Hey y'all! I'm Jo, new to Bones but old hat around . This story takes place at the end of season 4, pre-Critic but post-Cinderella. The title is a play on "The Gift of the Magi," the Christmas story of a couple who sell their finest possessions to buy gifts for the other. The irony, of course, is that they give the other a gift for the sold item. It's not quite parallel but close. Please read and review--let me know if you feel everyone's in character!

"Seeley, man! Can't believe I finally got you tied down to lunch," Michael Grayson, an old Rangers buddy of Booth's, said, and broadened his arms for a hug.

Booth leaned down and hugged the man tightly. Michael was in a wheelchair, had been so for the past 10 years. He'd been paralyzed, shot in the spine, in Booth's last year in the Rangers. And though the two of them saw each other a few times a year — Booth had even been a groomsman in Michael's wedding to the beautiful and spunky Cassandra four years ago — it was still weird, seeing his buddy in the chair, knowing that could have been him.

"Yeah, well, you move to my turf, it's polite that I say yes at some point, right?"

"Took you long enough. Session started six weeks ago."

"Yeah, congrats again on the election, man — you're going to be fantastic."

"Thanks, Seel. Was kinda hard to figure out what to do post-this," he tapped on the aluminum wheels of his chair, "but I think this is a pretty damn good substitute."

Michael was now a first-term U.S. Rep, serving the fine people of the Michigan 7th. He'd been pestering Seeley for a lunch since the minute all the bunting disappeared post-inauguration but Booth'd been resisting — just would be weird, he knew, and might be seen by his supervisors as being overtly political and manipulative. Michael didn't give a damn though. He'd scheduled a lunch at Monocle, which made Booth's favorite steak, and made his scheduler call Booth twice a day until he agreed. Bones had gotten sick of the 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. regularly scheduled calls and finally insisted that he take it. Booth chuckled at the memory.

"How's Parker?" Michael asked, grinning.

"Pretty damn good, you know — second grade, smart as hell, loves hockey and basketball, doesn't understand girls yet, thank god." He grinned and pulled Parker's latest class photo from his wallet. "Nicky and Cassandra good?"

"Yeah. Nicky still doesn't like the whole weekend-daddy thing, but he's adjusting. They both are," he smiled. "They get out to the house in D.C. every few months, I go home every weekend; it works. Little Spartan, but it works." He similarly drew out a photo and slapped it on the table, Nicky at preschool. The waitress interrupted them briefly, and Seeley ordered a Flatiron while Michael went with the tuna steak. "So what's this I hear about you being a sneaky old bastard and having the highest close rate in the whole FB of I?"

Booth laughed. "You got other friends at the Bureau besides me? I'm a little hurt."

"Seriously, Seel — impressive."

"Seriously, Mikey — who you been talking to?"

He smirked. "Committees, Seeley, committees — what do you think the most junior member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security does?"

Booth couldn't hold back a laugh. "Wait for the second-most-junior person to lose reelection?"

Michael raised an eyebrow. "Word on the street is that Deputy Director Myers is going to retire at the end of this year."

Booth had heard the same rumors in the locker room, but wasn't going to put anything by them — yet. And it honestly wouldn't mean anything. "He's a decent one," was all he could finally say.

Michael nodded. "He is. And he needs replaced by another decent one."

"What, you want me to tell you what locker-room talk is saying?"

"Doesn't really matter what the locker room says; this is a nominated position," Michael said coolly.

Booth raised his eyebrows; the last thing he wanted was his friend using him to float some unappealing lawyer bureaucrat in the office.

Michael was nothing if not astute, however, and hurriedly said, "Seeley — don't be so friggin' dense, man. The name I wanna float — and considering how high your damn close rate is, it won't be a problem — is yours."

"Mine?" Booth said skeptically.

"Yes, yours, lunkhead."

"You want me — me — to run about half the FBI?"

"Yeah. And I think you'll do a damned amazing job."

"I'm not even an assistant director. I just made Special Agent in Charge. There are about, oh, five, assistant divisional directors who might want this. Not to mention the field agents in charge of the branches."

"The FBI needs an image makeover. Dashing young Catholic single father with a strong ethics who just wants to uphold justice? Those guys are all old, their 50s. Not exactly inspiring. Meyerson was just a placeholder after Cullen stepped down and Kirby was murdered."

"Yeah, did you ever hear who did that one?"

"People find it admirable, you arrested him anyways. Not your fault the good doctor implicated herself. I've been talking to a few older members, and they like what they see. Cullen's ready to fly up from Florida and testify on your behalf. It can happen: You're compassionate, charismatic, and the best investigator in the agency, in case you forgot that point. Hell, you even have a law degree, Seeley, that you do conveniently forget about most of the time."

He shrugged. Law school had been ages ago; he'd finished right around Parker's second birthday but never felt compelled to do anything with that piece of paper. His father was still furious. He doubted Bones even knew about it. "I never took the bar."

"Yeah, well, that was you being stupid."

"I once shot an ice-cream truck."

"What ex-Ranger hasn't caved to a little stress? We can get people to vouch that was an anomaly. That shrink, for instance. Same with that suspension," he added, before Booth could drop that in.

"My close rate — listen, I hate to shatter your bullshit illusions, but that's hardly my doing. It's half Brennan's. Mine wasn't nearly as high when I wasn't working with her."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, blame it all on the crazy-smart-and-hot scientist-author you have for a partner, even though you work tons of cases without her and your close rate is consistently above the 92nd percentile," Michael grinned and rolled his eyes. "Also, you still need to get Cass that autographed copy you promised."

"If you get off my back about this, I will get you that autographed copy," he swore.

Michael stared at him, thinking. "You really don't want this promotion? It's fabulous. It'll one-up your bitch of a little brother." Michael had never liked Jared.

"It might sound weird to you, but yes, I like my job. I like what my job means and what I do there. Bones and I, we're a team. We do good stuff out there."

Michael let out a low whistle. "Seeley Booth, giving up a promotion for a girl?"

"Partner, Michael. We're partners." He used Bones' line. He certainly was not going to try and defend the fact that he and Bones had been partners for four years, coincidentally around the time his last serious relationship ended, and that he'd only dated sporadically since. And he was fairly sure he could. After all, he'd been avoiding Sweets' unveiled insinuations for a year and a half now. "And I'm not turning it down because of our partnership, I'm telling you why you're nuts to suggest me. Don't forget the whole anger-management issues and the suspensions for going behind my superiors' backs. And I'm going to point out that the only reason you're pushing this? Is because you don't want to be the most-junior member of the subcommittee."

But Michael still had that dubious, know-it-all smirk — Michael had been older than most of the other guys in the unit, and had always been a little condescending about it — and just shook his head. "So I take it you've finally settled down, then? Nice girl with fabulous legs that can tolerate cartoons instead of the news in the morning, wants to cook mac'n'cheese for Parker?" He looked at him shrewdly, and Booth cringed at Michael's choice of food to illustrate his point.

Booth sighed. "Honestly, Michael, I've been too busy."

"With your partner?"

"With work."

"With your partner?"


"How many hours — per week — do you spend with your partner, working or no?"

"Depends on the caseload," he lied. It really didn't, and he knew that, and he knew all of his reasons why that wasn't so. And he also knew that trying to explain Bones to someone who had never met her would be about as successful as him handling the forensics and Bones handling the investigation.

"Let's average this," Michael suggested.

"Average? Must be 80 hours a week," he lowballed. "I know it sounds extreme, but this is Bones. You don't know her. It's a very all-encompassing partnership. We're friends, too. That happens."

"But you're not sleeping with her, dating with her, living with her," Michael said. "Because I see Cass fewer than 80 hours a week, even when I'm home."

"How much time I spend with Brennan has nothing on whether or not I'm qualified for this job, or whether you're doing something stupid to both of our careers."

"This isn't about your idiotic reasons not to take the job, which, by the way, I will convince you to take," Michael said. "This is about me figuring out how long you've been in love with her and haven't told her. Jesus, Seel, I would have probably killed myself if I'd waited this long to make a move on Cass. This cannot be friggin' healthy."

He paused. This was Michael, after all, who had carried him when his feet were broken, whom he'd dragged across deserts. Not Sweets. Not Angela. And Michael was happily married and — Booth wasn't the type of guy to ask for girl advice, but Cass and Michael's courtship hadn't been like a picnic, either, and it wasn't like Michael and Bones would ever actually meet.

"Not sure," he finally said, shrugging. "But I know Bones — know her better'n anybody. You can't push her. And damned if she's not the most complicated personality I've ever seen."

"What's she like?" Michael was half-amused, half incredibly, genuinely interested.

"Well — the easy part is she's gorgeous. Funny, but unintentionally. She cares, so much, but can't show it. And she's brilliant, obviously. The way she just thinks is just … amazing to watch. She just kind of throws herself into it and gets this look on her face, like what she's doing is the only thing in the world. And she's got this laugh and when she's looking at you, really looking at you and trusting you, she's just completely under your skin and you can't stop thinking about her. The difficult part is that she's stubborn as hell, terrified of dependency, and tries to quantify everything, emotion, faith, love, everything. And she'll always tell you she's OK. You have to read the nonverbals with her. It's about the fact that she lets you in, trusts you, is okay with you invading her personal space, even invades yours. She doesn't trust very easy — and then when you've earned it, you don't ever want to let her down." He thought about guy hugs, the way she grabs at the back of his shirt when she's scared and the way her hips feel when he's slid an arm around her to hurry her up. The way she takes just a small step toward him when she sees a challenge and the way her eyes spark when he's leaning just a little too close to her. These, all of these, are the ridiculous, small reasons that she's got him.

"Worth not dating for years?"

"Completely," he swallowed and shook his head. "But she's — not ready for what I want. A few weeks ago — she said she wanted to believe in love. And that, that was a huge victory. Finally felt like she was maybe allowing herself to open up a little."

"And you've never tried anything?" Michael raised an eyebrow.

"Either she's gotta go first, or she has to be ready," he said. "And she's not there yet." It wasn't entirely her fault, of course; he wasn't ready to admit anything for three years. Until she punched him, after he 'died.'

"And you're sure that she'll get there, that these past four years are worth it?"

"At this point, Mike, I don't really have a choice."

Michael stared at him long and hard. "You old bastard, Seeley. Cassandra will positively die."

Booth smirked. "You know, I am the basis for Andy Lister."

Michael shook his head. "Yeah, the guy Kathy Reichs's sleeping with?"

"It's subliminal," Booth grinned.

They got off that topic then, thank God, and got onto the regular ones, like hockey and Mikey's crap new apartment. As they were finishing, Michael back-slapped him. "Go after the girl, Seel," he advised. "And Meyerson will be stepping down at the beginning of the year. You've got eight, almost nine months. I still wanna push your name."

He shook his head, bounded out of the restaurant and toward his truck. It wasn't that the promotion wasn't tempting, because it definitely was. Longer hours, maybe, but more money for Parker. Besides, he'd been getting shot at for more than 15 years; a change wouldn't be a bad idea. But he liked the FBI. He'd worked hard the last several years at the Bureau and knew he didn't want to be one of those sad-sack, should-have-retired-long-ago, pudgy agents that still wandered the halls and worked on cases that their way-younger superiors gave them out of sympathy. That wasn't his way. Yeah, he wasn't much for paperwork and bureaucracy, but part of being on top was the ability to change that.

But there was Bones. Besides whatever he'd said to Mikey about the way he felt about her, his feelings weren't the point. A promotion would change too much for Bones. To her, it would be him leaving her like everyone else. And he'd promised her that he wouldn't do that, simple as that.

He couldn't take the position.