AN: A long time ago, I was having a discussion with the incredibly talented and wonderful Covalent Bond (you ARE reading her stories, right?) and the subject of a certain plot point came up. From there, the idea of a fic began. Covalent Bond then dared me to write said fic. razztastic and three_squares chimed in and encouraged me.
I let it percolate, discovered an epic fail of timing by the Bones writing team, and finally, with the help of dharmamonkey and the aforementioned team, the story has begun.
Special shout out to FaithInBones, whose one-shot inspired said discussion and dare to begin with.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the pre-commercial snapshot of this latest episode of Bones.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bones. What a shame. But you know Hart, I am available and willing to move to California. Just saying. This story takes place between 8X03 and 8X12.
"Spare some change?"
They continue to move past him, ants marching in line to the tune of the corporate drummer. Men, women, young and old – it doesn't matter. He's invisible to all of them. His fingers tremble around the coffee cup he clutches and he bites the inside of his cheek. He needs a cigarette – and he hates needing the goddamn things, because if someone isn't kind, he'll waste what little money he has on a pack instead of a decent meal or the gloves he desperately needs to replace.
"A guy needs to eat," he pleads at the middle-aged man in the suit that smells of money.
A dime is flipped his way. He says thank you, even though it's an insult.
Had someone asked Marshall Bailey where he'd be at the age of fifty-one, "homeless in D.C." wouldn't be an answer he'd spit out. "Engineer with a home in Connecticut" might have been a guess. "Married with kids, living overseas" may have been a possibility. "Army career" was a top prospect back then. Marshall's love affair with the military had spanned the better part of his teens, and basic training had felt like a homecoming of sorts.
And then, Desert Storm happened, and Marshall was never the same man.
The trouble wasn't the mission. His regrets didn't stem from serving the country he still loved, even if it hated him for existing, polluting the polished streets with the realities of the economic crisis Lady Liberty faced. No, Marshall was a man haunted by a foolish mistake that cost the lives of his entire platoon, save himself.
A factory worker in the automotive industry, widowed after his wife's car was struck by a drunk driver in 2007, his was one of many impossible mortgages that turned to ether, leaving him with nothing save a storage locker of belongings eventually seized and sold at auction. He'd come to visit one of his sons a year ago, but even that had turned to talks of a "home" when he'd suffered one of his worse weeks with the flashbacks.
A home. At fifty-one. Marshall would rather die free than die inside.
A passing teenager stops, thrusting her hand inside her jeans pocket and producing a five. "Promise me you'll eat with this?" she asks softly.
Marshall nods. "I promise. Bless you, miss."
"You too, sir."
He watches her depart, her piercing blue eyes haunting him. Eat. He has to find food, and fast, before the nicotine wins the battle for his new-found riches. Glancing across the street, he nods to himself. The coffee cart in the Mall was usually a safe place to go. Coffee first, then a bagel from the deli down the block.
A brisk wind dances underneath his threadbare coat, as if to hurry him along. With a huff, he rushes across as the signal changes, darting between the tourists and rat racers. He watches as one tosses a half cigarette, still lit, and darts off, and takes this as a sign. Seizing his treasure, he inhales deeply. Saved. He will keep his word to the young girl now. He is a man who believes in honesty, in the integrity of people. Marshall hates to disappoint.
The coffee is hot and strong, just as he trusted it would be. Clutching the fresh cup, he finds himself wandering along beside the newly renovated Reflecting Pool. A homeless veteran, surrounded by testaments to the country's history, to its sacrifices: the bitter contrast isn't lost on him. What would Honest Abe think of the messy truth of America?
What did it matter? He was just another bum, right? Why even wonder?
The sun dances its beams along the water's surface, cutting through the algae already taking hold once more. Someone in city planning will have his ass handed to him for this failure. Two years of closure, and what did they have to show for it? Sidewalks? Ha, big deal. Leaning against the railing, Marshall searches the water for a glint of coin. Tourists sometimes pitched in their quarters, wishing for things they probably would never have. To his far right, perhaps three feet away, his eyes catch a hint of light.
Gulping coffee, he saunters closer, attempting to look casual. He isn't the only desperate soul who wanders the area. No sense tipping anyone off. And, as he draws closer and studies the refracted light, he knows this is something he doesn't want to share.
Gold. Jewelery of some kind.
The water would be cold, but the thought of money, of enough to maybe spend a night in shelter, beckons him closer. The algae obscures things, but he can see a stone of some kind. It's so close to the edge... He simply had to plunge his arm in and it would be his.
Scanning the periphery for legal eagle eyes, Marshall satisfies himself that he's clear to do a little fishing. Drawing back his sleeve, he jams his arm beneath the surface, fumbling wildly in the vicinity of that tell-tale sparkle and shine. Wild pawing connects his callused palm with the treasure at last, or at least part of it: a ring. Some unlucky lady probably let it slip off her finger into the depths. He tugs it by what feels like a rather large setting, grunting as it fights back. It's caught on a twig of some kind, he realizes.
Fine, then. He'll pull the stick out, too. Maybe he'll even clear some algae. More civic duty.
Dunking his arm further beneath the surface, he hears muttering nearby as the cluster of twigs fall neatly into his palm. To the surface he yanks it, smiling at the thought of a hot shower and real bed of his own.
He screams as he realizes the twigs are the skeletal fingers of a human hand.
"Hey! You there!"
Marshall drops the hand in the shrubbery nearby, still screaming as he wipes his own hand against his pants. A hand! A dead hand! But if there is a hand, what else lurks beneath the surface?
"Come here, pal! Easy does it," the security guard growls.
"There's a body! She's dead!" Marshall shouts, waving at the water.
"I'm sure there is," the guard mumbles as he reaches for his radio. "We got ourselves a 10-61, request back-up."
Crap. That was the magic security code for "homeless asshole we'll hit if we feel like it".
"You have to listen to me! I'm not crazy. There's a body in the water. I saw a hand!" Marshall pleads.
I saw a hand. He repeats it while two guards wrestle him to the ground, ordering him to not resist. He repeats it as the police arrive and declare him drunk or drugged. No one looks. No one cares as he's locked in the drunk tank "for his own good".
She remains invisible for an hour, when a Chinese tourist's small child falls into the shrubs and cuts her palm on an impressive diamond setting.
You could say that Booth was having a terrible morning.
It began on an irritating note: he'd bashed his toes off of the dresser, fumbling blindly in the dark for his sports watch, only to incur Bones' wrath for waking her before her alarm. His morning run had been awful; his pace was lousy and the lingering pain in his feet was acting up, a warning of an impending storm that hadn't been in the forecast the night before but sure enough, the evening was now destined to be soggy and miserable. By the time he'd returned home, both his partner and Sweets had jumped in the shower, leaving him precisely two minutes of hot water to work with.
Yeah, it was a lousy morning, alright. And now, all he wanted was the Sports page and a coffee, but even that was too much to ask. The delivery kid had somehow managed to chuck their paper into a mucky patch of the lawn, ruining – yep, of course – the Sports section.
"Bones, tell me you made the good coffee today," he pleaded.
"I did not. Sweets made the coffee while I was dressing Christine."
With a sideways glare, Booth approached the coffee pot warily. "Sweets, if this coffee isn't perfect, I will take you out back and use you as a punching bag."
The shrink jumped back a foot. "Me? What did I do?"
"Used my hot water, for starters!"
"Actually, Booth, I showered second, so it was most likely I who utilized your share of the hot water," Bones corrected him, feeding Christine a spoonful of something mushy and unappetizing that the child strangely enjoyed.
"I'm just saying that we're going to have to sort out a water schedule," he grumbled, pouring a mug of coffee.
"We could always share the shower," she replied casually.
"Bones! Sweets is here!" Booth protested.
"By your invitation, which I seconded. I'm certain he's under no illusions as to the physical nature of our relationship, given our living arrangements and progeny," she countered.
"Well, yeah, but – "
"Don't talk, Sweets."
He threw his hands up at Booth. "Okay."
"I do enjoy our showers," his partner continued, oblivious now to both men.
"You know what? I'm going to sit here and drink my coffee and read the... Science section," Booth snapped.
"Hey! That's my section!" Bones protested.
"And I'm reading the comics, and you can't have them, Sweets," he added, smirking at his colleague.
"Ha, ha, ha." Sweets rolled his eyes and leaned against the wall. "Drink your damn coffee."
"I will!" Taking a gulp, Booth was startled by the taste. "Did we change coffees?"
"No, but I've noticed that Sweets has an exceptional gift for coffee preparation."
"Thank you, Dr. Brennan," Sweets replied, grinning.
Booth couldn't argue with that. It was damn fine coffee! Maybe the morning was improving.
"I assume that given his youth and relative inexperience, as well as a need to command respect in the workplace, that Sweets has extensive experience in preparing coffee," Brennan added, reaching for her own mug.
The psychologist looked hurt. Booth simply smiled at his partner's gift for the unintentional backhanded compliment. On a better day, he'd defend the guy. Today? Coffee and morning funny pages. Yep. Minding his own business.
He was scarcely halfway through the mug when two phones rang out simultaneously, which meant only one thing: they had a body.
Nope, it was going to be a bad day.
"Why couldn't we stop at the Hoover on the way?" Sweets complained.
"And risk the ineptitude of the FBI's crime scene technicians compromising my remains? Absolutely not!" Brennnan snapped. "It's bad enough the remains were handled by tourists and security personnel."
"Hey, you took the offered ride, pal," Booth added.
"Well yeah, but I assumed a two-minute detour was planned," Sweets grumbled.
Booth shook his head. "Look, I enjoyed my coffee, and Bones enjoyed her coffee, but there is nothing in this world that can convince her to delay recovery of a body, Sweets, Nothing."
"Not even the promise of coitus in an automobile," Brennan chimed in.
"Thank you for that mental image, Dr. Brennan," Sweets complained.
"But after the remains are being processed for the lab? Absolutely."
"Oh my God!" Sweets shouted, dropping his file folder into his lap.
"This is your fault, Sweets!" Booth snapped.
"You started it!"
"You're both being incredibly prudish and juvenile!" Brennan interjected, clearly exasperated. "Booth, you can pull up over there."
Booth parked alongside Cam's car with a huff, wishing he could roll back into bed and call a mulligan on the entire damn day. He was going to have to discuss the notion of private conversations with his partner later on, once they'd dropped the shrink off. But first, the body, which was currently submerged in the Reflecting Pool.
"Why does this city hate Lincoln so much?" Booth grumbled. Louder, he called out, "Cam, what do we have?"
"Adult body, smack in the middle of the Reflecting Pool," she replied, nodding to Brennan as she pushed forward quickly and joined Hodgins in examining the remains. "Tourist found a hand in the bushes about an hour ago, although apparently someone else tried to report the body two hours ago."
"Someone reported a body and no one cared?" Booth asked.
Cam sighed. "Yes, and I refuse to tell you why. I refuse to be the messenger with the proverbial bullet in her chest over it."
"Caucasian female... Evidence of head trauma," Brennan noted, gently nudging aside the film of algae skimming the surface. "Weren't the renovations meant to deal with this issue?"
"Yep, and instead, they've made it worse. Our taxpayer dollars hard at work," Hodgins snarked. "I've taken samples. Disrupted growth might be able to give us time of death."
"Agent Booth?" Sweets whispered. "You need to see this."
"What? Sweets, Bones is examining the body – "
"The victim was possibly an athlete. There's evidence of several remodeled injuries to the ribs, femurs..."
"This can't wait," Sweets hissed.
"I'll be right back," Booth grunted, following the psychologist to the FBI crime techs across the way. "This better be good."
"I would definitely not use the word 'good', although 'need to see this' strikes me as an apt description," Sweets replied. "By the way, I'm not telling Dr. Brennan that they bagged and moved the left hand and brought it over here."
"Damn it. She's going to be pissed – "
"Where is the victim's other hand?" he heard his partner call out loudly, clearly unhappy.
Booth knew where it was; he was staring right at it. However, he was unable to find the words to inform her. In fact, he had no words at all to offer as he stared at the skeletal remains, remarkable for one key detail: a diamond engagement ring, blinking in the morning sun.
"Is that what I think it is?" Sweets asked.
Booth nodded slowly, swallowing hard. Unless he was very, very wrong, he was staring down at the engagement ring he'd bought for Hannah. A ring now tied to a murder victim.
"Hannah," he whispered anxiously.
Hannah indeed, Booth! We all remember THAT ring, don't we?
CB's dare: to write the story of a body found with Hannah's ring... and to make Booth lose it. And Booth is indeed going to get his angry on, as well as his anxious and scared, because this is only the beginning of our tale... Come say hello, and tell me what you think.
(And yes, a new Mixed Tape is coming, but a few days late... Sorry, all...)