A/N: Hello again. In place of actual inspiration, I'm cleaning out my Notes file! Expect some oneshots to follow. Let's put this one somewhere towards the end of season 4, shall we?
"The victim was found in a dumpster, not far from his house." Booth said as he walked into his office.
"You already have an ID?" Brennan came to a full stop in the doorway.
"Yep, believe it or not, his fingerprints were still there." Booth replied dryly. "Steve Finch. Mechanic in Virginia." He informed her as he dropped the file unceremoniously on his desk.
"Then why did you call me?" She asked, still manning her position in his office door.
"The victim and his wife Linda were foster parents. Linda is certain that her foster daughter Elena killed her husband and then ran away with her brother Liam. She called in a missing person's report three days ago for her husband and the two foster kids. We found some bloody clothes that we believe to be the daughter's dumped with the body. We can't find the kids."
"I repeat, why am I here?" She asked, losing her patience.
"Where would a scared 16 year old foster kid go if she had no money and a little brother in tow?" He asked her bluntly.
"Wait, you think she actually did it?" Brennan questioned as she took a step back in surprise.
"I don't think anything. I know that we have her clothes, covered in his blood, stuffed in a dumpster." He said. "She may be a witness. She may be the perp. She may have found the body, freaked out, grabbed her brother and ran, but any way you slice it, we need to find these missing kids." Booth reminded her. "What I need you to do is work with Sweets to come up with a plan to find out where this girl is, if she's even still alive." Brennan sighed.
"Alright." She said as she turned and headed for Sweets' office.
"Hey Bones?" Booth called out. Brennan looked through the glass pane of his window but didn't come back into the office. "Thank you." He offered, knowing she was not overjoyed to be working this case solely for her background knowledge of the subject. But she nodded and headed down the hall anyway.
Metro police found the siblings before Booth could even hand out Sweets and Brennan's profile. They were found sleeping in a park not far from a bus stop. Booth called Cam to let her know.
"Dr. Saroyan." She answered professionally, which meant that she didn't see the caller ID, which meant she was probably up to her elbows in body tissue. Booth shivered in conditioned response.
"It's Booth." He said. "Look, we found the kids sleeping in a park. Do you have any more information before we question them?" He asked.
"Um, yes. Hodgins verified that there was only one type of blood on the clothes and it was Steve Finch's. We have nothing that points to either of the children on his body. Cause of death was blunt force trauma with what we think is some sort of pipe or bat. One blow. How big is the girl?"
"Tiny. Sixteen years old, barely 120 pounds soaking wet." He guessed.
"She wouldn't have been able to do this kind of damage in just one swing." Cam assumed.
"So who do you think did?" He asked.
"Well, we have no evidence from an outside killer on the clothes. There was hair from the wife on the body, but that can be explained since they lived together. Obviously, the girl's DNA was on her own clothes. Frankly, I'd start with the wife."
"Alright. Thanks Cam." He hung up as Sweets walked into his office.
"You found them?"
"In a park." Booth said as he walked up to Sweets. "That was Cam, she said that the blood on the clothes is only Finch's and that Elena was too small to take him out in one swing. They found a hair from the wife on the body."
"So Elena wasn't involved?" Sweets asked as they headed out into the bull pen.
"Nah, my money says she's just a scared girl who saw something she shouldn't have. We've got the brother in a separate room but we've got to find out why she ran aw…"
"You're questioning the girl?" Booth heard Brennan ask as she stormed down the hall. He spun around, surprised by the concern his partner was exhibiting.
"It's my job, Bones." He replied. "Did you run here?" He asked as he looked her up and down. "I just hung up the phone a minute ago." He said as he pointed towards his office.
"It's four blocks!" She pointed out before turning her attention towards Sweets. "You know that she didn't do this. You told me yourself that she wasn't the type."
"We know that." Booth said quietly, trying to get her to calm down. "But the evidence says otherwise. We have nothing to explain why her clothes were dumped in that dumpster. The foster mom has a history of reporting problems with the girl. Everything points to her and she's refusing to speak. Until she decides to cooperate, we have to go where the evidence leads. We can't do anything to protect her if she stays silent." Brennan stared at him for a moment, obviously debating something in that genius brain of hers. Booth waited to see what she might say.
"I can get her to talk." Brennan stated.
"Bones…" Booth started, unsure that she was the best candidate to talk to anyone right now.
"Booth, trust me. You brought me in on this because you wanted the benefit of my experience. Let me talk to her." She pleaded. He glanced at Sweets and then back at her. She was serious.
"Okay." He said, willing to give her a shot. Sweets headed for his half of the interrogation room.
"No." She said, stopping him with just her panicked voice. "Just Booth."
"Dr. Brennan, it's my job to oversee interrogations…"
"No." She demanded, her voice certain this time. Sweets looked at her and glanced at Booth, who sighed before nodding his okay. Sweets looked surprised at her ability to take away control from two FBI agents on their own turf so quickly but Booth had gotten used to her magic powers a long time ago.
"I'll pull you in if I need you." Booth whispered to the young psychologist as Brennan headed for the door. Sweets nodded covertly and Booth walked over to his door. He stopped, waiting for Brennan to make the first move. She had her hand on the door but glanced at Booth. He gave her a look that told her that she could take her time. She took a deep breath and stepped inside. Booth opened his door and followed suit.
The first thing Booth noticed was that Elena was practically shaking.
"Be nice, Bones." Booth muttered under his breath as he hit the record button on the panel beside him.
Elena watched Brennan sit down across from her and she stared at the door, waiting for a cop to come in.
"I know. I'm not FBI." Brennan reassured her. "My partner is, but I wanted to talk to you first." She said. "My name is Temperance." She said. The girl looked down, refusing to make eye contact. Submissive, Booth noted. "I know that the child advocate doesn't explain what's going to happen to you, and since I've been in your shoes, I know how terrified you are." The small girl looked up in surprise.
"Yes." Brennan replied. "I entered the system right after my fifteenth birthday." She said the words nonchalantly but the girl's look of shock was enough to convey how important that information was, even through a two way mirror. Booth instinctively leaned closer to the glass, trying to uncover why that struck a chord with the child.
"Fifteen?" The girl gulped. Booth watched as Brennan nodded, his eyebrows furrowed as he tried to follow. He wished Sweets were here to translate foster care speak. "So when you said that you knew what I was going through, you really meant it." She said.
"How did it start?" Brennan asked, beginning the interview without the FBI child advocate present. Booth went to push the intercom button to tell her to knock it off, but then he realized that she didn't have an ear piece in. God damn it, Bones, he thought as he headed for the door to stop the interview.
"What?" Elena asked, suddenly very nervous.
"Fairly innocently, I'm sure. A wandering hand, maybe a kiss to the top of your head?" She said. Booth's hand froze on the doorknob. "Pretty soon they get a little braver." She said. She was speaking from experience and Booth immediately turned around on his heel. Elena just nodded. Booth cursed as he finally realized what bonded the girl to the woman.
"Linda worked. It was only after school when we were alone and I could usually find a way to avoid it." Elena barely spoke loud enough for Booth to hear her.
"And when you couldn't?" Brennan winced, clearly hating that she had to even ask these questions.
"He would make me undress and then he would… run his hands over me, rub up against me for a while and then jerk off in front of me. He liked to say things: that I was a tease, that it was the least I could do for him after taking me in. He got off on the words." She cried and Brennan held out her hand. "If I didn't do it, he said that he would kick us out. I couldn't let Liam live like that." Brennan nodded in understanding. "He had never actually tried to, you know, before that day…that was the first time. Linda walked in when he was forcing me down onto the bed...and she went nuts. She kept calling me a whore, saying that I couldn't steal her husband."
"It's easier for them to place blame on you than on their husbands." Brennan explained. "I was locked in the trunk of a car once for two days simply because the wife wanted me out of the house." Elena nodded.
"She beat me unconscious. I knew it was better that way. If she got out all of her anger, then she might not force us out onto the street, you know?" That sounded familiar to Booth. He had never been beaten to the point of slipping under, but he knew from experience that the less resistance you gave, the faster the beatings ended.
"You had your brother to think of." Booth felt his heart drop into his gut at Brennan's kind words. He knew all too well what that motivation felt like.
"When I woke up, Steve was dead, lying on my bedroom floor." She whispered. "Linda was gone and I was covered in his blood." She was shaking so Brennan stood up and walked around the table, put her chair directly next to hers and took her hand.
"So you changed your clothes and you ran." Brennan understood. Elena nodded as she cried. "Did you put the clothes in the dumpster?"
"I left them right there next to him." Brennan let her cry for a moment, looking over her bowed head towards the glass mirror, knowing she had gotten the first clue. "What about Liam?" She finally continued.
"I picked him up from his after school program and got on the first bus out of Virginia."
"What were you planning on doing for food, shelter?" Brennan had to ask.
"Whatever I had to." Elena said, a cold, but determined edge to her voice that went well beyond her years.
Booth had heard enough. Elena's testimony had given them motive, he was certain the squints could find out the rest. He left his side of the room and knocked on the interrogation side's door.
"Did she get it?" Sweets asked Booth just as Brennan stepped out into the hallway. She looked at Booth.
"We got it." He nodded his confirmation. She took one last look at the door behind her before heading for the elevator. "Bones, wait…" Booth said as he jogged to catch up with her. She looked up but didn't respond as the elevator doors closed between them.
Booth waited until the case was over to talk to Brennan again. She had done more than enough and it was up to the team to finish the rest. When Linda was finally in custody and charged, Booth headed over to Brennan's apartment to tell her the good news. He knocked on her door, wondering which version of Brennan he was going to get. He hoped that the time and space would have given her time to heal. He lifted his head as Brennan finally opened the door.
"Hi Bones. We got her. Case is over, which means drinks for us, right? Look, I brought your favorite." He said as he held up her favorite wine. She glanced down at the bottle as if she were debating whether or not it was a good enough reason to let him in. "We don't have to talk about the case. I just, I missed you these past couple of days." He added. She sighed and made room for him to come inside. She went to the kitchen and pulled two glasses and a cork screw out of her cabinets and set them on the island. Booth reached for the cork screw and began opening the wine. Brennan watched him pour two glasses in silence before he picked up his glass and raised it briefly towards her.
"This one's for you. We couldn't have solved this one without you." He offered before he took a sip of his wine. Brennan didn't touch her glass. Booth watched her inaction out of the corner of his eye and set his glass down on the counter with a sigh. "Look, Bones, if you want me to go…" He started as he thumbed his way toward the exit.
"You're not going to ask me about it?" She finally asked him as she toyed with the hem of the cloth napkin in front of her. Booth sat down across from her with a sigh.
"A smart woman once told me that when I was ready to tell someone about my past, I would." He replied. "It was good advice." Silence fell between them as she finally reached for her glass.
"It was the same family." She began before taking a sip of the wine. Booth didn't understand but he kept his mouth shut. "The woman, she was the one who put boiling water in the sink and who locked me in the trunk of the car. She wanted to punish me because her husband found me attractive." Booth saw how hard this was for her and he gave her the space she needed to tell her story. "He never…he would just touch my shoulder. But he also watched me. He would come into my room at night and just stare at me."
"Did you report him?" Booth asked.
"For looking at me?" Brennan shrugged helplessly, even now. "But when they finally released me from the trunk, I grabbed what little I had and went straight to the hospital down the street. I didn't even eat or change my clothes. My hands were still raw." She folded her hands into her lap at the memory. "Evidence." She swallowed the lump in her throat at the term. Booth contemplated what two days in a trunk would do to an already tiny 15 year old girl. He couldn't imagine. "I was treated and moved to a new family."
"And the other family?"
"Don't tell me their name." He begged as he held up his hand. "If I know their name, I'm going to hunt them down and kill them." He said honestly. If Brennan was surprised by his statement, she didn't show it. She paused long enough to consider his response before answering his question.
"I don't know what happened to them. I only spoke to the hospital staff who treated me. When I was ready to go home, a case worker showed up, brought me to a new house. I don't even know if that family knew I had been in the hospital." Booth didn't say a word. "I stayed in there for the next two years until I finished high school and then I was out." Booth let his hand slide across the island, palm turned up, silently requesting her hand. She looked up at him but then placed her hand in his. He squeezed it.
"I don't think I've ever told you how amazing your story is, but I'm going to now. You are incredible, Bones. I can't imagine the kind of strength it took to navigate through all of that on your own, but you certainly have it. In spades." He added with a smile.
"Thank you." She whispered. Silence fell for a moment before she looked at him again. "Booth?"
"Hmm?" He asked.
"You're incredible too." She said sincerely. He felt his heart jump in his chest and he swore he blushed at the compliment.
"Thanks, Bones." This time it was her turn to squeeze his hand before releasing it in exchange for her wine glass. He watched carefully as she took a sip and clearly enjoyed it.
"This really is my favorite wine." She smiled.
"I know." He grinned, glad to have made her happy. "Here, let me top that off for you." He said as he filled her glass.
"Booth!" She groaned. "I have to work tomorrow."
"Two glasses?" He brushed off her concern. "What happened to your notoriously high alcohol tolerance?" He reminded her as he filled up his glass as well.
"That is true." She agreed. "I do have an excellent tolerance for alcohol. It's higher than yours." Booth choked on his wine.
"Excuse me!" He said, ready to defend himself. She simply raised her eyebrows with a shrug and took another sip of her wine.
Booth rolled his eyes at her assumption but he couldn't help but smile at her audacity. He had successfully done what he had come here to do.
Bones was back.