A/N: We're baaaaaack! Did you miss us? We missed you! You know what else we missed? REVIEWS. Yep. The review-whores are back. Like what you see? Let us know! Catcalls welcome! We hope this makes your pre-Christmas craziness feel a little more merry! XOXO, Kinsey and Jamie -- Nekkid Booth Inc.
"So what did you do that was so special?"
Temperance Brennan was surprised out of her reverie by the question. "What?"
The rest of her family (she had a family—how did that happen?) was on the floor of trailer, watching Russ's two little girls play with their new presents. She, for one, couldn't seem to stop looking out the window, even though there was nothing to see anymore except the gentle flurries of snow. Her brother Russ gave her a pat on the shoulder and a knowing smile. "A man brings his son to a high-security facility on Christmas Eve to light up a tree for a woman and her family…it would make one think that she must be pretty special."
Brennan smiled briefly at her brother before returning her gaze to the falling snowflakes outside. "That's just Booth. He so wants Christmas to be a special experience for everyone." And, as someone who didn't even really believe in Christmas, she had to admit that the man had been remarkably successful in making that happen for her. It was no small feat, and she was practically stunned at the force of what she was feeling right now.
It had been a surreal few weeks, ones heightened by the barely-spoken-of knowledge of a potentially monumental change. She and Booth had shared something in New York City on Thanksgiving, something not hidden by disguises or shrouded in mystery. They had been together, held hands, kissed because they had wanted to—had wanted each other, and that couldn't be denied. Back home, in D.C., it was a different world. Crimes to be solved, murderers to catch, bones to examine. And they had agreed…slow. It wasn't a day at the parade, or a walk in the park here. It was the real world, and they had important work to be done.
So, there had been no more sleeping on one another's shoulders, no dramatic relationship talks since that time. But what was there were their meaningful looks, a few stolen kisses, and the unspoken understanding that it just didn't make any sense to close off any possibilities right now. They were too far beyond that. And their Christmas Eve mistletoe kiss, prescribed and carefully supervised by one puckish lawyer named Caroline Julian, had served only to exacerbate the frustration they were being to feel in waiting for their next magic moment.
Russ nudged her. "Look." Her next glance backwards evidenced two very sleepy girls, lolling against their mother trying to keep their eyes open while Max and Russ's girlfriend Amy talked quietly. Brennan smiled at the sight. "You should go," he suggested.
"You're trying to get rid of me already? On our first Christmas together since we were kids?" she teased him gently.
"Well, it's looking as if the girls are Christmased out for the moment. Not to mention that the folks on Cell Block C are expecting some of us to spend at least part of Christmas Eve with them." At least Russ was keeping a sense of humor about this whole situation. "Besides…you still have one more gift left to give."
She looked at him, surprised. "Tonight? Oh no…I'm sure that Booth and Parker are asleep by now. Besides…I wouldn't want to interrupt their holiday together."
Russ looked thoughtful. "Something tells me that they wouldn't really mind." She blushed slightly, and he grinned and put his arm around her, giving her a squeeze. "Love you, Tempe," he whispered, before releasing her and going over the family that he had made for himself, scooping up one tired girl and preparing to wish them adieu before his journey back to "Burma."
Brennan felt her phone in her pocket. She had been given so much on this Christmas Eve day. Maybe it wouldn't hurt for her to do some giving tonight, as well.
There were few things Seeley Booth loved more than watching his six-year-old sleep. And not just because the sleeping moments were the few moments a day when Parker was quiet. Though that has its perks as well, he thought with a grin as he watched the little boy napping beneath the flannel snowman sheets.
His cell phone vibrating in the pocket of his red and green plaid flannel pants dragged him out of his reverie and he glanced quickly at the caller id. A grin touched the corners of his mouth as he pulled Parker's door closed (but still open far enough for a sliver of hall-light to fall across the bed) and headed for the living room. "Hey, Bones," he whispered.
"Hey. I woke you, didn't I?" she asked guiltily.
"No, no, not at all. I was just watching Parker sleep. Didn't want to wake him. What's up?"
"I, um, I was going to see… I have your Christmas gift."
"Oh, uh, okay, well, hmm. We might have to do that when you get back from Peru. I've got to wake Park in a little bit for Midnight Mass."
"I, uh, I skipped Peru. To spend tonight with my family. I could drop your gift off before you go," Brennan offered.
"Now, Bones," he began, dragging out her nickname so it was two syllables long, "you could just wait until tomorrow. Do you really want to see me that bad?" he teased.
"Booth," she admonished, feeling a grin tugging at her lips. "I was just trying to be efficient. I just--"
He cut her off. "I want to see you too, Temperance."
She paused, and Booth grinned as he pictured her blushing a thousand shades of red, which lately, felt like the normal reaction when he said her given name in that husky murmur.
"Okay, then, so, I'll uh, I'll drop it by?"
"Bones, I don't supposed you'd consider going to Midnight Mass with us." Booth even surprised himself with his sudden request, but he wondered which one of them was more surprised by her quick answer.
"I just have on jeans and a sweater, do I have time to change? This is a dressy thing, right?"
Booth chuckled lightly. "Jeans and a sweater is fine, Bones. The Catholic church isn't as uptight as they'd like you to believe. But yes, if you want to change, you have time. It's ten. Midnight Mass starts at--"
"Midnight, I suppose?"
"Well what are you wearing?" she asked.
Booth laughed again. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Plaid flannel pants and a smile, baby."
"Oh," he stammered. "Uh, well, jeez, uh, no. That's, uh, what I have on right now. Damn, Bones. How is it that my mind just slides into the gutter whenever you open that pretty mouth?"
Thankfully, in synchrony with his own embarrassment, he heard that blush-signifying pause again. But then, she boldly played the honesty card. "You're not the only one," she murmured, barely loud enough for him to hear.
"Glad to hear it," he replied.
"Okay, Booth. Before this gets completely out of hand and you distract me any further and I wreck my car, I'm going to hang up. Then I'm going to go home and change, then I'm going to come over. Okay?"
"Sounds good. See you soon."
"Soon," she replied, and the phone clicked off. Soon.
As she dialed Booth's number on her way home, she was caught between hoping for voice mail and hoping for the man himself; she figured he would be asleep, or about there, and she hadn't wanted to bother him…not after he had done this amazing thing for her family on this night. And she wasn't even exactly sure how to express her gratitude for him right now; she could just imagine herself stumbling, red-faced, over the words, and she wasn't looking forward to that. But a force much stronger than her nervousness impelled her to make the call. And…well, she just really wanted to see him.
And of course, he called her on it. Damn. Was she that transparent? Sometimes when she talked to him she felt like such…
But somehow, he didn't make feeling like a woman feel half-bad.
He was going to Mass. She should have known that…sometimes she almost forgot that he had this part of his life that was really quite foreign to her. A while back, they had drawn that line…she would know Booth as the loyal F.B.I. agent, and her devoted partner and friend. The other parts of him…Booth the father, the son, the Catholic, the lover…all those were off-limits to her (especially the last on that list—she had spent large amounts of time trying to turn her thoughts from that particular possibility). But since Halloween…In thinking about that, she had a sudden, itching curiosity for a glimpse inside of those other parts of his world, to see what made Booth the man he was. The man that made her feel…well, feel like it was Christmas.
And as if reading her mind (that was a frightening thought, considering the directions her mind had been going lately), he offered to let her in. "Bones, I don't supposed you'd consider going to Midnight Mass with us." His voice sounded endearingly tentative and unsure. Another chip in the wall that kept them from one another. She took hold of what he was offering quickly.
"Really?" He sounded so flummoxed by the fact that she agreed, that she was almost surprised he asked in the first place. Maybe he had just been asking to be polite…she asked if she had time to change, just to give him an out if he needed one. But of course not. She had plenty of time to get home, change, and make it back to Booth's apartment. If she didn't wreck her car into a snowdrift first from the images he created of himself getting dressed. Her mind took a brief detour to the tactile memory of running her hands over his newly exposed body in a lightless room. Damn. Not conducive to driving.
She managed to stay on the road pretty well. It was at home that started having trouble. Shedding her jeans and sweater, she pawed through her closet. She had outfits for work. For book signings, conferences, presentations. Even for the rare romantic date. But what the hell was she supposed to wear for church? She immediately reminded herself not to swear and talk about church in the same breath with Booth. And his son. She was going to church with Booth and his son. She didn't belong in church. She was probably going to embarrass them. On Christmas. What the hell was she thinking? Damn, that swearing again. In desperation, she picked up the phone to call Angela, one person who she knew would definitely be up on Christmas Eve night.
"Sweetie! Well I wasn't expecting to hear from you again tonight. Merry almost-Christmas!"
"Thanks, Ange. Are you busy?"
"For you? The decorating can wait. How did things go with your family tonight?"
"Good. Really wonderful, actually." Brennan briefly forgot about her wardrobe dilemma when she remembered her nieces' shouts of joy, seeing Booth's makeshift Christmas tree. Bringing her mind back to the task in front of her, she shook off her smile. "I need to know what to wear to church."
"Church?" She could hear her friend muffling a cackle over the phone. "Oh, Brennan. Sexy Halloween costumes, I've got your back. But church? I'm not sure how to help you there."
"You got married in one. That couldn't have been the first time you went."
"Well, no…but I wouldn't say that I dress traditionally. Why are you going to church? You haven't gotten all religious on me, have you? I hope not, because I'm planning one hell of a bachelorette party this time around and you are ordering in the strippers, my friend." Brennan heard Jack Hodgins shouting something in the background, and Angela's reply of "Don't worry, baby. They are only window dressing. You're the only one I'm taking home."
She sighed in frustration. This was not helpful. "I'm going to Midnight Mass with Booth and Parker in about…" she checked her watch…"forty-five minutes. I'd preferably like to not embarrass them."
Angela's tone changed. "Booth and Parker, huh?" Her grin was almost audible.
"Ange…" Brennan warned.
"I didn't say anything," was the emphatic reply. "I just repeated what you said. Booth and Parker. I am all business. You still have that long burgundy velvet jobbie? The one with the pretty neckline and the open back?"
"Yeeeeees," Brennan drew out, her fingers tip-toeing through her closet until she found the dress that Angela was alluding to. "Are you sure that's appropriate?"
"It's perfect. Perfect color, covers just enough, uncovers just enough, you look gorgeous in it. Wear it with your wrap at church. And take off the wrap when you get back to Booth's."
"Have I mentioned that his son is with him?"
"Have I mentioned that I only meant it would be warmer back at Booth's place, so you won't need the wrap?" Angela's voice was full of syrupy innocence. Brennan had to repress a smile at her friend's barely-hidden intentions. She hadn't given Angela too many dirty details about her recent holiday activities with Booth. But she did tell her that they were getting closer…and that they were no longer quite so adamant about remaining "just partners." Her friend had sighed in relief at that particular bombshell. "Well thank God you are giving up on that ruse," she had said, making Brennan roll her eyes.
"Thanks for your help, Ange. I'm going to let you get back to your decorating and get myself dressed."
"Are you sure? Because I can come and hold your hand through this if you need me too…"
"Very funny." Brennan felt the very childish urge to stick out her tongue right now, and she wondered if Booth and Parker were rubbing off on her. "Talk to you later." After she hung up, she took a handful of the wine-colored velvet hesitantly. Was Angela right? Well, she certainly couldn't go to Mass in her underwear. Although she and Booth might do well at skipping church in their underwear…
"SLOWLY, Tempe," her mind scowled at her. "Yeah, yeah," she muttered out loud, pulling the dress from the hanger and unzipping it so she could step inside. "Think about the anthropological significance of this ceremony, and how it shaped the traditions and culture of so many people in this society. Use it as an opportunity to better understand Booth and his family. Use it as an opportunity to plan your grocery list. But whatever you do, don't spend too much time wondering what Booth has on under his dress clothes."
Distracting herself from…distracting herself, she busied herself with trying to look some semblance of elegant. She could do this. She would do this, because Booth had given her an incredible gift tonight, and he deserved to have the things that were important to him honored.
Before she left, she remembered to grab her wrap and the final present from atop her dresser, feeling a quick stab of insecurity over whether or not she should have gotten him this particular memento. This was followed by a much more pleasant stab of faith that he, of all people, would never make her feel anything less than brilliant.