This is a contribution to a Secret Santa gift exchange, written for arctic_comet (at Livejournal.) (The Secret Santa was organized by biba79 at LJ.)

It's set during Booth and Brennan's first Christmas together as a couple - she's pregnant, and it's after the events of The Hot Dog in the Competition. (No, I don't know what time of year that was, nor when Christmas might really have occurred. But since the show plays fast and loose with the time line (aka Bones Standard Time) I figure I can, too. :))

Brennan clicked the mouse in frustration. They had active cases, cases she kept being distracted from due to what she'd come to privately refer to as The Problem.

She didn't know what to get Booth for Christmas.

They'd exchanged gifts for the holiday in previous years, but that had been different. A sweater. A tie.

This year was something else entirely. They were a couple. A family. He used that term deliberately on occasion, and she fully understood the point he was making.

She didn't always get everything right in figuring out what it meant to be his romantic partner. But she knew him well enough to know that he was ridiculously sentimental about both the Christmas holiday ("it's Christmas magic, Bones!") and their relationship. And that meant a sweater or tie wouldn't suffice. Not now. Not this year.

But she didn't know what would. It wasn't about how much money she spent. Angela had tried to explain that, and lost Brennan when she said that sometimes the cheapest gifts were the ones 'most from the heart.'

Her heart wasn't picking the gift out. Her brain was.

And Angela had made the conundrum worse when she casually shared that she had five - FIVE - gifts for Hodgins. Apparently, one wasn't sufficient when you were ...committed.

Desperate, she'd called her father, and listened to Max roar with laughter over the 'how many?' question. She'd been about to hang up on him when he not only answered the question but gave her a good suggestion for a gift. One gift. She was apparently on her own for the others.

The webpage finally opened up, and she studied the options with the same intensity she gave to scarred human remains.

There. That would make him smile. Her own smile slipped, though, as the site confronted her with more options. Frustrated, she turned to her phone, knowing exactly who would help her make the best selection.

After a brief conversation, she hung up, and finished the transaction, well pleased with the advice, and the gift. Satisfied, she moved on to the next one.

December 24

Booth put the SUV in gear and pulled away from Rebecca's after dropping Parker off. He'd had him overnight for Christmas the year before, Rebecca's way of acknowledging the seven months they'd been apart while Booth was in Afghanistan. But that meant this year, she got the morning insanity.

But Parker had had supper and Christmas Eve with him and Brennan, and he would be back the next afternoon for Christmas dinner. It was as fair as it was going to get, Booth admitted. And actually, this year, he didn't mind so much. Brennan needed as much rest as he could talk her into taking, and the idea of a quiet evening, just the two of them, was appealing.

Light snow was falling when he parked behind his building, and he smiled as he pocketed the keys and started up the walk. He couldn't explain it, because most of the time, snow was a pain in the ass. But there was something about snow on Christmas Eve that just seemed to blanket the world in peace.

He paused, looked up at the windows of his apartment, and knew a different kind of peace because they were lit. Parker might be with Rebecca, but Brennan was up there, their daughter still snug within her.

Home. Family. Warmth. Bones.

He entered the apartment, shaking the snow off and shrugging out of his coat. It was dark, the only light coming from the tree and a few candles. "Bones?"

"Here, Booth."

She was on the sofa, barely noticeable in the shadows. She was sipping something from a mug, her gaze fixed on the tree, but she turned to him as he settled next to her. "Watching the tree?" He grinned as he recognized Christmas music playing softly in the background. "And listening to Christmas music? I think someone's been overcome by the spirit of the season." He nudged her with his shoulder.

"The tree is quite aesthetically pleasing. I can appreciate its beauty without expressing belief in the mythology," she said primly. "And Handel's Messiah is considered a work of art."

He shifted, lifted his arm so she could snuggle back next to him. "That's your story. You stick to it." Noticing the pile of gifts on the table, he said, "What's that?"

"Those are your gifts. You said we'd exchange them this evening." She pulled away so she could look at him, her expression guarded. "I'm sorry there are only four of them."

He glanced from her, to the pile of gifts, to his gifts for her which were still under the tree. He had only three for her – did she know that? Maybe not. They were mixed in with others for her father and Russ's family, along with two more for Parker to open the next day.

"So?" He stood, went to pull out the ones he had for her. He placed the three boxes next to her pile, and studied her. He was missing something here. He took his seat, turned to look at her. "That's one more than I have for you."

She frowned. "Angela bought five gifts for Hodgins."

"Good for Hodgins, but what does that have to do with us?" Her frown deepened, and realization dawned. He took her hand, tugged her back so she was resting against him, his arms around her. "The number doesn't matter. It's the thought that went into them. You know that."

"I believe I understand the concept, at least in most relationships, though I don't see how it can be true. But some relationships are clearly different." She motioned to the tree. "You acknowledged buying a rather excessive amount of gifts for Parker."

"That's different. Parents are supposed to go a little crazy at Christmas. But you and I have exchanged gifts before at Christmas."

"But then we weren't…" she motioned between them, her hand hovering over her distended belly.

"Because we're having a baby, we need more gifts?" Okay, maybe he really wasn't getting what the problem was.

"No, Booth." Her frustration level was obviously growing. "From my observations, couples celebrate differently than friends. But I have never been in this sort of relationship before, especially with someone like you."

"Someone like me?"

"You are very sentimental about Christmas. I wanted to be a good partner for you."

Ah. There it was. He turned her toward him and kissed her. "I love you," he murmured. "You've just given me a priceless gift."

Her gaze slid toward the pile of presents.

"It's the thought, Bones. You put a lot of thought into all this, right?'

"More time than I could spare, given our case load."

He wanted to choke with laughter at her honesty, but shoved it back. "That's what I mean about the thought being what counts. No matter what's in the boxes, or how many of them there are, the fact that you took that time, that it mattered to you that much, shows me you love me."

The thought-frown was back. "How much time did you spend picking out my gifts?"

His lips twitched again. "Lots. An incredible amount." He kissed her again, hoping to forestall another question. "Because I love you more than you know."

"I hope you like my gifts."

He hated the uncertainty in her voice. "I will," he said confidently. "I have never not liked something you gave me." He pulled away from her enough to rub his hands together in glee. "Opening gifts is one of my favorite parts of Christmas."

"So far, they've all been your favorite parts," she said dryly as she motioned to one of his boxes. "You go first."

He took the box and settled next to her. It wasn't very large, and there was no sound when he shook it.

"What are you doing?"

He shook the box again. "That's part of the ritual. You have to try and guess what it is."

She looked doubtfully at the other gifts before turning back to him. "I see. So do you have a theory about its contents?"

"No rattle, and it doesn't weigh much, so it's probably clothes. But it's not big enough to be a sweater or shirt. So...a tie, underwear, or socks." He looked at her speculatively, and didn't miss the annoyance on her face. "I've got plenty of underwear, so..." he shook the box again. "Too heavy to be just a single tie, or even two. Socks it is."

Her huff of frustration was nearly lost on him when he pulled the lid off the box and felt his own eyes go wide. He'd been expecting dark, plain socks. Black. Brown. After all, she'd told him that she didn't like his colored ones. But in the box was an explosion of color, of wildly hued and patterned socks. "Bones! These are awesome! But you said you thought my socks were silly."

"You like them, and that is what's important." She watched him admire them for a moment, then added, "There aren't any matching pairs."


"The socks are all unique. None of them match. Since you wear them as a way of expressing a rebellious streak, it seemed that non-matching socks of such extreme colors and patterns would be appropriate."

He laughed and leaned over to give her a smacking kiss. "These are great." He sat the box back on the table. "So do you forgive me for guessing what they were?"

"You didn't guess the colors."

Delighted with her smug tone, he shook his head. "Nope, I didn't. And the non-matching thing is great, too. Thank you."

"Now it's your turn." He handed her a box, watched her study it.

She shook it gently, a look of concentration on her face. "The sound is too distinct to be something made from cloth, but too muffled to further identify."

He grinned. "Face it, Bones. I'm just better at some things than you are."

"You didn't fully guess about the socks."

He loved her competitive streak. Was just plain crazy about it. And her. "God, I love you." He motioned to the box. "Open it."

Instead of ripping at the paper as he had, she slid a finger neatly until the sealed end and carefully removed the paper before lifting the lid of the box and staring down at the contents. "They're beautiful, Booth." She gently lifted the necklace out of the paper it was nestled in, turning it so it caught the light. Strands of copper, silver, and gold were braided together to form a rope. A large knot with two smaller knots on either side was the focal point at the center. Matching earrings were included.

"It looked like something you'd wear."

She held up the card inside the box with the name of the jeweler on it. "I frequently shop at this store, Booth." At his look, her eyes narrowed. "Angela told you."

"Hey! You make it sound like I couldn't figure it out on my own."

"I said no such thing. But you've never expressed any interest in where I shop, yet managed to pick my favorite store. I find that unlikely."

He blew on his fingernails. "I told you – I'm good."

Her lips were twitching, and she leaned over and kissed him. "You are. But I still think you had some assistance."

He kissed her back, allowed the contact to linger for a moment. "I'll never tell," he murmured.

After a moment, she pulled away slightly and reached for his next gift. "Let's see how you do with this one."

He took it, held it for a moment, wishing he'd bought her a few more things. The irony was that he'd not done so because he'd figured she'd only have him one or two things, and had wanted to spare her any discomfort.

"Are you attempting to guess what it is?"

Realizing he'd been turning the brightly wrapped package over and over, he shook it lightly, then tapped it. "It's not socks."

She studied him carefully and must have seen something in his expression that gave him away. "You know what it is."

Her tone was close to pouting, and he again bit back a grin. "There aren't many things the size and shape of DVDs, Bones. But I don't know the titles." It was too thick to be only one.

She looked slightly mollified at that. "I believe you'll enjoy them."

He tore the paper off and whooped. "John Wayne! These are four of his best films! This rocks! I love these movies!"

Brennan laughed. "I do, too," she admitted.

He reached over, touched her cheek. "I would never have guessed that's what was in the package. Will you watch them with me?"

"Of course."

He reached for another box. "Open this one next."

It was the largest box on the table. Square and ten inches in size, it was heavy enough to require both hands. Brennan shifted forward to hold it on what was left of her lap, and shook it gently. "This is quite heavy for its size. It could be books, but there's no sound, meaning it's packaged very well, which would be unnecessary for books."

"You'll never guess this one, Bones." He leaned back, smirked.

"I am fairly certain you will not guess that one," she responded, pointing to one of his boxes.

He glanced at it. "Oh, that's a shirt." The triumphant glitter in her eyes told him he'd made a tactical error, and he looked at the box again, his curiosity piqued. Well, it was a shirt box. He pointed toward the gift still on her lap. "Open it."

A smug smile now on her face, she removed the wrapping the same careful way she'd done with the first one, and then lifted the lid. Plastic bags of air surrounded something wrapped so thoroughly in bubble wrap it was impossible to tell even the shape.

"Here, let me help." Booth pulled out the cushioned air bags, then lifted the item from the box and placed it on the table. He produced a pair of scissors and snipped through the tape holding the bubble wrap in place, and then motioned for her to do the rest.

Plainly curious, she did so, unwinding the bubble wrap to unveil a glass sculpture of two leaping dolphins coming up out of a wave which formed the pedestal for the art. One of the dolphins was much larger than the other, suggesting a mother-child pair.

Brennan was completely silent.


"It's beautiful, Booth." She reached out, ran a finger across it. "The way the colors blend, the blues and greens for the wave with the grey of the dolphins. I've never seen anything like it."

"It's hand blown by a local artist. She studied in Venice, but is just starting to make a name for herself here. Angela knows her."

Startled, she looked away from the sculpture to give him full attention. "You had this made for me?"

"I asked if something like it were possible, and the artist took it as a challenge. She's done other things with sea animals, and I'd seen a smaller piece that was a single dolphin. That shop we went into a while back for a witness interview? The single one was there, so I called her."

Brennan touched the figures again with a light finger. "I like that there are two of them."

"The dolphin love is something you shared with your mom, so I thought a mother/child pair would be good."

"It's something beyond 'good.'" Her voice was husky, and he ran his hand down her back. When she turned to him, she was blinking against the moisture in her eyes. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." He kissed her, let it linger, then pulled away. "There's one catch, though. The artist asked if she could show it next fall. She's hoping to be ready for a show by then."

Brennan glanced back at the art. "I like the idea others seeing it."

Pleased, he sat back, ran his hand down her back again. "Now what?" There were two gifts left for him, one for her.

"Open this one." It was flat, and they didn't bother with the guessing game as it was clearly a frame of some sort. Actually, he reflected, it was pretty similar to the shape and size of her last gift.

He pulled the paper off and felt his own throat close. He'd been expecting a photo of some sort, but instead, it was pencil drawing of him, Parker, and Brennan. He didn't have to look in the lower corner to know what he would see there: "A Montenegro."

"I asked Angela to draw you and Parker, from that one photo of the two of you that you love so much. But she did this, instead, and said you'd like it better."

Her voice was anxious, and he hurried to reassure her. "She's right. While I would have loved your idea, this is..." His voice faded for a moment. "I like that while it's primarily our faces, she included enough of your torso to make it clear you're pregnant." He leaned over and placed a hand on her belly, rubbed gently. Smiled when he was rewarded with a kick. "So it's all of us. I love that, Bones."

Setting it down, he pulled her to him, and nuzzled her cheek. "You're amazing. This is an awesome Christmas."

Her gaze went to the shirt box, and something close to mischief danced in her eyes. "We're not finished yet."

He, too, looked over at it. "That must be some shirt." Then he grinned, and reached instead for the last of her boxes. "But now it's your turn." He handed her what was clearly a frame, though it was bigger than the drawing she'd given him.

She pulled the paper off and stared down at a photo collage. In the middle was one of the ultrasound photos they had of their daughter, with the other slots filled with family and friends. A picture of the two of them that Parker had taken, photos of Parker, her dad, Russ and Amy, Angela and Hodgins, Pops. Jared and Padme. Cam and Sweets. And in one of the larger slots, a photo of her mom. She traced it gently.

"Your dad had it," Booth said quietly.

"I didn't think to ask him," she murmured. "When I went into foster care, they gave me very little time to pack belongings to take with me. It didn't occur to me to pack photos."

She turned, and he pulled her to him, the frame awkwardly sandwiched between them as she pressed her face into his shoulder. "Gestational hormones are so inconvenient," she muttered.

Suspecting it wasn't all hormones, he pressed a kiss on the top of her head and waited. After a moment, she turned, though still resting against him, and wiped her cheek as she looked down at the photos again. "There are a lot of people here, Booth."

"I told you once that there's more than one type of family."

"Ours is rather large." She was touching the photos, her finger sliding from their daughter, to Max, then back to the ultrasound photo and to Angela, and then to Russ.

"Plenty of people to love her," he said. Thinking about what she'd said about foster care, he suddenly understood. "Even if something happened to us, she'd never experience what you did, Bones. Angela and Hodgins would take her and love her, so would Russ and Amy. In fact, any of those people would step in."

"Sweets would, too," she said. "He was in foster care."

Booth tried to imagine Sweets as a single father. The image wouldn't completely form, but… "You're right. And he'd love her."

She turned her face to his shoulder again, rubbed against him. "I didn't realize until now that I've been thinking about it."

"Christmas was when your folks left. It's natural that you'd be thinking about making certain our daughter will be cared for."

She looked up at him. "You've already considered it."

"I'm a dad already. Planning for the 'what if's' comes with the territory. I figured we'd think about it when we get closer to her birth, talk to some people. Ask if they're willing to be named guardians."

"That would be a wise precaution." She pulled away, placed the frame on the table, and reached for the shirt box, clearly ready to drop the topic. She shook it as she handed it to him. "This is your last opportunity to guess."

He took it, shook it himself. "Still sounds like a shirt of some kind to me. I can hear it sliding around in there, and it's too big to be a tie, too light to be pants." Since he was pretty certain it wasn't a shirt given the look in her eye, he pulled the paper off and opened it.

And started to laugh. "It is a shirt, Bones. You fooled me." He pulled the Flyers jersey out and held it up.

"I thought you could use a new one – the one you have is getting rather worn. But it is not only a shirt." An envelope had fallen out when he unfolded the jersey, and she handed it to him.

Dropping the jersey for the moment, he opened it, and stared in stunned silence at the tickets that fell out. "These are tickets to the Winter Classic next weekend."

"Yes. Given the dedication with which you follow the Flyers, I thought you'd want to see the game between them and the Rangers, since they're such rivals."

For the first time, he noted the location of the seats and turned to simply stare at her. "These are really incredible seats. How did you pull that off? How did you even know to do so?"

"Mr. Bray assisted me in the seat selection."

A slow smile spread across his face. Winter Classic tickets. Amazing seats. He whooped, and pulled her to him in a hug. "This is awesome, Bones!"

"I thought we'd drive to Philadelphia the day before and spend the night to make it easier on me. You've been saying a weekend away before I'm too far into my third trimester would be nice, anyway."

He dropped the tickets and kissed her, one he let linger. "I like everything about that idea. I love you so damn much."

"I love you, too, Booth. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas."

He pulled her back against him and they sat quietly for a few moments, snuggled together on the sofa in the soft light of tree, before Booth laughed.

"What is amusing you?"

"You gave me five gifts in spite of yourself, Bones: socks, DVDs, drawing, jersey, tickets. Over-achieving as always."

Brennan laughed. "Meeting or over-achieving one's goals is a good thing," she said primly.

"It is from where I sit," he agreed. He leaned forward, picked up the drawing of them with Parker. "I love everything you gave me, especially the tickets. But this is my favorite gift."

"Even though it's the one I spent the least amount of money and time on." Her gaze moved to the photo collage. "I understand that."

"It's all Christmas magic, Bones. When I came back a little while ago, and saw the lights and knew you were up here waiting for me…that's Christmas magic, too. Tomorrow, we'll have Christmas dinner with much of the rest of our family, and next year," he rubbed her belly, "we'll have this little one staring at the lights."

Brennan weaved her fingers in with his. She didn't believe in magic. But if she did, if she was going to, she might almost agree with him about Christmas.