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Just the Way You Are

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**Part One**

September 2007
Columbus, Ohio

"Damn it," Buffy said, raking her fingers through her hair. "I'm going to be late." She had to watch how hard she gripped the cell phone or she'd crush it.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know. I want to leave and my street is blocked off."


"Yeah, police cars, fire trucks. The works."

"Well, they won't be there forever."

"I suppose I should see if I can talk my way out of my driveway. Any way you can find out what happened?"

"I can try."

"That would be helpful. I guess my professor will understand if I can't get to class because the police blocked off my street."

"I'll see what I can find for you. I was online anyway."

"Thanks, Will. You're the best."

"Don't I know it."

"Call me back when you have something for me."

"I will. Oh, hey, have you seen Todd lately?"

"Um, yes, as a matter of fact. We did the dinner and a movie thing last night."

"Oh? That's it?"

"Slow is good right now, Will. That's all I want really."

"If you say so."

"I do."

"Try not to get too distracted on campus. And, hey, police blocking off your street. That means men in uniform."

"Right. I'll do my best. Bye, Will."

"Bye, Buffy."

She closed her phone, slipping it into the pocket of her leather jacket. She glanced at the closed off street sizing up the cops standing around. There weren't that many just standing there, though. Most that she saw were busy doing whatever cops did. They were going in and out of the house across from hers. They were the last houses before the sac part of their cul-de-sac.

"Excuse me, miss."


"Do you have business here?"

"Uh no. Well, yeah, actually, I live over there and was wondering if I can get my car out. I have class."

"I'm sorry, miss, but it's going to be a while. I'd call your professors and let them know. Can I get your name?"

"Uh, why?"

"I've been asked to get the names of any one passing by."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Just following orders, ma'am."

"Okay." She gave him her name and address, not sure she was too keen on the idea. She didn't really see much choice. The police department in Columbus was nothing like Sunnydale's. They actually worked here, did their jobs and stuff. She even heard FBI volleyed around. Interesting. Something big was going down on her quaint little cul-de-sac in Columbus.

"Did something happen?"

"I'm not at liberty to say, ma'am. I would advise you to exercise caution."

"Right. Caution. Good advice." Did people really say that?

Columbus wasn't a hotbed of demon activity. In fact, things were downright slow most of the time. She encountered the occasional demon, but she was practically retired at the pace things were going here. She was able to take classes and do stuff that a normal college student did. She'd be done this year, in fact, graduating with a degree in Sociology.

She was close enough to Cleveland that if the slayers guarding the hell mouth needed help she could go. Otherwise, she was pretty much on her own, living a pretty normal life. And, overall, that life was good. She wasn't serious about Todd. He was a nice guy in her major who helped her study. Occasionally, they went out but she didn't consider them dates. He was younger than she was. She'd been tempted despite the slight age difference, but things were dicey enough slaying-wise to make her gun-shy. It bothered her that this happened in her backyard. On her watch. Something like this could make her risk revealing herself.

Deciding there really wasn't anything more she could do she headed back inside. Hopefully, her professors would understand and Willow would have information for her later. She had studying to do, so she wouldn't get bored.


"So, tell me again, why we were called into this."

"The family dog got down to the crawl space and came back with what appear to be human remains. A finger. Thing is the crawl space is off the basement and the family that lives there claims they've never used it."

"Great," he said as he drove from the airport. He liked the Midwest well enough. He would just rather see it without having to wade through bodies. Or bones as the case seemed to be this time. He wondered if there would ever be a time that he believed he'd paid his dues. As he drove on the streets of Columbus toward the crime scene, he doubted it. Nothing could make up for the lives he'd taken.

"Any witnesses?"

"No, nothing. The family's only lived there for six months. The house itself, though, is over fifty years old. So, we could have quite a change over there."

"I'll need the names of anyone who's lived in the house."

"We're already compiling that information."

"Good, that's good."

He glanced at the local officer who was walking through with them. "You okay, Officer Colter?"

"Yes, sir."

"It's no indication of how manly you are if a scene like this gets to you. If you're going to get sick, do it outside, away from my crime scene."

Seeley tightened his lips into a grim smile as the officer left his side almost immediately. He recognized the green tones to the young officer's skin. It was never easy finding a body. Even someone as seasoned as he was had to force his mind to focus on what was important.

"What do you have?" he asked Temperance as she examined the remains. They had to stoop in the crawl space, which didn't make the stench any easier to take.

"Young female, probably early twenties. She's remarkably intact considering. There are some interesting marks here near the clavicle."


"Yeah, I'll have to get a better look once we've moved her."

He glanced at the marks. They were oddly shaped, as if something had punctured the flesh too deep. He tried to envision the type of weapon that could make those marks. There was a niggling at the back of his mind that he could not bring forward. It happened to him on occasion, he'd see something and there was a part of him that thought he'd seen something familiar. He'd seen enough that things blended together. "I'll get the team looking to see if there's more and we can start talking to some neighbors."

"You think there will be more?"

"Let's hope not, Bones."

They were getting nowhere. They'd made their way around the circle portion of the cul-de-sac. No one seemed to know of any missing young women. The family that lived in the house now kept to themselves but seemed friendly. Enlightening.

"I hate this part of the job."

"Why don't you let someone else do it then?"

"I want to see the faces of the neighbors. See if I can catch a look that says something different than they're saying."

"Most of the people seem to have lived here a while."

"I get that, too. It seems like a nice neighborhood. But looks can be deceiving." He rang the door to the next house on their canvass. He turned away from the door, scanning the street.

"Can I help you?"

"Uh, hi, I'm Doctor Temperance Brennan. Do you have a minute for some questions?"

"Oh, I was hoping you were going to tell me I could finally leave my house."

He could hear the disappointment in the voice. He turned to face the resident. "Not yet. Sorry." He offered her what he hoped was a comforting smile. The resulting look of shock and terror on her face was not what he'd expected. He couldn't remember getting that response from a woman before. Maybe he was staring too hard.


"I'm sorry to bother you. Miss Summers, is it?"

"I, Angel, is it really you?" She paled visibly. He wondered if she might faint.

Bones glanced at him and he shrugged. "I'm Special Agent Seeley Booth." He showed her his badge and identification. "We just need to ask you a few routine questions."

"Come on, what is this? If this is some kind of joke, it's not funny. I had an exam today in one of my classes."

"We'll provide documentation for your professor stating you were unable to attend class if that's necessary, Miss Summers."

"Angel. What's wrong with you?"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. My name is Seeley. My associate's name is Temperance."

"Get out. Your associate? Are you saying you don't know me? Are you suffering from amnesia or something?"

"If I've met you before, Miss Summers, I'm afraid I don't remember it. I cross paths with many people in my line of work."

"I don't understand."

"Can we come in? Maybe you need to sit down."

She stared at them, through them really. It was an intense look. He saw something in her eyes. Anger, hurt, and confusion. They were all there. There was something else, though, deeper in those hazel eyes. She couldn't be more than twenty-five yet she seemed older. Experienced.

"Bones, help her inside," he prompted when the woman did not respond. "I'll see if I can find her a glass of water." He wasn't one to barge into someone's home uninvited, but he couldn't stand by while someone passed out.

It was a nice house. Homey, lived in. It appeared, judging by the lone place setting at the table that she lived alone. He found a glass and filled it with water, glancing at the framed picture on the table in the entryway. It was the woman but younger with two other people. They looked happy in the photograph.

"Is she all right?"

"I don't know. There's nothing wrong that I can see. Other than shock. She seems to genuinely believe she knows you."

"I could almost swear I've never seen her before in my life, Bones."

"I believe you."

She took the glass of water he offered, clutched it with both hands and drank. She didn't take her eyes off him, though. She looked at him as if he were a ghost. He almost wished he were who she thought he was so that her mind would be eased. She handed him the glass and stood from the couch.

"Uh, Miss Summers."

"Just wait," she said and walked toward the stairs.

"Any idea what's going on?"

"None. A case of mistaken identity. They say everyone has a twin out there. I'm not sure what I think about mine being named Angel."

"Any drunken nights you don't remember?"

"If I don't remember them how would I know about them?"

"You know what I mean."

"Yes, I do, and no, there aren't."

She returned a few minutes later clutching what he guessed was a photograph from the shape and size of the item. She showed it to him. It was him. It wasn't, there was no chance it was him. But it was him. Bones' gasp beside him told him she saw it, too.

"What is this?"

"You and me at my prom eight years ago."

"I remember my prom date, Miss Summers, she wasn't you. And it was longer than eight years ago."

"Then explain that."

"I can't," he said glancing at the photograph closely. He flipped it over to examine the back of it. It seemed legitimate. He found it hard to believe someone would plant a photograph like this on the hope he'd be assigned to a case in Columbus.

"It's you."

"I'm sorry, but it's not. I don't know what else to say." He set the picture down on the coffee table. "Do you mind if we ask you some questions about the house across the street."

She took the picture. Her eyes went from him to the picture to Bones and back to him. He noticed her fingertips skimmed the photograph possessively, intimately. She was an attractive woman. Whoever the guy was in the picture had been lucky to have her for a date.

She answered his questions, though she didn't provide much information. She'd lived there for going on three years, owned the house, and attended Ohio State University majoring in Sociology. Her cell phone rang three times but she made no effort to answer it. She stared at him as if willing him to be a person he was not.

"Well, that was uncomfortable."

"The resemblance is uncanny."

"It is. I worry about someone carrying a torch for someone years later, though."

"Booth, he could be your brother."

They finished their neighborhood canvass and checked in at the scene. Sensors indicated a second body in the crawl space. The team began the tedious process of unearthing the bodies so they could be brought in for examination.

Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/