Author's Note: I always imagined Brennan working a case in which she is lowered to a crime scene and is hovering over it examining remain headfirst. While I don't like endings that linger too long, I just had to do this. It amuses me and it fits the story. Enjoy.
He really walked in on it.
Angela's monitors were huge—beautiful large screen tributes to engineering perfection—and right now they were the perfect vehicle for seeing what he was seeing.
He sure as hell wasn't sure he'd want to be there on site.
The winding mountain roads of the Appalachians often provided enough thrills just navigating them, but today they were the scene of something he wasn't sure any of them would see again.
Booth and Brennan together in the field.
Two months after being shot, Booth was back, the camera on him showing just how back he was.
"Is that Hodgins on the camera?" he asked.
Angela nodded. Dr. Saroyan just stared at the monitor, unblinking, the next image frightening—so frightening, that they all recoiled as if a unit, the image daring and thrilling and breathtaking all at once. Hodgins somehow pointed the camera downward, into the gorge and they could at once see the height and the depth and the fearfulness of what was about to happen.
The camera swung around on Dr. Brennan.
"How'd he get that shot?" he asked belatedly.
Both Angela and Dr. Saroyan answered together, "Tripod."
"Series 5000 articulating tripod with a full swiveling pan head," Angela added. "Jack likes his toys."
They continued to watch the scene unfolding. Dr. Brennan was being strapped into a harness, a local sheriff's deputy helping her step into the webbing. As he buckled her in, cinching up the slack, Booth took his place, testing each connection with a strong tug that practically ripped his partner from her feet.
"How'd they find it?"
"Hikers," supplied Dr. Saroyan.
"She really going to go down there?"
No one answered because no one needed to. Dressed in her Jeffersonian field jumpsuit, strapped into the harness, someone was now attaching a heavy cable to a thick D ring at her back and another to was threaded through one on the front. These, too, Booth tugged, the tension clearly evident in his face.
The only one who seemed calm in the sea of people was Dr. Brennan.
A remote area of the Appalachians had claimed a car and its passengers years ago, so the story went, and only now had someone spotted it, dangling precipitously from a sheared-off tree and a ledge of rock and the only way to it and the passengers was to be dangling from a crane that had been brought up to a clearing there. Most of the equipment up there, as well as the people, had been brought up piece by piece in an agonizingly slow process that had taxed man and machine.
"Why can't they just hook the car on a cable and hoist it up," he asked, "you know, crank it up and then take a look?"
"They're not sure if the structural integrity of the car can take the strain." The voice burbled with excitement. "Besides, even if the crane can take the load, this rock shelf may not."
"That's Hodgins," Sweets exclaimed. "He can hear us."
Angela nodded dumbly and continued to stare, wide-eyed at the scene.
"Why didn't they just drop a camera over the edge of that and see if it contains human remains?"
He spoke up, directing his question to Hodgins.
"Camera resolution showed skeletonized remains but the resolution wasn't good enough to give them cause of death or even to tell them how many remains were on board." The voice was patient and calm, a teaching moment of sorts. "Have to send someone down to take a look."
Hodgins voice came over the speakers hushed and whispery like a golf tournament announcer's voice.
"She's really going to do this," Sweets said to no one in particular.
The scene on screen gave them the answer. Someone was fitting an odd headpiece at her temple and as he watched he realized it was a camera. A technician was off to the side and Hodgins panned over to show a monitor that blinked to life, the image darting with Dr. Brennan's head as she twisted and turned as she strapped on an equipment belt and checked its contents.
"You'd think we'd be doing this for a crown prince of Europe or to settle some geopolitical argument in some small, but very important Arab emirate, but no, this is all because a family went out for a Sunday drive in their car. . . ."
His own nervousness had unleashed his restraint and he had been pouring out his thoughts until the women beside him halted the flood of words.
"Two adults. Bank robbers disappeared out there fifteen, twenty years ago." Dr. Saroyan paused, her own eyes never darting from the screen. "It would be nice to know if this is them."
He tried to take a breath and calm his heart that seemed to be beating a bass drum in his ears when he tore his eyes away from the screen. Scanning the room, he tried to find something else to look at, anything rather than the scene in front of him when he came upon a blown-up image of the car off to the side on one of the sign boards they sometimes used for such things. The mangled car body looked like little more than a wad of paper crumpled and abandoned on the ledge.
"How can anyone tell what make that is?" he asked as he leaned in to the picture and tried to read the numbers.
"They can't," Hodgins said from his perch hundreds of miles away. "It's so badly rusted that it almost blended into the foliage and the iron oxide content leaching out of the soil. Most remains are thought to be consumed by scavengers or carried off and most have been accounted for over the years except for our one family."
He watched the story unfold. The people around Dr. Brennan stepped away and she stepped forward and Booth held her by the waist and they could all hear the muffled last minute instructions from her partner, the unspoken instructions were there as well—be careful. Come back to me.
It was the ultimate high-wire act. Booth stepped back and signaled the crane operator and she was lifted from the ground and began a slow horizontal arc from the edges of stone to dangle directly over the void before being lowered from view.
Hodgins followed her descent until he couldn't and for one frightening moment they saw only static as they were switched from his view to hers.
They were looking out into the sky for a moment before a blur of rocks and brush and dirt entered their view.
"Sweetie, can you hear me?"
"Yes," came the breathy reply. "Booth?"
His reply completed the circuit.
"We need to lower you almost twelve feet," Hodgins said.
There was a steady show of plants braving the rock face and sometimes the dizzying view of the tops of trees below whenever Dr. Brennan looked downward.
"Could you stop doing that, Bren?"
Sweets looked over and saw what Angela was seeing—Dr. Saroyan was wrapped in on herself, her eyes shut, her hand to her mouth.
"I have to look down, Angela. I need to assess where the car is and if there are any hazards. . . ."
"No, no, it's all right," Dr. Saroyan said, her voice unusually high. "Just let me know when you get to the car."
Exchanging a glance with Angela, Sweets turned back toward the monitor. Now two images appeared: one looking down on Dr. Brennan's descent as well as her more intimate view.
It was the best of both worlds.
"You could try breathing slower. . . ," he suggested, beginning his demonstration by exaggerating the technique.
"No, no, that's fine," Dr. Saroyan said. Her eyes were still tightly closed. "Just tell me when she's there."
It was a coping mechanism that seemed to be working. Her breathing was a bit fast, but her color was normal and, well, the better show was on the monitor. With another assessing look, he turned back to the screen.
The car was just coming into view, its cloth top tattered and shredded by the elements.
He could hear Booth in the background ordering someone to do a search, then his voice became more direct. "Talk to me, Bones."
She was running through what she saw on the vehicle and Sweets could imagine one of the junior agents on scene scrambling to relay the information to another agent online.
"I'm ready to go down," Dr. Brennan announced.
The bodies in the car were darkened, leathery creatures with their death grins facing upward. Hanging midair from the cable like a spider on a single filament, she continued with her observations.
She paused after describing the second victim and Booth took the opportunity to ask, "Are you done, Bones? Can we pull you up?"
The silence earned another evoking of her nickname.
"Booth, this is a crime scene."
The sigh from Booth was unmistakable.
"Gunshot wound to the back of the skull. Female passenger. The male driver also has gun shot wounds. One. . . two. Neck and chest. And another one at the top of the skull."
"The car's also been shot."
Sweets stood and listened as Booth outlined what may have happened. "They were on the run, being chased. . . ."
And so it began. Weeks ago Booth was little more than a question mark and Dr. Brennan had sworn off working cases and here they were, back again.
Sweets couldn't help but smile.
But it seemed wrong.
And oh, so right.
A cell phone rang and Booth answered. The audio feed garbled the conversation, but not the tail end of it. "Hey, Bones. Mrs. Drummer from the day care wants to know if you have another bottle of milk, you know, for our short stuff. Your office?"
"Where would I keep it in my office, Booth?"
"Well, the Jeffersonian kitchen. Do you have another bottle there?"
"No, Booth. I told you we needed to drop off an extra bottle."
"Well, that's not helping, Bones. The baby's hungry now."
"Angela, do you have any milk?"
"No, Bones. That won't be necessary. . . ."
"It's just breast milk, Booth. As long as the mother. . . ."
"They can use a formula or something. . . ."
"Well, Angela can supply the milk. . . ."
"I'll tell Mrs. Drummer that she should use the formula. . . ."
"Studies have shown that a woman who is lactating can produce 16 ounces. . . ."
"Formula, Bones. One day of formula is not going to hurt the baby. . . ."
"I would nurse Michael if Angela couldn't. . . ."
Booth wouldn't have any of it. "Mrs. Drummer? We don't. . . just give our precious one some formula. . . we'll be a little late. I'll call Max to pick her up. We've got plenty of milk at home. . . .Yes. . . . Good-bye, Mrs. Drummer. G'bye."
Sweets couldn't help smiling. Two months ago this might not. . . no. The past informs the present and the present forms the future and he knew his part in the present. As he had told Booth and Brennan a while back, the past doesn't have to keep the present hostage.
He was sure they understood even if they played it off as if they didn't.
It was typical Booth and Brennan.
But he kept smiling.
"Sweets," Angela looked up from her remote pad, "are you all right?"
"Yeah," he said, his eyes never quite leaving the images on the screen, "yeah they are."