A/N: I love this time of year; it turns me into a puddle of mush, though I only celebrate Christmas in a festive, non-religious sort of way. So I come bearing a bit of holiday cheer.
I plan to keep this fic to 2 - 4 chapters and will have it all up by Christmas. The story begins during Santa in the Slush, on Christmas Eve, in the scene in which Brennan, Zack, Cam, Jack, and Angela exchange hugs and presents.
Feedback is always appreciated, whether it's tied in a red and green bow or not. ;)Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, etc.:)
"Happy Holidays, Dr. Brennan," he said, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. His beard prickled against her skin, coaxing her lips into a smile.
"You too," she said, disarmed by the friendly kiss. "Jack," she added impulsively. After all, he was practically her best friend's husband, and she had felt a certain kinship with him ever since they were kidnapped and buried alive together. His blue eyes warmed at her use of his first name, and she began to understand why Angela had chosen this man.
Then he released her and moved away. When she turned, Angela stood in his place, with a slender red scarf looped around her neck and the ever-present smile on her face. "Merry Christmas, Bren," she said, and swept her into a hug. No hesitation, no caution. Just an ease and familiarity born of countless previous hugs.
"Merry Christmas, Ange," she replied, giving her an extra squeeze.
"Don't go to Peru, Bren," she said. "Christmas is about family."
"But I'm not Christian, Ange."
Angela shook her head, her hair dancing around her face. "Doesn't matter, Brennan. Christmas is still about family." She pulled back to look at her. "Trust me, those dusty old skeletons will wait. They've already waited 1500 years."
The last comment caused Temperance to shake her head and smile. "Ange..."
"Your brother and your father, on the other hand...You've been waiting for them for sixteen years." Angela's eyes glowed with sympathy and wisdom. "If you don't want to spend it with them, spend it with me and Jack." She rested a hand on her forearm.
Temperance smiled, pleased by her friend's generosity, despite the fact that she didn't even consider her offer a valid option. Perhaps this holiday held no meaning for her any longer, but she would not intrude upon Angela and Jack's first Christmas.
"Just promise me you'll think about staying, sweetie."
"Angela, I already have a plane ticket. I can't cancel my trip now."
"Yes, you can. You're Dr. Temperance Brennan; you can do anything you want. Now promise."
She sighed, and her shoulders sagged in defeat. "Oh, all right. I promise I'll think about staying."
Temperance had hugged Zack, Cam, Jack, and Angela. Having done that, her eyes roamed the lounge, searching for one last person. With a start, she realized she was looking for Booth. But he wasn't there, of course; his office was at the Hoover Building, not at the Jeffersonian. She frowned, wondering when she had begun to think of him as a member of her team. But then the frown smoothed away, transforming into a smile, as she recalled kissing him beneath a sprig of mistletoe. The experience, she silently admitted to herself, was decidedly pleasant. Though she had declared to Caroline that kissing Booth had been like kissing her brother, the words had rung false, even to her ears.
Kissing Russ had never left her with that fluttery feeling in her stomach.
Temperance had expected the kiss to feel platonic, businesslike, even.
Reality had proven not to match expectation.
She would like to deny it, but the evidence bore it out. After Booth had departed her office, mumbling something about talking to the "forensics guy," she'd realized she'd lost her gum.
Or more accurately, her gum had transferred to Booth's mouth in the midst of their kiss.
That alone made her feel warm, for how had he wound up with her gum, if the kiss had been merely a platonic, closed meeting of their mouths? She recalled the way her hands had fisted in his jacket, pulling him into her. Then the warmth turned into a full blush she felt flood her cheeks. At that moment, Temperance was very glad to be alone in the lounge, her colleagues having scattered after exchanging a flurry of hugs, presents, and holiday greetings. Though she heard heard the distant hum of voices and clicking of heels as the rest of the Jeffersonian filtered out of the building in search of hearth and home, her focus rested solidly on her own thoughts.
Tiny white lights glittered on the large tree in the lab, drawing her attention and reminding her it was Christmas Eve. As if she could forget. Temperance sighed and reached for her satchel, resolutely shoving aside thoughts of sharing intimacies with her partner.
Her fingers traced the embossed cover of her passport; she pulled it and her plane ticket out of the satchel and stared at them, thinking.
hope someday that we can all have Christmas together again."
Hadn't she wished for that very thing, as well, every year since her family had been rent?
"Yeah, but Christmas and skeletons do not go together."
Perhaps her father had a point.
"...Skeletons and Christmas do not mix."
How odd for Booth to repeat her father's sentiment.
"What people call the Christmas spirit? It's a kind of dream or hope that we carry with us from childhood."
Though she would never, ever dare to say it aloud, a small, secret part of her still carried that dream.
"Tempe, Dad wants us all. I mean, you're one of us."
Russ, her brother, the Marco to her Polo, a presence in her life at long last, even if it was from a jail cell.
"...You're one of us."
To belong for even a little while; did it still matter?
Temperance set her passport and ticket on the couch and leaned back with a sigh, staring at her hand. She twisted her grandmother's ring around and around on her finger and finally answered her question.
Temperance squared her shoulders and held her breath. The guard swung open the door to the conjugal trailer, and she hoped her entrance would not be noticed immediately.
Her father stood at the back, relief etched into the lines and folds of his face. Cheek and chin implants. Surgically altered features. New lines fanning out from the corners of his eyes. Sixteen additional years that had added a certain softness and fullness that hadn't been there before. No longer Matthew Brennan, but Max Keenan.
But still her father.
"Well, murderers and thieves, they get Christmas, too." Booth, always voicing the things she could never bring herself to believe—until he poked and prodded and persuaded her to admit their plausibility.
She saw her father's chest rise and fall on a sigh.
He blinked, looking almost as if he couldn't believe she was actually there, and his face split in a tentative smile.
She exhaled, blinking back the moisture she could not deny had pooled in her eyes, and wondered if her face mirrored the mix of sadness and tentative joy she read in her father's.
"And by the way, this is the best Christmas that I have had in sixteen years," her father said. His tone, devoid of all teasing for once, convinced Temperance of his sincerity. His words danced their way inside her, filling empty spaces she hadn't known needed filling.
A smile of understanding passed between them.
"Me too." The words slipped out, and as she ruminated on them long after they'd disturbed the air, she realized how very sincerely she meant them. Because for a moment, as she watched her brother's children—and yes, she understood now that that was precisely the right word to describe them—unwrap gifts adorned in garish paper—and her father watched her watch them—Temperance forgot the shabby laminated walls surrounding them, the florescent orange prison-issue jumpsuit demarcating him as different, other, and even the hard Naugahyde couch that barely gave beneath their combined weight.
And remembered "the transient experience of innocence and joy," of being nine years old and helping her older brother tear through what seemed like a mountain of presents as her parents looked on, sipping coffee and smiling occasionally—at them and at each other.
Temperance remembered Christmas.
"Go to the window and open up the blinds, now," Booth said. The urgency in his voice forced her to her feet.
"What?" Curiosity sharpened her voice.
She crossed to the window and raised the blinds. Soft, white flakes drifted down from the sky. Her eyes searched the darkness and finally made out Booth and Parker, standing beyond the chain link fence, the ink of their coats contrasting sharply with the snow at their feet. As she watched, Booth reached into the engine compartment of his car, and lights flared to life, illuminating himself, his son, and the tall, green Christmas tree at their side. Her breath caught in her throat. Father and son waved at her, and she raised her own hand to wave back.
"Hey," she called over her shoulder, "everybody, it looks like we got our tree, after all." She had meant to say "a tree," not "our tree," but as she surrendered to the smile that wanted to make its way across her face, she realized she included herself among them. They joined her at the window, flanking her on either side, as she stared out into the night.
Though he stood too far away for her to see his eyes, Temperance knew Booth's gaze was locked on her, as hers was on him. "I love my gift, Booth," she said, and knew in the marrow of her bones that this gift was intended for her, not her family.
"Merry Christmas, Bones," he replied. A smile lit his voice, and she saw it, as clearly as she saw the lights that shimmered on the tree in the glow of the moon. Something inside her shifted as she looked out beyond the infinite fractals of ice to focus on the man standing in the snow, his body a lean arrow, the white of his shirt collar a beacon. There it was again—that curious fluttering in her stomach—as she imagined the twinkle she knew must be in his familiar dark eyes.
She breathed, her phone pressed to her ear, and listened to the music of his breath. The seconds floated by like snowflakes carried on a current of air; Temperance fought the desire to raise her hand and place it, palm flat, against the cold pane of glass.
This moment, as much as the tree he'd brought for her, was a gift.
How, she thought with something akin to wonder, did Booth always know to give her the things she'd never even asked for?
To be continued...