A/N: Hey guys! I just finished up a semester, which is always crazy with finals and final scripts and final papers and final films and other things of finality. Hence the lack of updates on Truth. Working on the next one now, but for the next week, it's all about my Christmas fic. I couldn't go a year without one, so here we are.

This takes place in the current season. It's going to be about four chapters, I think, updated between now and Christmas (in other words, frequently). A lot of this is total wish fulfillment…if we were having a normally scheduled season, and if we had a Christmas episode, this is basically my dream scenario. I also picked up a Secret Santa prompt on LJ, and developed this as a Secret Santa for Jenn, aka RositaLG on here. I won't give away her prompts here, but it's her first choice wish list.

So…here we go. This chapter's sort of introductory, almost a prologue…the next few will be longer.

Of Redeeming Grace

Chapter One: Last Christmas

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart...

"Where are we going, Booth?"

He glanced over at her, shooting Brennan the same gleeful smile he'd been wearing since he whisked her out of the lab twenty minutes before. "It's a surprise."

Brennan sighed audibly, which only made Booth's grin widen. He cut his eyes at her. "Hey, Bones?"

"Yes?"

"I ever tell you I like it when you wear hats?"

Brennan tugged slightly on her gray fleece cap, trying and failing to suppress a smile and give Booth an annoyed look. "No, you haven't."

"Well, I should've." He caught her eye and smiled. Then, his eyes slid back to the road and lit up. "We're here!"

Brennan glanced forward and frowned slightly as the car pulled into a Christmas tree lot. Soon, Booth had parked and was dashing around the front of the car to meet Brennan on her side, needlessly trying to help her get out.

"Booth, I'm fine, I can walk…and why are we here? Don't you and Parker pick out a tree before your decorating ritual this weekend?"

As they started up the slight incline toward the tree lot, Booth tucked his hand in the crook of Brennan's arm, leading the way. Brennan curled her arm, removing his hand by entwining their fingers together instead. She'd found that was the best way to curtail Booth's habit of guiding her.

He complied easily, squeezing her hand. "It's a tradition, Bones. Ritual sounds like a cult or something."

"You realize those are synonyms."

Booth shook his head dismissively, ignoring the nuance. "We'll wait for Parker to pick out one of the trees. But we need one for your apartment, too."

Abruptly, Brennan stopped walking, turning to face Booth with a puzzled expression. "No, we don't."

"Sure, we do," Booth replied lightly. "According to our deal…" An eye roll punctuated the word. "…we split time between the apartments. So we'll be at your place just as much as mine around Christmas."

Before he even finished speaking, Brennan was shaking her head, turning back toward the car. "I don't want a tree."

Bewildered, Booth's brow furrowed and he touched Brennan's arm, stopping her. "What? Why not?"

Brennan's eyes skirted downward. "It's wasteful to have two trees, Booth."

"So do you…do you want to just spend the holidays at my place?" Booth asked, unable to conceal the slightly hopeful note in his voice. Going back and forth was becoming tedious.

"No, of course not." Brennan's gaze flew up and found his. "We agreed, we keep splitting time until we find a house."

"Okay…then we need two trees." Booth put a hand on her shoulder, playfully trying to steer Brennan toward the Christmas tree lot. "Your place is probably better for the Christmas dinner anyway…"

"What Christmas dinner?"

"You know…Christmas dinner. Food, family, friends." Booth shot her a winning smile, if slightly impatient.

Brennan shook her head, her face twisting in distaste. "Booth…I don't want a tree. I don't want a Christmas dinner."

Genuine confusion shot through Booth as Brennan started walking swiftly toward the car again. He turned and kept pace. "Bones, c'mon, what's going on with you? You hosted Christmas dinner last time."

Brennan froze, her eyes hardening for the briefest moment. "Minor correction, but that was three years ago. The Christmas after that, you were in Afghanistan and I was in Maluku, and last year you…" Brennan's voice faltered. She looked away.

Immediately, Booth's chest tightened with the weight of everything Brennan wasn't saying.

Last Christmas, he'd been with Hannah.

He didn't know what Bones had done. Or any of the rest of their team, for that matter. He hoped they'd been together, or that she'd been with her dad, and her brother, but honestly…Booth had no idea.

They hadn't exchanged gifts. Hadn't seen even seen each other the week of the holiday.

Booth drew a shallow breath, an old, deep rooted shame burning in his gut. Apologies welled up inside him, longing for the surface, but Booth couldn't quite get them out.

They never talked about it. About Hannah, about Brennan's confession in his car, about the proposal…about how distant he'd been last year, about how coldly he'd tried to push her away.

Booth had long ago gained enough clarity to feel nothing but shame for the way he'd acted when they returned from the opposite end of the world. But Brennan had never once seemed to hold it against him, and her silence had allowed Booth his own.

Silence hung tight between them for several long moments, then Brennan shook her head a little, dismissive. "Booth…you know I don't typically…enjoy Christmas. Not like you do."

Booth frowned, memories of their first Christmas together rushing forward, a Christmas lung fungus and Brennan, the only one of them with no family to visit. "I…I guess I thought that had changed." More welcome memories surged forward, wintergreen gum and mistletoe, Christmas trees outside of trailers, and holiday dinners that felt warm with family and hope.

Brennan held his eyes, her expression strained. "I just…I didn't enjoy the last few Christmases, Booth. Just like before."

Booth's stomach clenched, guilt gnawing at his insides.

Wordlessly, he slipped his hand into Brennan's, and the two of them began walking again, away from the tree lot.

Finally, as they reached the car, Booth stopped Brennan, his voice gentle, "You don't have to get a tree." He hesitated, then added, "You don't mind if I do…?"

Brennan shook her head. "I know your Christmas rituals are important to you and Parker."

Booth held her eyes, half smiling. He reached out and put a hand on the curve of Brennan's stomach. "They are. And when our daughter comes along…I want her to have those traditions, too. With both of us. Every year…I always hated the Christmases I didn't have Parker on Christmas Eve, when I couldn't do the whole Santa thing with him."

Brennan was smiling softly in spite of herself, and she rested her hand over top of Booth's, conciliatory. Still, at his last sentence, she met his eyes and countered matter-of-factly, "I've told you, Booth. I don't support the perpetuating of the Santa myth…I don't believe in lying to children. Especially my own."

Booth sighed, tilting his head at her. "Bones, you're not seriously going to deprive our daughter of Santa Clause, are you?

The briefest flash of hurt flickered in Brennan's eyes. In the next second, she set her jaw, stubborn. "It's a lie, Booth. To extort good behavior."

Rolling his eyes a little, Booth kissed Brennan on the forehead. "We'll table that one for now. But listen…when Parks comes over this weekend, I know he really wants you to help decorate and everything." Booth smiled, hopeful. "It'd mean a lot to him. And me."

"Sure, yes, that would be fine," Brennan agreed after only the slightest hesitation.

"Good." Booth squeezed Brennan's hand gently and opened the door for her.

As he smiled at her through the window before going around to his own side, Booth made a silent promise to himself.

He'd make sure this Christmas was a great one. A Christmas that would make Brennan love it again.

He owed her that much.