Author's Note: Okay, so after a day spent numb after everything went down in "The Doctor in the Photo" I decided I needed some fluff. Not that I didn't love the episode (because it was superb and the acting was flawless) but I'm a pansy when it comes to hard core angst. So... In "Doctor" Brennan says the vic was under the tree for eleven months from last November, that says to me that it's October in the Bones world. This is a Christmas fic so it's set two months after "Doctor." Okay, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Gum :)

Terminal Velocity

Chapter 1: Up In The Air

It was the end of another day. The end of another case. As they had always done, the partners sat at the Founding Fathers, nursing their drinks and exchanging small talk. From the door, a bell rang, ushering in a line of haggard-looking men dressed in fake red fur who collapsed around one of the far tables.

"Guess we know where Santa goes to unwind, eh?" Booth quipped with a small smile.

Brennan smiled back with a nod, "Parker might be disillusioned if he saw them, however."

"I think he knows," there was a touch of sorrow lacing Booth's voice. "I mean, he didn't say anything but," he shrugged, leaving the thought to hang between them.

This time her smile was sympathetic and she laid a hand on his forearm, "I'm sorry. For you, I mean. I know how much you enjoyed fantasizing about Santa with him."

Booth choked on his lager slightly but nodded his thanks and said with a half-smile, "Kids have to grow up sometime."

There was a contemplative silence and in Brennan's mind she could see Parker's progression from early childhood to the cusp of adolescence. He, indeed, had grown up over the last six years and while the scientist in her acknowledged that such change was natural given the passage of time, she could also understand why her partner might not quite be ready for his son to lose the innocence of childhood.

"So you're going skiing with him this year?" she asked, hoping the reminder would help lighten his mood.

"Yep," the smile broadened and she felt warm inside. "Rebecca had already made plans before I came back early, but she invited me to tag along after the case wrapped. Parker's gonna teach me how to snowboard, so we'll see how that goes."

"I enjoy skiing," she remarked, "though I find I lack the proper balance techniques necessary to properly steer a snowboard."

They both chuckled at the thought and sat in companionable silence until their drinks were finished. Brennan didn't have the courage to ask how he was doing in regards to his recent breakup with Hannah, and Booth had no inclination to share. They'd parted ways amicably enough and after a short period of discomfort Booth and Brennan were slowly finding their equilibrium again as a team; though each had doubts that they could ever regain the closeness they'd shared given all that had passed between them.

"Well," Booth stretched, standing up, "I should get home and get some sleep. Six is gonna come way too early in the morning. When does your flight to Bora Bora leave?"

She rolled her eyes, "Minnesota is not an island, it's-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," he scoffed lightly, cutting her off as he helped her into her jacket without. "And I think it's great, you know, you going to spend Christmas with your family. It's really great, Bones. Though you'd probably be warmer in Bora Bora."

She nodded vigorously as she slipped her hands into her gloves and tightened her scarf. The December wind bit into her exposed cheeks as they stepped from the doorway onto the sidewalk. Beside her, Booth pulled up the collar on his coat, shuddering as another burst of cold air whipped down on them. She scurried to her car, Booth close behind.

"Call me when you get there," he blurted out when they stopped beside the car.

"You realize that air travel is safer than a motor vehicle?" she shook her head.

He reached an arm across her to prevent her from opening the door after she unlocked it, "Bones, just humor me, okay?"

"If I say yes will you let me in my car?" she tapped an impatient foot, a shiver going through her.

"Fine," he relented. "Guess, I'll see you after New Years?" he stalled once again, angling his body in front of her to block out the wind.

"January second," she confirmed. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she looked up at him, smiling as he opened her car door and nudged her in, "Tell Parker, Merry Christmas from me."

"I will," he assured her, still hovering over the door. A million thoughts flooded his brain, but none made it out save a quick, "Merry Christmas, Bones," just before she reached over to gently shut the door.

She paused just before it latched and opened it enough to call out, "Merry Christmas, Booth," before starting the engine and disappearing into the night.

B&B&B&B&B&B&B&B&B

Brennan's flight took off bright and early the next morning into the crisp, blue skies, and she spent the first half of it engrossed in a novel she'd been saving for just such an occasion. Reading for leisure was something she enjoyed, but rarely something for which she made the time. Between her responsibilities at the Jeffersonian, her teaching schedule, the cases she worked on with Booth, not to mention her own novels that she wrote, her free time was at a premium.

She emerged from it with a jolt, bouncing the book out of her loose grip and one her lap. One look at the gray sky to her right was explanation enough as the snow whipped and swirled outside of the aircraft. Despite the warmth of the first class cabin she felt a chill go down her spine.

"Excuse me," she stopped the flight attendant who was passing by. "Do you know if our arrival time has been delayed by the storm?"

"Oh yeah," the woman snapped her gum loudly, "this is a big one. Couldn't do anything but head right through it. Might have to land if it doesn't clear up soon." She looked around furtively, before leaning down and whispering to Brennan, "We're close to zero visibility."

"I see," Brennan replied in a similarly quiet voice.

The woman's head bobbed up and down and she looked left and right once again before producing a small paperback from her apron. Suddenly Brennan realized why the woman had confided in her and when the request for her signature came, she pasted a smile on her face and obliged. Tracie, "with an 'ie'" proceeded to open it to a blank page and thank her profusely.

A chime sounded softly in the cabin, recalling the flight attendants to their stations and the woman took her newly signed book and beat a hasty retreat. Not long afterward, the "fasten seat belt" light was turned on, and only a few minutes later the announcement came that due to the storm they would be landing in Chicago's O'Hare airport within the hour. Brennan suspected that fuel concerns were also a factor.

Around her, people began opening their phones and calling loved ones to let them know about the change in plans and it occurred to her that she should do the same. One of her aunts answered the phone, unsurprised at the news as the cold front was wide-spread. Brennan informed her of the plans, promising to keep her apprised of the situation as she learned more. The aunt was assuring her that was no problem when the flight attendants asked them to shut down all electronic devices and prepare for landing.

The plane bounced and jostled in long, lazy circles, drawing nearer to the ground with each pass. A low groan sounded as the landing gear was unfurled and once again the plane shuddered in the wind. Four more times the plane went up, then down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Now they were descending at a much faster rate and as Brennan watched the ground race up toward them her mind immediately went to Booth, hoping he wouldn't be too upset with her for not calling.