Okay, I'm all stoked that we got TWO episodes tonight! Too cool! Just had to pop out a very short one-shot for Panhandle, based on the short, wistful glance Brennan gave Booth at the very end of the show - more to come later, for the other ep. As always, reviews are the bomb!


Over the horizon. The way he says it, wistfully, almost as if he wishes he was still with the circus, twangs an answering chord in me. As I look at him, I want it, too. The flash of longing rears up in me, surprising me with its force. To travel from town to town, leaving only a trail of popcorn and greasepaint, jolting along mile after mile in the decrepit mobile home with Booth. I know it will not happen, will never happen. I love my job, my coworkers, my friends. Yet at this moment, I want nothing more than to disappear into the vastness of America with my partner. He turns toward me, eying me thoughtfully before speaking.

"I'm sorry about your eye, Bones."

"I told you, Booth, I'm okay."

"You sure? I really bopped you one. Here, let's see."

Gentler than the breath of air that's caressing us, the pad of his thumb outlines the blurred bruise on my face, his palm cupping my cheek. I don't know what to do with this, what to make of it. Here, out here in the overly bright morning, in the hot, dry air, he seems different. I know that sounds trite, but it feels right to me. The subtle tension that always surrounds him, even when we're alone at my place or his, seems to have vanished completely. In its place is a Booth who's never experienced the horrible things I know he's endured. No drunken, raging father with cruel eyes and clenched fists, no walking dead sighted through expert crosshairs. No cold, hard faces swinging poles and hoses with vicious, merciless hatred. He seems so relaxed; I know if I could help him stay this way forever I would. He's warmer, somehow – I know he's always warm and inviting, caring and attentive. But his entire being seems relaxed and easy, in a way I've never before seen. Even his voice seems unusual – more musical, without its trademark sharp edge. I want to hear it again. I want to hear it again, directed at me.

"I'm okay, Booth, really. Stop worrying and relax."

"Alright…well, just make sure you put some ice on that, it'll help keep the swelling down."

He pats my cheek lightly, then turns away and scuffs a mark into the dirt. Signs and trash whorl around our feet like fluttering birds, and the sun beams in our faces with a golden radiance so strong you can hear it, akin to a buzzing in the air. What's wrong with me? Booth's not the only person who's different this morning. Hyperbole and metaphors are usually reserved for my novels; today they seem a part of me. Everything looks different; everything feels different. I squint up at Booth, marveling at the transformation in us. Something has shifted, slightly to the left of what is normal. We seem to be waiting for something. "Do you feel it?"

He doesn't bother to pretend he doesn't feel it, too. "Yeah." He peers back at me before looking around, almost in bewilderment. "Hot this morning. Gonna get hotter."

"Yes, I agree." Where is he going with this, I wonder? To the same place I am, I hope. Separate trips to congruous destinations.

"We should get you inside, Bones, your pale skin'll fry out here." He tilts his head toward me when he says it, as if imparting a secret. It's nothing I don't already know, but coming from him, it feels like an intimacy, one I would accept from no one else. Before I can second-guess myself, I lean forward, bringing our heads even closer.

"To be honest, I'm actually still very tired. I believe we require more rest after our caper."

My choice of words both amuses and confuses him. "We do? Bones, we slept for at least eight hours last night."

"Regardless, I feel rather sleepy, most likely from the excess of adrenaline yesterday. I believe a late morning is in order." The quick quirk of his eyebrows matches my own inner quirk. It's amusing, this shift in roles. Booth has become the responsible, literal character; I am in turn the arbitrary, fanciful one. For a brief moment, I can tell his responsible side is rearing up, asserting itself - and scaring me. Go away. Let me enjoy this moment, this morning, with my partner.

It seems that somehow I've been heard, because Booth's eyes begin to twinkle merrily and he links arms with me. "You know what? I think you're right, Bones. I feel a bit peaked, myself." With jaunty gait and gallant arm, he escorts me into the trailer, following close on my heels. "Do you want some breakfast, first?"

"No, I just want to lie down and forget about everything." I didn't mean to say just this, exactly, but the warmth of the day is dulling my mind and melting my muscles. He doesn't appear displeased with my candor, instead smiling understandingly.

"I get you, Bones. I call the couch."

"No, Booth."

He stops and eyes me questioningly, doubtless wondering what I'm up to now. I've surprised him during this case; showing him a side of me that he'd never expected. Based on his previous reactions, I've already decided to continue the trend. "We can share the bed; that couch is horribly uncomfortable. You'll have another crick in your neck if you sleep there." Breathlessly, I wait for his reaction – denial or acknowledgement? Refusal or acceptance? The tendrils of heat in the tiny kitchen waft slowly around us, as if they, also, are waiting.

Finally, he nods, and I bite back my relieved sigh. I will pretend that this moment is not earth-shattering; I will ignore the significance of what has just happened. While Booth collapses, fully-dressed, backward onto the bed, I dig in one of his bags until I find my trophy, his favorite t-shirt. Making quick work of my bedraggled costume, I whip the worn jersey shirt over my head, enjoying the smell of Booth against my skin as the hem tickles my thighs. But better is to come; I'm wasting time. When I step out of the cramped bathroom, I'm unexectedly charmed by the sight of Booth, all long legs and arms, fast asleep. He's sprawled out so much in the small area, there's simply no room for me. I know that won't stop me, though. Unfazed, I pace toward the bed, kneeling on the mattress and crawling to him without pausing.

He wakes for a moment as I settle in the crook of his arm, my head on his chest, my legs sliding against his. When our eyes meet, I again hold my breath, the lazy heat in his dark stare paralyzing me. His sensual, heavy-lidded smile begins to fade as sleep returns to him, and I find my voice as I press my face against him again. "Good morning, Booth." A drowsy rumble sounds against my ear, creating a slumberous mood that lures me to follow him. I can wait; I've waited this long. And the first step has finally been taken.

The mobile home heats under the burning sky, the floating, sun-lit dust motes the only witnesses to our recumbent bodies, silently tangled together amidst the tousled sheets.

If you thought it was okay, and you want to tell me, I'd sure be glad to hear from you.