This is a short piece written for biba79's Secret Santa fanfic exchange; specifically, it's for gatheringOguidos (Mckenna Jane). I get that we're a little past Christmas, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to make my favourite holiday last just a little bit longer. I went with prompt option one; Mckenna, I hope you find it satisfactory :) .

Christmas and New Year Will Find You Home

The house is still decorated for the holidays; tiny lights encase the roof and wind around the porch pillars, and there are reindeer festively placed on the front lawn. It could have belonged to any happy family in the city, except it doesn't. As Booth trudges up the front steps and lifts the caution tape out of Brennan's way, his stomach tightens at the thought of the two motherless girls who will never experience Christmas the same way again.

"This sucks," he mutters.

Brennan gives him a sidelong glance as she walks past him. "You said that you were done complaining. You promised."

"I'm not complaining, Bones. I'm just saying, it sucks. It's a fact."

She sighs. "I told you – more than once – that I was prepared to come by myself. You insisted on accompanying me. Stop. Whining."

"Right," he scoffs. "I was going to just sit at home, drinking eggnog, while you went to crime scenes by yourself. That was likely to happen."

"The crime scene is over a week old, Booth. It would be stupid for the murderer to return."

"And how many stupid criminals have you seen over the years, Bones?"

Brennan chooses to refute this logic by ignoring it and she snaps on her latex gloves. "It's only going to take a few minutes. Help me, or wait in the car."

The situation comes to a head before Brennan really processes that there is any situation at all.

They've been trading quips all day and it really has nothing to do with anger or irritation or even frustration; it ultimately comes down to boredom and a long drive. A bottle of perfume has brought them back to the crime scene they last visited days ago, and as they search for this final piece in their murder puzzle, the commentary between them is reflexive and something akin to absent. Until it isn't.

Booth is rifling through bottles set neatly on the dresser and Brennan's picking through the contents of one of the nightstands, and then Booth shifts abruptly.

Fluid. It's the best way to describe the way that he moves. His everyday motions are coordinated and full of quiet (and not so quiet) confidence, but in moments like these there's raw power and her heart thumps in automatic, anticipatory response to something he sees which she does not.

He yanks her behind him with one hand and unholsters his gun with the other just as the closet door to her immediate right bursts open. She stumbles, and his instinct to catch her is what slows Booth down just enough to allow a baseball bat to connect solidly with his parietal.

The blow knocks him to his knees, but the gun still gripped in his expert hands rises quickly and the click of the safety echoes loudly in her ears.

"Drop it," Booth demands through gritted teeth.

The weapon falls.

It's Christmas Eve, and tonight they will go home together; there will be no late night goodbyes and journeys home to empty apartments, and they will put another first behind them. But before this, they will evidently be spending a lot more time at work.

They are the only ones in the elevator as they make their way to Booth's office. It would probably be just as accurate to say that they're close to being the only ones in the building, but Booth is trying hard not to think of the places he'd rather be. Here is where they are, and they won't be leaving for hours.

"We don't have to do this now, Booth," Brennan offers.

"And have all this paperwork hanging over us while we try and enjoy Christmas? No thanks. Let's just get it over with."

He touches the back of his head and winces, then immediately regrets it as Brennan frowns and pushes away his hand before roughly exploring the sensitive area.

"Ow! Christ, Bones, do you have to keep doing that?"

"You need medical attention."

"You're a doctor." He musters as convincing a smile as he can manage, even though his head is on fire and he doesn't feel like smiling.

Brennan can see the attempt at reassurance for what it is.

There's this discomfort she feels when he deflects this way. When he takes it upon himself to put her at ease while he is the wounded party. Today, this general discomfort is magnified by the knowledge that his injury is a direct result of her hindering his ability to protect himself.

"You should have let me fall," she says. "It was foolish of you not to."

Booth has his own version of Brennan's I'm questioning your intelligence face, and her jaw sets stubbornly when he makes no attempt to hide it.

"Foolish of me not to let you eat the floor when you're weeks away from delivering a baby. You're really going to make that argument."

"It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, Booth, but I would have been fine."

"Let's just agree to disagree on this one, okay?"

The elevator doors open and she has a reply already forming on her tongue (as usual), but he winces again and rubs the back of his head, and she can't find it in herself to be contrary. So she speaks, but they both know the words differ from what she had originally planned. And he's relieved.

"You are picking Parker up from Rebecca's house at nine tomorrow."

"Yeah; he gets the day with us, and then we'll have him again for New Year's."

"But tonight, it will be just the two of us."

"You coming on to me, Bones?" Booth leers suggestively.

She rolls her eyes. "I would like to spend the night at my place."

"Where's that coming from?"

"It's coming from the fact that 'splitting time' should involve us actually splitting time; lately we've been spending every night at your apartment."

"That's not true, Bones."

"Yes it is, Booth! The last time we stayed at my apartment was over a week ago!"

By now they've reached his office. He settles behind his desk and she pulls up a chair and they pass files and a sheaf of documents back and forth, and there's that easy rhythm so deeply ingrained between them in these situations, even the absolute mess of the previous two years hadn't been enough to eradicate it completely.

They've rebuilt, and as she pushes for more time at her apartment and he ultimately gives in, they allow themselves to be confident that this Christmas will be different from the last (and the one before it).

The conversation trickles to a halt as they become more and more involved in the work spread out before them, and a comfortable silence takes its place. Brennan looks up from the file in her lap and steals a glance at Booth; when he doesn't look up, she shifts in her chair and observes him a little more conspicuously. Before long she has so immersed herself in this task, his voice startles her.

"You're staring, Bones," Booth states without raising his eyes from his own file.

She's about to respond when he rubs his eyes for the umpteenth time since leaving the crime scene.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I have a bit of a headache," he admits. "It'll pass though."

"It's not surprising, considering the force with which your skull was struck. I still think you should have gone to the hospital." She returns her gaze to the file and assumes an air of nonchalance.

"So you've said. Quite a few times, actually. Where's the DNA analysis report? I thought you were finished with that."

"What?" At this, Brennan looks up and her expression conveys obvious concern. "Booth, you asked me that already. I just handed it to you."

She stands and moves around the desk, and Booth protests as she grasps his face firmly in both hands and tilts his head from side to side, peering into his eyes closely.

"Bones, let go."

"Booth, I think you may have a concussion."

"What? No. It's Christmas Eve."

"There is no correlation between those two things."

"I'm fine. Come on; we're more than halfway through here."

Against her better judgement she sits back down, but she watches him closer than before and by the time they're finished, even someone far less intelligent than herself would be able to tell that there's something not right with her partner. As they pull on their coats, Brennan mentally reviews her argument – because if he honestly thinks she's going to let this go, he's wrong – but before she can launch into her well prepared speech regarding the brain, Booth sways visibly. Brennan catches him as best as she can and awkwardly struggles to steady them both.

"That's it; we're going to the hospital."

"Bones, I don't need-

"You almost fell over. You don't just fall, Booth. You just, you don't. Your balance on average is extraordinary."

Booth sighs, but there's that mix of concern and determination in her eyes that tells him he can argue this with her for as long as he wants, but they will be going to the hospital.

Her features soften once he stops fighting her, and she gives him a lopsided smile. "It's quite irritating to have your own desires overridden by the desires of a protective partner, isn't it? Only, the difference is that my concerns are actually justified."

"Shut up, Bones."

There is poking and prodding and scans that Booth suspects go well beyond what's necessary, but when he mentions this, Brennan delivers such a detailed, vehement retort, he decides to just sit back and wait for it all to be over.

He does have a concussion. The worst one he's had in a long time. This doesn't come as a surprise to either one of them, but Brennan can't quite help fixing him with a pointed I told you so glare, and he can't quite help rolling his eyes in return.

His attention drifts as his partner and the doctor speak quickly in increasingly scientific terms (he listens long enough to understand that there's swelling, and then that's good enough for him) but then he catches the words 'overnight observation' and immediately jumps into the conversation.

"I am not staying here overnight."

Both Brennan and the doctor turn to face at him, and at least the doctor makes a professional attempt to keep his expression neutral, which is more than can be said for Brennan.

"It's for your own good, Booth."

The doctor looks between the two of them as they wordlessly continue the conversation, and then he makes the wise decision to remove himself from it altogether.

Neither Booth nor Brennan note the departure.

"I don't need to be kept overnight because of a concussion; that doesn't even make sense!"

"You have a history of head trauma and brain related injuries, Booth. It absolutely makes sense."

"It's Christmas Eve."

It's the only argument he has and it sounds just as petulant to his own ears as it does to hers.

Brennan sits beside him on the hospital cot and pats his upper thigh. "We didn't have anything planned."

"It's the principle of the thing, Bones."

Brennan has come to appreciate holidays mainly because Booth appreciates them so wholeheartedly, and seeing the delight triggered by these small things causes happiness to bubble up inside of her. But at the end of it all, it's just a day. She has spent holidays with Booth before but now she spends all the other days with him as well (without any pretense of work) and this – to her – carries a far greater weight.

"If you cooperate, I will consider bringing you your gift. I have to retrieve a few things from the apartment anyway."

The offer works as easily as it would have with Parker, and Booth's face lights up. "Yeah, that could be fun. I put yours in the back of the closet; if you grab it one time, we can do an exchange."

She's pleased by his reaction – by the knowledge that she is capable of improving his mood – but she chooses not to let him see this. Instead, she squints sternly and places a hand on her hip.

"And as for our agreement regarding tonight's sleeping arrangements, I hope you realise that this doesn't count; we're staying at my place tomorrow night. And the three nights after that."

"Two nights."


"Alright, alright. The next four nights it is. Jeez, Bones. You should be taking it easy on me, you know; I've got brain bruising."

"You've decided to concede to that fact rather conveniently."

"Just trying to make you happy, Bones."

Brennan laughs and allows her fingers to curl briefly in the material of his jeans before standing.

"I should go."

Booth nods. Stands. Kisses her quickly. It's been months and the expansions on their previous routines feel natural (now), but he suspects that there will always be moments when his gratitude for these new privileges - privileges which allow him to touch without restraint - overwhelms him.

"Careful on the roads."

She grins cheekily in return. "Merry Christmas Eve Day, Booth."

It's a reminder that this isn't the first Christmas to go awry since they've been partners, and Booth shakes his head and grins back.

"Merry Christmas Eve Day, Bones."