Unreliable Witness

by Amy L. Hull

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For Ayiana. Many thanks for the beta skills of JSQ, some1tookmyname, and Marleyblue.

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Booth sat down at his desk and slammed down his handful of mail.

Final case report to sign off on. He scrawled his name.

Court date to testify as the arresting officer. He noted it on his desk calendar.

Brown inter-office envelope from the Jeffersonian with the string twisted around the tabs in Bones's unique, precise figure-eight. He jerked at the string and it stuck, wouldn't come untwisted at a pull, so he ripped the envelope open. "Booth, that was a nearly new envelope," he could hear her say. "It's a waste of resources not to use it at least until the spaces are filled." He shook it and a smaller envelope fell onto his desk.

"Good going, Bones. Waste an envelope by putting it in a bigger envelope." He was arguing with an imaginary her. Out loud. In his own office. He shook his head at himself as he unfolded the papers. The top sheet was filled with her neat handwriting.

Booth,

This letter did not list you as having been cc'ed, so I wanted to make sure you were aware that Zack will be the lead forensic anthropologist testifying in all cases tried for the foreseeable future.

-"Bones"

He smiled at how she even signed her name as "Bones" now. Always "Temperance Brennan" on formal documents, but always "Bones" to him.

But Zack? Oh, no. Working with the weirdest of the squints tried his patience at the best of times. He was not signing on to manage the kid on court days, especially when he'd just gotten Bones back after her father's trial.

He tucked Bones' note to the bottom and read the copy she'd sent:

Dear Dr. Brennan:

As the Director of the Jeffersonian Institution, I am hereby suspending you from all duties as an expert witness on behalf of the Institution in any court cases from the date of this letter until a minimum of nine months hence.

While there are certainly no doubts from any quarter, let alone anyone at the Jeffersonian, as to your professional skills and academic qualifications, we would like to reevaluate your fitness as a reputable representative of the Jeffersonian Institution. Your comportment during Max Keenan's murder trial-even taking your familial relationship into consideration-calls into question your judgment and integrity. As a voice for justice in the courtroom, your continued association with felons also brings into question your personal reputation and the reliability of your objectivity.

We wish to have the evidence and testimony provided by the Jeffersonian and its courtroom representatives to be unimpeachable in every way. Your presence at a performance review regarding these concerns is expected on-

His grip tightened and the paper crinkled, then he was on his feet and out his door.

He didn't see anything he passed until he reached his objective. "Caroline? I need to talk to you." He forced a fake smile at the two junior attorneys in the hallway with her.

"That's fine, cher. I'll be done here in-"

"Go get a coffee," he told the lawyers. "I need to meet with Ms. Julian." With a hand on her arm he steered her toward her office, the muscles in his jaw twitching.

Once they were inside she pulled away. As soon as she shoved the door so it slammed shut, her hands went to her hips. "If you weren't so pretty, Booth, you would never have survived manhandling me just then." She shook her finger in his face. "And you'd better never try it again, because no matter how much charm you try, you will not enjoy what happens."

Booth lifted the crumpled letter and waved it. "I need you to fix this, Caroline."

She just scowled at him and snatched it out of his hand. It took her less than ten seconds to skim the letter.

"Fix it how, cher? Magic?"

"You said no charges were going to be filed after Max's trial!"

Caroline frowned at him, rolled her eyes, then peered at the letter. "This looks like the Jeffersonian's letterhead, Booth, not mine." She showed him. "See right there? Jeffersonian Institution. Right on the top."

Booth hooked his own hands on his hips.

"And I don't see a thing here about court other than her not going into one. I'm a prosecutor, remember? If she's not in court, not on trial, I won't see her, which leaves the only thing to fix..." Caroline froze then looked suddenly at him, her face contorted like she'd just tossed back a whole whiskey sour. "...having to deal with that kid. You will make absolutely certain he never cuts his own hair again, do you hear me?"

"You're missing the point, Caroline! They're punishing her for saving her father!"

"Hmpf." Caroline folded the letter and offered it back to him. "What did you expect to happen, cher? That after she'd implicated herself in the murder of the Deputy Director of the FBI her crime-fighting would go on without a blip? That everyone would be as understanding as me? That no one would believe the tale she got you to help tell?"

Booth's stomach turned over and his chest constricted, the sinking feeling he'd felt on the witness stand settling in once again. Testifying against her, even in the roundabout way he had, haunted him. "That's a lotta heart, Bones," played over and over in his head and in his dreams. In the worst nightmares he was saying it as they led her away in handcuffs. The look of pure selflessness on her face. The pain and apology she wore. The silent plea for him to do this for her. Those were always the last things he saw before he woke up in a cold sweat.

Caroline was right. This was nowhere near a worst-case scenario.

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Bones was typing and Booth stared at her from the other side of the glass wall of her office. Her back and neck were straight, like always. The OSHA people who complained about his posture every time they evaluated offices, chairs, and desks for ergonomic conditions would love Bones, he thought.

She had files in neat stacks and color-coded sticky notes were parallel to the edges and on her calendar.

Her day was well planned and organized, each piece where it belonged, each item on her desk in order.

Professional respect was her most valued possession, though...and she'd given it up to save her father's life after he'd saved hers.

There was nothing he could do to fix this, but maybe he could make it better somehow.

Suddenly he knew that his initial, knee-jerk fury was the right response in its own way. He could give her a show because that's what she'd expect. It would give her something to respond to, something that couldn't be mistaken ever, not even as she over-thought everything, scrutinizing for a recrimination or a criticism.

He pushed her door open and waved the letter.

"Bones, what is this crap?"

She did not even turn. "I assume it is the letter from the Director asking me to step down. Not from my position here, but from serving as an expert witness on behalf of the Jeffersonian."

He paced in her office, surreptitiously keeping a close eye on her. "Well, I'll go talk to them. I need you in court."

"There's no need for you to do that. And you'll have Zack."

"Oh, like that's going to help." He threw his hands in the air.

"Zack is a highly qualified forensic anthropologist. And he did well enough at my father's trial to necessitate me taking the action I did." She paused in her typing, then looked at her lap. "I need to apologize to you for that. I know it was difficult for you to have to say those things."

He scrubbed a hand across his face. There was that feeling again. "Yeah, well. We're good, Bones." He shoved the letter at her. "The Jeffersonian directors are definitely over-reacting."

"Booth, it's a reasonable concern. They cannot risk aspersions being cast on the Institution. Even if my scientific observations are accurate and precise-"

"If? Bones, no one is as accurate and precise as you. No one on the planet could be, probably not even a machine!"

She took the paper and folded it gingerly. "If I were as much of a machine as everyone thinks, this wouldn't be a problem, would it?"

He cringed. "You're not a machine, Bones."

"Maybe not. But I manipulated the justice system for my own desires, and it seems...right...that I not be permitted to participate in that system for a time." She evened her stacks of folders, still avoiding his gaze. "I fit in with my family for once," she said bitterly. "We've all blatantly disregarded the law."

"Bones, look at me." He stopped at her desk. "You are not tainted by your family."

"Actually, I am." She looked at him now and her expression was the one she'd worn when she found out Russ had known their parents had been fugitives. "The directors have reviewed my expert witness status every time my family's criminal activities have come to light."

"And every time, they've recognized that you are Dr. Temperance Brennan. All it will take now is a little time, and this will blow over."

The smile she gave him was small and weak, but it was a start.

"So, since I'm stuck with Zack tomorrow, please tell me you've talked to him?"

"I have. He mentioned that you carry a gun without a single reminder from me." This time her smile was real.

Booth grinned back. "We're quite the team, no matter what."

"The best."

He headed for the door. "Now I've got to talk to Zack. I promised Caroline I'd make sure he doesn't try weed-whack his hair again."

Her warm laugh filled the room, and Booth smiled.

"Booth."

He turned back. "Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"Hey, that's what partners do, Bones."

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~end~

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