This is just a little one-shot done in response to a fic meme at Livejournal, courtesy of bitesize_bones and bones_ga! The prompt was 'What if Max had been found guilty?' Done in a hurry - and during working hours (!) - so please accept my apology for any typos or random silliness. Hope you enjoy, guys.
Somehow he'd known she'd be there. He'd looked elsewhere first, but in the back of his head that little voice kept telling him that was where she'd be.
When they'd realized that her father wasn't coming out of the courtroom, that he wasn't going to come out, she'd gone a glassy, haunted white and her eyes had automatically sought him out. But when he'd quickly stepped toward her, Caroline had swept in between them with an imperious demand for his attention. By the time he'd gotten rid of her, Bones was gone. No one had seen her leave. And he'd been looking for her ever since. Finally, he'd listened to that know-it-all voice and headed north up Potomac Parkway.
By the time the sign for Oak Creek Cemetery appeared, the sun was well on its way down, and the shadows of the tombstones were long upon the grass. He didn't think she'd run from him but parked a distance away and walked, regardless. Vehicles always felt like an intrusion in places like this. He wondered if maybe the stupid voice was wrong when he topped the hill and didn't see her. But another few steps and she was there, her hair like fire in the final rays of the sun. He walked faster. No one was better at reading her body language than he was, and what he was seeing now wasn't good.
If she heard him approach, she gave no sign. But he knew that she knew he was there. It was one of her many talents. She was sitting, back propped against the closest tree, and her legs were drawn close to her chest, her arms wrapped so tightly around them that her clasped knuckles were white.
"Bones." She didn't answer him, but merely stared straight ahead at the row of markers in front of her. From his height she looked almost absurdly small, a trick of the eye that did not sit well at all with him. He dropped quietly to the ground next to her, propping his arms comfortably on his knees. After a moment, he cast about for something to say. Asking her if she was all right was not only a stupid question, but an unnecessary one. She was far from all right. He settled on sitting silently for a bit, hoping to come up with the right thing to say. Was there even such a thing at a time like this?
"There isn't enough room."
He looked sharply at her, his concern ramping up at the tone in her voice. But his own when he spoke was casual and non-challenging. "Not enough room for what?" She didn't answer for so long that he almost asked again. Finally she took a breath.
"There isn't enough room here for my father." She indicated the closely-arranged stones with a strained, small gesture. "I didn't think about that when I buried my mother. He wasn't around, and I didn't think I'd ever see him again, so I didn't take appropriate precautions when purchasing a plot."
"I don't know why I didn't think of that. Now I don't know what to do."
"Bones." She was like an automaton, and his alarm grew when she moved away from his touch. He leaned further and grasped her wrist anyway, ignoring for the moment the iciness of her skin. "Don't think like that. There are appeals. Convictions are overturned all the time. It'll take years for them to –"
"Execute him? Yes, I imagine it will take quite some time. But his conviction won't be overturned. The arresting officer was particularly thorough."
If she had gutted him with a knife it would have hurt less. It was the thing that had been eating away at him the entire time he'd been looking for her. This was his fault. "I'm so sorry, Bones..."
"Don't do that," she retorted sharply, pulling her arm free. "Don't ever apologize for doing your job. The only person who is responsible is currently in jail. His conviction is not your fault and neither is his behavior. I don't blame you at all for what happened. You shouldn't blame yourself, either."
Her eyes were a shocking, opaque blue. He couldn't tell what she was thinking. Why couldn't he tell? The chill on his back and the full shadows before him caught his attention. He could feel the rising dew soaking his jeans and knew she must be freezing. "C'mon, Bones. Why don't we head back, grab something to eat...we can talk more over dinner."
She recoiled even further from him, once again staring ahead with eyes that had again gone dull and flat. "No." Almost absently, she spoke again. "You should go ahead and go."
"I'm not leaving until you do. If you want to stay for a while, that's fine." He'd never seen her like this. For the first time since he'd met her, she seemed older. Tired. He tried not to think it, but it came unbidden. She seemed defeated. And on the heels of that came another, more unsettling thought. She was scared. He immediately moved to put his arm around her shoulders but was thwarted when she rose halfway. "Bones..."
"I don't want you to comfort me. If you comfort me it means it's over. If you comfort me it means you think it's over. Please don't comfort me."
Her voice was shaking, her expression almost panicked. He'd never heard her plead before, and the weight of it hung sourly around his neck. This whole situation was completely fucked up and he couldn't fix it. And she was right. It was over. Her last-ditch attempt to save her father had been brilliant. But she'd honed her team at the lab to razor sharpness, and they'd succeeded in convicting him. There were no loopholes, no more mistakes. No lazy lab work, thanks to her, and no lazy policing, thanks to him. Irony didn't even begin to cover this situation.
And now he'd succeeded in upsetting her even more. There was a wild look in her eye that he'd put there, and he didn't know how to make it go away. But he had to try. "Okay, Bones. I won't comfort you. I promise. We can just sit here for a while if that's what you want."
Warily, she settled back down next to him, the momentary spark in her eyes dying out once more. He rested his chin on his forearms and stared ahead with her. If she needed to be alone, she could do it with him there. He wasn't going to leave her.
Dusk came and went, the chill night air settling over him and leaving him damp. They sat, motionless. The distant sounds of the city seemed louder in the darkness, all the engines blending into a low, constant drone. Planes flew overhead in a never-ending pattern of departures and arrivals, their landing lights exceedingly bright and yet not bright enough. Still they sat.
Suddenly he started. Had she said something? He strained but didn't hear anything, and in the near-total darkness detected no movement from her. But something had changed. He shucked the jacket he'd wanted to give to her earlier and took a chance, reaching out and draping it over her thin shoulders. She didn't move, and in one fluid motion he covered her and pulled her toward him. She went unresistingly, her head dropping familiarly onto his shoulder as he wrapped his arm tightly about her. He fought to contain his burgeoning relief and dropped his free hand onto hers, his grip both warming and, finally, comforting. They sat for several more minutes in silence and once again her voice came, stiff and hoarse with unshed tears.
"At least I'll be able to say goodbye this time."
Eyes stinging, he pulled her even closer, wishing with all his heart that he could fix hers. But he knew he couldn't.