A/N Hello and welcome to my new story! Thank you so much for taking time to read this. If you haven't already, you may want to read my first multi-chapter fic 'Can You Save Her, Agent Booth' (aka CYSHAB), before you continue reading this story. 'Death, Plus One' picks up where CYSHAB left off. If you're heading off to read it, do so now, before you continue reading… even before you continue reading his A/N, because a spoiler is pending. Bye-bye… go!
If you don't have it in you to read the 62 chapters in that story, just know that Brennan was kidnapped and tortured, Booth and the team was able to locate and save her. A lot more than that happened, but that's the gist that you might need to know as this story flashes back from time to time. Now Booth and Brennan are engaged…yes, engaged…She who doesn't believe in marriage is now considering it. LOL.
OK, so as I said, this picks up after CYSHAB; I try to keep my portrayals in character with those we see on the show, but as a writer, I do take creative liberties on occasion. It's not AU, it's not intended to be OC, nor is it actually in canon with any of the episodes. I may, on occasion, mention a case we saw on the show, but this story is not intended to follow the show, per se.
As I did in CYSHAB, I am giving this a rating of M for MATURE. If you're under 18 or do not like Rated M fics, this one is not for you, please turn away. Chapter one doesn't have any Rated M stuff in it, but bear with me… you'll get it! Have I ever disappointed you before? (OK, don't answer that… unless the answer is 'NO, jazzy, you've never disappointed!') LOL
Disclaimer: Can you believe that after all that hard work I invested in cranking out CYSHAB (along with a handful of shorter works) that I STILL don't own Bones? Nor do I own the characters! It's a hard lesson learned, but I must face the facts…BONES and its characters belong to someone else…not me…I'm just celebrating the deliciousness of their personalities and interactions in this original tale… (Yes, the story is ALL MINE!)
And now, I give you:
'Death, Plus One'...
The few K-9 units currently in training were scattered across several acres of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility. The trainers were attempting to teach their respective Cadaver Dogs how to detect a decomposing body amidst countless distractions and other scents. The handlers were especially looking forward to being able to work with the animals after an unusually early dusting of snow, which had fallen the night before. December is not usually a 'snowy' month in Knoxville, TN, but the cold front that had pushed down from the North brought with it, low temperatures and precipitation, resulting in a thin powder-like layer of mid-December wet snow. The meteorologists were all 'aflutter' because there is only about a 3% chance of snow during this part of the month, and that weekend they'd set record lows, making it the topic of discussion on every morning program throughout the region.
Beginning at various starting points, canine handlers fanned out across the property with body-count maps and details in-hand, along with tasty little training snacks for their 'students'. The dogs were each at various stages of their training programs, therefore the handlers made sure to keep their trainees far apart from one another to avoid confusing some of the younger, more inexperienced dogs. One particular 'student', a young Australian Shepherd/Chow-Chow mix named Tusker, was still in his early stages of learning and continued to pull his trainer towards an area that, according to her map, Susan was certain would be void of the kind of evidence for which they were searching. Being that this was Tusker's first time at the 'Body Farm' (as was the facility's controversial nickname), and his first time training against actual decomposing corpses, as opposed to the controlled setting in which he'd thus far only been exposed to synthetic laboratory-created scents of decomposition, Susan expected a bit of boundary-pushing from the eleven-month-old dog as he 'tested the waters', so to speak, out in the open. She smirked quickly, when he wasn't looking, realizing that he was doing exactly what she'd expected.
"Tusker, no." Susan corrected her stubborn, yet undeniably loyal companion with a firm voice and serious look. "This way. C'mon, boy." She patted her thigh and gave a quick tug on his lead, indicating to the dog which sector they were supposed to be aiming towards. Reluctantly, but obediently, Tusker followed his handler, gazing up at her for approval as he trotted by her side. "Good boy," she touched his chin and after ensuring that she had his eye contact, pointed towards the trees in front of them, in the direction they were headed, and gave the command for which he was waiting. "Tusker, search!"
The 53-pound dog trotted forward, sniffing while his mouth remained slightly ajar, allowing him to not only smell the air, but taste it on his tongue as well. The combination of Aussie Shepherd and Chow made Tusker a prime candidate for a cadaver dog. His keen sense of smell and innate desire to please Susan, mixed with his durability, focus and stamina gave the handler great expectations for her newest 'student'. She tended to form special bonds with her animals through their training programs, and throughout the years she had successfully taught several dogs who'd gone on to become highly decorated members of various police forces across the nation. She always felt a touch of pride whenever she received word that one of 'her' dogs had performed especially well on the job or 'broke the case' for a team. But until recently, she had specialized in training Search and Rescue Dogs, which are trained to detect live humans using scent markers that are shed as a person travels over land. Her animals have been able to detect specific people through melting snow, over running river beds, in crowded cities and, of course, over miles and miles of open land. Susan was a highly regarded trainer/handler and when she was offered the opportunity to begin training cadaver dogs, she jumped at the chance.
She watched Tusker weaving in and out of the trees, aiming in the general direction of the quadrant in which she expected he'd locate one of the University's decomposing bodies, just below a thin layer of concrete, and she smiled. Susan could tell that he was going straight for the evidence. Without hesitation, the brown and black dog jerked his head in a now-familiar fashion, signaling to Susan that he was on a trail and wanted to be let off his chain. Every dog had a different way of indicating when he or she finally caught the scent; some would pause and exhale sharply before inhaling again to get a complete lung-full; others would yip or make throaty noises, (very few barked when she was in charge of training them. Since she had been training Search and rescue, she discouraged barking because it could tip-off a hiding criminal that they were near). But Tusker had formed his own way of communication early on in his program. He would face the direction of his target, wag his tail once and jerk his head, and Susan quickly learned that was his way of saying "Hey! Lemme go – I smell something!"
She reached for his training collar and removed it from his neck while he waited patiently for the command that told him he could go. Just for the sake of controlling him and testing his patience, Susan waited an extra moment, ensuring that while he was already off the leash, he would not leave her side until permitted. Once she was satisfied with his reaction to her pause, she nodded. "Ok, Tusker, show me!"
The dog bounded into action, aiming straight for the semi-wooded area surrounding a concrete patio, complete with a staged picnic table and chairs set upon it. Tusker smelled along the perimeter of the patio and doubled back at the north corner, where he pawed at the ground impatiently before sitting and waiting for Susan to step beside him.
Ruffling the thick winter fur at his neck, Susan made a fuss over the success of her trainee. "Good job, Tusker! Good boy!" She handed him a training morsel, which he took with gratitude, swallowing it without even chewing, and although he knew he wasn't going to get a second treat, he always looked expectantly at Susan, sending her telepathic messages that said "Ok, that was tasty, but I could really use another…"
She smiled, knowing what the begging look was for, and she simply shook her head while she made notes in her book regarding the length of time it took him to find the location once they'd entered the relevant area. Sensing an air of discontent and restlessness, she looked back down at Tusker and found him standing once again, shifting his weight impatiently from one leg to another while sniffing the air currents as the breeze danced around them.
Assuming he was picking up a scent from another quadrant, Susan replaced his collar for control and led him away from the patio. Against her wishes, the strong canine pulled his chain until it was taut, aiming in the direction from which they'd originally come.
"Tusker, heel!" She commanded the dog and he obeyed, albeit impatiently, and came to stand on her left, waiting for either his next command or for his handler to begin walking. Watching as he continued to sniff the air, Susan felt an odd sensation wash over her body. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she was suddenly chilled in a different way than that which was caused by the cold temperature. It was as if she was picking up on Tusker's unease, which is not completely uncommon for a handler and dog with a well-established communication skill set developed through extensive teamwork, but this early in his development, Susan was surprised to sense his anxiety on such a deep level.
Slowly, Susan began walking in the direction that seemed to be calling to her dog, and while he continued to heel by her side, she could tell it was becoming increasingly more difficult for him to do as he was told. Susan took another look at her paperwork to ensure that there would be no other trainers scheduled in that sector of the property. According to the documentation, the slightly wooded hill before them was fallow, having been used as last season's site for five bodies studied by the resident graduate students.
Perhaps he's picking up remnant scents of the bodies that were located there last year, she thought to herself, although by now, those scents would indicate that the body was no longer on premise. But then again, he's still young…he doesn't know the difference yet, she reasoned in her own mind that it wouldn't hurt to take him in the direction that seemed to be pulling him. The invisible force that she, as a human, could not sense was apparently incredibly strong for Tusker. Giving him an extended amount of slack in his lead, she got his attention.
"Tusker, halt." He stopped immediately and swung his large head in her direction, looking up to meet her eyes. As she studied his expression, she was reminded of just how many different personalities that dogs, as a species, can display. Just like humans, each dog will demonstrate different characteristics, and will certainly have strengths and weaknesses innately programmed into their temperament. Tusker was, without a doubt, an intelligent animal, capable of understanding hundreds of commands and word combinations as well as hand signals and body language. His dark brown eyes stared intently at her hazel irises as he awaited the all-clear to begin exploring. She smiled, "OK, boy…" she spoke softly, "Tusker, search!" She pointed in the direction of the barren land and trailed behind her pupil as he pulled the leash to its limit.
Tusker's body was tense as he searched. His senses were assaulted from all angles, a distraction which he hadn't faced before in his controlled training environment. Instinctively, he knew he needed to follow every lead his nose detected; every scent stimulated his internal drive, telling him to discover and uncover – to help his bipedal counterpart in finding the poor soul that was no longer among the living. Zoning in on the strongest of the odors filling his lungs, he stopped, wagged his tail once and tugged his head, asking for permission from his handler to follow the trail he'd been trained to expose to her.
Still certain that her dog, not much more than a puppy in actuality, was picking up on last year's smells, Susan gave into his silent request. She trusted that if she let him learn the difference between this older saturated scent left behind by a now-missing body and a more recent 'fresh' decomposing body, he would store that little detail away in the back of his growing intelligence for future reference. She stood beside her attentively-waiting trainee and reached for his lead collar, releasing it from around his thick neck.
"Ok, boy…it's lesson time. Tusker, show me!" She said the magic words and nodded her head exaggeratedly as the eager student sprang into action, galloping quickly towards the point that held the strongest scent, as indicated by his sensors. His eyes were focused, his mouth opened only slightly, catching the air through which his trot was cutting. Nearly skidding to a halt, Tusker pawed at the ground anxiously and impatiently circling and sniffing before turning his attention to his teacher as she slowly approached his location.
Ready to reprimand and further train her dog as to a false alarm, Susan squatted down in front of Tusker, meeting him eye-to-eye, a postured position with which he became familiar during the length of his early training. Before speaking, Susan reached down and brushed away the cold, soggy dead leaves that littered the forest floor, revealing a mound of rich, black soil. The Anthropology Research Facility was located alongside the Tennessee River and the repeated desiccation and putrefying of human remains had left the already dark and heavy Tennessee soil beneath even richer. Susan couldn't imagine how many bodies had been in this vicinity since the creation of the research facility back in the 1970's, but she intended to teach her dog the difference between old-smell and new-smell; after all, the specific purpose for his training was to get him prepared to search for the recently-dead, not the long-ago-dead-and-moved…
"Now, Tusker," she began evenly. At the sound of his name and her calm tone of voice, the dog listened intently. "Smell," she raised her hand, which was covered in black dirt. Tusker arched his head forward and nudged her palm with his cold nose. "See? Nothing's here." She pointed to the ground from which she'd collected the dirt. "Tusker, smell."
At the command, he lowered his face into the area in question and sniffed rapidly, blowing puffs of air out in between inhalations, subsequently stirring up particles and pollen in the process, all of which told him a story that a human could not begin to understand... Nuzzling through the debris of fallen leaves and twigs just to the right of his muzzle, Tusker pushed aside a mound of wet composted organics, revealing an unmistakable object.
Susan rolled back onto her heels as she remained squatting, watching as her dog uncovered a set of toes poking up through the forest-litter. He paused and looked at her in silent question, one tiny eyebrow cocked higher than the other in response to her surprised gasp.
She stammered momentarily but quickly regained her demeanor, knowing she had to praise the dog for his find, lest he become confused to her reaction. "Good boy, Tusker! Good boy!" She ruffled his neck as he wagged his tail, happily accepting the outreached morsel from her fingers. She stood to her full height and pulled her cell phone from her pocket, calling the professor on duty at the offices beneath the University football stadium, across the river from where they presently stood. Referring to her map once again, she spoke into the phone.
"Yes, Dr. Mills, can you verify that the maps you provided this morning to our K-9 training units are the most recent maps from this season?" She paused as she watched her companion rooting through the wooded-ground nearby. "Okay," she huffed, "well then, we have a situation in Q7… My dog just found a foot where there shouldn't be one…" She listened to the man on the other end. "Yes, I am certain I'm standing in Q7, Dr. Mills…I'm looking at a sign attached to a tree…" Listening to Tusker in the background as she spoke to Mills, she recognized his increased breathing pattern that he uses when he wants her attention but knows he shouldn't bark. Susan turned around and watched as, just a little ways from where she stood, Tusker pawed at the ground again and looked up to meet her gaze.
"Umm… hold on a sec, Mills." She lowered her cell and walked to where the Shepherd-Chow waited. Squatting down once again, she pushed aside a thick layer of brush. Once again raising the phone to her mouth, she spoke. "We just found the other foot…" She praised Tusker's find and awarded him immediately with a morsel while pulling a small flag from her cargo pant pockets, and inserting it into the ground near the foot that Tusker had just located. She turned back to the first foot and did the same, ensuring that the little red flag was visible above the piles of leaves they'd brushed aside.
To say that Dr. Stuart Mills' voice sounded concerned would be the understatement of the century. "Susan, I'm on my way over there. Don't leave that quadrant."
"I won't be leaving anytime soon…Tusker is still searching…"
And hour later, 17 flags were scattered across the quadrant; each one marking a location that Tusker had indicated would contain a decomposing body part. Susan and Dr. Mills had carefully allowed Tusker to search the area completely as they followed closely behind, praising him and rewarding him on the spot when he signaled a find. They avoided disturbing any further locations beyond inserting the flag markers until they could look into the situation deeper. After politely asking the other trainers to call it a day, Dr. Mills and Susan went about ensuring that all of the other 32 bodies on property were accounted for, using Tusker's keen senses to locate them. He then made the unpleasant but necessary calls to campus law enforcement and University administrators advising them of the situation. The University Police then called Knoxville local PD, looping them in on the situation.
The 'Body Farm' was soon a bustle of activity against a backdrop of fluttering red flags as the cold breeze picked up in intensity, compliments of yet another approaching winter-storm, as predicted by the National Weather Service. Despite the fact that the property housed over 30 bodies currently under scientific study, the police took control of the acreage, banning all University employees and students from entering until further investigation was complete. The police chief reached out to the FBI Knoxville Division for assistance, given the fact that the campus was not actually within the limits of Knoxville-city-proper. Chief Simmons knew they could not afford to have anyone who could possibly be affiliated with the University to be an integral part of the examination of the remains that were uncovered by a rookie cadaver dog. The local FBI District Director, Alan Kingsley, wanting to gather the best team the FBI had to offer, in turn called Deputy Director Sam Cullen in DC, requesting assistance from their contracted liaison, the world-renown Dr. Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institute Medico-Legal Lab. Everyone within FBI management had heard of Dr. Brennan and her FBI partner, Special Agent Seeley Booth. The partners' success rate was among the highest ever recorded, and Kingsley was anxious to get this situation under control. He wanted it done as quickly and as quietly as possible. The University was a huge revenue-generator within the city and bad press always hurt more than just the school.
Sitting in his office in Washington DC, Cullen listened to his colleague's Tennessee drawl, taking notes as they spoke. "Well," Cullen spoke in response to the request. "If you want Dr. Brennan, you'll get Special Agent Booth as well. They're partners."
"We have plenty of agents available to assist Dr. Brennan, Sam, I hate to leave you short-handed up there… We can provide her with everything she needs: extra hands, extra agents…people who already know the area and such… If you can just help me get in touch with her, I would be forever in your debt."
"No, you don't understand…If you want Brennan, you automatically get Booth…They won't work with other partners…And we've found that it's best not to try to make them work with other people…Things tend to get…shall we say…hairy…when others are involved." Cullen paused, cautious of how much he should reveal about his best team. "See, Brennan is truly a genius; but she's not too good with people…Booth balances her temperament…Trust me on this – they're the best we have and you want them to be there as a team. Besides, I can guarantee that if I were to request her without the him, she'd refuse." Cullen glanced at his notes, chuckling when he heard Kingsley's response.
"If Dr. Brennan is under contract with the FBI, she can't refuse a case, Sam. That's the beauty of having contracted employees on the books…experts that can't say no."
Cullen sighed, a hint of humor curling in his voice. "Kingsley, Dr. Brennan can basically do whatever the hell she wants…and she does. Shit, so does Booth for that matter... The rumors are true that she blackmailed Booth until he agreed to take her into the field with him as his partner… Blackmailing a federal agent is no laughing matter, but we weren't about to press charges. Take my word for it; you'll be satisfied with their results. If nothing else, these two are the most intense, focused team I've ever worked with. They work until they find the truth - always. And I'm fine with sharing them with you, don't worry about us being short-handed." Cullen took a sip of his coffee before continuing. "There's something else you need to know about them." He waited until he knew Kingsley was listening. "They are...in a personal relationship with each other."
"Sam… What kind of field office are you running up there? Partners can't be involved with each other!" Kingsley's rebuttal made Cullen smile.
"These two can…They received special permission from Shawn Williams and from the President, allowing them to remain partners while being involved with one another. I assure you, they will not display inapproriate behavior when they're working. But out of professional courtesy, I had to let you know because I don't want you to be blindsides if you see them off-duty or anything… or if your agents see them together, I thought you should be aware."
Kingsley sighed, wondering if he made a mistake pulling the legendary duo into his case, but knew he needed the best. "OK, do you think, I dunno…Do you think they can just try 'n behave themselves while they're here? The last thing I need in an influx of requests from my agents looking to enter into intrapersonal relationships with their partners…"
"I will pass along your request, Kingsley. Let me make the call to Booth and have him begin the travel arrangements. I'll be back in touch with you later today with the details of their arrival and such." After closing pleasantries, Cullen hung up his phone and called down to Booth's office.
"It's about time; what the hell is taking you so long?" Booth's frustrated voice greeted the intercom call.
"Excuse me? Is there a problem, Booth?" Sam Cullen recognized his top agent's tone of voice and knew, first of all, he was waiting on a call from someone else, probably Charlie. Cullen also knew that one of two things was going on in Booth's life: either he hit a brick wall in the current case he was working, causing him excessive stress or he and his partner had an arguement that morning. Instinctively, Cullen was going with the latter possibility. Even when Booth and Brennan were just partners, without the added complications of a romantic relationship, the two of them went head-to-head quite often, usually resulting in a cranky Special Agent Booth, and as he'd been told by Jeffersonian colleagues, an even crankier Dr. Temperance Brennan…
"Oh, uh…. Sorry, Sir. I was expecting Charlie to be calling from down in Retention. He's looking for something for me…" Booth paused, waiting for the Deputy Director to address his reasons for calling. He didn't have to wait long.
"Booth, I need you to report to my office immediately; you have a case. It's taking precedence over anything that you're currently working." Cullen knew that Booth was researching a couple of cold cases, as he hadn't taken on any new investigations since returning to work full-time, just three weeks prior. "So, whatever you're workin' on will have to wait. Don't keep me waiting, Booth; I have a lot on my plate right now." Cullen disconnected the call, and awaited the momentary arrival of one of his favorite employees. Despite the headaches that Booth and his partner had caused Cullen over their years of service, Cullen couldn't deny that he cared for the team on a personal level, and he hoped that whatever caused Booth's sour mood that day would be smoothed over by the time the pair took flight for Tennessee.
OK, so, what do you think? Wanna see the first case that B&B are assigned to, now that they're back to work full time? Their first case together now that they're 'together'?!
Are you interested in this little tale?
Please drop me a note by leaving a review. As you all probably remember… I LOVE REVIEWS… and so does MY MUSE!
Ok, so do you see the little cover picture attached to this story? Meet Tusker… Isn't he a beautiful dog?
Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I really do appreciate it. Writers here on FF write for the pure love of sharing thoughts and ideas, and for the joy it brings to take our favorite characters into places the TV show can't possibly go. Please share your love of FF by telling your like-minded friends about the writers you like and the stories you follow. The biggest compliment an author can receive is a note from someone saying "Hey, so-n-so told me about your story, so I'm reading it." So please, spread the word to those who don't know that Fan Fiction exists!
Peace & love, my friends!