A/N: Sorry I've been absent for so long – here's some happy fluff written in response to biba79's Bones Fanfic Secret Santa on LJ to make up for it.
Dedicated with affection to SleeplessInAtlanta – hope this fulfils your wish!
With thanks to FauxMaven for beta duties – more on the way, hon!
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is my soul, and I even lend that out on occasion, but only if you ask nice. Anything that even looks familiar in this story probably belongs to someone else (except the actual story - that's all mine, Mine, MINE [*maniacal laughter*]!)
The If in the Gift
Booth ran his hand along his partner's leg, relishing the silky smooth flesh sliding beneath his fingertips. His fingers tingled, the sensation pulsing along the muscles of his forearm. Brennan snorted gently and the sound brought a smile to his face. She'd gained a bit of weight these last few months and he'd finally managed to convince her that it looked good on her, but she still didn't believe him about the snoring. His fingers trailed along her inner thigh and when she moaned softly in her sleep and shifted onto her back he felt the familiar tension in start to build. The alarm beeped softly then and, keeping one arm wrapped around her, he reached out blindly to turn it off before it could disturb her. She snorted again and rolled away from the noise and him, burrowing more deeply under the covers.
He turned on his side again and tucked her body into his, one hand splayed over her belly. Fierce protectiveness surged though him and he snuggled closer, reluctant to break contact. Within seconds he was snoozing again, his cheek nuzzling her shoulder.
He came to abruptly, the damn alarm intruding again. This time he made sure it was well and truly off, struggling to hit the right button without disturbing Brennan. A beam of sunlight hit him in the eye, an uncomfortable reminder that it was time to get up. He sighed. An avalanche of paperwork waited for him on his desk and he knew he couldn't it put off any longer. Today was Christmas Eve and the OGC needed the Title III affidavits for the surveillance in the McMurtry case to file before court went into recess for the holiday. As in today, as in before twelve noon. He eased himself out of bed, pulled on some shorts and padded over to the doorway. One last look back at Brennan's sleeping form and he left, closing the bedroom door behind him with a soft click. Brennan deserved some extra bunk time; she'd been waking up every couple of hours during the night recently, her body preparing her for the coming arrival of the baby and all that it would entail.
He showered and dressed in record time, tiptoeing around the apartment. A quick tap of his pockets to check he had everything, a double tap on the holster nestled snugly against his ribcage for reassurance. Good. He grabbed the paperwork he'd brought home last night and headed for the door, scooping up his keys on the way, unfinished cup of coffee still in his hand. A sudden thought brought him up short. Damn! Brennan still had the original of the lab report that needed to go with the affidavit. His eyes darted around the room, spotting her briefcase propped against one of the dining chairs. He reached for it by the handle, trying to juggle everything else he was holding. With a sigh of frustration he manhandled the bulging briefcase one-handed onto the table surface, nudging it with his thigh when it threatened to topple off the surface. It teetered on one edge and he felt a moment of panic, until it righted itself with a final wobble. Booth smiled to himself; the planets were aligned in his favor this a.m. But before he'd finished congratulating himself on his dexterity, the file under his arm started to slip to the floor and he made a grab for it, dropping his keys in the process. And forgetting he still had the best part of a cup of coffee in the same hand. File, briefcase and coffee collided in a spectacular display, the contents of all three cascading onto the wooden surface.
Booth stared in open mouthed horror as the hot liquid started to soak into the papers and it took a moment for the reality of what had happened to sink in. When it did, he hopped from one foot to the other before making a dive towards the kitchen to grab a roll of paper towels from the counter.
"Jeez, jeez, jeez." He scrabbled to reel off a dozen or so towels from the roll and tried to stem the spreading chaos. Booth glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the bedroom, his face a picture of guilt, but all was quiet. He cursed emphatically a few more times, albeit under his breath, and dabbed awkwardly at the spill until both the mess and his temper were under control. Most of the file contents had thankfully escaped damage, although they'd skittered from one end of the table to the other, even onto the floor.
The contents of Brennan's briefcase, however, hadn't fared so well. A handful of documents were heavily splattered with dark brown stains, but worse by far was a spiral bound notebook that had caught most of the contents of his coffee cup and had been soaked through. Booth gingerly picked it up and tried to pat it dry with some fresh paper towels. Most of the pages stuck wetly together and Booth hoped it wasn't something important or irreplaceable. He examined the first few pages, gently peeling them apart, and gave a start when he recognized his own name and the word 'Christmas'. A grin spread across his face – he'd stumbled on Bones' Christmas list!
He put the notebook to one side, tempted beyond reason to see just what was on the list. What would one little look hurt? He glanced at the open notebook and glanced away again, undecided. Nah – he'd hate to spoil the surprise. He thought of the necklace and matching earrings that were gift wrapped and hidden in the bottom of the chest of drawers in the spare room – his gift to Brennan – and the fun he'd had picking it out for her, and grinned again. Okay, no cheating. Booth sighed and tried dabbing the sodden page without actually looking at it, but his eyes were drawn again and again to the smudged words that seemed to leap out at him, begging to be deciphered.
Suddenly he frowned as a couple of phrases on the page leaked into his brain despite his best intentions. His hand stilled and he found himself examining it more closely, trying to make sense of what he'd seen. It wasn't easy; some of the words had blurred beyond recognition. He sat down at the table, the better to concentrate.
"…partner in life … something, something … trust you and respect you …what was that? my pledge to you?" He read the words aloud as if that act would help him decipher their meaning. The next line was completely gone. Then, "starting a new life … creating new memories with you …" Booth sat back in the chair, confused by what he was reading. This wasn't a gift list, it sounded more like -
"Booth?" Brennan's sleep-husky voice broke into his thoughts and he swung around to where she stood in the doorway. She looked at his face and then her eyes darted over the upturned coffee cup and the stack of paper and then to the notebook he was holding. Unexpectedly she blushed, color flushing her neck and cheeks. "Wha- where did you get that?"
"Bones I'm sorry." He gestured towards the tabletop. "I dropped my coffee and knocked everything over, and -" His voice trailed off and he shrugged an apology. But then he couldn't help himself, his mind was racing. He stood up, holding the notebook up for her to see. "Bones, what does this mean?"
Brennan didn't pretend she didn't know what he meant – the combination of the look on his face and the notes she'd been working on for days made his meaning clear.
"Bones?" Even though he knew, or thought he knew, what it meant he needed to hear her say it.
Brennan didn't move or speak immediately, biting her lip in indecision. "They're wedding vows." Booth sat down as quickly as he'd stood, poleaxed.
Brennan swallowed nervously. "I thought -" she blushed again and stammered, "Taking into consideration the cultural - and spiritual - emphasis you place on Christmas I thought it would be an appropriate time to … ah." She stumbled uncharacteristically to a stop. She seemed to shake herself mentally, covering the few steps that separated them with determination and taking a seat at the table with him. She thought of the enjoyment she'd had watching his excitement build, like a little boy, on this their first Christmas truly together and suddenly now, this minute, seemed the right time to give him his Christmas gift.
"Will you marry me, Booth?" Her eyes were downcast with the question and she missed the incredulous look that swept across Booth's face. "I mean, if you still want -"
"If? If?" His voice rose almost to a squeak, "Are you serious, Bones?" He felt an overwhelming happiness surge through him, almost painful, and he thought his chest would burst. But then he gripped both her arms and turned her to face him squarely. His eyes sought hers. "Are you serious?"
At that she met his intent look indignantly. "Of course. I never say anything that I don't mean. You should know that by now. While I've never felt the same imperative as you to formalize our relationship -"
"Ah Bones, there's no 'imperative', I just -"
Brennan ignored the interruption and continued, "Our child," she unconsciously touched her swollen midriff, "is a product of our love and will bear both our names. I've weighed the pros and cons very carefully and I have come to believe that we can both gain sufficient benefit -"
"Benefit, huh?" Booth's expression swung to wry amusement.
"Booth, stop interrupting. Benefit from undertaking the culturally and socially significant ceremony of marriage."
"You're such a romantic." He kept his expression carefully bland.
Brennan raised an eyebrow and sent him a slightly edgy look, not quite sure of his intent. "Thank you. Actually, considering the way you value the whole Christmas myth perhaps I should have waited until tomorrow but you pre-empted me by discovering the vows I'd been drafting." She pulled a wry face. "Christmas is overrated anyway, people expect everything to be perfect, and it never is."
Booth drew her gently onto his lap, holding her close. "Don't you believe it, Bones. This is about as perfect a Christmas as it ever could be, even if it's a day early." He kissed her thoroughly. "I can hardly believe it. You've made me so happy." He grinned at her inanely.
"Is that a yes to my proposal?"
His expression sobered and he gave her is answer. "Yes. Completely and forever." He pulled her close again and she wound her arms around his neck and returned his kiss enthusiastically. Booth broke contact eventually, a quizzical look on his face. "So … what just happened here? This is a huge change of heart, Bones."
Brennan shrugged and shifted a little so that she could look at him directly. "You once told me Christmas is about making the impossible happen." She sounded bemused. "Do you think this is an example of that?"
Booth took her hand and drew it close to his chest. "Christmas magic. No doubt about it."
She rested her forehead against his, her voice husky with emotion. "This thing between us that we have, this love … it's changed me. Although rationally I know it's unattainable, I want to make you happy, always." She frowned a little, her expression almost self-deprecating. "I wanted to give you something from my heart to your heart."
"You have my heart, Bones. You hold it in your hands."
"Metaphorically speaking." They exchanged a smile and Booth's lips quirked. "So, Bones, were you going to play Santa for me after all?" He shot her a comical look, "You've got the belly for it."
That crack earned him a swift dig in the ribs, but Brennan was smiling as she retorted. "The Santa Claus myth is based on blackmail and you know it; be good and you'll get lots of presents."
"Are you telling me I haven't been good enough to get any more presents this year?" He teased her, running little kisses along her collarbone.
The touch of his lips made her quiver and she wriggled slightly on his lap. His muffled groan was her reward. "Well, objectively, in one sense you've been very, very good."
Booth's smile against her neck was smug before he continued the journey with his lips. "Oh yeah?"
Brennan leant in and cupped his cheek with one hand, lifting his face towards hers. Her voice dropped to a throaty whisper. "But I think on this occasion I'd rather you were very, very bad."
"I thought you didn't believe in Santa Claus."
"You know I've never been averse to a little role playing."
"Happy to oblige … Santa." He eased her off his lap and they stood, his arms draped over her shoulders. He deftly spun her around towards their bedroom and propelled her in that general direction, his intentions clear.
Brennan offered only token resistance, looking up at him wryly, "What about work?"
Booth just smiled and nudged her to keep her moving. "It'll keep an hour or so." He stopped at the doorway and took her into his arms. "I love my Christmas gift, Bones." He kissed her, swift and sure. "And I love you."
Brennan looked at him, her face tranquil, her eyes shining. "I love you too, Booth. Merry Christmas."