Chasing Cars: A S7 Finale Retrospective Story

Once again, Special Agent Seeley Booth stands in the street as his life drives off, leaving him behind to figure out the puzzle that is Temperance Brennan. What happened over the last 36 hrs that culminated in this turn of events? What will he do now to clear her name and get her back? What did she leave behind for him to find?


Author's Note: Five minutes ago, this was the tenth chapter on my Season Seven Episodic Vignette Series, "The Meaning in the Episode." At the urging of several readers, I have removed it from there and put it under it's own title here, where I will continue to add to it throughout the 2012 hiatus.

If you are new to the fictions of MoxieGirl, you might enjoy going back to The Meaning in the Episode or even trying out my The When and the How: A Bone to Pick. Both are in canon, rated PG-13, and as close to in character as I could make them.

I don't own Bones or anybody else. That they own me has been at debate for almost a year. You decide. I'm too tainted to tell anymore. This finale really got to me. Saying thank you to the actors and writers wouldn't be enough. So, I'll say it the only way I know how. ~MoxieGirl

The song excerpted toward the end of the chapter is entitled "From the Ground Up" which played during Christine's baptism. It's recorded by a band called Sleeping At Last and can be found elsewhere on the internet.


Chasing cars
Set to coincide with The Past in the Present
Season 7, Episode 13

Prologue

Late Tuesday night, Brennan sat rocking Christine and speaking in hushed tones, but in a voice louder than usual. Booth could hear her as he walked down the hall toward the nursery. He couldn't hear her well enough to distinguish what Brennan had been saying, but well enough for him to subconsciously take note that she was doing it. What was odd was that he hadn't been able to hear Brennan's voice coming from the baby monitor speaker in the living room where he'd been talking with Hodgins about the results of a test Hodgins had just run on the poison he distilled himself to compare to that found in the hypodermic needle embedded in Ethan Sawyer's C7 Vertebra.

Brennan abruptly stopped speaking when she heard Booth's feet shuffling down the hall. He'd come to stand in the doorway and watch them, a serene smile appearing across his face for the first time in days.

"I'd like to have intercourse after Christine falls asleep, Booth," she'd said solomnly. This should have been a clue. She'd been making a concerted effort to say 'making love' instead of the more clinical, 'intercourse' lately when they were at home.

Then later, as they sat in bed before making love, she'd wanted to review with him the competencies of each of her interns, citing Wendell as the smartest and most familiar with both the Pelant case and with Dr. Sawyer's work. He'd humored her begrudgingly, though it made sense to him in view of their earlier discussion after Booth had put Christine down for her first nap of the evening.

"I just want to cover all the angles, Booth," she'd assured him. "People mistakenly don't consider outcomes they find distasteful. We cannot let that be our downfall. Just in case Pelant -"

"Don't say that, Bones!" He'd objected fervently.

"Booth," she said gently, sighing and turning her head to the side compassionately like a canine respectfully submitting to an alpha. "It is a possibility that I may not be able to work this case," she said swallowing and grimacing. "We have to consider all the possible angles. We have to think about Christine. She is the innocent in all of this. If he comes after me ... who will be next?" Her expression not changing, her eyes not blinking, two tears had fallen straight down her cheeks and dropped onto her forearm.


Chapter One: With Patience That of Saints

"Lord, help me, for your sea is so big and my boat is so small."

~ St. Brendan the Navigator

Late Wednesday afternoon on the steps of St. Brendan Catholic Church, his head pounding in panicked frustration and grief, Booth picked up the gray and sea foam Chicco Keyfit Infant Carrier Car Seat and considered throwing it as far as he could. It would have felt good to throw something, but he knew he'd regret it later. Instead, he sat down on the steps for a moment, gripping the oval hinge where the adjustable handle, canopy, and shell of the carrier came together along the sides of the car seat.

He stared hard at the sea foam insert and the five point safety harness as if doing so would make Christine's bundled-up sleeping body appear. As he envisioned her there—her delicate pink lips, her golden wisps of hair, and her pudgy iridescent cheeks—he felt a piercing twinge in the corners of his eyes and an ache in his jaw as he clenched his teeth and swallowed hard against the lump in his throat already threatening to crush his windpipe.

Booth was angry. Booth was frustrated. Booth was anguished and lost. He sensed something else in his soul too, something entirely different and apart from these feelings. If he were to put a name to it, he perhaps would have begrudgingly called it relief, but he wasn't willing to go that far yet.

He was angry that Pelant had screwed with their lives to the point where Brennan was in danger of being convicted of murder by a system that relied all too heavily on technology.

He was frustrated that he hadn't known how he was going to keep Brennan safe while he worked doggedly to link all evidence back to Pelant.

He was anguished that he would now be apart from two of the three most important people in his life. How long they'd be apart, he wasn't sure. It all depended upon him. And her team. Their team.

Standing before Brennan's father just moments earlier, Booth was stunned by the reality of Brennan's choice as it crashed down on his head like a hammer on a solid steel anvil.

"I know how to be a fugitive a lot better than you," Max had asserted, defensively after Brennan had driven off.

As the world spun around him,Booth was powerless to stop his fear from erupting forth into the open air.

"What am I supposed to do?" Booth could no longer control the emotion ravaging his features or bleeding into his voice. His ears and neck were on fire. He had still been panting from frantically running and calling after Brennan as she drove away with his life in her back pocket.

What am I supposed to do? He had said, though it hadn't meant, 'How do I catch Pelant?', or, 'How do I find Brennan?', or, even 'What are you going to do to keep her safe?'

It had been an anguished rhetorical question … 'How do I breathe without her?'

"You stay in the system. You stay alive," Max had advised urgently and emphatically. Max was no stranger to the agony of being separated from one's reason for living. He offered the only thing that he thought would make a difference for this younger man who loved his daughter and granddaughter, perhaps even more than he himself did. "I'll make sure Tempe stays out of the system."

"I'muna get my family back," Booth had responded, pleadingly. "You tell Bones that!" His voice had cracked as he stood stunned, staring at Max.

"Then you get that bastard," Max challenged, his tone relaying his confidence in the younger man. "You'll bring your family home," he assured Booth resolutely. "I'll keep her safe."

Then Max left. Booth didn't follow him. He didn't even watch Max walk away. He knew Max was right. Max had experience that Booth didn't have, experience from the other side of the law. Max's presence and focus weren't required in order to clear Brennan's name, Booth's were. Brennan wouldn't stand a chance against Pelant once he got her into the system. Booth hadn't wanted to believe that, but he could no longer deny it. Brennan believed it as well. Booth and Brennan had debated this throughout most of the Tuesday evening.

.

.

"Booth?" Brennan called out from her spot on the blue velvet couch Tuesday evening.

"Yep?" he said as he came jauntily down the steps after rocking Christine to sleep.

"She down?"

"Yep," replied Booth, coming into the living room where Brennan sat on the blue couch reviewing files and thinking. "Changed, burped, and sleeping like the little drunken sailor in a onesie we know and love," he said with a grin and a shake of his head. No matter what else went on outside that nursery, a peacefulness descended upon him when he held that tiny person they created out of their love for each other.

Booth sat in the brown leather chair across from Brennan. She stared at him, saying nothing, her expression blank.

"What?" He asked, ready for just about anything. Their running dialog for the previous forty-eight hours had been rife with mind-spinning anxiety and calculated suppositions, even from Brennan's corner. He sighed. So much for the calm he'd enjoyed far too briefly with Christine in his arms.

It had been a long, frustrating day.

The previous morning, Monday morning, Christopher Pelant was denied release from house arrest pending the parole board's review of his suspected involvement in the Johannsen-Crane murders. As his ruling was pronounced, and as if on cue, a cacophony of barking and howling noises filled the courtroom. Brennan and Booth were surprised to learn that the ominous sounds were emanating from their own cell phones. Someone had changed their ring tones to the sounds of rabid wolves howling. Someone, they suspected, sitting right across the courtroom from them.

Later Monday evening, Brennan's friend, Ethan Sawyer, an institutionalized schizophrenic genius who specialized in mapping human thought and behavior mathematically was found eaten alive by wolves. Brennan had been consulting with Ethan about the Pelant case. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Tuesday when Brennan and Booth visited Crazydale, the mental institution treating Ethan, they learned that he'd been transferred to a minimal-supervision open ward from a secured lock-down ward and had wandered off. They also were shown a video of a therapy session during which Sawyer professed feeling compelled to kill a demon whom he said was hampering very important work. The demon, he'd said, looked like a baby. He had been referring to Christine.

Later Tuesday afternoon, while reviewing the security footage from Crazydale, Angela found footage of Brennan leaving the building on May 11th, Friday evening, the night before Ethan was murdered. They suspected that Pelant had tampered with the security monitoring system. He had to have. Yes, Brennan had been to visit with Ethan, but her last visit was the week of April 23rd, two weeks previously. She hadn't set foot inside the institution since then.

Later, Cam discovered the tip of a poisoned hypodermic needle lodged in Ethan's C7 vertebra. Brennan had missed this earlier when reviewing the remains. An outside observer might find this odd in view of Brennan's reputation for extreme attention to detail.

The combination of gathered data pointed to Brennan having motive and opportunity to kill Ethan.

Sitting on the blue velvet couch Tuesday evening talking with Booth, Brennan tilted her head to the side and swallowed as the edges of her mouth creased for a moment before her face fell expressionless once again. Before speaking, she took a deep breath, then began in a monotone voice.

"Earlier this month I read an article in a periodical called Annals of the Boston Academy of AnthroPharmacology. The article was entitled 'A Quantitative Study of Cross-Cultural administration of D-Tubocurarine, Tri-1,2,3-Benzene and a Series of Tri-Methyl-and Dimethylammonium Compounds in Anesthetized Man,'" she said, staring wide-eyed as if reading this information from an eraser board inside her head.

"I'm listening," he said curiously, squinting at her.

"What drew me to this particular issue," she said, looking toward him, but focusing in the vicinity of his shoulder as she continued to recall the details. "What drew me to it was the anthropo-pharmacological study of the tribes of Western Colombia who distilled D-tubocurare from the bark of the South American Chondrodendron tomentosum vine. The chemical compound, D-tubocurare, is a naturally occurring non-depolarizing neuromuscular-blocking drug used as a muscle relaxant for surgical anesthesia. Contemporary medicine in South America, Africa and Asia still use it today in surgical settings. However, in antiquity the Western Colombians used it to make poison for tipping hunting arrows and darts."

Booth stared back at her blankly, a deer caught in the headlights. Usually he might snarkily remind her to speak American or use sports analogies so he could understand what she was saying. This time he didn't. His seemingly bottomless well of humor and snark had dried up a couple of days ago. So, he simply listened in interested anticipation.

"This particular skeletal muscle relaxant was favored," she continued with a sigh, "because of the swiftness with which it became inactive in the host. In other words, hunters could use this poison to sedate and capture prey which they could then eat immediately without suffering the effects of the poison themselves."

"What kind of prey? Were they cannibals?" He asked, involuntarily shivering as his face crinkled into a disgusted expression. "Please tell me we're not dealing with purple people eaters again!"

"Purple people—? Booth, the Gormogon wasn't purple."

"Well, he might as well have been; he was such a nasty freak," he said, shivering again, his shoulders wiggling back and forth as a sound of disgust erupted from his throat.

"They have discovered that it is virtually undetectable once ingested. I'm referring to the D-tubocurare again," she said, looking up at him with soulful eyes.

"Of course," Booth nodded.

"That's why Pelant used it to sedate Ethan. The only reason Cam was able to get a sample for Hodgins was that a minute amount was preserved in the tip of the hypodermic needle that broke off in Ethan's C7 vertebra. It hadn't been ingested."

"Okay," he prompted. "I'm almost afraid to ask this, Bones, but why did you borrow the plant from Hodgins? Heh, were you thinking we should poison Pelant?" His feeble attempt at humor falling flat between them.

"That would be illegal, Booth," she said with a grimace, "not to mention unethical. And I didn't ask for one of Hodgins' Chondrodendron tomentosum plants. Why would I do that? He's the palynologist. If I needed any research conducted, I would have him conduct it for me."

"You mean … wait a minute … Hodgins is a what? A polynomialist? I thought that had to do with numbers and variables and super powers or something," Booth said, squinting, confused.

"Palynologist. Jack is an earth and botany scientist," she explains, squinting back at him, and shaking her head. "You've known Jack for how long now, Booth?"

Booth shrugged off her question. "So, you don't remember asking Hodgins for his plant?"

"No, that is incorrect, Booth. I said I didn't ask for it."

"But … Hodgins said you did—"

"He is mistaken—"

"Look, are you—absolutely sure, Bones?" He said, his brow wrinkled in concern. He pressed his hands together and pointed at her with them. "You've been up nights with Christine. 'Bone of Contention' just wrapped up production and you've been working on your new book … maybe …?"

Brennan stared at Booth, immovable. She shook her head, incredulous that he would suggest she would be flummoxed by such a demanding schedule.

"Hoooo-kay. Let's skip that for now," he said, dropping his shoulders. "Please continue ... about the … poison plant."

"This chemical compound is very rare," she said, after a moment. "I would not have learned about it had I not read the article," she said, then paused, lost in thought.

He could almost hear the gears clicking away inside her head. She barely blinked. He waited.

"How did Pelant know I was reading that article?" She asked.

The question hung in the air, their minds devoid of any plausible explanation for a moment. "And how did he know that Dr. Hodgins had a Chondrodendron tomentosumplant?" She added.

"Uh … how does he know anything, Bones? Angela already suspects he'd hacked into your computer—read your e-mail. She said that's how he knew when and where you were meeting with Sawyer," he said, his voice trailing off. "He must have known everything you were reading," he realized out loud. Booth tossed his hands into the air as he leaned back in his seat for a moment only to sit forward again almost immediately. Planting his elbows on his knees he pressed his hands together and tapped the sides of his index fingers against his mouth. This means Pelant probably had access to her calendar as well, excrement! He thought to himself, cursing technology under his breath as his jaw flexed rapidly and his mind raced.

"So, we can assume he would have seen every periodical I receive electronically," she offered.

Booth chewed on his bottom lip while his knee began to bounce up and down. These were all automatic physical manifestations of his internal anxiety. He wasn't aware he was doing it, but Brennan had learned to recognize the degree of his agitation by the combination and speed of his automatic physical signs.

"Hm." Brennan shivered involuntarily, seeing how all the pieces fit together. "I remembered today that this particular article was from a journal which always, without fail, publishes on the fifteenth of the month."

"So?" Booth prompted, unable to sit any longer. He stood and walked over to stand staring blindly at the bookcases adjacent to the couch where Brennan sat motionless. After a moment he turned and faced his partner again. He could tell she was in the zone; the hard drive in her brain whirring into overdrive. Any moment now, a brilliant and meaningful connection would pop out of her mouth.

"So, the April issue didn't arrive on the fifteenth of the month. It arrived on the seventeenth!"

"Maybe the fifteenth was on a Saturday or Sunday—"

"No, Booth, scientific journals don't publish like that. Scientists are scientists seven days a week. We publish regardless of socioeconomic factors, or political and religious calendars. If pub day is the 25th of the month, we'd publish on Christmas day," stated Brennan before looking up to meet his gaze expectantly once again.

Booth walked toward her with his hands low on his hips. Leaning forward, he slowly turned and sat on the couch right next to her. She fell slightly toward him as his weight lowered the seat cushions, their thighs touching once he settled. He absently took her left hand in his and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees again. He held her hand between both of his and looked at it, grimacing and shaking his head. He gently pressed his thumbs outward from her wrist, following the raised branches of her veins traversing the back of her hand.

"This isn't your fault, Bones. You know that, right?" He asked, turning only slightly toward her, but looking all the way back.

In response she only stared back at him, then dropped her eyes to her lap and swallowed hard. "I got Ethan involved," she said, almost choking on her words. She cleared her throat and started again. "He may have been schizophrenic, Booth, but he was a genius. His science was solid. And Pelant, he's very smart. Ethan had already constructed some theories, which he was mapping for me. We were scheduled to meet next week. I wish you could have met him-"

"Bones! He thought our daughter was a Demon Spawn!" He said, trying not to release the full force of his frustration on her. "You have got to tell me these things," he whispered hoarsely, shaking his head once. "What if he'd found his way to our house? He was a sick man!" Booth sighed heavily, dropping his shoulders. He didn't want to jump on her about this, but when was she going to learn to let him know if anything, anything, regarding her and Christine's safety was in question?

Booth leaned back against the cushions. He draped his arm along the back of the couch.

"We are a family. If I am going to keep you safe—" he said pleadingly, raising his arm and putting it around Brennan, pulling her against himself.

"Booth-" she started in a strained voice. "I can see how frustrating, aggravating, this is for you and I apologize for putting you in this position. But Ethan is not—"

"Bones, if anything happened to you it would—" he said, then stopped and breathed deeply as if for the first time in five minutes. He pressed his lips between his teeth and searched for the words to express how lost-and done-he would be. Clearing his throat, he put his lips to her forehead before he said, "It would end me."

When she looked up at him again, her chin was wrinkled and her eyes were glossy. He couldn't tell if she was even breathing. Her jaw was set in a permanent clench and she was obviously willing herself not to flinch for fear she'd lose control.

"You had no way of knowing what this guy could do, Pelant. I know that," he said, sticking his chin out for a moment, then staring down at her hand which now sat on his thigh, covered by his own. "I'm just—I'm frustrated. And tired," he said, rubbing his face with his left hand. "If anything ever happened to you two—" he mumbled again, shaking his head and shrugging twice. He shook his head again and looked back at her.

"Wait!" Booth blurted suddenly, as if struck by a stroke of brilliance. "Pelant must have done something to slow down the publication of the National Geographic of Scientific Geniuses, or whatever you call that magazine about the poinson!"

"I doubt he could have changed the publication date, Booth. That would take committee meetings and—"

"What if he stopped only yours from reaching your email. And what if he altered the content somehow?" He spoke into the stillness of the room as he smoothly advanced down a mental trail.

"Perhaps," she suggested, following his logic, "he inserted that article into my copy of the issue because he knows I am fascinated by-" Brennan's face went pale. This felt uncomfortably personal. Yikes.

Booth stared at her for a moment. "Well," he finally said, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get ya.'"

"What do you mean by that? Never mind," she said shaking her head and refocusing. "Angela would be able to tell, right?" She asked, shrugging and looking down at his knees for a moment, "Yes, Angela would know if that were possible," she answered herself in a low voice. "Maybe he switched the D-tubocurare article for an article about something else that was supposed to be in this issue." Brennan's face fell into a worried expression that tugged at Booth's heart. He knew she was compartmentalizing her emotions as much as possible in order to focus on information that could help her case.

Brennan had remained motionless throughout their entire exchange except to watch him as he moved about the room. She couldn't help feeling responsible. She had, after all, been covertly consulting with Ethan Sawyer, a schizophrenic whose testimony would never be considered with any degree of seriousness in court. But Brennan didn't need Ethan Sawyer for his testimony. She wanted him for his brilliance. From his brilliance she would gain insight into the practices and competencies of this monster who had invaded their lives. From that she would know where to look for her proof.

"Angela? What do we need Angela for?" Booth asked suddenly, standing and striding swiftly from the room to collect his laptop from the kitchen table. Returning with it, he sat down next to her again. "We can look it up right now. See if there even exists such an article published in that Genius journal of yours. What was it called?"

"The article was 'A Quantitative Study of D-Tubocurarine, Tri-1,2,3-Benzene and a Series of Tri-Methyl-and Dimethylammonium Compounds in Anesthetized Man.' It was in the April 2012 issue of—"

"The what-the who?" Interjected Booth. "Here, you type all that in," he said, sliding the laptop across his legs toward her.

"Heh, we're going to beat that bastard at his own game," he said, draping his arm along the back of the couch behind her as she carefully balanced the computer on her thighs and began tapping away on the keyboard.

His tongue absently made a lap around his lips as he leaned over Brennan and concentrated on the Google results flashing before their eyes. "Oh," he grunted dejectedly. "Is this the article?" He asked with a disappointed smirk as he pointed to the third hyperlinked title on the screen.

"Yes. Yes, it is Booth," she said, clicking on the link then squinting at the article and scrolling down beneath the fold. "Same periodical, same article, type font, photos," she said dejectedly, sighing audibly. "But something is different." She chewed on the inside of her bottom lip and scrolled up and down trying to identify what was out of place. "There it is," she said calmly and quietly, turning the screen to Booth. "The header and footer color scheme is different from what I remember. This article is from September 2006."

"Okay—so—" Booth cocked his head to the left and stared at her, surprised, small vertical lines creasing the space above the bridge of his nose. "Does this mean what I think it means?" He asked, hesitantly, raising an eyebrow and cocking his head to the left. This was almost too good to be true.

"Well," she nodded slowly and spoke in an even tone, "never in the seventy-five years of this publication have they ever reprinted an article unless it was an independent, one-off excerpt for individual purposes."

"Hm," grunted Booth thrumming his fingers on the back of the couch.

"Let's look at the April 2012 issue. The one on their website, not in your email inbox. If I am correct, this article will not appear in the current issue," she said, chortling smugly, then yawning.

Booth took the computer from Brennan and pulled up the most recent issue of 'Annals of the Boston Academy of Pharmacology.'

"Look at the table of contents. It was toward the back of the journal, if I recall correctly."

"Sssssssswwwwooooss," whistled Booth, making nonsensical noises as if to impart, I'm busy with my hands so my mouth is on its own. "Nope. Nope, not seeing any article here on deadly halitosis poison," he stated, encouraged, puckering his lips and raising his eyes to meet Brennan's.

"D-Tubocurarine," she corrected him. "Click toward the back of the issue? I'd like to see all the pages. If there's an article I don't recognize, it's probably the one Pelant replaced with the Western Colombian tribe article ... "

"You've got to be kidding me," Angela choked into her cell phone when Brennan explained what they'd found. "That is creepy with a capital 'C'. Wait a minute, Sweetie," she said, her voice becoming muffled as she speake to someone on her end of the line.

"Jack, Bren says she never asked you for that plant she read about in the article."

"Ange," I'm telling you she did. I have the email to prove it," he countered quietly, not wanting Brennan to hear him contradicting her.

"She asked for it in an email, Jack?" Angela's eyes grew large in disbelief. "Did she ever mention it to you after that?"

"No," he said, grimacing. "I just put it on the floor in her office. Then we all got caught up in a case—"

"Bren!" Angela shouted into the phone, raising it to hour mouth once again. "I don't think you ever asked Jack for the poison plant!"

"I know I didn't, Ange," Brennan answered annoyed, looking over at Booth with an expression that said, Why doesn't anyone believe me?

"Sweetie," said Angela as if landing a kill shot as she put her cell on speaker. "Jack said he got an email from you asking for it – but that you never said anything about it after that. He said he put it in your office."

"Oh," Brennan said. "On my coffee table? Interesting."

"Yes!" Exclaimed Jack. "I didn't put it on the floor, I left it on the coffee table!" He blurted apologetically, slapping his hand to his forehead and beginning to pace excitedly. "I remember!"

"I do recall that," confirmed Brennan. "I assumed Jeffersonian housekeeping forgot to return it to the floor after vacuuming … so I just put it in a corner. Dr. Hodgins, that was a poison plant! Christine could have gotten to it! What were you thinking?" She yelped.

"I—I—it isn't toxic unless in highly concentrated amounts which requires the distillation process." He's met with silence from the other end of the line. "It won't happen again!" He assured her; shrinking away from the glare his own wife was shooting at him.

"Dr. Brennan," sputtered Hodgins, "if Pelant messed with your issue of 'Annals of the Boston Academy of Pharmacology.' what else did he do? There's got to be something else," he said, pinching his forehead between his fingers as he paced a trail up and down the length of his kitchen. "Let me think for a minute. We identified the substance on the needle that punctured Sawyer as D-tubocurare—but we did nottest the DNA of Sawyer's poison with the genetic makeup of the specific plant I gave—I put in your office."

"But once distilled, the DNA is destroyed, Dr. Hodgins," Brennan pointed out flatly, sighing and staring nervously at Booth who stood next to her listening in.

"This is true, Oh Wise One. However, each chemical compound has its own signature. How do you think the feds know if a kilo of cocaine belongs to a specific shipment, see? I will distill my own D-tubocurare from your plant, and compare it to the compound we found with Sawyer's remains," he said, planting a hand on his hip and smiling up at Angela.

"They took my plant, Dr. Hodgins," Brennan sighed dejectedly as her shoulders dropped and the edges of her mouth fell into a frown. "Agent Flynn took it."

"Ah, Ye of Little Faith! The plant I gave you was grown from a clipping of the plant I still have in my office! They are genetically identical. Fruit literally of the same vine," Hodgins landed this one-two punch delightedly and awaited her response.

"Dr. Hodgins, if you can show that Pelant's D-tubocurare and mine are not the same—I will dub you the official King of the Labfor the remainder of the month of May."

"Oh, Captain. My Captain, I will not disappoint. I'm off right now—"

"Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills," Brennan quoted Whitman back to him solemnly.

"The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won," Hodgins quoted once again, his lifted voice growing distant as he'd already handed the phone back to his wife and headed for the door to the garage.

"Angela, he doesn't have to—" attempted Brennan into the phone.

"Don't even say it. You couldn't stop him anyway. Neither could I, nor would I want to. Let him go do his thing or he won't sleep tonight," she said sardonically.

Clicking the off button, Brennan turned to Booth who had been standing adjacent to her at the kitchen counter throughout the exchange.

"What do people do if they don't have the most brilliant minds working with them?" He said, stepping away from the counter and reaching over to pull her to him. He squeezed her to his chest and kissed her on the top of her head.

"I don't know, Booth. I don't know," she said, shrugging as she leaned back in his arms to find his eyes. "Most people don't have a serial killer computer hacktivist determined to ruin their lives," she says weakly. "We don't know if there is enough D-tubocurare from Dr. Saroyan's test to compare it to Dr. Hodgins' plant. Even if there is, how do we know Pelant didn't acquire some leaves from my plant somehow? If that is the case, we will be creating more condemning evidence. And what about the time stamp on the video of my visit to see Ethan. What about the hairs they found in my trunk? How do we disprove that, Booth?" Her voice had gone up an octave as she agonized over these details.

"We'll get though this, Bones. We will," he said.

"But how, Booth? I find it difficult to envision the ending of this situation with any degree of satisfaction. It's too close. I'm too close. I'm finding it difficult to detach," she said, with a grimace that threatened to cascade her tears from their trough just inside her bottom eyelids. "There's a African saying," she said, looking up at him and swallowing so loudly she heard a ticking noise in her ears. "When two bulls battle, it is usually the ground beneath that suffers," she said, leaning her head to the side and resting it on Booth's shoulder. "Booth, the ground in this scenario is Christine. She is the innocent bystander. How do we protect her? How do we get through this without-" she choked, finally letting a few juicy tears drop onto Booth's shirt.

"You and your team will figure out the how, and I will figure out the why," he said, though he didn't know how he was going to convince her when he wasn't at all certain of it himself. For the first time in seven years, he'd seen a glimmer of doubt in Temperance Brennan's eyes. The weight of this case was far too heavy even for her strong shoulders.

"How do we get through this?" He asked, repeating her question. He paused and decided to say the only thing that came to mind. Half of it would make sense to her, the other half to him. "With perseverance and patience, Bones, the patience that of saints."


"From the Ground Up"

One by one the knots we've tied will come undone.
Like picking locks, we'll sow our seeds beneath the sun.
Our accomplice is the rain, With patience, that of saints...
It grows and grows, our home sweet home.

~ by Sleeping at Last


So, at what point did Brennan decide to flee without telling me? Booth wondered as he sat on the steps in front of St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church.

It was only two nights ago, Monday night, when Ethan Sawyer was found murdered. When had Max and Brennan made these plans, orchestrated the getaway? Why hadn't she told me? He wondered, not wanting to believe that this was how it had to be. Surely she didn't believe that pile of hot porcine doo doo about me being considered an accomplice? Or, did she? It was true, after all. As an agent in pursuit of a fugitive, wouldn't I threaten and/or detain a spouse whose partner had gone rogue? Absolutely. Does the spouse usually know the whereabouts of the fugitive; have some way of communicating with them? Yes. Would I attempt to break the spouse in order to bring the fugitive into custody? Yes. Excrement!

"I need to solve this case," Booth said through clenched teeth as he stared into the baby carrier. He tried to shake loose the anger, frustration, and fear, but it wouldn't release. It felt as immovable and oppressive as a live orangutan bearing down on his back, its arms clinging to Booth's neck, its curved lower appendages wrapped around Booth's waist.

He closed his eyes, dropped his chin to his chest, leaned his forehead against the sea foam-colored grip at the center of the baby carrier's adjustable handle, and replayed the last things he and Brennan said to each other before she drove off.

.

.

"Booth?" She'd called out as he'd headed toward the parking lot to retrieve his restored '68 Mustang Fastback.

"Yeah? What is it?" He'd smiled at her, walking back to her. If someone had told him two years ago that he'd be leaving St. Brendan's with Brennan and their daughter after their child's christening, he'd have told them to take a long walk off a short pier. Then he probably would have shot the messenger just for screwing with him.

"I love you Booth," she'd said, attempting to control the panic swirling just below the surface of her concerned expression. "I don't want you to think Christine is the only reason we are together." It was both a declaration and a request. Believe me. Love me. Tell me that you know this with everything that you are. I feel unbearably frightened for the first time in my life. I don't want to do what I'm about to do—but I beg you to understand.

He'd smiled at her, his own expression one of tenderness and understanding. He'd thought he'd known what she was thinking about from her expression. He now realized his assumptions had fallen way short of what must have really been going on inside her head.

He'd assumed she was thinking once again about her concerns from the first several months after they learned they were expecting... about what a pregnancy meant to their relationship. Booth had proposed to someone over a pregnancy test once. That proposal had been an afterthought. As a matter of fact, both of his proposals had been rather spontaneous afterthoughts. As if the proposal was a way to hold onto someone, a way to secure the future, a way to create something to sink an anchor into in a time of abject chaos.

.

.

"I don't need a ring on my finger to be committed to you, Booth," she'd said two months into the pregnancy. "Neither a piece of paper nor a name change will alter who I want to spend all of my days and nights with for as long as I live. A baby doesn't change that either, Booth. I would want to be with you even without her … and that is why we are together with her. I need you to know that," she had said and tilted her head to the side, a crease in the shape of an upside down 'V' appearing over the bridge of her nose. "You—you do know that, Booth, right?" Then she's raised her beautifully-shaped eye brows apprehensively.

"Of course, I do, Bones. And I have loved you for years. Years," he said, shaking his head slowly while gazing into her eyes, his knuckle tilting her chin up toward him. "Way—way before this happened," he said, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "But I am so glad that this did happen, because you know what?"

She'd shrugged with one shoulder.

"Nothing would make me happier than making a baby with you, Bones. But it's just frosting, that's all. Icing on the cake of our relationship," he's said kissing her on her slowly smiling lips.

"Our relationship is not a cake, Booth. A relationship is intangible, therefore you cannot put frosting on it," she'd countered. "But I believe I know what you mean …"

.
.
.

On the sidewalk in front of St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church, she'd repeated her stand; the stand that it was not Christine who brought them together or kept them together.

"We've been through this a million times, Bones," he'd replied with a slight nod. "I know that you love me. I do. And I love you," he'd said gently, placing his hand on their daughter's head. He stepped up close to Brennan and kissed her twice, their foreheads leaning against each other when their lips met the second time, and remaining for a moment before they opened their eyes and separated.

His last words to her had been, "It's going to be okay. All right? I'll be right back. I'll go get the car. All right? I'll be right back." He'd spoken softly and reassuringly, unaware that nothing he could have said would have calmed the mounting panic in her chest.

Those were the last words they'd said to each other. And now she was gone.

Brennan had had the courage to go outside the system; to flee the warrant. It was illegal … which is why Booth hadn't given it serious consideration … for long. He believed in the system. He believed that the only way to keep her safe was to move within the system and to make sure she was never more than an arm's length away from the safety he could provide. Besides, if they went on the run, they'd be fugitives for life.

Without Booth to drive the case and get inside Pelant's sick head, and without Brennan to uncover, examine, and interpret the evidence, they would never be free to come back to their lives. So they had to stay … and work within the system. This was Booth's logic.

What he hadn't counted on was how completely the system relied upon technology - or how easy it was for Pelant to use it against them. Later last night as she crawled into bed with him, Brennan had painted some frightening and persuasive scenarios for Booth. Scenarios which had her mistakenly locked in a mental institution, drugged and lobotomized, her physicians convinced she was a paranoid schizophrenic.

"Could Pelant do that? Isn't that a little extreme, Bones?" Booth had asked in hopeful but panicked disbelief.

"Look at what he's already done, Booth!" She exclaimed. "You said in 2009, he took down the senate website, right?" She asserted. "Then, in 2010, he took down the Department of Defense website, endangering the lives of American soldiers all over the world."

Those crimes had earned Pelant a conviction for wire and computer fraud, landing him in prison, then on house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor that reported his whereabouts every thirty-eight seconds. "Most heinous and disturbing," she reviewed for him, "are his most recent crimes which have escalated to murder and dismemberment, Booth!" Desirous of bringing the point home to him that it was not beyond the scope of possibility that Pelant could get to her, she ticked off several of his feats:

~~He dis-articulated Inger Johannsen's vertebral column and reassembled it into a cipher that pointed to the Justice Department Archive Building where the remainder of her bones were stashed among files of suspended cases of career criminals who had traded freedom for becoming confidential informants.

~~Two weeks before killing Johannsen by exploding her from the inside out with a home-made bang stick, he acquired the blood drive samples from five different D.C. FBI field agents and used them to paint the words, "Where is the rest of me?" across Abraham Lincoln's statue where they found Johannsen's skull and dis-articulated vertebral column.

~~He carved a fractal pattern into the edges of Inger Johannsen's bones which, when scanned into Angela's computer, uploaded malicious software that took down $1 million worth of computers at the Jeffersonian.

~~He killed Ezra Crane with a bang stick, completely removing his face, and hung him upside-down from a flagpole only blocks from the capital building.

~~He transferred Ethan Sawyer to an minimal-supervision open ward from lock-down at a secure facility, lured him from the mental institution, drugged him, severed his minor arteries, and served him to a pack of five wolves who ate him alive.

~~He changed the ring tones on Brennan and Booth's phones.

~~He doctored surveillance tape to show Brennan appearing at Crazydale Mental Institution two weeks after the date she actually visited.

~~He used Brennan's email to alter the delivery date and content of an international scientific periodical, then created an email request that the subject of that article be delivered by her own team member into her office.

As she had presented her case, Booth had felt a cold sweat covering his face and back. He felt pushed into a corner. How could he possibly keep her safe from Pelant? It was her final example that drove Booth nearly insane with … what? Frustration? Panic? Anger? He felt like he was quickly losing control over the situation.

Do I trust Max? He asked himself, staring into the infant car seat. Do I trust Max to keep her safe and alive? Do I trust Bones? He didn't want to answer these questions. He didn't want to be apart from her. He hated feeling out of control. Copulating monkey diarrhea! Excrement! Feces! Dammit! Aghhhhhhhhh!

He squeezed the sides of the infant car seat, his thumbs digging into the fabric-covered cushions. He heard an odd sound. Not a soft sound. Not the kind of sound you'd expect from a pillow-soft baby cushion. Looking down, he noticed his right thumb had slipped into the seam on the cushion. He hadn't recalled feeling any resistance … any push followed by a seam giving way. Upon closer inspection he realized that three inches of the cushion's seam had been tampered with. Pressing his thumb deeper into the interior of the cushion, he felt the edge of what must be a piece of paper.

He stared at the cushion. He poked at the paper. Pelant? Pelant screwed with their baby carrier? Glancing around the front of the church and the nearby streets, Booth looked for surveillance cameras. He didn't look long, however. He had to know what was inside that cushion. As nonchalantly as he could, he turned the carrier to the side and peeked inside at the paper. What he saw stopped his heart. It was Brennan's tight handwriting. It appeared backward because the paper was folded and he was looking at it from the outside, but it was distinctively Brennan's. She'd left him a note!

Booth took several deep breaths. He had to get at that note; see what it said. But he couldn't do it out here in the open. And he had to get home. Forcing himself not to move to quickly, he stood and walked back to the Mustang. Taking out his cell, he dialed Hodgins.

"I need you to come get me—" he said, "my car's been vandalized. I can't drive it. The water hose has been cut and … it's just a mess. Brennan and her dad already left to get groceries then meet me at home." He then gave Hodgins the address of St. Brendan's.

Gently placing the car carrier on the ground, he dropped his hands onto his hips and hung his head. He loved this car. He'd gotten it for a song twelve years ago and spent hours restoring it.

"Whooooooooh, who gives a flying duck?" He finally screamed, as he lifted his leg and kicked off the driver's side mirror, broke the driver's window and yanked off the distinctive rectangular window-mounted rear view mirror. Opening the trunk, he found his toolbox and grabbed a couple of instruments. He then removed all four hubcaps, and the Mustang emblem from the passenger side door, making sure to scratch the paint. Gingerly placing the booty in the trunk, Booth closed and locked it, then grabbed the infant carrier and ran into the church to find a secure, dark, area where he could retrieve and read the note his partner had left him. A note, he was certain, she left against her father's advice.


Epilogue

Her note had given him courage and hope. And it had led him to look for more signs she'd left behind for him. Doing so led him also to the discovering of the stone cold fact that while their daughter was being welcomed into the faith, Pelant had been at the Booth home. Brennan hadn't known this, but the words of her note just may have saved Booth's life in more ways than she had intended.


More to come ... about the details of the case, what Booth does next, what the note actually says, and what he finds when he returns home.


I need to hear from you about your own thoughts, feelings about the finale, gentle reader. Or, about this little chapter. Especially from you: WinnieKirk, RangeFan, girlwonder18, waynet, wandabuck, Tori9226, Fabryne Bastos, wnh7c9, QueenMuffin, queenofthejourney, Tempe4Booth, Valerius, soswimmer13, SMRturtle, LadyBards, LipsRecords, KatiValo, gymnast1454, and Sam Watson, DWBBFan ILuvBonesNDool JayBee188 Doctor's Other Companion Oh My Goshness tessdancer jkb1992 jbcrace14 Kimberly01 Grandma bones Dyna63 Someoneslove Martreiya Dad-WEO Kdgteacher7 Aveburygirl Boneslvr38 Daniellejoy07 SarahSueD Mef1013 Jenny almasuz daisesndafidols saralizlangas OhSnapItzAmelie Yoshimi0701 Celheartstv Donna aka Bogie31757 Fluffybird JayBee188 Justlittleirish FaithinBones Shoulla Yenyen76 KatBonescrazy Angelbach Memo3197 Erniebeth Phipjack jameni

If you look closely, you will notice I fudge the timeline only in that the substance on the hypodermic needle wasn't identified until Wednesday—so they really couldn't have discussed it Tuesday evening. Also, I may have the Mustang year wrong. Couldn't determine if it was a '65 or '68. If you care to know why ask me. It has to do with the front grille design, the vented hood, and the lack of the '68 cursive 'Mustang' written on the passenger side front panel.