Winter Wonderland

A/N: This is my submission for the December Cullen's Bullpen Challenge. Story is meant to be a one-shot, but I might consider continuing the storyline if inspiration strikes.

Summary: While preparing for the Jeffersonian's Winter Ball, Booth and Brennan come across circumstances that may keep them from attending.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bones. I wish I did, although I think the honor belongs to Shoot the Moon Productions.

December 11, 2006

Temperance Brennan was taking advantage of a lull in the activity of the Jeffersonian to get some much-needed writing done for her latest novel, when she heard a knock at the door. Glancing up, she noticed it was her partner, Seeley Booth. She sighed and waved him in, saving her work and exiting out of the program.

"We have a case?" she asked, confident that that could be the only reason he would interrupt her.

"Nope. Was just wondering what time I should pick you up for the Winter Ball on Friday," he replied, smirking.

"You aren't picking me up for the party, Booth. I already told you that I'm not going."

"Bones, listen to me. You have to go; as the Jeffersonian's head Forensic Anthropologist, you're required. I'm required to go, too, since I'm your partner, so we may as well go together and avoid the awkwardness of inviting people we'd rather not see to a party we'd rather not go to."

Temperance cracked a smile. "You can't honestly tell me that you'd rather not go to this party, Booth," she stated. "The chance to drink and dance and flirt with pretty women is your ideal evening."

"Yeah, under normal circumstances, you're right; I'd be all over that. But this isn't a party party, this is a diplomat's excuse to wine and dine the elite of Washington Society. It's boring." Seeley punctuated his final statement with a horizontal hand-swipe.

"Another reason we shouldn't go," Temperance responded, not bothering to inform him that he had been mistaken calling the Director of the Jeffersonian Institute a diplomat, or people such as herself or her colleagues the "elite" of Washington Society.

"We're required to go," Booth repeated.

"Where is it written that we are required to go any place we don't want to?" Tempe queried, an 'are-you-insane-or-are-you-just-trying-to-drive-me-there' look on her face.

"Right here on the invitation," he answered, producing the offending piece of cardstock.

"Unfortunately, the G-Man's right," Hodgins announced, entering the office with Angela and Zack.

"Let me see that!" Temperance huffed, snatching the invitation out of Booth's hands before he had a chance to react. Sure enough, it was mandatory for all personnel to attend the function, specifically announcing that work would not be an acceptable excuse not to attend. "Damn it!" She had really hoped to be able to use the time finishing the chapter on her book that was already two weeks overdue.

Booth smiled triumphantly at her defeated look. "So, what time should I pick you up?"

"Why aren't you asking Cam that question?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.

He shook his head, giving her a 'you-are-so-dense' look. "Cam and I have been over for weeks, Bones. She's been seeing some diplomat in the White House, who looks suspiciously like Goodman. So again I ask, what time am I picking you up?"

She glared at him before replying, "6," in a clipped tone.

Hodgins reached out, clapping a hand over Angela's mouth, effectively muffling the squeal that escaped. She wiggled out of his grasp and ran to her friend, pulling her toward the door. The men heard something about "mall" and "dresses" before the two women were gone.

Three hours and fifteen boutiques later, Temperance entered her apartment, exhausted from the afternoon's activities. It had taken them 7 stores to find a dress that satisfied all of Angela's requirements for formal wear. Then they had to hunt for shoes, jewelry, hair pieces, evening bags, and coats. I still don't understand why I had to buy all that just for one night, she mused to herself.

Temperance had to admit, though, the result was astounding. They had found a dress for Tempe the same unique shade of blue as her eyes that had a silver, shimmery overlay. The dress was floor length, slit thigh-high up each of the six seams around the skirt.

The bodice hugged her lithe figure to perfection and was held up by three straps on each shoulder – studded with Cubic Zirconia – that crossed in the back. The neckline was on the modest side, covering her chest, but allowing the slightest bit of décolletage to peak out. However, the back was shocking. It plunged down to just-this-side-of-decent.

Temperance placed the garment bag and the various accessory bags on her bed before heading back out to the kitchen to grab herself a glass of wine. On the way, she noticed the blinking light on her answering machine, and pressed the play button, fully expecting it to be Booth calling with some inane detail for the party. She was surprised by the voice she actually heard coming out of the machine.

"Tempe? It's Russ. I need your help. Amy's been threatened because of her association to me, and she needs to come with me and Dad. But we can't take the girls with us. We're packing up their stuff now; we should be at your place by eight tonight. Remember, Katie's 8 and Hayley is 6 with a lung condition. Try to memorize their names before we get there. See ya tonight." The machine clicked, indicating the end of the call, but Temperance still stared at the machine as if expecting the voice to announce the joke it must be playing on her.

I know he doesn't expect me to take in those kids, she thought to herself. I'm uncomfortable enough just talking about Parker to Booth. She was brought out of her musings by an abrupt knock on the door. Glancing at the clock on her stove, she noticed it was 7:47. Maybe if I pretend I'm not here, he'll go away.

No such luck. "Marco!" yelled Russ's muffled voice through the door.

She sighed, slumping, before straightening and heading to the door. "Polo," she answered, unlocking the deadbolt. In trooped Russ, Max, a tiny blonde woman, and two scared-looking little girls, all carrying various pieces of luggage. Temperance sighed again. Much as she hated this arrangement – and the circumstances surrounding it – this was still her family, and she couldn't very well refuse these little girls a safe place to stay.

She smiled wanly at the woman and grabbed one of her bags. "You must be Amy," she held out her hand. "I'm Temperance."

The woman smiled back. Her smile reminded Temperance of her mother for some reason. "It's nice to finally meet you. Russ has said a lot of wonderful things about you. These are my daughters; this is Katie, and this is Hayley. Girls, say hello to Dr. Brennan."

"You can call me Tempe," she offered, knowing it would be awfully hard for little girls to say "Dr. Brennan" every time they needed her attention for something. "After all," she continued, glancing at Russ, "we are practically family."

"Are you sure you'll be OK here with the girls, Temperance?" Max asked.

"Why shouldn't I be?" she asked, looking at her father as if he'd grown a second head. "I'm perfectly capable of providing food and shelter for the-"

"Because you're a target, too, remember?" he interrupted impatiently.

She rolled her eyes. "As I mentioned to Russ the last time I saw him, I spend half my time with a sniper-trained FBI agent. I'm perfectly safe, and now the girls are, too."

At Amy's frightened look, Russ explained. "Don't worry, babe; he's just her partner. Speaking of who, where is the asshole?"

"He's not an asshole, and it's 'whom', not 'who'," Temperance replied, picking up the bag she had taken from Amy and heading toward the back hallway. "Girls, the spare room is back here. Let me show you, and you can unpack and get settled before we figure out what we're doing for dinner. Will you three join us?" she settled her gaze on her father, knowing he would be the only one to answer her, anyhow.

He shook his head. "We really gotta get going. We'll just put the girls' things in their room and head out."

As he passed Temperance's bedroom, Russ noticed the bags on her bed. "Tempe, are you going to a party or something?" he called, indicating the pile once she came out of the spare room.

"Damn! Yeah, there's a winter party for work that I'm required to go to on Friday. Booth and I were supposed to go together, but I'll call him tomorrow and let him know that something came up. It's not a problem, really."

"We don't want to intrude on your plans, though, Dr. Brennan," Amy piped in behind her.

Temperance spun around, a pleading look in her eyes. "Oh, please intrude. I can't stand these functions, but I'm not usually allowed to get out of them."

"Can't you just take the girls?" Max asked.

"Not to a formal party like this, Dad. The girls have nothing to wear, and they'd probably be the only children there," Russ replied.

"It's fine," Temperance emphasized. "I'll call Booth, let him know I have a family emergency that needs my attention, and the girls and I will have a quiet evening at home. Maybe we can pick up a board game or two this week and play it that night."

"Are you sure we're not infringing on your plans, Dr. Brennan?" Amy asked.

"Trust me. This is the one area of my job that I can't stand. And you can call me Temperance, you know. Again, we are practically family."

Amy smiled, and Temperance was again struck by how like Christine Brennan this woman seemed. "Thank you, Temperance." Max, Russ, and Amy hugged the girls, then hugged Temperance, and left.

Tempe looked at the girls, wondering what she had gotten herself into. She smiled and hoped her insecurity didn't show. "What should we have for dinner?" she asked brightly.

December 12, 2006

The phone rang just as he was heading out of the office for the day. He thought he would stop at Wong Foo's, pick up some Thai, then head over to Bones' house to ask about her father's latest escapade. Sources had spotted him in the DC area the day before, and Booth was determined not to let Max Keenan – or Matthew Brennan, or whatever the hell he was going by now – upset Bones any more than he already had.

"Booth," he shouted into the receiver.

"Nice to talk to you, too, Seeley," Rebecca answered wryly.

"Sorry, I thought you were someone else. Is everything OK? Is Parker OK?" he asked. His ex never called unless there was something wrong with their son.

"Parker's fine, Seeley. But you need to pick him up."

"What? It's not the weekend. And, it's not my weekend, at that," he answered, confused. She never let him take Parker on an off-week unless she had a pre-arranged engagement.

"I know. But you need to pick him up. I have to go to Cincinnati tonight; my grandmother had a heart attack and has slipped into a coma," she retorted, tears streaming down her face.

"Is she OK?" Booth asked, suddenly concerned.

"I don't know. But I don't think so; the doctors are saying that if she doesn't come out of the coma by Friday, they'll have to pull the plug." She was openly crying now, and it pulled at Booth's heart. He knew how much Rebecca's grandmother meant to her.

"Hey, hey, easy. I'll be there in fifteen minutes." He paused. "Do you need a ride to the airport?"

He couldn't see it, but she shook her head. "No, Drew's going with me, so we'll just take his car once you get here and pick up the munchkin."

Booth bit back the retort that came to his lips. He was really trying to like Drew, for Parker's sake. "OK," he answered. "See you in a few."

He flipped the phone shut and wondered how he would tell Brennan that, after all his smirking and cocky persuading, he would have to bow out of going to the party and she was on her own. She's gonna think I did it on purpose, he mused. He resolved that, after he picked up Parker, he would still head to Wong Foo's for dinner and he and Parker would eat with Brennan. Besides, he told himself, I still need to find out about Max.

"Coming!" Temperance called from the couch. She had her laptop out and was working on the latest chapter while the girls were in their room, doing their homework. Amy had gotten all their remaining work for the time until Christmas break, and given it to Temperance. Anything the girls didn't understand, they would ask her to explain. The adults had decided that, if Amy and Russ were still in hiding after the winter break, Temperance would go ahead and enroll the girls in school here in DC.

The knock sounded again, and Temperance saved her work, annoyed. "Just a second!" she yelled, heading to the door. She threw it open to reveal Booth, holding a box of steaming containers from Wong Foo's, and Parker, holding a bag that undoubtedly had dipping sauces, fortune cookies, and chopsticks in it.

"Mind if we come in, Bones?" Booth asked, smiling his most charming smile.

Temperance smiled wryly and held the door open wider, allowing father and son to come tromping in. "Smells great," she sniffed appreciatively. "I just hope you brought enough."

"Are you kidding? There's more than enough food for you and me and my four-year-old son, Bones," he pointed out while setting the box on the kitchen table. "Speaking of whom," he turned around, looking sheepish.

"You're backing out on me, aren't you?" she demanded, hands on hips.

He winced. "Yes, but I really couldn't say no. I mean, Parker's my son, and Rebecca's grandmother is sick, and she couldn't take him with her, and-" He stopped short when he noticed that Temperance was giggling so hard she was holding her middle. "Just what is so funny, Temperance?" he demanded, not realizing he had called her by her given name.

"I was going to call you today and back out, but I had so much work to do that I forgot." She stopped laughing long enough to glance at something behind him, and wave. Two little girls came into view and stood on either side of her. "This is Katie and Hayley Smithson. Russ is dating their mother, Amy." She explained about why the girls were there and how she had agreed to take them in for the time being. When she had finished her story, Booth stood looking at her for a moment, then he began laughing as well.

"So, I guess we're both missing the party, huh?" Booth asked, pulling the various containers out of the box, while Temperance went to get plates.

"Katie, can you get the juice out of the refrigerator, please?" she asked.

"What should we do on Friday, then?" Booth continued.

"What do you mean? The girls and I went shopping today and picked up a board game called 'Clue'. We've decided to play that. You and Parker are welcome to join us, if you'd like to," she offered.

"You're going to play 'Clue'," he asked incredulously. "Oh, this I gotta see." He laughed.

The phone rang and the voice on the caller ID said "Angela Montenegro" mechanically. Knowing she was calling because Tempe had told her earlier that she wouldn't be attending the party because of the girls, Temperance let the machine get it.

"Sweetie, I know you're there, but I'm gonna pretend you're not so I can get back to Hodgie. I spoke to Goodman today, and he says if he has to go, then you have to go, potential nieces or no. He says there will be a lot of people taking their kids, himself included, and you are no exception. Oh, and tell that hunky piece of FBI standard-issue body armor that Rebecca called the lab looking for him and told me all about him having Parker, and he can't hide behind the kid excuse either. See you tomorrow, Bren." The voice rang off.

Booth and Temperance looked at the machine, looked at each other, looked at the kids, and looked back at each other before bursting out laughing again. "So, I'm a 'hunky piece of FBI standard-issue body armor', am I? How cheap-sounding." Booth commented, smirking, once they had calmed down.

Temperance glared at him. "Her words, not mine," she replied.

He smiled at her, holding out a container of Phad Thai as a peace offering. "6?" he asked.

She regarded him, then nodded. "6." She grabbed the container out of his hand, smiling, before he could change his mind.

December 15, 2006

"Katie! Hayley! Agent Booth and Parker will be here soon," Temperance called from the doorway of her bedroom. "Are you two ready?" Over the course of the past few days, Temperance and the girls had gotten really close. In fact, she was beginning to dread the day Russ and Amy came back, because it would mean she wouldn't get to see them on a regular basis.

The girls came out of their bedroom timidly, each smoothing out her own dress. Temperance and Angela had taken them shopping the day before, realizing that the girls had nothing suitable to wear to a function such as this. "How do we look, Tempe?" Katie asked, taking her sister's hand.

Temperance looked the girls over, pretending to be nitpicking. In truth, the girls looked beautiful. Katie's dress was a deep cranberry, made of satin, but overlaid with layers of tulle in the skirt. The cap sleeves, neckline, and hem were trimmed in cream velvet, and she wore a cream-colored, faux-fur jacket and matching muff and hat that were trimmed in the same cranberry satin as the dress.

Hayley's dress was a deep forest green velvet in the bodice, and a light mint green satin skirt and short sleeves. Her neckline was trimmed in the mint satin, and the sleeves and skirt were trimmed with the forest velvet. She wore a dark green wool coat, and light green wool gloves and matching beret.

"You two look wonderful," she commented sincerely. She grabbed her coat – which was really a full-length, fur-lined, dark blue cape – and tied it on. Careful to arrange the hood over her loose curls without crushing them, she headed to the door when she heard Booth's knock.

Booth waited apprehensively with Parker for Temperance to open the door. When she did, the breath was knocked from him. She was absolutely stunning. He stood there so long staring at her that she began to squirm under his gaze. Finally she just couldn't take it anymore.

"What?" she asked, glancing down at her attire. "Is something the matter?"

"No!" he shouted, startling everyone in the room. He softened his voice. "No," he repeated. "You just…you look beautiful." His glance extended beyond her to Katie and Hayley. "You two look very pretty, too," he added, hoping no one could hear his pounding heart. "Are we ready to go?"

Temperance was having her own problems keeping her heart rate under control. The man could definitely wear a tux! It didn't help matters that Parker looked like a miniature version of his father…right down to the exact same tux.

It's going to be a very long night, she thought to herself as they headed out to Booth's SUV.

They entered the ballroom that the party was held in and gave their names to the attendants sitting at the table. Their names were checked and crossed off, and a stocking given to each of the children, who were told that Santa might be making an appearance later.

Angela caught sight of the group and waved them over. Katie and Hayley – who were excited to see someone they recognized – ran over, with Parker in hot pursuit. Eyeing the kids to make sure they were alright, Tempe pondered what the attendants had said. "What's the point of telling them that?" she asked, not to anyone in particular, but Booth was standing right next to her and had heard her question.

"Telling who what?" he asked, confused.

"What's the point of telling the kids that Santa will come? He doesn't exist, and-" She was cut off by Booth's harsh whisper.

"You didn't tell the girls that, did you?" he demanded.

"No. It never came up," she defended. "Besides, it's not my place to disillusion them. It's their mother's."

Booth sighed in relief. "Good. Bones, kids believe in Santa because it's something wholesome and pure they can hold on to. Let them have their fantasy; reality will come intruding in soon enough."

"And with that reality, the knowledge that every adult they care about has been lying to them," she pointed out through a forced smile, because the girls were watching them.

"Bones, has it ever occurred to you that Santa does exist?" Booth asked.

"Of course it did. When I was a child, I believed in Santa just like everybody else," she responded, affronted.

"No, I mean now," he demanded testily.

"Of course not!" Her gaze softened at his look. "You can't honestly tell me that you believe in Santa Claus, Booth."

Booth shook his head, chuckling slightly. "Not Santa Claus as a person, no. But Santa Claus as an idea, yeah. He's everyone's ideal of goodness and magic and generosity. Don't kill that, Bones. Don't do that to them." He gestured to the girls. "Especially now, when you're all they have."

She regarded him thoughtfully, then turned away. "You're going to have to help me through this, Booth," she pleaded quietly. "I don't know how to be a parent."

Booth grabbed her arms and turned her to face him again. "It's not hard. You already love those little girls, and they love you; I can see it in their eyes. And tomorrow, we are going to get Aunt Angela and Uncle Jack to watch the kids while you and I go shopping.

She eyed him doubtfully. "Shopping for what?" she asked.

"Presents, Bones. You're gonna have those girls through the holidays at least; didn't that occur to you?" At the shake of her head, he continued. "We'll probably need to buy you a tree and decorations, too. Oh, and fixings for dinner."

"Booth, I don't cook!" she protested.

"Don't worry; Parker and I'll be there…we'll spend the night Christmas Eve so the kids can open their presents from Santa together. We can just make it a spur-of-the-moment thing so they don't suspect. I'll make dinner, and you can help, so you aren't completely useless in the kitchen," he grinned.

She wanted to argue. She wanted to scream at him for being so high-handed. But then she glanced over at the girls, talking animatedly with Angela, Hodgins, Cam, Goodman's brother Andrew, and Zack. "OK," she agreed.

Booth smiled. "Great. There's just one more thing I'd like from you," he wheedled.

She rolled her eyes. "What is it?"

He pointed up, grinning mischievously.