"How'd you know, Booth?"

Booth frowned. "What?"

Brennan nodded at the two trees that stood side-by-side in Booth's living room, shining and glittering in their ornamented state. "That I would be at the trailer, and not on my flight to Peru."

"Magic." She rolled her eyes.

"There's no such thing as magic."

He sat back. "I don't mean magic magic," he said. "I'm not talking about flying reindeer or elves. I'm talking about a different kind of magic, the kind that's inside every single person, including you."

"I'm not a witch, Booth."

"No, you're not a witch, Bones. You're a lot of things, but a witch isn't one of them. Not even remotely. …Drink your eggnog."

It was the 26th of December, late in the evening. Booth had just gotten back from driving Parker to Vermont.

"Here, open your present," Brennan said. She handed him a rectangular box that fit neatly in his lap.

"Oh, wow, you didn't actually have to get me anything, Bones." He looked at the package, feeling it in his hands. Then he looked at her. "What, no card?" – and a split second later, he gave her his special charm smile. "Just kidding, Bones."

"A card would have defeated the purpose anyway," she said, and lifted her mug to her lips. Booth gave her a look of curiosity, and started to unwrap his gift.

"Whoa! Santa's sleigh, Bones? But…what's this?…it's covered in paper."

She leaned on the armrest, her head in her hand. "Sleigh first, Booth."

"What?" Word of the day.

She gestured to the paper taped to the sleigh, and he lifted it so the light would shine on it.

Eight Things I've Learned From You,

Special Agent Seeley Booth.

He met her eyes, awestruck, and flipped over the piece of paper labeled "1," on the left-hand reindeer, closest to the sleigh. The reindeer were numbered in order, left-to-right, up the line.

#1

You taught me that some things are just as valuable as science, like instinct, and intuition.

He flipped over another paper.

#2

You taught me to let myself be protected once in a while, whether I need it or not.

Another.

#3

You taught me to appreciate the smaller things in life, from things like a football game to things like little plastic pigs and smurfs.

#4

You taught me not to shoot unarmed men, even if they are murderers about to set evidence on fire (who really deserved it).

#5

You taught me to see that I'm 'brainy' and beautiful.

#6

You taught me that if I'm going to share responsibility for these cases, that I have to accept that I can't control them.

#7

You taught me that there's more to sex than mindless passion and biological urges.

#8

You taught me to trust that there are people in my life who will never betray me or willingly leave me, and that you're one of them.

"God…Bones…I don't know what to say," Booth said. He was stunned. Very slowly, a smile started to spread across his face, and he started nodding at her in that way he sometimes did. She wasn't sure what that nodding meant, exactly, but the circumstances in which he always nodded at her like that were usually positive ones, where he was proud of her.

"Thank you, Bones," he said. Sincerity sounded in every inch of his tone.

"Merry Christmas, Booth."


Later, after a few more eggnogs, Booth looked at the Santa sleigh and noticed something. "Hey, Bones?"

"Yeah?"

"I just noticed, but, there are eight, well, 'lessons' I guess, and nine reindeer. What about Rudolph?" He pointed at the last prancing reindeer, with its shiny red nose. "He looks lonely."

Brennan frowned. "I'm glad you reminded me, Booth. There's supposed to be something on the last reindeer, too. Huh…look in the box, maybe it fell off."

Booth ruffled through the decorative tissue paper and found…something… He looked at it. It was a page folded into quarters… "A page…from a book? You tore a page from one of your books?" He frowned, worried, at her. "Why would you do that?"

Brennan inhaled deeply. "Booth, that page is a year old. Last year, when Hodgins and I were trapped underground, we wrote…letters. In case it was too late by the time you guys found us. When I wrote that letter, we'd exhausted the number of ways we could extend our air supply, and it was time to plan for the worst. When we survived, I never gave the letter I wrote a second thought, but I came across it yesterday, and I decided I should give it to the person I meant it for."

"Me." Booth felt strangely…humbled. Bones wrote her last letter to me.

"Yes. You don't have to read it if you don't want to, but I wanted you to have it." She smiled gently, and leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek, not unlike the way she had when he allowed her brother to see his stepdaughter before going to jail.

She got up and plucked Booth's mug from the side table. "I'm going to go get us some coffee. If we drink any more eggnog, neither one of us will be fit to get me home."

He smiled to himself as she went into his kitchen, rummaging around comfortably, as though she lived there. Then his gaze fell to the page in his hand. Should he? Could he? It's not like the thoughts are private – I'm not snooping through her diary, he thought. The idea of Bones having a diary amused him. He grinned and unfolded the page.

Dear Booth,

People don't usually give much thought to what they'd say if they were about to die, but here I am, with the possibility of not getting out of this alive very real, and I find that I can't stop the words from flowing. There are some things you have to know.

First, that you are a good, good man. I won't lie – knowing you, and how you just know people, you'd probably catch me lying even in a letter – when I first met you, I couldn't stand you. You were arrogant, jock-like, and completely dismissive of scientific methods in crime solving. And at first, I wished I had screamed 'kidnap' out the window.

Booth chuckled. He didn't notice it when Brennan returned to his side – he just subconsciously accepted the mug of coffee, and continued to read, the mug in one hand, her letter in the other. He had to squint at times, because in addition to dirt smudges, the letter was written over the ink on the page. No inch of space was wasted.

And the truth is, you still are arrogant and jock-like, though quite more accepting of scientific processing of evidence. But working with you has allowed me to see that there is so much more to you than that. You're courageous – I'm fairly certain you're the only one I know who would stop at nothing to keep me safe. I'm not sure what I ever did to deserve your unfaltering dedication to my protection – not that I need it… (The fact that I'm writing my own last words is not relevant.) You're caring – you have a way with people I've never grasped. You're strong – not just in body, but in deed. You've given yourself a purpose in life, one you're going to continue whether I'm there with you or not.

This last year and a half as your partner, Booth? Of all the things I've done in my life, working with you on these cases have been among my most fulfilling moments. (That's something I never imagined saying about working with someone from the FBI. They finally did something right in sending you over, instead of another idiot.)

If you haven't found me in time, I'm telling you not to blame yourself. You do that, sometimes. Tell yourself I'll haunt you if you do, if you have to, even though that's simply ludicrous.

Give Russ a message for me, all right? I left a will leaving everything I own to him, in the event of my death. Tell him to take the money from my books and build Amy and his stepdaughters a house, with a yard, a pool, and a dog. Russ loves dogs. Tell him to invite you and Parker over once in a while, because mixed-gender interaction is important for children at this stage, and it'll give you and Russ a reason to complain about the things I've said, the things I never said, and how much you (hopefully) miss me.

Sincerely,

your partner, "Bones."

When Booth finished reading, he wanted to cry, laugh, and yell all at once, but he did none of those things. He looked at the reindeer, with the numbered lessons, and thought about how he had impacted her life. And he looked at the letter she wrote him when she expected that she could die, and he thought about how he would have felt if he had received the letter not now, at Christmastime with her, but a year earlier, with her dead body on a glass table for dead people.

He pulled Brennan to him, half-strangling her in the process.

For Christmas, Booth gave Brennan the best gift she could have asked for: a gift for her family, a tree that brought shrieks of happiness to her nieces and tears of joy to her father's eyes.

For Christmas, Brennan gave Booth the best gift he could have asked for: proof that he was making a difference, not only for victims and their families, but for those he cared about.

The partners hugged each other. And they said nothing, because everything had already been said.