Do you just need Jack to identify what it is?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm unable to discern that," Brennan admitted.
"I think I can help."
Brennan looked up. "You recognize it?"
"I think it's a Rosary."
Brennan looked down at the clump of fused material. "You are certain?"
"Reasonably," Angela said with a shrug. Her ability to see patterns and reconstruct spatial relationships rarely failed her and she felt confident in her assertion. "Let me run some scans and see if I can confirm."
Brennan nodded and handed her the tray. "Am I correct that this implies guilt?"
Angela looked at the charred husk of a human being lying between them. "Yeah, Sweetie it does."
Brennan was also staring at the body. "I find it both frustrating and satisfying to think the person who may be responsible died this way."
"Yeah, I know how you feel," Angela agreed.
"Looks like PD is already here," Turner noted as she and Booth stepped from his vehicle.
"I had them send a car," Booth explained. "Just in case there's some involvement I wanted eyes on the place."
"Good thinking, Boss." Booth scowled at her and Turner lifted an eyebrow. "What?"
"I do know what I'm doing."
Turner looked completely confused. "Of course you do. You're the best damn agent in the Bureau."
Booth grunted. "Thanks, and sorry."
"What has your jock in a knot?" Turner asked as she pulled the door to the building open for him to enter.
"Let's just say Agent Roberts of Homeland Security is ...difficult."
"I haven't had the pleasure, but from what Lance said I think that makes me lucky."
It was Booth's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Sweets said something to you about Roberts?"
The younger agent was instantly suspicious. "Why wouldn't Lance talk to me about Roberts? Is there something I shouldn't know?"
"No, nothing," Booth denied quickly. He wanted to kick himself for becoming distracted by personal issues. The last thing he wanted was to set precedent for discussing the Turner and Hooch relationship while on duty. "Let's just start asking some questions so we can catch this son of a bitch, ok?"
"Yeah, ok," Turner agreed. The way she said it let Booth know he was likely going to owe Sweets an apology.
A portly man with thinning hair and round face was talking quietly with two uniformed officers and Booth stepped purposefully toward them. Quickly identifying himself and Turner to the cops he got straight to business. "Who's this?"
"Darren Mist," the older man offered extending his hand before an officer could reply. "I own the boat and the company. You let me know what you need and you got it. I want to know what happened just as much as you do."
"Mr. Mist, our experts have identified two bodies at the scene as those of your crew. What can you tell me about Aaron Box and Tyler Star?"
Mist's expression grew mournful and he sighed. "I guess I was really hoping for a miracle," he admitted sadly. "I was hoping it wasn't our boat. I know that's crazy, but I still hoped, you know?" He took another deep breath and then seemed to pull himself together enough to give a true answer to Booth's question. "Box was a good guy. Been working for me for twenty years, he started before he even graduated high school. Married his sweetheart, raised three kids, never missed a day of work. There is no way he had anything to do with this thing."
Booth nodded accepting that at face value. The guy looked clean on paper, so hearing it wasn't a surprise. "Star had a record. Any chance he was into something again?"
"No." Mists' denial was adamant. "That kid had turned himself around. Sure he had some trouble in the past, but I just can't imagine he would do anything so horrible. No," he repeated shaking his head. "He couldn't have done this."
"Was there anything unusual this morning? Anything that you can say was out of the ordinary?"
Mist took a moment and then shook his head. "No, it was just another average Monday. The guys checked in at four-thirty, did the standard pre-trip inspection and signaled for dispatch right on time at five o'clock."
"Pre-trip inspection?" Turner interrupted. "What's involved in that?"
"It's a safety inspection. They check everything before they leave port; mandatory before the start of every day."
"Is there a checklist for that? Any paperwork?"
"Yeah, actually we just automated the process. I can get that for you with a click of a button."
"Anything else you can tell us?" Booth asked.
"Well, I was hoping you could tell me something?" Booth's head cocked curiously. It wasn't often someone asked him for information. He waited and Mist continued. "I had a three man crew on that boat. I wondered if you found my third guy? Roger Lair was the captain."
He was wearing a hopeful, almost desperate expression. All Booth could do was shake his head. "At this time only two victims have been identified. But the forensic team is still working on it. I'm sure we'll be in touch if he is identified." Mist looked uncomfortable and Booth grew suspicious. "Mr. Mist, is there something you need to tell us?"
"It's just, geez, this is going to sound bad if I say it."
"Sir, if you have information relevant to this case you are obligated to reveal it," Turner lectured.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. It's just...the guy has had a bad year. I don't want to make it worse by saying something that's really not important."
"Why don't you tell us and we'll worry about whether or not it's important," Booth suggested as he began to lose patience.
"This was Roger's last week. He got downsized."
"You mean fired," Booth supplied.
Mist flinched at the harsh word. "See, that makes it sound bad. It's not like he is disgruntled or anything. It's just the economy is bad and the company had to make some changes. Roger, he had lots of experience, but his performance had been spotty. He missed a lot of days, called in pretty often over the last couple of years. It's all in his file and I didn't really have a choice. He was the guy I had to cut. I tried to do what I could for him. Gave him the best severance I could, let him work this last week so he'd have a check until the end of the month."
"How did he take it when you gave him the news?" Booth asked.
"You mean did he get mad or something? No, Roger wasn't like that. The guy took bad news like a champ. He's had his fair share in the years I've known him and he just takes it. I said my peace and he listened. Never argued with me, never tried to change my mind or threaten me. Heck, he even told me he understood and not to worry about it."
"Yeah, ok. Thanks for the info," Booth said as he considered the implications.
"How about you grab us those files and we'll move on to our next interview," Turner suggested.
"Sure," Mist agreed. He moved toward a computer and Turner followed.
The team, interns included, gathered in Brennan's office to go over the case details they had so far. Brennan handed Cam a set of x-rays and a folder before taking a seat behind her desk. "We have positively identified the remains of Victim #23 as those of the boat captain, Roger Lair."
"That means that all three crew members are accounted for." Booth nodded. "Once we can account for all the victims who were originally on the boat, we can go from there."
Hodgins spoke next. "You still thinking it's an inside job and not terrorism?"
"Yeah." Booth said. "It just doesn't feel right."
"Well, I don't have any evidence to suggest anything else." He handed Booth and Cam copies of his report. "The explosives were everyday materials, anything anyone could get anywhere. Ammonium nitrate, nitromethane, Tovex, which is ammonium nitrate and methylammonium nitrate combined and ammonium nitrate-infused fuel oil. Near as I can tell, they were placed in the hold of the ship."
"What was used as the detonator?" Brennan asked, sitting forward to lean on her desk.
Hodgins shook his head. "I couldn't find one, which leads me to believe that the impact was not as a result of the explosion…"
"But what triggered the explosion." Booth finishes the thought. "But could a boat that size, even loaded to the brim with explosives, take down a bridge that large?"
At that, Angela spoke up. "Actually, in 1969 an oil tanker struck the fender system on the bridge and caused one million dollars worth of damage. Because the fenders were designed to absorb impact, there was reportedly no structural damage to the bridge, but…"
"It's possible they missed something." Brennan stepped in this time, sensing her friend's next point. "Ang, where did the tanker hit the bridge?"
"In the same exact spot as the boat did."
Hodgins nodded, convinced. "I think that, with the combination of explosives, bridge weakness and a little dumb luck, it could have been a deliberate act by the crew."
Booth sat up. "Can you prove that?"
The entomologist looked to his boss, excited question in his eyes. "I might be able to, if…."
"Yes, fine." Cam sighed, resigned. "Do your experiment, but-" She held up a hand, stopping Hodgins dead as he leapt out of his chair. "You will use some of the interns to help you and I want them returned to Dr. Brennan without a scratch on them." At Hodgins suspicious look, she amended her order. "Return them to Dr. Brennan in the same condition as they appear right now."
"Cam, it'll be fine." Clapping his hands, he turned to the eager faces behind him. "Okay, who wants to help?"
Sweets found the cool morning a welcome relief. If they did this any later in the day the heat would be stifling. Despite the pleasant temperature a bead of sweat dripped from his brow angling a ticklish trail for his eye. He dipped his head to his shoulder and wiped it away as he continued to move.
"What's the matter? Getting tired?"
He glanced at Turner who moved effortlessly next to him. "No." Her smile reminded him of Booth; it was a little too cocky and far too amused. The good thing was on her it looked sexy. Determined to wipe it off her cute little mouth he drew in a deep, but jagged breath and doubled his effort.
Claudia's soft chuckle sounded behind him and almost instantly she was again jogging at his side. "Want to pick it up a little, huh?" she taunted. "Good idea."
Sweets' lips pinched together as he concentrated on finding the proper rhythm. He was a decent runner, always had been, but these workouts with his girlfriend were a challenge. The quiet morning was beautiful and the blue sky and scent of blooming flowers helped wash away the horrifying images they had seen yesterday. Letting the sounds of morning bird song and the steady pounding of their feet sooth him he settled into the fluid movement he was searching for.
They ran for the next mile in silence and he set the pace just a fraction quicker than their normal jog. It felt good to exert himself like this and he relaxed. And just as he felt an endorphin rush that would allow him to sprint the final distance Turner spoke. "So, Booth had some interesting information about Stephanie Roberts."
Sweets tripped on the sidewalk and fell. His arms pinwheeled as he went down and he skidded across the grass as his momentum carried him forward. Turner had not stopped but she had turned around, running backwards, as she watched to make certain he was not truly hurt. When she saw him scramble to his feet she smirked and then turned forward again to surge into a full speed run.
"Claude!" Sweets called after her as he followed.
"I want details!" she answered without slowing.
"There's nothing to tell! I swear!"
They had less than fifty yards to go and Turner was ahead by nearly half that distance. Feeling suddenly determined he drew a deep breath and forced himself into a faster run. He was gaining on her, but she reached their traditional finish line well ahead of him. He watched her slow and then fall into a cooling walk as she waited for him. Without slowing he barreled over the finish mark and wrapped his arms around her. Claudia squealed as he swept her off her feet.
"Put me down," she ordered through a giggle.
Huffing from the run he dropped her to her feet but his arms stayed around her. "You have no reason to be concerned about Stephanie Roberts," he swore.
Turner's arms moved around his waist. "Who said I was worried?"
"Oh...no... of course not."
"You are mine."
"Yeah, I totally am."
Turner grinned and leaned in for a kiss, but just before their lips touched she pulled away so that he fell into the space between them. "What aren't you telling me, Lance?"
The pink tint to his cheeks had nothing to do with their run and she took pity on him. "It doesn't matter, you know," she promised. "I think I know, anyway."
"You do? How?"
"Federal agent, Lance," she scolded. "I checked her out."
The idea that she had been curious enough to research Roberts made Sweets' chest puff slightly and his arms tightened as he stood straighter. "You did?"
"Booth hints some chick is an issue for my boyfriend? You're damn straight I did some research." Her hands slid around his waist and along the damp cotton of his t-shirt from his stomach to his chest. "You went to the same high school."
"Yeah," Sweets agreed sheepishly.
"She was on the dance team, a class officer and a volleyball player."
"Uh-huh." His agreement was a bit strained as he tried to keep his tone neutral.
"She was an 'it girl', an A-lister, a hottie?"
"You have a thing for little Miss Hottie, Lance?" Her hands had moved slowly up his body and her arms now draped over his shoulder allowing her to swirl two fingers along the hairline of his neck.
"Not anymore," he admitted. Her touch sent a very pleasurable shiver down his spine and he grinned. "Claude, I'm all sweaty."
"Ooh," she purred. "I love it when you are all sweaty."
The approval in her touch immediately diverted his attention and he growled as his arms tightened around her. "If we skip breakfast we could take an extra-long shower."
"Race ya," she said stepping away from him.
"I'm totally winning this time," he said as he chased her.
Booth was focused on balancing everything he carried and so was paying very little attention to where he walked as he entered the lab. The shuffle of feet on the tile floor and a soft gasp signaled his peril just before he bumped into someone. The file tucked beneath his arm crashed to the floor, its contents fanning out in haphazard escape. He hissed as the hot contents of the two cups in his right hand sloshed against his skin. The sting of the burn made him drop the bag he carried and reach for the drinks with his left.
"Nice catch," he complimented as he shook his throbbing right hand.
Molly McDaniels smiled but shrugged away the saving catch she had made of his dropped breakfast. "It was the least I could do for causing your accident."
Booth grinned and gave her a low-level but charming smile. "It was my bad. I need to watch were I'm going." He looked down and quickly brushed his reddened fingers over his pant leg. "Damn," he muttered afraid there would be a stain.
"Oh, gosh," Molly worried. "You didn't ruin it did you? That would be a shame. You look really fine."
Booth's head snapped up, his attention diverted from his wet pants. Molly's eyes widened in panic and her face flushed red beneath the spread of freckles that dotted her cheeks. "I meant it looks like fine material," she stammered. "You know, a quality garment."
He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning at her embarrassment. The girl had no idea how adorable she was. He had taken an immediate liking to her when she entered Brennan's intern program; an affection that had nothing to do with the way she seemed to be infatuated with him. She was cute as a button and he just hoped she would grow out of her shell enough to find someone who could appreciate her. "Thanks," he said giving her a wink. "It is one of my better suits."
She opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. Booth reached out and gently took the bag away from her. "I know why I'm here so early, Dr. Brennan was up before the sun and these she can't skip breakfast, but why are you in so early?"
"Oh, I volunteered to work with Dr. Brennan so the others could help Dr. Hodgins." She bent and retrieved the paperwork he dropped.
"Thanks. Hodgins is doing his experiment now?"
Molly's red head bobbed in the affirmative and Booth moved toward the platform. "My suit can't risk it," he joked and the intern giggled. With Molly trailing behind he climbed the steps and interrupted Brennan's examination of the current victim. "Time for breakfast, Bones."
"In a minute."
Her answer was not a refusal, it was simply an automated response conditioned to stall the interruption to her work. Booth shoved the bag into Molly's hands and perched the cups on a work station before moving purposefully toward his partner. "Now," he said as he gently guided her away from the body.
"Booth! I'm working."
"And getting cranky," he countered. "That happens lately when you don't eat."
Brennan didn't resist much and he was able to corral her to the steps. He paused long enough to retrieve the food and his report from Molly. "Thanks," he told her with a warm smile. "Want a donut?" He opened the bag and tilted it inviting her to reach inside. "I'll share."
"Donuts?" Brennan complained. "Really, Booth? Empty calories are not appropriate for my nutritional needs nor do they warrant an interruption to my work."
"But you like them," he answered still giving Molly an encouraging smile. She blushed from his attention and reached inside. When Molly had her treat he turned and gathered the drinks. "Relax, Bones," he soothed. "I got you scrambled egg whites, fruit and dry toast for a healthy breakfast. The donuts are just extra because I love you."
"You love donuts."
"One for you and two for me, but I shared mine with Molly so we're even," he argued.
The mention of her intern made Brennan turn and she caught the look of adoration Molly wore as she watched Booth walk away. "Miss McDaniels, please clean the remains on table two and prepare the next body for examination."
"Yes, Dr. Brennan," the intern answered pulling her eyes from the man at her mentor's side and trying desperately to hide her chagrin at being caught looking at him. Molly needed a gurney to transport the bone to be cleaned and she hurried across the room to get one the moment Brennan's back was turned.
"Hey, where'd you get that?" Wendell asked, pointing to her donut as they crossed paths.
"Booth gave it to me," she answered quietly.
Wendell grinned and complained in humor. "The only thing Booth ever gave me was a lecture on my slap shot." Molly's dimples grew deep as she smiled at his teasing and he watched her hurry away. A crash from the other room refocused his attention and he hurried into the smaller lab. "You didn't start without me did you?" he asked as he joined the others.
"No, Opie dropped the delivery apparatus," Hodgins answered.
"It's a boat, Thurston," the intern responded as he held up a remote control motorboat. "And I wouldn't have dropped it if you didn't make me carry all six of them."
"New guy does the grunt work," Arastoo insisted.
"He says that now," Vincent complained. "As I recall when it was his turn he was conveniently committed to prayer."
"I am a pious man," Arastoo answered with a straight face.
"Can we blow stuff up now?" Fischer whined.
"I'm with Fisher," Wendell agreed. "Let's get to it."
The six men scrambled to put their boat into position and then moved behind the Plexiglas shield that separated them from the test. Six shallow tubs of water were lined against the wall each with a scale version of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. They stood shoulder to shoulder eyeing their tub with anticipation.
"Who gets to go first?" Finn asked.
"Really?" Wendell scoffed as Hodgins claimed the right. "Did you really think he was going to let someone else go first?"
"Mine's going to blow up better," Finn mumbled.
"Fire in the hole!"Jack yelled as he used his remote control to guide his boat toward the bridge.
Hodgins had given himself the fastest, most powerful toy boat and he opened the throttle wide sending the tiny vehicle skimming across the water's surface as fast as it would go. When the fiberglass body crashed into the miniature pillar a potent and sizeable explosion erupted from the bowels of the boat. Water sprayed everywhere and the scientists all flinched as they took the brunt of the unanticipated result.
Tiny pieces of plastic had peppered the shield in front of them. The bridge itself was cleaved in two and its supports crumbled to rough pieces. Arastoo surveyed the destruction which was far greater than that inflicted by the actual explosion. "Too much," he assessed professionally as he wiped the water from his face.
"My turn!" Fischer called before anyone else could.
Booth knocked a second time and then took a step back. They waited but there was still no response making it apparent that there was no one inside. Brennan grew impatient and reached for the door knob but before she could touch it Booth snatched her hand away. "What do you think you are doing?"
"I am opening the door."
"Me first, Bones. It's not a new rule."
"There is no one home!"
"Are you making an assumption, Dr. Brennan?" he challenged. "You don't know that."
Brennan ground her teeth refusing to admit he was right even when she knew he was. "Fine." She stepped back and he moved in front of her. "This is because I'm pregnant, isn't it?" she asked as he opened the unlocked door.
"No, that's always been the rule, Bones." He was very careful to keep his tone light. He was not going to prove her right even though he was feeling tenuous about her in the field and in her present condition. They still had months to go and he knew starting that particular argument now would be a mistake. She wasn't going to acknowledge the changes needed until her body forced her. Moving with soft steps he entered Roger Lair's kitchen. "Clear," he stated out of habit.
"Well of course it is, Booth. I declared the man dead fifteen hours ago."
"Why are you being like this?"
Brennan smirked at him and crossed to the door leading to the laundry room. "You like it."
"Just be careful with my kid," he muttered as she disappeared into the adjoining room. The house was deafeningly quiet and every instinct he had told him there was no one else there, but he still searched carefully. The rooms were tidy but appeared unused for quite some time.
"He has been living alone," Brennan said as if she could read his mind.
Booth turned with some surprise. "You sure, Bones?"
"There is only one toothbrush in the master bath. In the small bedroom at the end of the hall there is a flyer advertising a music performance from this past May lying directly in the traffic path. There is a layer of dust on the paper. While the bedrooms still contain personal effects they are not items of necessity. The refrigerator holds only beer, cheese and bologna."
"You could have just said you looked around and you are sure," he joked wearing the slightly proud grin that had been produced by her list of evidence.
"I like to be thorough."
"Gun first and you like details. Did we reboot our partnership to year one?"
Brennan's eyebrow arched and she rubbed a hand over her midsection. "I thought this was year one of the new partnership?"
Booth chuckled with delight. He turned surveying the living room as he spoke his agreement. "First of many, Bones." He stopped when his eyes found something and he crossed the room to a worn and faded recliner.
"What is it?" Brennan asked when he lifted a thick packet of papers from the side table.
"Oh, boy." Booth handed them to her when she reached him. "What's the anthropological significance of occupation and marital status in American males?"
"Paramount," she answered as she scanned the document. "Lair lost both," she summarized. "Fired from his job and," she lifted the papers to signify their nature, "his wife filed for divorce."
"Our boat captain is starting to look like a guy who had nothing to lose."
Brennan was engrossed in her examination of the remains in front of her when the platform security alarms began to sound, startling her. When she turned, she found a tall, dark-haired woman standing frozen between the second and third steps leading up to the platform, being surrounded by lab security.
"Who do you think you are?" Brennan yelled over the screeching bells. "This is a secure platform; you have no clearance to come up here!" She waved to the guards, gesturing towards the woman as she slid her access card through the reader to halt the alarms. The intruder looked from the guards to Brennan to the crowd gathering around the scene, clearly shocked into silence.
"Well?" Cam asked, striding up the side steps. "Dr. Brennan asked you a question."
"What?" The woman asked, confused. "What was that noise?"
Brennan glanced at Cam, who nodded and took a step back, allowing her colleague to take the lead. Brennan's eyes iced over as she took her opponent in with disdain. "Do you suffer from some sort of comprehension deficiency? Once again…who are you and what do you think you are doing stepping onto my platform?"
Finally shaking herself into action, their uninvited guest took a step forward, obviously intending to shake Brennan's hand. "My name is-"
"Stop!" Brennan growled, hand extended, palm-out. "You are not authorized to be here. Answer my question."
"Uh, I am Stephanie Roberts, with Homeland Security…I just…"
"Yes, you just decided that the rules do not apply to you, and attempted to infiltrate my platform without proper authorization, I understand that." Brennan ignored the soft snort she heard come from Cam and continued to glare at the woman.
After taking a step back to move off the platform, Roberts took a moment to gather her wit and then continued speaking as if Brennan hadn't interrupted her. "I came to pick up the evidence from the bridge collapse for Homeland Security."
Cam scoffed, sharing a glance with Brennan. "And what evidence would that be, Agent Roberts?"
"All of it, of course. Any soil samples, bridge pieces, the victims' personal effects and ID's and any conclusions you've reached to this point." Roberts actually looked pleased with herself, until the two women in front of her began laughing.
Recovering first, Brennan shook her head. "Agent Roberts, I am sure you have already been informed that in this joint investigation, our lab is handling all physical evidence relating to the case. Your superiors as well as DEMA, FEMA and the FBI have all jointly agreed that, due to our unimpeachable reputation for accuracy, success and integrity, the Jeffersonian will continue with the current protocol and report all of our findings to each agency in turn."
Roberts stepped as close to the steps as she dared, fire in her blue eyes as she pointed at the evidence bags she could see from her vantage point. "Dr. Brennan, I don't believe that you are in any way capable of determining who is in charge here and I would appreciate it if you and your friend there would gather together the items I've asked for and hand them over to Homeland Security."
The mirth faded from Cam's face almost immediately as she moved in front of Brennan and sashayed down the platform steps, stopping inches from Agent Roberts, arms crossed tightly across her chest. "Agent Roberts. I'm not sure I understand why you believe you can come into our lab and bully our team, the best forensics team in the country, into doing your bidding when you clearly have no authority to do so. However, I am going to make you a deal, taking into consideration that you are young, and that someday you will surely see the error of your ways."
"I don't need to make a deal with you…I'm sorry, who are you?" Roberts practically sneered.
Cam smiled, a predatory gleam in her eye. "I am Dr. Camille Saroyan. I am in charge of this lab and everything in it. And yes, you do need to make a deal with me, Agent Roberts. Because, quite frankly, you don't have a choice. Nothing…not one piece of evidence, not one body, not one bone, not one report leaves the premises without my authority." She paused to make sure the young agent was listening. "So in the interest of fair play, and in order to make sure that every agency involved is kept in the loop, we will give you copies of all of our findings thus far and we will make sure that Agent Booth updates you on his end of the investigation."
Roberts rolled her eyes in Cam's direction, looking over her shoulder at Brennan who still stood on the forensic platform. "I'm sorry to tell you both, but Homeland Security trumps your little lab here. I only have to call my boss and everything you have will be coming with me. Count on it." She crossed her arms over her chest in a mimic of Cam's stance.
Brennan descended the steps, a small smile gracing her face. "You can attempt to do that, Agent Roberts. But, would you do me a favor? When you speak to your boss, please tell her hello from me."
Roberts shook her head, smiling insincerely. "My boss, Kurt Reuther, is male, Dr. Brennan. You must be mistaken."
"Oh." Brennan managed to look vaguely embarrassed as Cam stifled a smile. "I assumed when you spoke of your boss, you were referring to the Secretary of Homeland Security. As I am quite well acquainted with Janet, I was merely attempting to be friendly and ease some of the obvious tension inflicted by your visit. I thought perhaps if you spoke with her directly, we could work something out that would be beneficial for both parties. I apologize for the assumption."
"I…you…you're friends with Secretary Napolitano?" Roberts sputtered.
Brennan smiled briefly. "We have worked with Homeland Security in several high-profile cases, Agent Roberts. And…Janet is a fan of my novels."
Agent Roberts looked from the guileless face of Brennan to the wide-eyed countenance of Cam and decided to take her fight elsewhere. "Fine. I'm leaving. But rest assured, we will be speaking again." She turned on her heel and stalked off towards the doors.
"Looking forward to it, Agent Roberts!" Brennan called to her retreating form.
Cam gave up trying to hide her mirth and busted out laughing. "Oh, Brennan…that was classic. You scared that poor girl silly."
"Although I find it distasteful to use my connections for an advantage in most cases, I believe this particular situation called for a little…gravitas." She pursed her lips slightly. "And, I didn't care for her at all."
"Amen to that, Brennan." Cam ignored the confused expression on her colleague's face as she turned to head back to her own office. "Oh, if you don't mind, I want to call Booth and tell him about this?"
Brennan nodded as she ascended the stairs. "That would be fine, Cam."
"Yes!" Cam whispered, speeding up her pace just a little. "This will make Seeley's day."
Turner nodded as she shut the passenger door to Booth's SUV. "Yeah, these are just getting hard to stomach."
"You did good on that last one, Turner," he praised realizing this kind of mass destruction of human life was new to the rookie.
"Yeah, asking a ten-year old if he remembered anything before his mom fell off the bridge was simple."
"We can't always avoid what seems wrong."
"Right." She nodded curtly. "Just another day."
"No," Booth denied with a soft shake of his head. "These will stick with you and they won't be regular days. But, you learn to move on. You give it its due and then you put it behind you, but it's always there."
"You've seen worse?" Booth's eyes clouded and for a moment she regretted asking the question. But then it passed and his sharp gaze found hers.
"I've seen much worse," he admitted gravely. "But it made me stronger, more ready for the next one. And that's the thing, Turner. There will be a next one and we have to be ready."
"Yes, sir," she answered and her crisp retort held all her respect for the agent she wanted to imitate.
Silently they made their way into the third hospital of the day. Yesterday they had focused on the able bodied survivors and those witnesses who had seen the explosion from the river bank. Today they were forced to ask questions of those who had actually been in harm's way. Every hospital in the area was tending survivors and this one was housing at least two people they needed to speak with.
"What's this?" Turner asked as they stepped out of the elevator and found the sixth floor under guard.
Two men in dark suits and darker glasses stepped forward to confront them. There was little doubt these were federal agents of some sort and Booth had a hunch who they reported to. They had an air of superiority that both FBI agents found insulting and the way they demanded information did little to encourage interagency cooperation.
"Identification, please," the first young officer barked. "This is a restricted area."
"Restricted area?" Turner repeated as she flashed her badge. "Against what? Germs?"
"It's a matter of national security, that's all you need to know."
They had given each FBI badge and ID card a close look but seemed satisfied. "You'll need to surrender your firearms until departure," the second officer ordered.
"You better be prepared to die trying to take it," Booth answered his voice quiet and deadly serious.
The younger man swallowed nervously and took a step back. "We have orders," he said in plaintive explanation.
"I don't care if your orders came from the President, you aren't taking our side arms."
"Is there a problem?"
Booth looked over the shoulders of the young and ineffective officers trying to detain him and rolled his eyes. "I should have known," he grumbled. "What do you think you are doing, Roberts?"
"I'm conducting an investigation, Agent Booth. I'll be happy to share my results just as soon as I have things wrapped up."
"An investigation," Booth repeated. "Into what? There's nothing here but victims."
"You would be wrong about that, Agent Booth," she said with a smirk. "My sources have confirmed that the instigator of yesterday's disaster is lying in a bed just down this hallway."
"Oh really?And what evidence do you have to back that up?"
"I'm not at liberty to share that at this moment, but I assure you that in the interest of this joint operation I will provide you with that information as soon as it is cleared for your level of access."
"His level of access?" Turner objected. "He's an SSA!"
"I see," Booth drawled slowly his eyes locked with Roberts, his cool and disapproving, hers defiant. "You didn't like losing your power play with Dr. Brennan and Dr. Saroyan so you think you can cut me out of whatever angle you are working."
"I'm simply doing my job, Agent Booth. You have your evidence and I have mine. We'll see who the superior unit is."
That actually made Booth laugh and he let it out in a burst of amusement. "Yeah, ok. We'll do that."
"I don't appreciate your attitude, Agent Booth."
"And I don't appreciate your attempt to escalate paranoid and unfounded fears into a scenario that pads your service record." The humor was gone and he leaned forward ignoring the way the guards behind her tensed. "We're on the same team here, Roberts. You might not like the pecking order, but we are looking for the same thing."
"Terrorists," Roberts finished.
"The truth," Booth corrected. "If you can't remember that it might mean you need to go back to school or find another career."
"I have the truth," she snapped. "And when I file my report you'll see I'm right." She drew herself to attention and tried to look intimidating. "I'm going to ask you to leave, Agent Booth. Homeland Security has this facility well in hand. If we need anything further from the FBI I will let you know. Interviews with any current patient on this floor will have to be postponed until access to certain persons is approved by those in my chain of command."
Turner expected Booth to argue but instead he turned on his heel and stepped back into the elevator. Startled, but quick to react she followed him. "Why did you let her win?" she asked as the door slid shut.
"Double check the patient list for this hospital," Booth ordered in lieu of an answer.
"Why, you think she actually has something?"
"No, I think she's jumping at shadows and desperate to prove us wrong. But, let's be sure."
"Did you have something for me?" Cam asked as she entered Angela's office.
The squeaky answer brought Cam's determined steps to a halt and she crossed her arms over her chest. "That's slightly less certainty that we usually use when discussing evidence."
"That's because I'm not sure it qualifies as evidence."
"I'm confused. I thought you went over the information from the shipping company?"
Angela sighed. "What I'm about to say you can't repeat to Brennan."
Cam's eyebrow lifted in shock. "Say what?"
"I checked over everything the shipping company was able to supply," Angela stated with what sounded more like her usual expert opinion. "Computer records are thorough, but inconclusive."
"So why do you look like there is more to this story?"
"I have a hunch."
"Oh." Cam now understood why she couldn't repeat this to Dr. Brennan. "Ok, I can go with that. Sometimes it's the hunch that leads you to the facts you need."
With Cam's acceptance Angela visibly relaxed and brought the displayed image of the pre-trip inspection to her monitor. "Lair performed the pre-trip inspection. Doesn't that seem a little odd to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"He was the captain. Shouldn't he have been, I don't know checking the weather or doing something captain-ly? Him doing the safety inspection is like an airline pilot doing the seatbelt demonstration."
"Maybe," Cam agreed bobbing her head in an approximation of agreement.
"It looks even more odd when you consider that every other inspection on file was conducted by the third officer. Not just this boat, but every boat in the company. I checked every log for the past year. Captains never do that job."
"Ok, that makes it feel less like a hunch and more like a suspicion," Cam approved. "Anything else?"
"He lied on the report."
"Probably, but how can you tell?"
Angela pressed another button and a new image appeared on her computer screen. "This is footage from the dock. It shows the boat leaving port two days before the accident." Cam watched the footage noting nothing usual as the tug pulled into the wide river. Angela changed the picture. "Now this is the same thing, but on the morning of the accident."
Cam saw the difference almost immediately. "It's sitting lower in the water."
"Exactly," Angela confirmed. "But the report indicates the hold was empty, just like the day before. It's just not possible. Something added enough weight to make the boat ride low in the water."
"Like the amount of explosives Hodgins found would be necessary for the damage we saw?"
"It's not proof," Angela lamented.
"No, but it's a good piece of the puzzle. We'll just have to keep looking for the missing piece."
Cam circled the platform on her way to the lounge from Angela's office when she noticed Brennan standing alone next to an exam table. As she passed, she noticed that the remains on the table were very small, which always made her heart clench. Without another thought, Cam changed direction and climbed the steps to the platform, moving decisively to stand next to the anthropologist. She reached over and placed her hand on her friend's tense back, leaning slightly towards her downturned head.
"I would like to tell you that it's simply the hormones. That…the feeling you're having right now, of helplessness, and a loss of control that you've never even come close to feeling before? I would love to tell you that it subsides and you will be able to regain that imperviousness you are so well known for….but I can't do that." She shook her head sadly as Brennan's head jerked up, her eyes wide and watery.
"I-" her throat worked as she struggled to regain her composure. "I need that control to do my job, Cam. How can I do my job if, every time I see a child like this, I think of-"
"Your child. I know." She locked eyes with the woman beside her. "I know. It's hard, but believe me it is all worth it. You do this job, and then you go home and you hold that baby and you remember that he or she is the reason we all do this job. For the innocent who can't speak for themselves."
Brennan looked down at the tiny remains and nodded tightly. "Thank you, Cam." She whispered.
"You're welcome, Dr. Brennan." Cam replied as Molly walked onto the platform. "Please let me know if there is anything you need."
Walking away, she overheard the young intern ask Brennan if there was anything she could do for her. With a sad smile, she heard the negative reply, and the evidence of the customary steel already returning to Brennan's voice.
Booth felt his stomach growl and glanced at the time. It wasn't as late as he thought but he vowed to call it quits soon. If he was already getting hungry Brennan probably was too. A smile lightened his worried face as thoughts of his partner chased away the worrisome details of this case. It was much easier to get her to eat these days and he really enjoyed the way she would allow him to take care of her. Not completely, of course, but she was learning to accept that sometimes she should accept his little offers. Tonight he was going to offer to make that cauliflower soup she liked while she took a bath and relaxed. She hadn't said much about her reaction to this case, but he knew her well enough to know she was struggling some. They all were.
A knock at his door pulled his attention from his thoughts. "Yeah, Samson?" he asked gesturing for the agent at the door to enter.
"Booth, there's a woman here claiming to have information on the bridge disaster."
He was immediately on his feet and rounding his desk. "Anyone get a statement?" he demanded.
"No, we figured you would want to do it."
"You figured right."
Agent Samson provided the location of his new witness and Booth hurried to the interrogation room. Booth was an expert at reading people. As much as Sweets relied on his fancy degrees and training to understand the signals people revealed, Booth relied on his gut. And as he opened the door his gut told him his surprise witness was the one he had been looking for. "Mrs. Lair?" he asked as he gently shut the door behind him. "I'm Special Agent Booth, I'm coordinating the FBI's response to the Delaware Bridge incident. I'm told you have something for me?"
"It's nice to meet you, Agent Booth," she responded as he took the seat opposite her. She looked incredibly uncomfortable and she fidgeted in her seat as if unable to proceed.
"Could I ask you a few routine questions?" Booth offered. "That way we can warm up to whatever you need to tell me."
Her shoulders lowered slightly either with relief or resignation and she nodded.
"You are Karen Lair, wife of Roger Lair?"
"Yes." She blinked back tears.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
Booth's sincere words breached her control and her tears fell. "I'm not sure I deserve that," she said wiping her eyes with a tissue. "We were separated."
Booth nodded. "I saw the papers. That doesn't mean this isn't a loss." She took a deep breath and he continued when she looked more in control. "Mrs. Lair, were you aware of any hostility or destructive impulses your husband might be having?"
She shook her head. "No. I left Roger six months ago. We hit a rough patch that we just couldn't seem to get past and after a few years I decided it wasn't worth trying anymore."
"What kind of rough patch?"
"Family problems, money problems, marital problems; we pretty much had them all." She twisted her tissue in her hand and began to explain. "Roger lost his parents two years ago. It was a shock, despite their age, and he struggled with it. Before he could come to terms with it I lost my job. That put us in a financial hardship and things grew strained. He wouldn't talk to me about his loss. He wouldn't talk to me about our financial problems. We started to argue all the time. He grew depressed and withdrawn and the more I tried the more he pushed me away. Finally, I had enough and I packed up the kids and we moved down to Asheville. My sister is there and her husband was able to get me on with his company."
Having her open up with him was the signal Booth needed and he pressed for more. "Mrs. Lair, what information can you give me about your husband's involvement in the Delaware Bridge explosion?"
The tearful woman sighed as she slid an envelope across the table. "This came in the mail yesterday," she stated as Booth picked it up. "He did it. Roger blew up the bridge."
Booth scanned the letter feeling the satisfaction of finding the truth and cold horror for the pain the words contained. Roger Lair had been despondent. He had lost his parents, his wife, his family, his financial security and then finally his job. He had felt as if he had nothing to live for. And with the desperation only felt by those who think there is no reason to go on, he had made one final act to mark his life.
The letter was full of self-hate, hopelessness and anger. Lair took the blame for the failed marriage firmly on his own shoulders. He went to great lengths to demonstrate how he had pushed his wife away and made their split inevitable. But his absolution of her seemed to rob him of forgiveness for the rest of humanity. In several long paragraphs he rambled about all the ways his life was ruined and how unfair he found his losses. The entire confession was troubling, but it was the final paragraph that sent chills down Booth's spine.
"I work the river, chugging along, and watch those cars traveling above me. Classy, sleek machines, filled with happy people who have no idea how good they have it. They drive back and forth up there without a care in the world, all happy and satisfied. It's not fair! I was supposed to be happy! That was supposed to be me. Why should they have it instead of me?"
Booth cleared his throat trying to gain control over his horrified reaction. Lair had packed his boat with explosives and slammed it into the bridge killing innocent people because he thought the world owed him more than he got. It was senseless. It was crazy. It made him want to put his arms around his family and never let go.
"Thank you for bringing this in," he said to the woman seated with him. "It's what we needed."
"I'm sorry I didn't stop him," she admitted with new tears in her eyes. "I swear I didn't know. I would have stayed. I could have stopped him. I didn't know...he could be so...evil." She shuddered at the word.
"No ma'am," Booth responded. "This was an act of desperation. A man like your husband isn't evil, he's just lost."
The team stood off to the side of the large conference room, talking quietly amongst themselves. The final case debriefing, as well as a lengthy speech from both Secretary Napolitano and Director Mueller praising Booth and the team, had broken up a few moments prior. While the directors of each agency had departed rather quickly, Booth and Brennan and the rest of the squints had decided to stay a few more minutes to enjoy the complimentary coffee and pastries and make plans to meet up later that night for their traditional post-case drinks.
"Booth, if you eat another bear claw I will be forced to make you eat nothing but vegetables for the next week to counteract the degenerative effects of your poor diet when I am not around." Brennan huffed, pulling the frosting-laden treat from his hands and handing it to Sweets.
"Hey, what are you giving it to him for? Don't you care about Sweets' health?" Booth reached half-heartedly for the donut the younger man held back from him, frowning.
Brennan shook her head. "That is Claudia's job, not mine." She smiled as Turner grabbed the snack out of Sweets' hands and took a bite herself.
"Good for you, Turner." Booth laughed as Sweets pouted.
"Um…Agent Booth?" A tentative voice from behind the group broke the mood. Angela, Cam, Turner and Brennan all moved to stand behind Booth protectively while the other men chuckled.
Booth crossed his arms and stared the woman in front of him in the eye. "Yes, Agent Roberts?"
Roberts sighed, stuffing her hands into her pockets, refusing to look any of them in the eye. "I wanted to congratulate you and your team on a successful resolution to the case."
"Thank you." He watched as she peeked uncomfortably at Brennan and Cam, then down again. "Was there anything else?"
"Yes, I…" Roberts finally looked up, taking in the team with a sweeping glance. "I wanted to apologize for my behavior during the investigation, and assure you that the Department of Homeland Security is not in the business of making unfounded assumptions based on little to no evidence."
"Wow, Roberts…did you rehearse that all morning long?" Booth shook his head at the total insincerity in the other agent's apology. "Honestly, if that's the best you can do for the complete and utter disrespect you showed me, Dr. Brennan, Dr. Saroyan and our team here, I think we're done." He turned back to the team, unconcerned at Roberts' scowl.
Her voice dripping with sarcasm, Roberts stepped into Booth's side. "Well, I will admit that my boss insisted I apologize…and since, truly, I don't believe I had anything to be sorry about, then you're right, Agent Booth. That is the best I can do." Smug, she stood back again, looking derisively at the group in front of her.
"Wow." Sweets breathed. "It's true what they say about the mean girls in high school. They grow up to be insufferable adults, too."
Smiling with no mirth, Roberts rounded on her former classmate. "You're still sad that I wouldn't give you the time of day, Lance? Because, I have to be honest…" She looked him up and down predatorily. "You've done well for yourself since high school…you might have a chance now."
Laughing with genuine amusement, Sweets wrapped his arm around Turner's shoulder, dropping a kiss to her temple. "Definitely not interested, Agent Roberts. I am doing so much better than I ever could have done back then and believe me…you are far from capable of changing that situation."
Shaking her head in disbelief, Roberts struggled to maintain her composure as she collected her bag from the floor and started to turn away. "Fine, but you don't know what you're missing. Goodbye, Agent Booth, Dr. Brennan. It's been…interesting."
"Have a nice life, Agent Roberts." Booth waved sarcastically at her retreating backside.
Brennan, Angela and Cam laughed as Claudia waved slowly, smiling widely. "Buh bye, Steffie!"
"Alright, alright…enough of this high school crap. Who's hungry?" Booth clapped his hands together excitedly. "Anyone up for some real breakfast?"
Brennan nodded. "I could eat."
"Then by all means, let's get this baby fed! Chop chop, everyone!" Booth began leading Brennan out of the room, Sweets and Turner trailing immediately after.
"I don't know why I thought that when Booth and Brennan got together that anything would change." Cam smiled. "But they're still just the same as they ever were."
"Yeah, except for that whole 'expecting a little Boothling' thing." Hodgins grinned.
"Still trying to wrap my head around that one." Cam agreed.
Angela linked her arm through her husband's as well as her boss's and pulled them to join the rest of the group. "It's not strange at all; it's the natural order of things. Now come on, I'm starving."
"You should have seen that little speedboat explode, Ange," Jack said through a chuckle. He was shaking his head at the memory, a huge grin on his face and his eyes bright. "It was spectacular. None of the interns had that kind of power in theirs."
"I'm sure," Angela agreed without looking up from her reading.
Jack forked another bite of chicken into his mouth and then reached for his wine glass. "I love a good experiment," he noted for no particular reason. He sipped his drink as he again replayed the test in his mind. "I think I could have gotten a more spectacular result if I loaded more of the payload in the nose." He set his glass down and reached for the bottle to pour a refill. "I'll have to remember that if I do something similar in the future."
"You want more?" he offered holding the bottle out toward her glass.
"I heard the explosion all the way in my office."
Jack laughed and set the bottle down. "Ok, I can take a hint. The wife has stopped listening to me. Time to find a new topic of dinner conversation."
The slight injury in his tone lifted Angela's attention from her reading. "I'm sorry, Babe. What were you saying?"
Jack shook his head and leaned on his elbows. "Nothing. I'm probably repeating myself. I don't know if you've noticed it before, but I like to over analyze my experiments."
Angela smiled. "It's fairly cute when you do that."
"What are you reading?" he asked trying to make up for his self-absorption through this entire meal.
Angela seemed to take a moment to reflect on her answer. Reaching a definitive conclusion she picked up the material she was reading for at least the twelfth time and laid it on the table in front of him. "I'm ready."
Jack recognized the literature and took her hand in his. "You're sure?"
"Absolutely," she swore and it was clear she meant it. "I want to adopt. We have a good life Jack. But the horrible reality of this last case is that good or bad it can end in an instant. I don't want to wait any more."
"Ok," he agreed picking up the sheet of information he needed from the pile on the table. "I'll make a call tomorrow and get the ball rolling."
"There's a lot of paperwork, background checks, interviews..." Angela warned.
"Hey, I can do good in those."
Angela leaned toward him and he met her half way. "You will do great," she agreed. They kissed once, softly and parted with happy smiles. "We won't ever have the same life again."
"That's ok," he teased. "I'm good with any life as long as it's with you."
Booth shucked his shirt and tossed it in the general direction of the laundry basket, ignoring the slight scowl from Brennan as he headed to the en suite to finish his bedtime routine. After he was done, he flipped off the light and grabbed his errant shirt, placing it in the basket on the way to the bed. He pretended not to see Brennan's triumphant smile as he settled in, pulling an extra pillow under his head as he turned to watch her power down her laptop and get comfortable as well.
"You okay there, Bones?"
Brennan felt that initial uneasiness she always experienced when Booth was able to tell how she was feeling without her having said a word, but that was quickly replaced with the warmth of having someone who knew her so well.
"I'm better now, but earlier…when I was examining a young victim…"
Booth nodded sympathetically. "I can imagine. It must have been hard for you, Bones."
"Yes, but then Cam spoke with me and put things in perspective and although it wasn't any easier, I was able to compartmentalize enough to complete the examination." Her hand absently picked at the blanket. "I believe that, from this point forward, I will be able to better navigate the intense feelings a situation such as this will bring to the fore."
Booth smiled gently. "I have no doubt in the world that you will, Bones." He pulled her closer. "Remember what they said in that Discovery Channel show about the team?" He looked up, clearly quoting the voice-over narrator from the documentary that had aired a few months previous, "Dr. Temperance Brennan has discovered truth in the unsolvable mystery, justice in the coldest case, and closure for families that, without her unique expertise, would have never found the answers that they were seeking."
Brennan stared at Booth, wide-eyed. "I can't believe you remember that, word for word!"
He gave her a charming, completely sincere grin. "When it concerns you, I always remember."
"Although that sounds like a line…" She raised an amused eyebrow in his direction. "I am inclined to believe you." She leaned over and gave him a grateful kiss. "Thank you, Booth."
"Anytime, Bones." He sighed against her lips, smiling as he pulled back. "Now, are you ready for my confession?"
Resisting the urge to clap in excitement, Brennan nodded. Their shared, daily revelations had quickly become her favorite part of the day. "Please."
"Alright. I thought about this earlier, what with the thing with Sweets and Turner, and Agent Roberts…" Booth settled back again, pulling her along with him so that they both reclined against the headboard, her head resting in the crook of his shoulder. "When I was about 14, I had a strange movie star crush. Well, strange for a 14 year old boy back then, anyway." He glanced down at Brennan's upturned face. "Now, this might have had something to do with Pops, and his influence, but…" He cleared his throat nervously. "I had the biggest thing for Katharine Hepburn."
"Really?" Brennan laughed. "I love her!" She closed her eyes, thinking. "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above." Opening her eyes, she looked to Booth expectantly.
"African Queen, right?" Booth asked, glad Brennan had chosen not to find it strange that he had found a woman almost 70 years older than he attractive. "That's a great flick. Humphrey Bogart…can't go wrong with that."
"No, you can't." She smiled again. "What was it about Hepburn that you found irresistible?"
"Quite a bit, to be honest. I mean, I liked that she was her own person, that she was brave enough and self-assured enough to speak her mind…she seemed like she didn't take guff from anyone, and even though back then I couldn't have identified that quality, now I realize that I find that incredibly attractive." He grinned. "I don't know, I just thought she was hot."
Brennan nodded. "It's not unusual for an alpha male to seek a mate that will challenge him. You are a classic alpha in that respect; the women in your life are almost always alphas themselves. So your attraction to Katherine Hepburn makes perfect sense." She looked up at Booth, thoughtfully. "You know, I had an odd crush myself, back when I was about 9 or 10."
"Really now…" Booth sat up higher, intrigued. "Who?"
"Do you remember that show about the stunt man? He also pursued fugitives in his free time?"
Booth thought for a moment. "You mean 'The Fall Guy'? You had a thing for Lee Majors? That's not odd, Bones…he was a good-looking guy. And he isn't all that much older than you."
Brennan blushed, something Booth found extremely attractive, especially since it didn't happen all that often. "No, it's not Lee Majors, the actor, that I was 'crushing on', as you say." She looked down again and continued to pluck at the blanket. "It was…you know, the character. Colt Seavers."
"Ohh." Booth smiled in understanding. "Bones, there's nothing odd about that either. People get crushes on television and movie characters all the time." She leaned up and kissed him.
"Thanks, Booth." Brennan grinned. "You know, I really like this tradition we have, sharing our secrets."
"Me too, Bones."
"I've never…" She absently rubbed her slightly rounded stomach. "I've never wanted someone to know me as well as you know me, and…it makes me nervous sometimes." Booth smothered a grin at her earnest gaze. "But, because it's you…and we're building this life together, I find it more comforting than scary, now."
Touched more than he could express, Booth bent forward and placed a soft kiss to her belly, ignoring her chuckle. "Hello, baby." He whispered. "Your mom is a very, very brave woman. Even when she thinks she isn't."
Brennan's breath caught in her throat, but she managed to find her voice. "I do love you, Booth."
"I know, Bones." He pulled her closer, nuzzling her ear. "I love you, too.
When a member of the team vanishes without a trace, the rest of the team is rocked by the reality that there's nothing they can do and that they may never see the missing ever again. Join us next week for 7.5x02: How I Wonder What You Are by Brainysmrfs