AN: Everyone and their mother is taking a shot at continuing the seventh season finale. This is my take, which has a bit of flavour to it that I haven't seen in any other versions thus far. Spoilers up to the seventh season finale, naturally. Chapters will follow different characters in rotation (Booth, Bones, Max, Pelant, Angela, anyone else that strikes me as needing to be our eyes).

It's my first crack at a Bones fic. Be kind.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or plot elements of Bones used for context and grounding of story. Original elements are mine, are not for profit and are done out of love. Typos are due to tendencies of writing past midnight.

Summary: Time is a concrete variable that can be measured. The reality of it can be perceived differently. Booth will be counting every second until his family is back home.

With Brennan and Christine on the run, the race is on to find evidence of Pelant's guilt in the murder of Ethan Sawyer before she is apprehended. With half of the team off the case and the FBI convinced of Brennan's guilt,it will take determination, savvy strategy and a belief that nothing is impossible for Booth to make good on his promise to Max.

Old faces re-emerge. New faces join the hunt. Pelant pursues his checkmate, a ticking time bomb waiting for the moment to ignite. Who can be trusted? Where will Pelant strike next? The answers will surprise and shake up the Medico-Legal Lab forever.

Rated T for violence, language and sexuality - may switch to M later. I'll make a note of it if I do.

485 Seconds

The cold cement of the church steps seemed to warm beneath him as Seeley Booth sat motionless, head in hands. Minutes ago, he'd been filled with the warmth of unconditional love for his family and faith that in spite of how bleak things looked now, He would see to it that his family would emerge intact.

My family… For so long, those words meant something else. Infrequent days on alternating weekends spent at parks and zoos before Rebecca moved continents; grilled cheese sandwiches and a callused hand tousling his hair with an affectionate nickname; phone calls in the dead of night from a cocky and self-obsessed brother – these still-frames were Booth's only home. So much had changed in the last year. He often awoke in a panicked sweat, terrified he'd find himself in that hospital room, realizing the beautiful dream was only that. His arm would flail, clinging tightly to the curves of the woman beside him, testing reality. Family now meant two children, a house and a woman whose every difference complemented him, made him whole.

This was worse than any loneliness he'd ever experienced, worse than the night he'd contemplated ending his life. This was waking death.

He glanced at his watch, wincing in pain. Ten minutes without Christine's coos and winks. Ten minutes without Bones…

How many times do I have to watch her drive away from me?

He was furious, but not with her. Never with her. In spite of the softening in her defenses in the last two years, he knew Bones to be a woman of reason and logic. He loved her for it. The protector in him wanted to strangle Max, wanted to scream at her for hiding her intentions, but the partner in him knew she'd made the best choice given all of the variables. Max was infuriating but Booth also knew he was right: if Pelant could manipulate the system to make a body disappear and transfer Ethan to another ward, Bones would be vulnerable in the system. He would find a way to have her committed, or find a way to place her with someone who'd finish her off behind bars. The arrest warrant was coming, and if it was anyone else in the world, he would agree that the evidence added up. Agent Flynn would want to tidy this business up quickly, write a quick report and wash his hands of it.

The only way to ensure the Squints stayed on the trail was Bones running off and staying gone until they could unweave Pelant's web.

Christine's disappearance made sense, too, even if it gutted him. She was breastfeeding, which could be adjusted for, but she was also the child of a woman scarred deeply by abandonment. Bones could barely leave their daughter in daycare; she would never leave Christine behind.

In his head, he could hear her voice, calm and steady: "Your attention would be divided if I'd left her with you. She would be a target for Pelant to use against you. I need you to prove my innocence, for Christine's sake."

Fourteen minutes. No more wallowing. Time for action.

Rising slowly to his feet, Booth pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed Caroline's number. She would know best how to proceed from here. She also knew a great attorney he needed to hire right now, but that matter could wait. Strategy. Know the enemy.


Her tone was brisk, yet wavering. Distraught. Arrest warrant is out, Booth surmised.

"Caroline, you have to help me," he blurted out quickly, allowing emotion to rise to the surface. "He's got them. They're gone."

"Cheri, slow down! Who's got who?"

Booth pictured Christine's face and sobbed. "Pelant! That son of a bitch has taken Bones and Christine! I left them alone for only a few minutes Caroline! Oh my God, this is all my fault, all my fault…"

Technically true. Pelant's to blame for their flight.

"What happened, Seeley? Spit it out! Did you call the police?"

"No, I called you because they're all convinced she's a killer! I don't know what happened. We decided to baptize Christine before… before they took Bones. I went around back to get the car. Someone tampered with it, so I ran back and they were gone. Her car seat's on the ground. He's got her, Caroline! Why else would they be gone? And now he's free to do whatever he wants to them!"

The frustration of watching his family leave was a useful fuel for his hysteria, Max's words ringing in his skull. He'd stay inside the system, alright. He had to look blameless. He had to be convincing.

"Give me the address and get off the phone. Call the police immediately and stay put!" Caroline was all business now, her voice firm and steady. "He's not getting away with this, no matter how many cases they try and pull me off of."

Booth agreed, solemnly rattling off the address of the church before hanging up. He entered 911 next, requesting police assistance for suspected abduction between genuine cries of grief. He'd never been one to lay himself bare, but to hell with machismo and societal bullshit. He could do this for his family. He hung up only when forced, pestering the dispatcher to hurry, asking where the police were over and over until she begged him to "sit down and try calling your wife".

His knees buckled at this mistake, his hand pressing against the wall beside him. Would that ever happen now? One year ago, he would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that Bones was incapable of baptizing a child, let alone marriage. But minutes ago, he'd been proven wrong. The agony of possibility extinguished in the flames of his living hell sucked the air from his lungs.

Twenty-four minutes ago, she left, his heart screaming at the sight. Now, sirens began to wail in a pathetic echo. He glanced at his phone, a picture of his girls set as the screensaver.

I'll bring you home, he vowed. I will do whatever it takes. Believe in me, Bones.

3059 Seconds

"It's done."

A growl on the other end and a shuffling sound was the reply.

"The bedroom."

"I won't forget to bring home the milk. I'm busy right now, so I have to let you go."

Christopher Pelant smiled, his gloved hand replacing the receiver of the payphone. How quaint that such things still existed, even if at a premium now. Technology was his friend on most days, but at moments like these, it was a complication. Some things needed an old-school touch.

Touch. He chuckled to himself as he stepped out of the crowded station, inhaling deeply. Snooze buttons are truly detrimental to a productive society. But having one's home invaded and tossed for evidence made for a draining experience; he knew this intimately. It would be a rather long night for anyone. Who could blame a man for sleeping in?

Sleep well