A/N: Last chapter time! Thanks so much to everyone who's read this fic this week…I've loved writing it. Sorry it was a few hours later than I intended tonight….things are always busy, and I'm already getting looks from my family for typing during our Christmas Eve gathering. Without further ado, the conclusion to our Christmas tale.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
let your heart be light…
Brennan's eyes snapped open.
They met with an unfamiliar ceiling; she was lying on a bed, a soft, rhythmic beeping her ears. Her whole body was sore, particularly her side.
For a moment, she lay still, panicked: this transition was more jarring than any Albert had brought about all night.
Then, she heard shuffling next to her, and slowly, with difficulty, Brennan turned her head.
Her throat constricted instantly; her heart seemed suddenly too large for her chest as a powerful surge of relief seeped through her.
"Booth," she gasped out, her voice breaking on just his name.
He was sitting in a chair, pulled close to her bed. His elbows were resting on his knees, and his head was bent low.
And when he heard her voice, his head snapped up, his chocolate eyes, wide and red and terrified, landed on her.
He could see her.
"Bones," Booth breathed, and in the next instant his arms were around her, crushing her against him.
Brennan could feel Booth's heart thudding against her, and instantly her eyes welled with tears. She didn't know exactly what was happening, but Booth was alive, and he was holding her in a way he hadn't in so long….
"You're okay," she whispered against this neck.
"Yeah, Bones," his voice fell over her, tinged with confusion but mostly pure relief. "More importantly, you're gonna be okay." Suddenly he let go of her, drawing back, eyes huge. "God, I'm probably hurting you."
"No," Brennan told him, her voice weak. "I, just…what's happening?"
The slightest bit of fear returned to Booth's eyes, but he took her hand gently in his, his voice soothing, "You were in a car accident, Bones."
She blinked at him, uncertain. "I…I know, but I wasn't…I wasn't hurt, except…" Dazedly, she reached up and touched her cheek, feeling the neat row of stitches where she'd cut her face.
"Someone drove by and saw your car early this morning…you'd been unconscious for awhile." Booth closed his eyes briefly, his voice catching, "I was so scared, Bones."
"This morning," Brennan repeated. "What…what day is it?"
At that, Booth smiled tiredly. "It's Christmas Eve, Bones." He glanced at his watch, and Brennan felt another rush of relief to see it back where it was supposed to be. "For a few more hours, at least." His eyes snapped back to hers, full of poorly disguised worry. "They brought you in this morning and did surgery…but it took you awhile to wake up."
"But…I thought you and Parker were supposed to be with Hannah at her parents…"
Booth laughed a little, almost incredulously. "Bones…." He reached out, brushing a strand of hair from her eyes and lightly tracing down her cheek; Brennan shivered. "I told her to go without us. This is more important." He drew a shaky breath, eyes suddenly bright. "God, Bones, when Angela called me, I swear to God I couldn't breathe for a second…"
Brennan's chest was aching again, but she couldn't stop herself from smiling. Then, she looked up at Booth, searchingly, "Wait, Ange…Angela's here?"
Again, Booth looked surprised by the question. "Of course she is, Bones. Actually…" He stood up, squeezing her hand gently before letting go. "They're all going to kill me if I keep them waiting any longer. Hold on…"
He left the room, and Brennan bit back the irrational panic at his absence. Brennan leaned back on her pillows, dizzy and lightheaded from the sudden, jolting change in her reality.
Less than a minute later, however, Brennan's door opened again, and she heard only a high and shaky, "Sweetie!" before Angela was flying at her and hugging her tearfully. "Oh, thank God…"
Brennan hugged her best friend back, just as hard, when her gaze found the person standing behind Angela. Her eyes lit up, "Hodgins!"
Hodgins' eyebrows shot up, surprised, but he was grinning at her. "Dr. B! How you feeling?"
She started to answer, but as Angela slowly released her hold, Brennan saw the others spilling into the room.
Cam and Michelle. Sweets and Daisy. And behind them all, Booth, who wasted no time pushing past the others to reclaim his place next to Brennan.
They surrounded her bed, all talking over each other, asking how she felt or that they were glad she was okay. Brennan could only stare at them, her throat too tight to speak.
After a moment, she felt Booth's fingers slip through her own. "You okay, Bones?" he asked in an undertone.
She nodded hard, swallowing away the lump in her throat and letting her eyes sweep all of them.. Angela and Hodgins, who'd had a flight to Texas, Cam and Michelle, who had plans for New York, Sweets and Daisy and their cabin...
She thought, suddenly, of what Albert had said.
Someone who has done so much for her friends lives…no way they aren't there for you the second they know you need it.
Of course, none of that had been real.
There was logic to all of it. The scenarios she'd seen, they all made sense under the premise. And it was strange, the detail of her dream, how clearly she could recall every detail, every painful moment.
Angela took the seat on Brennan's other side, and she told her, "Your dad and brother are on their way, Bren." She dropped her tone, her brown eyes warm with concern. "Why didn't you tell me you weren't going to Russ'?"
Brennan felt the heat rising to her cheeks, and she dropped her eyes, scrambling for an explanation.
Then, to her surprise, Angela continued, "You could have come with Jack and me to Texas."
Taken aback, Brennan began to shake her head. "Oh, no, Ange, it…it was a family thing."
Sighing, Angela rolled her eyes. "You are family, Sweetie." She touched her stomach and smiled. "And when this one comes, we'll make it official. Godmother's very important."
A pang hit Brennan somewhere in the chest, and she caught her lip between her teeth, vision blurring for probably the tenth time since she woke up. "Thank you." Finally, she slid her eyes away, looking at each one of her friends before finally saying softly, "It's almost Christmas…and I know you all had plans-"
"No one's going anywhere, Sweetie," Angela interrupted impatiently.
Hodgins nodded, smiling down at her. "You think we can't have Christmas in a hospital?"
Sweets' eyes lit up. "We have a mini Christmas tree we were going to take the cabin…"
Cam and Michelle glanced at each other, and then Cam put in, "We have plenty of food we were taking."
"Lancelot, you can bring some of your antlers for everyone!" Daisy said excitedly.
Michelle offered, "I could bring in some Christmas DVDs…"
They were off, throwing out plans for food and decorations and things they could do for tomorrow.
Amid the chatter, Brennan turned and met Booth's eyes. He smiled at her, all traces of exhaustion disappearing as he did. He mouthed at her, "Merry Christmas."
She whispered it back.
They all left a little after midnight, wishes of Merry Christmas and promises to return in the morning flying between them.
Booth, though, refused to leave. He slept in the chair, his arms folded on her bed, cushioning his head.
It took Brennan awhile to get to sleep, afraid she would close her eyes and return to the place where Booth was being shot, dragged away from her and she fought ineffectually to save him.
But she slept eventually, the pain medication doing its job. When she woke up, her friends were milling around the room quietly, finding places to hide plates from doctors and stringing Christmas lights around the tiny windows.
They all came back, and now joined by Max and Russ, who brought with him Get Well Soon cards from Emma and Hayley. They'd crowded more chairs than seemed possible into the small hospital room, and all day everyone was in and out, bringing food and gifts and occasionally Christmas movies to watch on the television.
Booth was glued to her side for most of the day. There was an ease to their conversation that hadn't been present for a month, and Brennan was terrified to say the wrong thing for fear it would disappear again.
But it never did, and at one point when his phone rang in the middle of a conversation, Booth glanced at it and barely hesitated before putting it back in his pocket and smiling at Brennan, continuing without missing a beat.
He left only once, in the afternoon, and though she tried not to show it, Booth must have seen the disappointment etched in her expression, because he smiled and told her, "I promised Parker I'd come get him and bring him to see you. He was with me, when Ange called, and he was really worried about you."
So less than an hour later, Brennan was in her room, opening gifts from Angela and Hodgins and her father, when Parker came barreling in, frenzied with the excitement of Christmas. "Bones!"
He pulled up short next to her bed ad climbed up to sit on the end of it, his brown eyes going wide as he looked at all the machines around her. "Are you really okay, Bones?"
Smiling, she nodded. "I'm fine, Parker. What'd you get for Christmas this morning?"
As she listened to Parker list in great detail his presents from Santa, Brennan was vaguely aware of Booth, speaking softly to Angela, Hodgins and Max. He indicated a gift under his arm, and the three of them nodded and slowly trickled out of the room.
Parker continued to talk as Booth sat down in the chair vacated by Angela, his eyes sparkling as they met Brennan's. He winked.
Suddenly, the boy stopped talking abruptly, his eyes darting to his father and then back to Bones. He grinned. "Daddy's got a gift for you, Bones!"
"He does?" Brennan glanced at him, genuinely surprised.
Booth leaned close, lifting the present, a tender smile tugging at his lips. "I meant to give it to you before I left but…it wasn't quite done."
At that, Brennan looked at him questioningly. "Done?"
Booth actually flushed slightly. "Yeah, I…I hope you don't think this is too weird or…or stupid."
He was so uncharacteristically flustered and nervous, that Brennan couldn't help but smile. "I have you something, too, it's…it's in my desk at work, maybe Angela or someone could-"
"It doesn't matter," Booth interrupted gently. "But…I want you to have this."
Her fingers were trembling slightly as Brennan pulled off the bow and ribbon, then slowly began tearing away the green and red striped wrapping paper.
As it fell away, she looked up at Booth, a question in her eyes. He smiled, though she could see the nervousness in his expression. Brennan opened the thick, leather book….and gasped softly. "Oh…"
Her chest tightening, Brennan began to flip through the pages of the book. Photos filled the pages, obviously painstakingly collected and put together.
There were photos of the team, at various events or Christmas parties over the years. There were articles about them, of Booth and Brennan or occasionally the team as a whole. There were photos of Brennan and Parker, taken at the pool the summer before they left. Photos of just Booth and Brennan.
And there were others, photos that Booth wouldn't have had himself. Of her family, recent and from years ago, or photos of her and Angela, some from even before she and Booth were partnered together.
She could feel the hot prickling of tears in her eyes, and Brennan met Booth's gaze. He stared back, expectant and anxious.
For a long moment, she didn't say anything. Then, her voice barely audible, she asked, "You did this?"
She almost couldn't imagine it. The past month, when they'd been so awkward and distant with each other, Booth was working on this?
"I…I started working on it after the Lauren Eames case," he admitted softly. "I know it's a bit…I don't know, Bones, I just saw what you were thinking that whole case. That you were alone, that you didn't have anyone. I just thought…this would be a good way to remind you that you're wrong."
She felt a tear roll down her cheek, betraying her, and Booth reached out and brushed it away without breaking eye contact.
He'd given her what Albert had tried to give her…only this wasn't a dream. He'd given her proof that she wasn't alone, that people cared about her.
"Do you like it?" Booth asked, almost uncertain.
In answer, Brennan wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face briefly into his shoulder under the tears subsided. "Thank you."
He nodded hard, his own voice rough when he answered, "Merry Christmas, Bones."
She drew back slowly, wiping her eyes, when Parker's voice interrupted the moment. "Can I see?"
"Of course," she managed, passing him the photo album.
As Parker thumbed quickly through the photo album, Booth touched Brennan under the chin, turning her face so she had to look at him.
"Bones, listen…when I got here, and you were in surgery…no one was saying that you were going to be just fine, we didn't know…." His voice broke, and Booth drew a steadying breath. "And all I could think about was…I don't remember that last time you and I went to the diner for pie. Or had a drink after work, or ordered takeout or even…or even had a real conversation." His face contorted. "Bones, I hate that. I miss you, and I know it's my fault and I…I want to change it. Okay?"
Brennan looked into her eyes, those eyes she knew so well, the slightest twinge of pain hitting her chest as she reminded herself that nothing he was saying was anything more than friendship. None of it meant he wasn't still with Hannah.
May I counsel patience?
The words floated back to her, Albert's words, and suddenly Brennan felt like a weight was lifted, the slightest bit of hope sparking in her chest.
She had her best friend back. And that would be enough for now...she could wait.
Brennan smiled, and Booth smiled back, relieved. For a long moment, they stared at each other inanely, when the sudden tinkling of bells cut through the silence.
Both of the turned to look at Parker, who was holding the bow that had been on top of her gift. There were tiny gold bells hooked on its end, and Parker was shaking it in his hands. "Hey, Bones, you know what?" he said. "When we do Polar Express day at school, that book said if you hear a bell ring, it means you still believe in Santa Clause. Did you know that?"
"Actually…" Brennan cut her eyes at Booth, who met hers with an expression half of amusement, half warning. Then, she smiled at Parker and gently took the bow from Parker's hand, turning one of the bells over in her fingers. "Actually, I once heard that every time a bell wings, an angel gets its wings."
"Whoa. That's way cooler. Isn't it, Dad?"
Booth was watching Brennan, surprise evident on his face. "Yeah, it is."
"I love my gift, Booth," Brennan said softly, her fingers tracing a photo in the book, one of the two of them Angela had taken at Booth's birthday a few years ago, at Founding Fathers.
He hugged her at that, his voice right next to her ear as he murmured, "Merry Christmas, Bones."
A/N: So there you have it. Hope it was a satisfying conclusion, and that you enjoyed the little bit of hope we left with in spite of certain blonde complications that still exist. Thanks to everyone who's read, and please do let me know what you think of this final chapter. Have a Merry Christmas, or whatever you celebrate! And for those of you reading All That You Can't Leave Behind, expect an update at the beginning of next week. Merry Christmas!