"Don't forget a sweater, Bones, it gets cold at night." Booth hollered as he buzzed around the apartment gathering items they needed to take with them and dumping them by the front door.


"And a jacket, you'll need a jacket. You should definitely bring a jacket."

"Booth," Her exasperation started to show in her long drawn out whine. "I have traveled the world I think I can handle a little trip to the mountains."

"Right." He paced the living room as she finished carefully putting the last of her items into her suitcase. "We need to get on the road, it's a long drive." She came out from the bedroom, her messenger bag slung over her shoulder, her coat draped over her arm, as she pulled her suitcase behind her.

It shouldn't have surprised her but the site of it literally stopped her dead in her tracks. In the pile of all the other bags Booth had his firearms carrying cases, his sniper rifle included. What could have passed for a large fishing tackle box she knew held ammunition. Her heart raced. These were his personal firearms, not the FBI issued that were in the back of the truck. Booth caught immediately what held her attention. Stepping between her and the offending equipment, he tried to redirect her attention.

"It's just a precaution, Bones, just about being prepared." He took the coat and messenger bag from her, dropping them on the couch, and pulled her into his arms. "I don't even think I'll have to use any of it; but, you know, if I did I would want to have them there with me."

Stiff and rigid in his arms, her only response was to nod as she peeked around his shoulders, she understood. It was the sudden depth of understanding that rendered her frozen. Everything spun into perfect clarity, a horrifying perspective. Faced with the truth and weight of the reasons for their impromptu trip suddenly it seemed hard to not be overwhelmed by it all. She shook herself free from the reality of it, pushed at the fear until it fell behind her tenacity. She headed straight for the door. Booth grabbed her hand, pulled her back to him.

"It's going to be okay. I won't let anything happen to you, not again, not ever again. I promise, okay?"

A long pause, a deep labored sigh, she finally answered. "That is a promise you can not keep, Booth. There is no way to know what our future holds and certainly no way for you protect me from everything in it. I am not sure I would have you do that, regardless. What kind life would I lead if you really were to keep me from ever being in danger? I don't think I would like that, I don't want that."

"Well, like it or not I'm sure as hell gonna try." He held her loosely around the waist, his forehead kissing hers, as he swayed them slightly back and forth. She softened. "Did you pack a sweater?"

She whacked him lightly on the arm shaking her head. "Booth."

As much as she'd always found his protective nature a little annoying and had certainly kicked against it over the years, she couldn't deny that there was a beautiful peace, a serenity, that washed over her when he acted this way. Having someone who cared so much about her well being, who wanted to be sure she was safe, was a wonderful feeling. Even the mundane, like whether she'd eaten or slept mattered to Booth, it had always mattered to him. Booth was the only one that had ever given her this feeling.

"Are you sure we can't just stay here? Leaving the lab for an -"

He cut her off, stopped the gently swaying motion, reached up, and held her face in both of his hands. "I am sure. He's ex-military, ex-mercenary, Bones, he's trained to do horrible things." She felt his body cringe and tense at the thought. "We know he's capable of doing them, he's proven that."

"It's inconvenient. I hate compromising my life, my schedule." She was winding up. "Why should my life have to change?"

"I know. I know." He did know, hers was not the only life turned upside down by the escape of William "Bill" Phelps. Between Clyve not being willing to deal and Phelps' escape Booth hadn't had a firm grasp on normal in long time. Truth, he was just better at hiding his frustration and adjusting to change than she was. Now, especially for her, he had to be. Even at this exact moment she was so wrapped up in her own feelings that she missed entirely the tension he carried throughout his body and the pounding of his jaw.

It took a long time but tucked in his embrace eventually the truth tumbled out of her, hesitant, almost a whisper. "If I leave he wins, they win."

"No, no, Bones, that's not true. You've got it all wrong. He doesn't win, not today, not if we keep trying. We win. We're going to go to Cullen's cabin. We are going to enjoy the break away from all this mess. They'll catch him, they will, and when they do we'll come home and get back to work, okay?" He pulled back so he could watch her reaction. "Okay. Then let's go. I am going to go load the truck, you are going to stay here." She picked up her bag, her coat, and tugged on her suitcase as she rolled towards the front door. "Or you can come with me and we'll load the truck together."

They were just about to pull out into traffic when he got his first text regarding the manhunt. Phelps had kept them jumping. He'd pop up in one location then he'd disappear off the monitoring system entirely only to pop up somewhere different. By the time they relocated part of the search team to the new area he'd disappear again. It was like trying to catch a wave on the sand. The team was tired and spread thin over what was quickly becoming the whole city. The only good news, there was no indication that he had left town or was following them. His picture was up on all the local news stations, it wouldn't be long before someone would see him and turn him in.

Getting out of the city proved harder than either of them expected. First, traffic narrowed down to one lane on Interstate 66 West due to construction. They were at a crawl. Both of them antsy, irritated by their lack of progress. Then they were rerouted altogether because bridge maintenance. Booth pounded the steering wheel in frustration as he threatened to turn on the sirens to get through the mess of commuter traffic. The final straw was the extreme jolts of the truck as it ran over a strange but long stretch of road where the pavement was rippled and looked like waves of a blanket bunched up on a bed.

She started to give a detailed description of why the road was wavy but Booth couldn't handle the scientific jargon, his brain already overloaded couldn't take in more. Catching his mood she quickly deferred suggesting that Hodgins could give a better explanation when they got back.

All the road blocks and detours had spurred the lengthy rehashing of a discussion they had frequently. Spending much of their time on the road following up on cases, the ineffectiveness of DDOT, District Department of Transportation, was not a new topic. To an outsider it might of sounded like an argument in tone and intensity. It wasn't, if you listened closely it was clear the partners were both on the same side. Just passionately expressing their frustrations with the broken system for the creation and maintenance for roads in the DC area.

"Oh, I heard a joke the other day." Booth's excitement immediately lightened the mood.

"I love jokes." Matching his enthusiasm she turned towards him and waited.

"So all these DDOT workers are standing around on a break, right? And they see a snail inching its way across the pavement. One of the workers looks angry and steps on the snail squishing it into the pavement. Another worker, says to him. 'Why did you do that?' the first man looked at the others in disgust. 'I had to, man, that snail has been following me all day.' Eh, do you get it?" Booth immediately started laughing.

Bones stared at him perplexed. "Booth, a snail can't follow a human, they do not posses the mental acuity to do so and even if they did they are not physically capable of the speed necessary to keep up with a human."

His eyebrow high on his forehead, he chuckled and glanced over at her several times as she processed the joke.

"Oh, Oh." Enlightenment washed over her face as she reached out for his arm. "The DDOT worker is slow, so slow that a snail can keep up with him." She giggled followed by the faintest little snort. "That is quite amusing."

His phone buzzed in the cup holder, interrupting their fun. Another text. The bad news, the last known location of the GPS monitoring bracelet tracked Phelps to within three miles of the Jeffersonian. Too close to home. Silenced by the news, Booth drove and Bones looked out the window as the city started to fade away behind them.

"Are they safe?" She wondered out loud about her friends, her chosen family, at the Jeffersonian.

"Yes." His answer quick and definitive aimed to reassure her. "They're safe. Cam knows what's going on. They all do by now. Security's been alerted."

Lost in the countryside as it passed by her she turned her attention to Booth. That's when she noticed his jaw ticking and his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. Something that was completely out of character for him, he was always such a relaxed, casual driver. She noted the deep circles under his eyes. She had been so focused on how this whole situation effected her that she had failed to see how it effected him. Tenderly, she ran her hand down his arm until it met his hand. He let go of the steering wheel as she slid her hand in his. Squeezing it just enough to let him know she had no intention of letting go anytime soon. She watched in awe as his whole body relaxed. His touch did that for her, she knew that. She could give a thousand references for times he'd calmed her with a look or simple touch. Until this moment she didn't realize that she gave him that same wonderful gift.

They stopped after a couple hours on the road, in Strasburg, for dinner. Cristina's Cafe, a little restaurant that promised great environmentally friendly food and strong coffee. Something for each of them. While Bones used the bathroom Booth had them ping Phelps' GPS monitor just to make sure he was still in the DC area. He was. At least he was as of about 20 minuted ago, they had lost signal again. If not Booth would have insisted they get their food to go and eat on the road. Having her out in a public place only worked if he could do it safely, it wasn't worth the risk otherwise. But they were easily an hour and a half out of town, longer if you took into account the road construction, far from his reach even if he had been heading their way.

As it was they enjoyed their meal in the old converted farm house. Live music wafted through the rooms. The deep rich sound of acoustic guitars, banjo, and fiddle perfectly blended. The stresses of the day seemed to fade into the early evening. For the moment it was just the two of them and their quaint candle lit table. Scooting his chair close to hers, he held her hand letting his thumb work lazy circles across her soft skin. Then a little closer, reaching his arm around her, he pulled her close so that he could nuzzle into her neck. He whispered his adoration in between soft kisses on her neck by her ear. She hummed her approval. Leaning into him she took in every bit of what he offered. Her hand found his thigh and rubbed so smooth and with just the right amount of pressure until he popped up from her neck and quickly waved his hand in the air as he motioned the waitress for the check. Bones looked disappointed as he pulled himself back to reality and her with him.

"Sorry," He caught her disappointment. "We just really need to get to that cabin." Taking a deep breath he winked at her. "The sooner the better." Pulling her up by one hand he let his other hand drifted slowly down her side along her waist and hip. She felt his urgency, shared it, all of a sudden barely able to breathe.

Before long they were back on the Interstate headed south on I-81. Another update, they still hadn't been able to pick up Phelps' GPS leaving over an hour unaccounted for. The search for his last known whereabouts was futile. Booth drove noticeably faster, anxious to get to the cabin, this time for safety as he needed the protection the cabin would afford them. A quick trip to the grocery store, he kept her close, as they stocked up for at least the next few days. A windy road stretched up the incline as they headed into the heavily wooded area where the Cullen's family cabin was tucked away.

It was dark outside and inside the cabin. Their headlights were the only source of light. Compared to the city there was an overwhelming stillness. At the moment it felt heavy and oppressive, like the darkness had deafened everything. An undeniable tension filled the air.

"Stay here while I sweep the house, Bones." An absolutely useless command.

"No!" She shot back indignantly, already out of the truck and pulling ahead of Booth in a race towards the door.

"Bones!" His hushed but firm rebuke fell on deaf ears. "Gun always leads, just stay behind me, okay?" She was so damned independent. He loved that about her but it drove him mad at the same time. Stretching his arm in front of her he moved her back behind him. It wasn't long before they were in and the lights were on.

Her laughter took over the cabin. "This is their cabin? Booth, this is not a cabin!" She turned in circles taking in the vaulted ceilings and large spacious room. An absolutely grand stone fireplace stretched up from floor to ceiling with wood stacked neatly on the hearth.

"Well, it was as rustic as the Cullen women would agree to. Sometimes it's all about compromise, Bones." The spacious great room was open to the kitchen and had several smaller sitting areas tucked into corners surrounding a cozy setting of couches which faced the fireplace. It was gorgeous. Booth swept the rest of the house, more as a formality than out of fear of danger. They were tucked away from the world. It was highly unlikely that Phelps would find them here unless he had considerable insider information. And if he did, Cullen had designed the house to be defensible. Booth was confident they would be safe.

They unpacked the truck. Booth lit a fire in the fireplace while Bones put away the groceries. With every second that passed it seemed the pressure and stress that had built over the last several weeks lifted a little more. He was seated on the couch by the time she walked in carrying a glass of wine and a beer for Booth. He moved forward to meet her. His hand remapped the territory it had traced along her waist and hip earlier in the evening. They had their privacy now, there was no need to hide her pleasure in his touch. He pulled her down to him and they settled into the couch.

The dancing flames of the fire mesmerized them. The quiet soothed them. It was beautiful and nearly perfect, a glimpse of what life might hold when all this chaos and pain was farther behind them. It was a life they both embraced and longed for.

She reminded him of their case years ago in Tucker county. Booth had pushed her to build a second home there so they could fish and visit their tiny temporary ward, baby Andy. She built a bridge instead. Booth remembered. How could he forget, they only had responsibility for the boy for several days but the change in her had been profound.

A warm smile she couldn't see swept across his face as he pressed a kiss into her temple. "I remember, Bones."

"Maybe I should build a second home. This is very nice."

He'd adjusted them. His cheek brushed lightly against hers as his fingers fiddled with the buttons of her blouse. His voice soft and low tickled. "Very nice."

Eventually, he would bury himself in her, lost in everything she was to him, everything she had endured, everything they had become. While normally he would whisper to her, tell her all his thoughts, tonight his voice was in his touch and the tenderness of his kisses. Her eyes, piercing blue, welled with tears as she let go of another layer of pain. Replacing it with a sense of security she couldn't define or begin to understand but felt so real to her, despite the lack of tangible evidence.

They were so completely lost in each other and their moment of freedom that they didn't even hear Booth's phone alert and didn't know that Phelps' GPS had been picked up again. Working intermittently his GPS monitor appeared to be following railroad tracks at the moment. Headed out of DC, through Manassas toward Culpepper, it could be nothing but it could easily be a Southern route to get to where they were in the Shenandoah Mountains. Nothing to be alarmed by yet, just a heads up the message said. They had a Tac Team prepping to intersect the train, search it, find Phelps, and bring him in.

It was the phone that woke Booth. Blinking against the bright morning light streaming through the huge plate glass windows he tried hard to focus through the blur. Dammit, he realized there were several unread text messages. It had been such a peaceful night. They slept harder and deeper than they had in months. He rushed through the messages, skimming, as he tried to get the gist of what had happened during the night.

The bad news seemed to be that while the Tac Team intercepted the train in Culpepper as planned there was no Phelps to be found. The good news, he seemed to still be headed South along the train route. His monitor had been picked up near Charlottesville, then Lovingston, and Amherst, he hadn't turned East yet, towards the mountains. They would mobilize another Tac Team in Lynchburg possibly Danville. He was far enough away for Booth not to be too worried.

They had involved field offices in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, pretty much all the Southern States but especially those along his direct path. They were searching for all known family and associates in the area as they tried to figure out where he might be headed. At the same time the DC office interviewed family, co-workers, friends in the area as they continued their aggressive investigation.

Tucked in between the search updates Booth caught a recent text from Sweets, one from just this morning.

Chambers agreed to meet

he's coming in tomorrow a.m.

Will keep you posted

Shit. Booth hadn't told her that Sweets wanted to interview her colleague yet. That they were bringing him in under the guise of helping with the investigation. He'd been so preoccupied it had entirely slipped his mind. He closed out the message and gave his face a hard rub with both hands. Dammit. He would have to tell her today he couldn't wait any longer.

She stirred, reaching out, she pulled Booth back to her. Entangling herself in him she let a long satisfied sigh. He wrapped himself around her. It could wait, at least a little longer. It could wait.