A/N - I'm almost sorry that this one is over because while it was a challenge, I really enjoyed it.

Let me say again I could not have pulled this off without the help of the lovely jsq. Caroline was not intended to be up until Thanksgiving and we've made it through the entire series a full two weeks ahead of schedule! Sweetie, wherever you are right now please take a bow or give yourself a round of applause. In some ways this is yours as much as it is mine. You're amazing - I can't say that too often or loudly enough.

Satisfy our mutual curiosity: let me know which part was your favorite. If I'm ranking them, this is my favorite. Brennan was jsq's pick. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this little experiment.

Thanks for helping me get into the spirit. Happy Holidays!


I wrap up my interview of the suspect and head to the bullpen to make sure Charlie's confirmed the guy's story about his cash-a-check stop. I love these knucklehead mall cops that think they're law enforcement. I can understand being pissed about having your wallet stolen, but roughing up Santa? Get a grip. And while your at it, call a real cop.

Not fifteen minutes later, I'm walking into her office. "Bones. Pay Fast Check Cashing confirms cashing Moose's paycheck. Nine-hundred bucks. All crisp, new fifties."

"And Kringle had new fifties in his dresser," she replies. She's acting a little shifty.

"And the serial numbers match," I say.

"Suggesting Kringle is our pick-pocket." she says as she turns to face me.

"Mmm-hmm. So we're getting a warrant to analyze Moose's clothing. So if there's any bird soup goop on him we'll know he's our killer." I watch, confused, as she slides a chair across the floor and steps onto the seat. Using the hook she tucks the string between the ceiling tiles. All of a sudden, it registers. "What is with the mistletoe?"

"I was going to talk to you about this," she says as she steps off the chair. "Caroline wants us to kiss under the mistletoe."

"What?" I try not to wince when it comes out in a squeak. To say I'm surprised would be an understatement.

"It's the only way she'll make Christmas for my family," she whines.

"What? By having us kiss?" I ask, thankful my voice sounds normal this time.

"Yes," she says without looking me in the eye.

"Why?" Does Caroline know we've kissed before? Is this some kind of prank?

"Because she's feeling puckish." She takes out a pack of gum.

It doesn't take a genius to see my partner is irritated. "Puckish? What's that mean?"

"Listen, Booth, she's going to be here any second. You want some gum?" She folds a new stick into her mouth and carefully tucks the empty wrapper around her used piece.

"No, my breath is just fine," I look at her and then at the mistletoe. My eyes go back to her face. "Listen, I'll have a talk with Caroline."

"No." she says, invading my personal space.

"No?" That perfume of hers drives me crazy. I think about the last time we faced each other this way. We were standing in front of that little dive bar in the rain. I can almost taste the tequila on her...this is not going to end well. Saint Anthony, Saint Christopher, Saint Luke, Saint...

"I'm only telling you out of professional courtesy."

"What?" I can't believe I got distracted. Getting distracted around my partner is dangerous.

"So that you won't be surprised," she adds. She's tense and she's acting less like Bones and more like a girl. Yeah, I know she is one but she's usually a confident and self assured woman. The Brennan in front of me appears to be possessed by a teenager about to get her first kiss.

"When you say kiss, you mean like kiss-kiss on both cheeks?" I ask carefully. I lean side to side to demonstrate. The action is as much for her benefit as it is my own.

"No," she answers crossing her arms. "On the lips."

I gulp in air when I notice the way she's staring at my mouth. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about what it would be like to kiss her without the fog of tequila that clouded our last experience. I want to know if her lips are as soft as I remember. I'm going to hell. I shouldn't be thinking about this. She's my partner for Christ's sake.

"Like brother and sister, colleagues," she says. Like that was going to make me feel better. I know she's trying, but the thing about Bones is that she usually makes things worse when she attempts to help. "French people meeting on the street."

I look at the mistletoe and back at her. "Caroline's feeling puckish, huh?"

"It means playful and impish," she's explaining as Caroline joins us.

"Congratulations," she says. She rests her hands on her hips. Caroline Julian is a force of nature. I'm pretty sure she's the only person I've ever seen intimidate Bones. "I hear you have a suspect in the Santa slaying."

"Yeah," I look back and forth between the two of them as I answer. "It looks like the Easter Bunny has nothin' to worry about."

"Did you talk to the judge about the trailer?" she asks, changing the subject.

"Yes, I did," she says. As her eyes rest on me she adds, "What about your end?"

Brennan points up. I wonder why they're talking about me as though I'm not in the room.

"Well. Would you look at that? Mistletoe." She pushes me in Brennan's direction. "You take a step to your right and you'll be right under the cute little sprig."

I eye both women looking for a way out of this situation. I can feel Brennan's eyes on my mouth as she hovers closer. She told me what was going to happen, but nothing could have prepared me for how she actually did it. I feel every bit of air escape my lungs as her hands grip my coat.

Thinking it'll stop her - maybe delay it all together - I start talking. "I.."

But it's too late. Her lips cover mine swiftly. I'm afraid to move. I'm almost 40 years old and I don't know how to react to this. So I stand there. Everything in my body is crying out for me to kiss her back. To somehow force her to pick up where she walked away three years ago. But I can't. Not with an audience. Especially not with this audience.

I try to step back. To break the grip she has on my lapels. The grip she's starting to have over my heart. Shifting her hands higher, she pulls me right back. And I find myself letting her.

Her tongue slides into my mouth. I can't not react anymore. I don't allow myself to touch her - partly because I know I won't stop touching her and partly because there are some things Caroline doesn't need to see - but I lean in and let her tongue dance against mine. My lips move against hers cautiously for once letting her take the lead.

And then it's over almost as quickly as it started. She pulls away and I feel bereft. I can hardly feel my feet beneath me. Wow. That was better than I remembered.

"Was that enough steamboats?" she questions, her eyes on the floor.

"Plenty." Caroline says slowly. "A whole flotilla."

Focus, Booth. Focus. I tell myself as I fight to regain my composure. "I don't know what that means," I say with a smile as I gulp in air. "But, Merry Christmas."

"It was like kissing my brother." She did not just say that. The awful part is she probably thinks we believe her.

"You sure must like your brother." The hint of sarcasm in Caroline's voice is lost on my partner. Yeah. I need to remember that. And remind myself of it. Repeatedly. She's just my partner.

I cast a sideways glance in Brennan's direction. "She does."

"I do," she answers a little too eagerly. Ah-ha. Busted.

"The trailer's all arranged. You're good to go, cherie. Merry Christmas."

Brennan crosses her arms as we stand almost shoulder to shoulder watching the prosecutor walk away. "I'm sure she feels really foolish right now."

"Yeah," I answer. Probably not nearly as foolish as I do though, I add to myself. Neither of us can look at the other. There are too many questions that neither of us wants to answer right now. Questions Bones may never be capable of answering.

I decide to be the one to let us both off the hook. "Hey, well, I..." I begin, "I really should get back and, um, see if the forensic guy's got anything yet on Moose's clothing." It's weak and cowardly. On the inside I know we should talk about this. Yeah. Talk about it. And by talk about it I mean the only sounds I want to hear from her are whimpers and moans of approval as we continue this little 'experiment' behind closed doors. But I know that won't happen.

"That's a good idea," she says as she walks around and plops down in her desk chair. "I've got stuff to do, too. Yeah. With bones."

"I understand completely," I mumble. What the...? It appears more than just Brennan's tongue found it's way into my mouth. I pull it out. "Thanks for the gum," I whisper putting it back in my mouth as a way to savor the kiss. I then do my best to be casual as I take my leave wondering how many years it will be this time before I kiss my partner again. Because it's destined to happen. It's just a question of when.