I don’t own Buffy or Bones. That’s Joss Whedon or Hart Hanson.
Finding bones in Arlington National Cemetery wasn’t unusual. Bones in a shallow grave, though, were rare, unexpected, and worrisome. Booth bounced on the balls of his feet, trying to create some warmth as Bones, his Bones, not the dead body, examined said remains.
“This is very strange,” Bone said, voice stuck somewhere between fascinated and worried. “Width and ossification of the pelvis indicates adolescent female, late teens at most, the zygomatic process indicates Caucasian, height and weight indicate a small, compact, athletic build.”
“What’s so weird about that?” Booth asked, rubbing his hands together. He applauded the groundskeepers’ diligence but was sincerely wishing it was at least 30 degrees warmer today.
“The microfractures along her upper shoulders and bone density in her femur suggest that she could and did lift the weight of a small automobile,” Bones said, impressed.
“That is definitely strange,” Booth said, nodding.
“That’s what I just said,” Bones said testily.
“Yeah, but you think The Simpsons are strange,” Booth laughed.
,” Bones said, winding up for an argument.
“Hate to interrupt but I think I found an i.d.,” Cam said, gently lifting the skeletal folded hands.
Bones carefully scraped off some good and read, “The…Watcher’s Council?”
And Booth straightened, calling, “Everybody, stop what they’re doing!”
“Booth, the evidence!” Bones argued.
“We just lost jurisdiction, so everybody stop touching things
until I get somebody on the phone with a much higher security clearance than any of us have to tell me what we should do,” he called over her protests, then caught her elbow and gently tugged her u, saying quietly, “Seriously, Bones, stop touching her before we all get hung by your good intentions.”
“I don’t know what that means,” she said, confused. “And you’re not supposed to anthropomorphize the skeleton.”
“It means, Dr. Brennan, that this time, bureaucracy wins,” Cam said, standing and snapping off her gloves. “Let’s go wait in the van until Booth knows what we’re doing.”
They left him, arguing, standing in the cold over the body of his worst nightmare.
*** *** ***
Three hours later, Nadia James’s body was laid out on a slab at the Jeffersonian and Booth and Bones were arguing over her.
“This is ridiculous,” Bones said, incensed. “They allowed us to gather evidence and transport the body to the Jeffersonian but they won’t allow us to clean and examine the bones?”
“They will, as soon as someone from their organization gets here to…oversee things,” he said hesitantly and watched her nostrils flare.
“I am the top expert in my field and some…some plebian
thinks they’re going to oversee my work?” she said hotly.
“It’s not about you,” an unfamiliar voice said, and they whirled to see a one-eyed man standing at the base of the platform. He waved, an i.d. card a lot like the one in their evidence bag tucked into his palm. Booth nodded slightly and the guard slid his badge through, allowing him entrance. “It’s not about you or your expertise. It’s about her. Her bones, to be exact. We stand vigil over our dead whenever possible.”
“So we had to wait to gather evidence from the body so that you could adhere to your religious beliefs?” Bones asked, disbelief and condescension lacing her tone.
“It’s not a religious thing. Not really,” the man said as he handed Booth his i.d. “It’s a respect thing. Our organization has a very high mortality rate. The least we can do is make sure they get put to rest properly.”
is the body of a teenage girl,” Bones said, obviously caught on the words ‘organization’ and ‘mortality’.
“Yeah,” Harris said, shrugging broad shoulders. “But she was made for it.”
aren’t meant to be soldiers
,” Bones said, impassioned.
“So you didn’t notice anything…hinky about her bones?” Harris said, like he already knew the answer.
And Bones paused, looking at him, then the remains. “The density of her bones…”
“Yeah,” Harris nodded, shoulders loosening. “The density and the fractures that healed too quickly, the weird lack of childhood indicators. Those are things that 75% of our organization have in common. I have to wait until a colleague gets here with the paperwork but there is an explanation, Dr. Brennan. But for now, you can begin your examination.”
Bones studied him, visibly calming, then nodded. “Very well, Mister…” she trailed off, looking at Booth.
“Alexander Harris,” Booth said, holding up the i.d. before handing it back to the man.
“Xander, please,” he said, tucking his i.d. away.
Bones nodded, then dived into her work, stating, “Given that the bone structure of the skeleton matches that of the photo on her i.d., I feel confident that I can positively i.d. these remains as Nadia James.”
Harris stepped forward, pulling on a glove, then running his finger along the edge of the jaw bone without any hesitation. It was a bit creepy, frankly, until he nodded and said, tapping on a spot on the bone, “It’s Nadia. She startled our cook and got a meat cleaver to the chin.”
“You get a new cook?” Booth asked, scribbling in his notebook.
“Nah,” Harris said, staring at the dent his finger lay beside. “Posted three signs telling people to knock and hung a bell over the door. Nadia wouldn’t have let us, anyway. Andrew’s pitiful when he cries.”
Harris finally seemed to realize what he was touching and yanked his hand away, balling it into a fist. He looked at Booth, jaw clenched, and Booth immediately took him off the suspect list. Harris was the cold hearted killer kind of guy. Booth got the distinct impression that Harris hadn’t even really believed that the body was Nadia’s, not until he found the notch in her chin.
Harris stepped back from the table, finding a chair and collapsing into it. “I’ll just…be over here. Do what you have to do?”
He pulled out his phone, sending a quick text, before propping his chin in his hand, fingers covering his mouth.
“Can you tell me when she went missing?” Booth asked, stepping around the squints as they posited and hemmed and hawed. He’d get Bones to paraphrase things for him later.
“Two weeks ago,” Harris said, watching as Wendell carefully lifted a bone. “She went on a routine outing and didn’t come back when she was scheduled to. We sent out feelers but…There was nothing. She was just gone.”
“What about her parents?” Booth asked, gently feeling things out. His bosses had pressed him to step lightly, not that he really needed to be told. “Friends, relatives?”
“Her parents are dead,” Harris said, wincing. “The bombing in London a few years ago. If she had any relatives, she never spoke of them. And all of her friends are at the school. They’d have said something if they knew anything.”
“Are you sure? Teenagers have been known to keep a secret,” Booth said, pushing just a little.
A faint smile came and went on Harris’s face before he said, “I’m sure. They may not have told the head honchos but they’d have told me or Andrew or one of the others that aren’t teachers or administration. Especially after she went missing. Our school’s big on honesty.”
Booth nodded, although he knew there was more to the story. Everything that Harris was saying was true; it just wasn’t the whole truth.
“Rough life,” Wendell said, interrupting his flow as he packed up the bones to be cleaned. “Parents die in a bombing, and then she dies a few years later.”
“Yeah,” Harris said and his face momentarily slipped, showing his devastation. “But she was still such a happy kid. She was doing what she loved to do and laughing every second.”
“And what exactly was she doing?” Booth asked, jumping on that train.
Harris slid his eyes to him, then said, “I’ll tell you that later.”
And Booth was officially stumped. How the hell was he supposed to investigate a murder when he didn’t have anybody to talk to except a guy that couldn’t tell him anything?
“Is there anything you can
tell me?” he finally asked.
“Yeah,” Harris said, standing as Wendell got ready to take the bones away. He pulled out a folder, handing it to Booth as he said, “Nadia’s not the only girl that’s gone missing from our school.”
Then he walked away, following Wendell and leaving Booth with a proverbial ticking bomb.
*** *** ***
Booth was staring at the photos on Angela’s Angelatron, hands propped on his hip.
“It’s all so sad,” she said, coming up beside him, key pad cradled on her arm. “They’re all so young.”
Eleven girls, plus Nadia James, all between the ages of 12 and 18 stared back at him, all different ethnicities, religions, from different countries, each going missing approximately a month apart. The only thing that tied them all together was that they all attended The Council Academy in Cleveland.
And the shock of it was finally giving way to red hot rage. Harris and the Watcher’s Council knew exactly what the hell was going on and they were stonewalling. He left Angela staring at the photos and went to find Harris. He was going to get his answers.
Harris was standing at the base of the platform next to yet another young girl, although this one looked to be at least 18.
“You’re going to tell me everything you know and you’re going to tell me now
,” Booth said, jabbing him in the chest, all warnings to be polite forgotten.
Harris smacked him in the chest with a folder, a peculiar glimmer in his eye, and said, “Sign these and everything you never wanted to know is all yours.” The girl snorted, the tension running out of her when Harris remained calm.
Booth flipped open the folder as he said, “Those’re for you, Dr. Brennan’s team here at the Jeffersonian, and any three other individuals you trust and feel you might need complete this investigation. Confidentiality forms.”
Booth clenched his jaw but went to round up the squints and Sweets. He didn’t want to have to go through this a hundred times before everyone was on the same page.
Forms signed and handed off to a second girl that had wandered in looking for Harris and everybody was gathered on the forensics platform. Harris leaned against one of the tables as he asked, “Dr. Hodgins, will you please bring us the strongest piece of metal you have in your collection?”
“Sure,” Hodgins said, drawing it out like he was talking to a mad man before scampering away.
He returned with a three foot bar of something he likely would have rhapsodized about except after he handed it to Harris, Harris handed it to the girl and she bent the damn thing into a pretzel without breaking a sweat.
“That’s not possible!” Hodgins yelped, stabbing a finger at the bar.
The girl tossed the bar on the tabled, rolling her eyes, as Harris sighed, “Oh, great. Now we get to play toss-the-Xander.”
The girl picked up Harris, who practically made two of her, turned, and flung him at the other girl that’d come with them. And that girl caught him
, albeit with a bit of wobbling.
“So, yeah,” Harris said once he was back on his feet and straightening his clothes. “They’re strong. They’re really, really strong. They’re also fast and they heal quickly and, if you listen to Andrew, they’re three steps up on the evolutionary chain. And every one of the girls that’s missing is just like them.”
Booth stared at one girl then the other and said quietly, “It’s a serial killer.”
“Yeah,” Harris said, folding his arms across his chest. “We’ve sorted through every bad guy we can think of, we’ve put rules and security measures in place to keep them safe, but they keep going missing. We just know that it’s not coming from anything on our end.”
“Which is why the Watcher’s Council is allowing the Jeffersonian and the FBI to assist them in this manner,” Booth said, rocking back on his heels.
Harris raised an eyebrow as he said wryly, “And that was spoken like a man that’s dealt with the Council before.”
“I was in Iraq a couple of years ago. Met some interesting people,” Booth said because his dealings were still classified.
“Ah,” Harris said, nodding. “Betcha met Kennedy.”
Booth’s mouth dropped open as the girls behind Harris snickered.
Bones stepped up to say, “What does Iraq have to do with 11 missing girls and Nadia James?”
“Connections,” Harris shrugged. His phone rang and his face shuttered as he answered, “Hello?...Yeah, yeah, I’ll let them know…Just send me the map of where they are…Yeah, you, too.” Harris scrubbed a hand over his face after hanging up before stepping up to one of the computers and typing something in and a map popped up. Harris turned, suddenly looking old and worn. “We found the other girls.” He ran his finger in a ring on the screen and Booth was shocked when he realized that Arlington lay in the center. “They’re buried in shallow graves along the perimeter.”
“Shit,” one of the girls murmured as the other one looped an arm around her shoulders.
“So it’s true,” the other girl said, rubbing her cheek against the top of her friend’s head. “They’re trying to raise an army.”
Booth stepped forward as Bones and the other squints scrambled to get their bags and things for the exhumation. He held up a finger and said, “Who are ‘They’ and what does she mean, raise an army?”
Harris rubbed his eye, then said, “’They’, we’re pretty sure, is a man named Quentin Travers and a few of his ilk, who are all supposed to be dead, by the way, and they think, if they sacrifice girls like Nadia, like Rona and Shannon, here, that they’ll be able to raise all the dead in Arlington to fight for their cause. Which is complete bupkis because I know for a fact that they’re missing at least 2 of the artifacts they’d need and they don’t have enough power amongst them, even with the sacrifices.” He turned to the girls and said, “No offense.”
“None taken,” the one he’d pointed out as Rona said dryly.
“That’s insane!” Booth cut in.
“Yeah, well, I said I’d tell you the truth. I didn’t say it would be logical,” Harris shrugged. “Plus, aren’t most serial killers a little whack-a-doodle in the head?”
Booth would have tried arguing except Harris was right, in his estimation. “I have to go.”
Harris raised his thumbs. “We’ll be here. Try not to shot anybody that works for the Watcher’s Council. Except Travers. Then empty a clip because, seriously, what’s it going to take to make this dude stay dead?”
Shannon giggled as Booth backed away from them, goggling. He’d been positive that Harris wasn’t the killing type.
*** *** ***
Pulling up to the gates of Arlington as the sun began to set, Booth jammed his car into park and jumped out running. Girls were fighting men twice their age and size as others protected the shallow graves.
“FBI! Everybody freeze!” he yelled, just to get it out of the way, then he raised his gun, preparing to shoot.
“You can’t have them! They’re ours
!” an old kook shrieked, half his face looking like it was melting down his neck, as he charged Booth blindly with a sword, of all things.
Figuring that this was Travers, Booth fired once, then twice as he kept coming. Three bullets and the man finally fell to the ground, twitching.
“Shit,” somebody said at his elbow and he jerked, looking down into Shannon’s pale face.
“How the hell-,” he started.
“That’s not important,” she said, grabbing his arm as she pointed. “That’s
Some freaky looking bluish white cloud was rising from the shallow graves and Booth realized as he hit his knees that Travers had completed the circle of the dead. As the cloud rose, and eerie wailing set up, causing the hair to stand up on the back of his neck.
“Oh my God,” he whispered, staring as the wailing cloud started to swirl around the graveyard, the rumbling as dirt started shifting free of the graves.
“Yes, pray,” Shannon snapped, tugging on his arms. “But pray while running.”
She finally got him to his feet and he turned to run, but bounced off Harris’s chest as screaming started in the circle, the living meeting the dead.
Harris caught his arms and demanded, shaking him, “Tell them to rest.”
“What?” Booth said, shock settling in.
“You closed the circle,” Harris said, still shaking him. “You can command them. Tell them to rest. Tell them to be at peace.”
Booth blinked, then whispered, “You’re crazy. You’re all crazy.”
Harris spun him and yelled, “Tell them to rest before they break the damn circle!”
Booth’s stomach rose into his throat and he almost lost his lunch at the sight of decaying bodies, uniforms in tatters, clawing their way from their graves.
“Rest,” he blurted and was surprised to see them falter. He took a deep breath and said in his most commanding voice, “Rest and be at peace.”
The dead hesitated, then lay back, the earth swallowing them again. The wailing cloud still, then resolved into the figures of 11 girls, each of them staring at him. The one nearest him, all of twelve, pressed her clenched fist over her heart, nodding at him. Then they all disappeared and it was all over except the clean up.
“Good,” Harris said, relieved, as he finally released Booth’s arms. “You did good.”
The girls that had been fighting were relatively unscathed but the men they’d fought against lay scattered in pieces on the ground.
Harris patted his back as most of the girls started making their way towards them, at least one stopping to stand beside the open graves at parade rest.
Booth watched as a girl, maybe 15, flung herself into Harris’s arms, sobbing, then looked the man in his eye. “You know, I really wish I didn’t know.”
“Yeah,” Harris said, looking as old as Booth felt. “Everybody says that after they find out. That ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ thing really applies when it comes to the Council. I’m gonna head back to the Jeffersonian, sit with Nadia.”
He turned and left without waiting for a reply, a girl in his arms and Shannon on his six. Hodgins and the other squints were staring, wide-eyed.
*** *** ***
It was a tight fit, but there were twelve tables crammed onto the forensic platform. Harris and two women that Booth had managed to miss in the middle of all those teenagers had stayed the night, watching over the bodies until Bones finally released them.
Booth stepped up beside Bones as she said, “They’re yours, now. You can take them home.”
Harris lifted his head from the brunette’s hip and said, eyes bleary, “Thank you. We just need to do one thing first.”
Girls slipped into the room, one dropping from the walkways in the ceiling to make Sweets, who had had to be read in, squeal like a little girl.
The red head that had spent the night meditating at Harris’s side unfolded herself and stood, routing through a bag to pull out a jar before she handed it to Harris and the brunette, who pulled out dozens of pure white candles. They placed them around the edges of the metal tables as the red head started whispering and anointing the foreheads of each skull.
Booth leaned into Rona and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Travers and the others…they tied the girls’ spirits to their bones. So the soldiers could lay down and rest again when you told them to but the girls…they just withdrew back into their bones,” she said grimly, arms folding tight across her chest.
Booth was horrified. There was a part of him, that logical, calculating part of him that said that that was nuts. But the other part, the part that went to mass and had seen zombies crawling from their graves, that part of him was sick.
Harris and the two women stepped away from the tables and the redhead raised her hands, the candles ringing the skeletons lighting. The bones began to glow a pure white, then that whiteness rose and solidified into sleeping girls.
“Be free,” Harris whispered and the images disappeared like a puff of smoke and the bones disintegrated to ash.
Everybody from the Council slumped in what Booth recognized was relief. A box, solid and wooden, was placed at the head of each table, the ash swirling up and into them seemingly of their own volition. They each closed with a soft click and it sounded as final as dirt hitting a coffin. A girl vaulted onto the platform, stepped up and carefully lifted a box. She stepped back, then towards the stairs and another girl stepped up. Another and another until each of the boxes had a guard in the shape of a girl, each as grim as the last.
Booth finally looked over to Harris and saw him rubbing the shoulder of the redhead who was silently weeping into her hands, the brunette’s hand wrapped in a white knuckle grip around his as she watch each box make its way past, spine ramrod straight. That was the grief of both a parent and a general and Booth didn’t know how to reconcile those images.
Harris started to lead them after the boxes, then stopped and looked at the squints and Bones and Booth and said solemnly, “Thank you.”
Then he followed the tide of grieving girls out the door.
Booth reached over and wound his fingers through Bones’. “What’s say we go home?”
She looked up at him, squeezing his fingers as her other hand curved over what could barely be recognized as a baby bump. “I say let’s.”
They all had paperwork that needed doing, things that needed putting to right, but for now, Booth couldn’t think of anything he needed more than Bones.