She drives as far as she can, until her eyes are too tired to see the road. Every time she looks into the rearview mirror, she can still see Booth standing in the middle of the road, calling her name. She feels guilty and scared and sick.
She finds a small motel, pays in cash for a room at the back. The motel is old and run down; Brennan has to kill a cockroach the size of her thumb before she can use the toilet. The quality of the accommodations do not bother her; she has slept in the dirt before. But it is no place for a baby.
She lays a blanket from the diaper bag down on the lumpy, stained bed. The mattress creaks as she lays down and it all smells damp and musty. Brennan does not bother undressing. She allows Christine to nurse until she falls asleep, and then, alone in the dark, she cries.
He is not crying. He thought he would, and he almost did once he got home. But he figures his life had always been a shit sandwich, with occasional garnishes of happiness. Today was really just a little more miserable than other days. He does not, however, enter the baby's room or their bedroom. He sleeps on the couch.
He is not angry at Bones, he would like to be angry at Max, but there is no point in that. He tries to keep his anger focused where he knows it belongs, on Pelant.
By the time Max catches up to them, Brennan is desperate for the company. Yes, she is used to being alone but she has gotten less used to that over the last year or so. And under these circumstances, she does not want to be alone. At all.
Max is different. Gone is the affable, doting father and grandfather. This is Max the fugitive and he doesn't have time for small talk.
"Here." He slams a box of haircolor on the dresser in yet another shabby motel room. "But let me cut it first." He takes a pair of scissors from a paper bag.
Instinctively, Brennan touches her hair. "Why?"
"Why do you think? I'd rather you get plastic surgery, but I don't even know if my guy in Mexico is still alive and it's not so easy to get back over the border anymore."
Plastic surgery? Mexico? This is far more than Brennan bargained for.
"This isn't necessary," she insists. "Booth will -"
"Booth isn't here. I am. And I know what I'm doing."
His voice is firm and he gestures for her to sit. She does so, reluctantly, and tries not to cry as she watches her auburn hair fall into her lap. When Max is done, he sends her into the bathroom with the haircolor and Brennan sees herself as she has never looked before. The cut is short, pixie-style, competently done but she hates it. She hates it even more forty five minutes later when it is jet black.
After the hair, comes the change to her name. Max has obtained a birth certificate and social security card reading Elizabeth Warner. Once they have pictures of her new look (which will include glasses - Max has those too), they'll get a driver's license.
"Speaking of pictures..." He found the ones she brought with her. Of Booth, of Booth and Christine. He says she can't keep them.
"No point in changing your identity if you are going to carry around proof of who you really are."
She brought them to show to Christine; to keep Booth's face familiar to her. Max pockets the photos over her loud protests then tells her to stand against the blank, gray wall. She glares at him as he takes her picture; the whole experience is like getting her mug shot taken, and she's had that done, so she knows.
"I'll have the license next week. No passport though. Too hard to fake without real money."
They have less than ten thousand dollars; Brennan could not withdraw more without triggering an automatic bank review. Max is displeased about this. If she had listened to him sooner, she could have made several such withdrawals.
"I have money, it'll just take some time and travel to get to it."
Once he says it, it makes sense. Of course Max has money stashed somewhere. He does not work and has never asked her for a handout. They'll hit the road again tomorrow, says Max. He takes the floor, giving Brennan and Christine the bed. Settling down is harder tonight because Christine does not like her mother's new appearance.
He is questioned, of course. After Caroline Julian finds out what Brennan has done, she is appalled and insists Booth retain a lawyer to handle it all.
"Like y'all should have done from the beginning."
She takes it upon herself to hire her own ex-husband, David Barron, the attorney who successfully defended Max so many years ago. Barron takes one look at the evidence against Brennan and snorts derisively.
"You should have called me earlier."
"You think you can get her out of this?" asks Booth.
"A first year law student could get these charges dismissed. I can't believe they were even filed." Barron taps the papers he has scattered on the table. "The most incriminating thing she's done is run away." He shakes his head. "We'll need to come up with an explanation for that."
In the meantime, Booth does not talk to the FBI and remains on suspension. He doesn't care though, because his new job is stalking Christopher Pelant, who has been unchained from his ankle monitor and free to come and go.
Ever since she'd seen her mother's videotape, and known that Max had wanted to take her with them when they ran, Brennan has wondered what that would have been like. Now she knows, and she is suddenly grateful for his abandonment.
For the first month, he hardly lets her out of whatever fleabag motel they have called home. They are constantly on the move. Never too far from DC ("so we can keep an eye on the papers, word on the street"), but never too close either. Max says the first month is the worst. After that, if there's no trail, you just become another name that pops up on their computer if they pull you over for a traffic ticket. Which is why Brennan is never allowed to drive the car. She isn't allowed out at all, really.
"You are too memorable, honey," Max explains.
That's the key to disappearing. Don't be memorable. Be nice, but not too nice. Don't be unfriendly though, because people will remember that too. Brennan has a fancy vocabulary, a distinct way of talking, and a cute, friendly baby. People - potential witnesses - will remember meeting her.
What Brennan does not know - and perhaps should have guessed - is that her face is all over the papers. There is a movie about to debut, based on one of her books, and this is all so much good publicity. "Truth Stranger Than Fiction" or some variation, is the headline everywhere.
She is also a terrible liar, and lying is essential in this way of life. It disturbs Brennan how easily Max lies to everyone they encounter. Motel clerks, gas station attendants, anyone they encounter. He tells big lies and small ones and they roll off his tongue with such ease that she wonders how many lies he has told to her.
She will find out soon.
There's a bomb in his house. He doesn't notice it for weeks, because he hasn't been sleeping in his bedroom. In fact, it's the FBI that finds it, when they turn the house upside down looking for clues in Brennan's disappearance. The bomb is in his alarm clock, which is not his alarm clock at all. This, coupled with Pelant's smirking face on the security camera Booth installed, makes the FBI think twice about Pelant.
But the guy isn't doing anything suspicious at the moment, just going back and forth from his house to his job, teaching basic computer science at an alternative high school. Booth still follows him every day, sits outside his house watching him, and it seems that Pelant has lost his spirit. He was playing a game, and the opposing team pulled their star quarterback. The game isn't as fun now that it's not as competitive.
She can't leave the room, and she can't have books.
"You think you're just going to walk into a library and check out books?" Max laughs at her naivete. "Listen, you know why fugitives get caught? Because they can't drop their old habits. They buy the same brand of cigarettes, wear the same kind of eyeglasses...you gotta change who you are."
Max goes out every day - he doesn't say where - and returns with food and diapers, toys, clothes for Christine, who is growing so quickly. While he is gone, Brennan plays with Christine, watches television - too much of it, she knows, but the voices on the TV are the only company she has besides an infant - and she writes. She writes down everything Christine is doing, so Booth will not have missed anything. She rationalizes that this will somehow make up for having taken her away. She also writes to him in her typical indirect way. Trying to apologize without actually saying the words. Asking for forgiveness the same way. She writes on anything she can find: motel stationery, if it is one of the better bad motels, or the backs of takeout menus, paper bags, even flyleafs torn from the pages of the Gideon bibles she finds in every room, no matter how dreary.
She even tried reading the bible one time, because she was that bored. But it only reminded her of the christening. She still sees Booth chasing after her, only now he does it in her dreams. Sometimes he catches her, but when he does, it is only to snatch Christine from her arms. She has other dreams too; that she comes home to find their house empty, that he opens the door and then slams it in her face.
She asks Max to mail her letters to Booth. They move around so often, the postmark would be irrelevant, and he could send them in care of Angela or even Cam. He agrees to do it, and in retrospect, she sees that should have been a sign.
They have been on the run for two months when Max says they have to change cars. As she is moving their few belongings from one vehicle to another, she finds them. Her letters, stuffed under the rear passenger seat. She does not confront him right away - an altercation at a used car lot would be memorable. When they are alone, however, she shows him the letters and she lays down her demands.
No more motels, no more isolation. Christine has gone from a happy, bubbly, friendly child to an anxious, fussy, fearful, withdrawn one. She needs sunshine, she needs socialization, she needs stability. Max is not the least bit apologetic about his actions and he brusquely informs her that none of those things are possible right now. Brennan says fine, she'll turn herself in, because it's just not worth it anymore. The worst that can happen to her isn't worth what this lifestyle is doing to Christine. Max says he'll see what he can do.
David Barron gets an evidentiary hearing, and in an hour, decimates the US Attorney's case against Brennan. Everyone in the gallery - Booth, Cam, Angela, Hodgins, even Caroline, squirms as Barron so easily refutes the evidence that had appeared so insurmountable a few months ago.
The security tape? So what. It only shows Brennan leaving a facility she had permission to visit. She is leaving alone, not with the victim. In fact, there are no witnesses who can place her with the victim anywhere outside the mental institution.
The plant? So what. It is only one way the paralyzing drug could have been made. And every single employee of the Jeffersonian Forensic Unit (Barron makes a show of spooling out several feet of paper to demonstrate just how many employees) had access to the plant as well. There's no trace of the drug itself in her lab or home, no hypodermic needle, no evidence that she concocted the drug.
The hair? So what. Brennan knew the victim. That hair could have been transferred to Brennan during any of their visits, and then to the trunk. It could have been there for months. What is more relevant is what is not in the trunk. No blood, no skin cells, no body fluids - nothing to indicate that a body lay in that trunk.
"Yes, Dr. Brennan would know which arteries to cut to create maximum blood loss," says Barron haughtily. "So does anyone with an internet search engine at their disposal." He holds up another stack of paper, printouts of every website with this information.
He also points out what Brennan does not know. She does not have the computer skills necessary to hack into the mental institutes system and transfer Ethan Sawyer from the secure to open ward. And why would she want to? If he had threatened her child, and she took that threat seriously, she would want him to remain on the secure ward.
"There is no murder weapon, no blood on Dr. Brennan's clothing or person, home or vehicle."
The inevitable question of course, is why did she run? Booth avoids looking at his friends and colleagues when Barron begins this portion of his argument. It is a strategy that Booth has reluctantly allowed after much protesting. Barron wanted Booth to testify, but he refuses to say the lies himself, it is enough that he is allowing Barron to do it.
"Dr. Brennan's disappearance is merely a domestic dispute, not related to this case," Barron explains. He spins a tale of a rocky, volatile relationship, dotted with violence and separation. Booth's assault on Pelant was one of several violent outbursts. Barron reads from Booth's record: he punched a suspect during interrogation, he assaulted a fireman during a hockey game, there are several complaints of excessive force. It sounds terrible, of course. Barron enters into evidence a custody agreement, one that Brennan had insisted on shortly after Christine's birth. She had meant it as a gesture of commitment, and to ensure that should anything happen to her, Booth would always have custody of their daughter. But in this courtroom it is used to further Barron's argument that there had always been problems in the relationship. Barron even enters the fertility clinic records into evidence, showing Booth's sperm donation from many years ago and cites Booth's "recent, serious, relationship with another woman" as proof that the partners are merely cohabiting coparents.
"And Dr. Brennan no longer wished to cohabit. Given Mr. Booth's violent past, she feared for her safety if she told him of her plans beforeheand," Barron concludes.
Booth wishes the ground would open up and swallow him. He can feel Angela's angry glare and Hodgins audible gasps multiple times during Barron's speech. Only Sweets offers a supportive glance. Cam shakes her head at him, and Booth suddenly feels very defensive. He has allowed himself to be painted in a horrible light, and they are mad at him?
Then he realizes that Barron hadn't finished his argument.
"However, Mr. Booth is as entitled to a fair hearing of the evidence as Dr. Brennan. He has filed a complaint against her, for custodial interference, so that this matter can be settled in a court of law."
Booth accosts Barron outside the courtroom.
"I never said for you to do that!"
"I needed to, to enhance our argument."
"She doesn't need more cops looking for her!"
Barron snorts. "You work for the FBI. How high a priority are custodial interference cases?"
Booth knows; not very high. But the damage has been done. It is now on the record that Booth accused Brennan of abducting their daughter.
It is also now on the record that the charges have been dismissed. With prejudice, no less. The judge is appalled that a warrant was ever issued on such flimsy evidence.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell Brennan it is safe to come home.
Max finds them an apartment. Not too nice, not too shabby. It has a patio, so Christine can play outside.
"And a playground, for when she gets bigger," says Max.
Brennan narrows her eyes at him. She has grown paranoid in her months on the run and she wonders if Max intends to keep her prisoner forever. For that is what she is now, in her mind. A prisoner of Max.
She rebels in tiny ways. When he disappears on his daily mysterious journey, she sneaks out, takes Christine for a walk around the neighborhood. Each day, she gets bolder, walks farther. She steals money from their small cache, and uses it to buy stamps, paper, and a disposable camera. She takes pictures of Christine, tries to coax the now-somber baby into a smile.
One day, Brennan bundles up Christine and takes a bus to a neighboring town. Her plan is to mail a thick envelope to Angela at the Jeffersonian containing a letter for her, and one for Booth, and the camera (Angela can develop the pictures). She has now been gone four months and her usually rational mind is battered into paranoia however. The postal clerk is staring at her, and Brennan has the sick realization that post offices receive FBI "Most Wanted" notices. She isn't on any of them, but she doesn't know that, and Max's relentless warnings are too loud in her head. She runs from the post office, back to the bus, and back to the safety of the apartment.
Is finally back at work. He avoids the eyes of his coworkers. They either look at him in disgust or pity, depending on how they view the testimony of the evidentiary hearing. Cam still calls him sometimes. Angela and Hodgins are still working what little evidence they have against Pelant; the library books and rented movies, the code on Sawyer's wall. They are making progress, they tell Cam. They have nothing to say to Booth.
There is less time to follow Pelant's every move, and with his abilities, it is easy for him to disappear into the wind anyway.
Now the situation has completely reversed; Brennan and Christine are safer in DC than they are on their own, on the run.
Booth looks at his calendar, and at the last picture he has of Christine. The summer has passed; he knows she has changed so much. He wonders if she will even know him again. Or if she will ever know him. He does not know how much planning Brennan put into her escape; apparently not enough to arrange a way to communicate.
She has been thinking for awhile that she ought to go back. She is tired of being alone and fearful, worried what this experience is doing to Christine. And she is afraid. Afraid that Max is never going to let them go. The things he says sometimes, about getting a new birth certificate for the baby, about Brennan perhaps getting a job in some small town on the west coast. (That sentence reminds her of California, and now she wishes Booth had taken that job in Hollywood). It is obvious that Max is thinking long term.
It all comes to a head when Christine gets sick. Very sick. Drugstore remedies don't work, old folk tale remedies don't either; she is so congested she can't breathe.
"We have to take her to a hospital," Brennan insists. She has to shout over the sound of the pounding shower. They are in the bathroom, in hopes that steam will clear Christine's lungs.
Max argues. Hospitals ask too many questions. Nurses are suspicious, they'll call the cops on a dime. He is so adamant, that Brennan wonders if he has given this speech before. Her own mother died of easily treatable injuries. Did she complain of headaches? Did she ask Max to take her to a doctor? Did he tell her no, because it was too dangerous? Did he watch her die, rather than risk going back to prison?
The months of isolation, poor sleep, and fear have gotten to her. She tells Max that he is not going to kill this Christine, too.
Max is stunned. He tries to stop her, but she is younger and stronger. She pushes him away, and runs out of the apartment with Christine in her arms. She goes to their neighbor, a woman she has never met, and begs her to call 911.
Booth & Brennan
Their reunion is in a hospital in New Jersey. Booth marvels that she was never that far away.
"She's so big," is all that Booth can say at first. Christine is asleep in a hospital crib, with an IV in one arm and a slender tube in her nose. "She looks so different." He touches her head. "So much hair." He turns to Brennan. "You look different too." He reaches for her, and lightly fingers the close cropped hair at the nape of her neck.
"It'll grow back," she says. She repeats this, and her voice breaks. Once she starts crying, she thinks she might never stop.
She does, of course. And afterward rebukes herself for such silly, emotional thinking. In a few days, Christine is well enough to travel and they go home. Or at least back to DC. There is a tense interview with the FBI, but since the murder charges were dropped, there isn't much to question her about. Booth is observing the interview, but has not turned on the audio speaker; he isn't sure he wants to hear her answers to some of the questions. He knows the moment they tell her about the custodial interference charges. He can see her face crumple, then harden into its mask of imperviousness.
On the drive home, he tries to explain and she says she understands. Just like, she assumes, he understands why she left. She asks this more than says it and he says, yes, he understood.
If either of them thought things would go back to the way they were, they are quickly disabused of the notion. Five months apart wrought many changes. The crib mattress must be lowered and the mobile taken down, as Christine can sit up and reach for things now. Not that it matters really, because after five months of sleeping beside her mother, Christine refuses to sleep in the crib anyway. Booth gives Brennan and Christine the bed. He worries that he will roll over onto his daughter, and she doesn't want to get that close to him anyway.
Which is another problem. Christine has not only forgotten Booth, the months spent with only her mother and Max made her wary of all strangers. She cries when Booth tries to hold her and recoils from him. Brennan leaves them alone for a day, thinking they will have the chance to re-establish their bond.
It is a disaster; Booth tries cuddling, funny faces, funny voices, what used to be Christine's favorite toys. She is inconsolable, wailing until she has lost of her voice. With one last raspy croak, she falls into exhausted sleep. Brennan doesn't have to ask how it went. With one look at Christine's red, puffy, tear-streaked face, she knows.
Booth soon gives up trying to win Christine over. For now, at least. Perhaps when she is older and can be reasoned with. This seems to work, sort of. Christine appears to accept that the strange man isn't going anywhere, and treats him with disdainful acceptance, unless he tries to touch or hold her, anyway.
Brennan is only slightly warmer and Booth has sort of given up there as well. They have never been a couple good at communicating, and yet another separation with no contact has not helped. They can still work together - they can always work together - and get along well enough at home. There are no fights, but there aren't many hugs anymore either. They have made love a few times. Quickly, while Christine is asleep, and quietly, so she will stay asleep. It is not bad sex by any means. But it lacks something. Brennan has never been a romantic woman. She did not entertain visions of Booth embracing her after their reunion and whisking her off her feet and carrying her off into the bedroom. But she expected something, something she can't even name, she just knows it's missing.
Booth doesn't know what he's supposed to tried, he's trying. Christine still won't sleep in her crib and neither of them have the heart to let her cry, so Booth is sleeping in the guest room. When he comes into the bedroom in the morning to dress, he sees mother and daughter curled up together and wishes he could slip in beside them. He tries once, and Brennan is so startled that she nearly strikes him.
It's not her fault; months of imagining SWAT teams breaking down her door or Pelant emerging like ether fom the shadows have made her panicky about everything. Finding childcare had been difficult before, now it is impossible. Few people want to work for a suspected murdered (even if she was cleared) and Brennan does not trust the ones who will apply. What if they are working for Pelant? Max is the obvious solution, but Brennan doesn't want to see him for awhile. Eventually, Angela convinces her nanny to take on Christine as well, and convinces Hodgins to triple the woman's pay to get her to do it.
They limp along like this for a couple of months. They are very much like the cohabiting coparents David Barron said they were. Now that it's over, it all seems ridiculous. The evidence was flimsy. Brennan wouldn't have been jailed had they only called a lawyer, and even if she had been, Pelant's computer hacking skills didn't include mind control. They both panicked, let Pelant live in their heads, let his powers grow to epic proportions until he was an unstoppable monster under their beds.
Of course it isn't really over; Pelant is still out there. But he is merely mortal, capable of making mistakes like every other criminal. They will catch him, like they always do. But there is a sense that things aren't going back to the way they were, to the all too brief happiness they once shared.
It comes to a head one Saturday morning. Christine is in her high chair, busily banging away with a set of plastic cups. Booth is pretending to read the sports section; in reality he is watching Christine and delighting in her now-rare happy mood but fearful that she will stop playing if she knows he is watching. Brennan says she is going to take Christine to the park.
"That's a lot of stuff for a trip to the park," says Booth, eyeing her tote bag.
"Why do you say it like that?"
"I'm only going to the park!"
Brennan raises her voice and Christine cries.
"You think I'm going to leave again."
Booth puts down the paper. "No, I just think you're taking a lot of stuff to the park."
"You said you understood why I had to go. You said you weren't mad."
"I did and I'm not."
"You behave as though you are mad."
"I'm not mad." Booth insists. "I'm sad. Look, if you drop a bowling ball on my foot, I'll understand you didn't mean it, but it still hurts."
Brennan has to tend to Christine, who is crying loudly now. As she comforts her daughter, she says that she is hurting too. She read the transcript of her evidence hearing. She knows how their relationship was characterized in court and while Booth didn't mean it, it hurts.
"Do you want me to promise never to leave again?" she asks.
"You could never promise that. You'd say there were too many variables."
He's right, and she knows it. For a while, they don't speak. Christine calms down.
"Do you want to come to the park with us?"
He says yes, sure. Christine still won't let Booth hold or carry her, but she does not protest when he buckles her carseat and he counts this as progress. At the park, Brennan places Christine in an infant swing right away. It is her favorite. It was Brennan's favorite too, as a child. She liked to pretend she was flying.
The day is warm and sunny. Christine smiles as she flies through the air, happier than Brennan has seen her since they returned from hiding, since before they went into hiding. Brennan's hair has grown several inches and the fake coloring has washed out. She looks almost the same. The scene itself, two doting parents and their child, is almost the same as it was a few months ago. It looks the same, but it's not the same and neither of them know if it will ever be the same.
They hope so.