Hello my fellow FF Boneheads! Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

Well, here's a thing - I was a little late to the Secret Santa party this year, (thanks to thankfully reliable FaithInBones for pointing me in the right direction) but with some luck, so was someone else... I was so pleased to hear that I had the brilliant dgschneider, whose work I always enjoy, and who gave me some brilliant wishes to work with. Merry Christmas to you, Lovely!

Now, mine is not quite finished (around 6,000 words so far but I still have a little to do, so, although I hadn't planned to, I'm going to split this into 2 (or possibly 3) chapters, the first one posting today so it's not "late", and hopefully if I get some quite time after our Christmas lunch (not fancying Frozen for the millionth time after the Queen's speech, the latter being a great UK tradition) I'll try and get the rest done.

I think I managed to incorporate almost every wish/sub-wish bar one (so far):

B&B, no Sweets; early seasons; realisation that they love each other; An unexpected storm; stranded; A happy ending (there will be, I promise); late night conversation; sharing childhood/youth memories; making new ones. Strong T.

This is set around the time that would have been S5's The Goop on the Girl (still early in my book), in a very slightly alternate reality with no exploding Santa case or cousin Margaret. Otherwise, it's all canon. I hope it meets requirements. :)

The Smoke Hole Caverns and resort do exist, however, any characters related to them are entirely fictional.

Christmas Eve.

Seeley Booth cursed under his breath as he left his boss's office. Of all the damned days of the year that a body would rear up its ugly, and unpleasantly dead, head; of course, it had to be Christmas Eve. The icing on this *particular* festive cake? Not just an easy amble across downtown DC to something straightforward, like one of the suburbs, where an affair had turned sour and a lover took a gruesome revenge on their intended; or an inner-city gang crime. One always knew where one was with a nice gang murder. Straightforward M.O., easy motive, choose from a limited but effective range of knives or pistols. Instead, a four-hour drive with stupid Christmas Eve traffic and likely inclement weather, to a tiny hamlet well over the state line into West Virginia. Booth was not in the best mood. As it was, he was now unlikely to see Parker until at least the 30th, his son spending Christmas with his mother and her parents in Québec, the information of their extended stay (to be fair, the weather there playing its part) by several more days given to him only this morning. The thought of the long drive back to an empty apartment after having to stand in the cold for several hours just pissed him off even more.

A lively German Shepherd called Stanley, on his regular morning walk, had, with great enthusiasm, led his owner to the grim discovery that bought the police out to investigate the cadaver buried in several pieces in a shallow grave, just off Route Seven in the Mountain State's Hardy County. Once having secured the scene, the attending sheriff realised this was no ordinary murder and took it upon himself to contact the FBI satellite office in Martinsburg - there is, as it turns out, no full field office in West Virginia. When the local agents saw the state of the body, they immediately called Washington for specialist help.

In that four hours and twenty-five minutes, FBI Deputy director Andrew Hacker briefed his best Special Agent, and that Special Agent collected his partner, Dr Temperance Brennan of the Jeffersonian Institute. He let her grab her cold weather gear from her office on their way to the car, before they began the long drive west. As they drove away from DC, just like the weather forecast had predicted, the weather began to turn and snow began to fall. At that time, the roads west-bound had been gritted and remained clear, but they could see how the snow was beginning to settle in the ever more rural landscape around them. Booth had faith in his Tahoe and its 4x4 steering, and as it was, it seemed to make light work of the county road that led them to the crime scene.

They stepped out of the car into the hamlet of Peru, a pleasant countryside area in the Appalachian lowlands.

"Wow Bones, we really are in Darkest Peru."

"I don't know what that means."

"You've never read Paddington Bear?"

"No, Booth."

"He's a talking bear from Peru who eats marmalade sandwiches."

"In that region, that would make him a spectacled bear, or 'tremarctos ornatus'. I don't believe these bears speak Spanish, Booth, nor eat marmalade. Although they are known to scavenge, the sugar content would be much too high to be of nutritional value as a regular food source."

"He doesn't speak Spanish because he lives in England with his adopted human family. Next time you see Parker, I'll get him to explain."

'That makes absolutely no sense. Not Parker, I mean... the talking bear."

"Never mind." Brennan rolled her eyes and got her gear out of the boot of the car.

Booth stood in his thick winter coat and black leather gloves gamely trying to take notes whilst the snow fell onto his index cards, whilst Brennan was trying to examine the frozen corpse without turning into a popsicle herself, wrapping herself in a long form, water-resistant puffer jacket in the freezing conditions.

Time passed until it was well after four o'clock and the light was starting to fade.

"I've done enough preliminary investigations to determine gender and age. It's getting late, Booth. It's still snowing. We need to get back. I'd like the remains shipped back to the Jeffersonian." The Sheriff shook his head and chuckled.

"Sorry folks, you'll not be going far tonight. Winter storm's blocked up the Interstate back east in the last coupl'a hours. Heard the patrol mention it on my radio. Your best bet is to head up to Smoke Hole Caverns, that's about the closest place that's likely not full tonight. Roads are still clear over here, we're a bit more used to this kinda' weather. 'Bout an hour away all told, back up the Seven until you hit the Two-Twenty, then just keep going until you reach the Two-twenty-eight. It's signposted from there."

"…But it's Christmas..." Booth couldn't help but feel somewhat despondent that even with the silver lining of having Brennan with him, he couldn't get home, go to see Pops, or attend Midnight Mass as he usually did.

"It's either that my friend, or spend your night freezing in your car on the Interstate."

"Booth, we have our emergency overnight kits in the car, so we have spare clothes and toothbrushes. I don't really want to stay in the car. And we're not likely to get back anyway", considered Brennan, ever pragmatic.

"Okay, okay."

"Can you get the victim's body into storage? It may be cold enough, but I do not want the remains compromised by the local wildlife. The snow means the body will attract any passing scavengers." The sheriff pondered for a moment.

"We'll get it into the local morgue. When the roads are cleared, we can have it sent back to your lab."

"That should suffice. Thank you, Sheriff."

"You are most welcome, Doctor Brennan", and with that, he doffed his hat at them both.

The partners did as was suggested, and an hour's drive later, they arrived at Smoke Hole. Brennan had phoned ahead to confirm they did have a vacancy, and so when they arrived, the proprietor was expecting them. He was a friendly man named Dave, an older, jolly, bearded fellow, whom reminded Booth a little of Santa himself.

"You're in luck, my friends. Whilst we're still open for the occasional passers-by like yourselves, most of our cottages are closed for maintenance. It's a quiet time of year up here, but we do have a honeymoon log cabin available."

"A honeymoon log cabin?" The partners glanced at each other uncomfortably.

"Very romantic!" grinned Dave. "Perfect for you two sweethearts!"

There was another moment's silence and an awkward smile between them. They had been through this so many times before. There was barely a case where somebody at some point during the investigations didn't assume they were together. Apparently, they gave off some sort of "sex vibe", according to one former colleague, and as for Angela, she was forever going on about how compatible they were. In the second or two of that familiar feeling before either of them had a chance to correct his misconception, he spoke again.

"How long are you here for?"

"Just the night", volunteered Brennan, a little too quickly to sound entirely convincing to anyone.

"Well, I'll take a deposit now and you can settle up when you go, whenever that is. Where are you folks from?" He asked as he led the partners back outside and along a little way to their cabin.

"DC", replied Booth quietly, as they meandered through the snow, now falling quite heavily and beginning to crunch under their feet. The flakes settled in their hair.

"No chance you'll get back there for a day or so. White-out east of the Eighty-One, roads are blocked."

"We heard."

"You won't be worrying about that though, it's nice and cosy, a home away from home." With that, they reached their destination. Unlocking the door, they followed him into the cottage, where they found a modest sized lounge with wood-burner, already fired up and providing a pleasant amount of heat, and a kitchen with every major appliance they could need for any regular cooking requirements.

"There you go, there's some supplies in your kitchen including milk, bread and eggs, and some non-perishables in the cupboard. Good job you phoned ahead! We'll be open tomorrow for more fresh goods. We have a small supermarket on site, popular with the locals, especially in this weather. I'll leave you two to it, you can discover the rest yourselves…" He smiled mysteriously and started walking out. "Merry Christmas!" he called out as he left, shutting the door behind him.

They stared at the couch. The sleeping arrangements were going to be simple. The couch was not large enough to sleep on by any stretch of the imagination. It was a Queen Anne style two-seater with steep sides.

"Well, I'm guessing that being a honeymoon cabin, there's probably only one bedroom..."

"…and one bed."

They were going to have to share that bed.

They looked further around the cabin. The whole place was decorated in a rustic style, clearly meant to have a cozy cabin vibe about it. The bedroom was no exception, every surface covered in a brightly washed pine. The bed, they both noted to themselves with some trepidation, was a queen size. Why was it always a queen size? They were both tall and Booth, being over six feet and all muscle, queen sized beds were not comfortable when he was sharing that bed with someone else 'apart from the stuff that didn't require so much space', he thought, and a smirk couldn't help but form on his handsome features for a few seconds, abruptly leaving his face again when he realised that the person he was thinking about doing the stuff with he was the woman standing right next to him.

Both partners were reminded of a similar sized bed they'd shared in their caravan as Boris and Natasha a year or so before. Now that'd been an exercise in self-restraint on both sides, especially as the mattress on the bed had tended to dip in the middle, which had had them involuntarily rolling into each other. After the first night of each clinging to the edges of the mattress to avoid touching each other, leading to a poor night's sleep for them both, by the second night they'd given up the pretence in favour of a "guy hug" … an all-night guy hug. It was the best night's sleep either had had for a long time, though neither would admit out loud. The fact that they awoke wound round each other like a pair of vines and had had a sweet, if awkward, moment of untangling the following morning, left both yearning for more but denying any lingering feelings to anyone, including themselves.

There was no doubt that the two of them had become very close over the previous couple of years, so much more than just the raw sexual attraction they had had from the start. They'd become best friends, and in doing so, had worked hard to sublimate their attraction to each other to protect that friendship. It was not just because their work was so important, but because neither of them could bear the thought of them actually hooking up and it not working out the way they wanted, because that would be heart crushing. That insight was not lost on Brennan, who despite using her social awkwardness as a convenient shield, knew fully well how she felt about her partner. She spent every day as conflicted about it as he was. What that meant instead was many late nights with Thai food and paperwork, as a reason to be together without "being together". Sometimes, that would extend to weekends too, Booth using Parker and his love of her swimming pool as an excuse to go over and see her. Strangely, she was always free to hang out with them, whatever excuse she'd initially cited for being unavailable. Swimming was a chance to subtly admire her partner's physique without fear of reprisal on the occasions when he too, would take a dip. Swimming would also inevitably would lead to pizza at her apartment, and pizza would lead to a movie, wherein, without exception, the heady combination of exercise and heavy carbohydrates would have both Booths pass out next to her on the couch. Then she could afford herself the luxury to study her partner dozing whilst she grabbed a book and did her best to create the illusion that she was doing something that wasn't exactly what she was doing. They sometimes stayed until late in the evening, when Booth would slowly wake and stretch, bundle his boy up, give Brennan a gentle shoulder nudge on his way out and carry Parker down to his car.

As it was, they were both single these days, had been for a little while. Neither seemed to be able to find anyone who matched up even close to their work partner. They both seemed destined for a life of sexual frustration to keep the other close by. However, the more time went on, the more their orbits around each other seemed to move in ever-decreasing circles. At some stage, maybe something could make them crash right into each other…

Brennan had taken little more than a cursory glance around the room initially. The less she had to think about the bedroom, the less she had to think about what could be going on in the bedroom, and would likely *not* be going on in the bedroom. There was no doubt that this state of affairs was beginning to become somewhat frustrating.

Booth opened a few cupboards just to check them as he always did in a new environment, it as a force of habit to check for bugs or triggers, even though there was no way anyone would have known they were going to be there. A couple of large, very fluffy robes hung up, waiting to be worn. In his routine, he checked the chest of drawers, and then a nightstand drawer. To his surprise, there was a fresh box of condoms inside, still wrapped in cellophane. He shut the drawer again quickly and said a Hail Mary to himself. This was going to be one of those tests that God seemed to send him. 'Spend yet another night alone with your gorgeous partner whom you're crazy about and yet remain a saint.'

"What's wrong, Booth?" called out Brennan, hearing him mutter under his breath.

"Erm, Nothing Bones."

"Oh." There was a pause." Booth?" Brennan called out, sounding somewhat surprised after she stuck her head around the folding door that separated the main bedroom area from a separate, so far undiscovered section.

"What is it?" he called from behind her.

"This is some sort of extended bedroom area, only with a bath. That appears to be heart shaped, Booth, albeit in the rather anatomically inaccurate pictogram form first used by the ancient Cyrenaic culture and now mostly used in greetings cards."


"I presume it's designed for two people. I suppose that would be practical in the event of a water shortage. Although, generally showers are a far more efficient way to cleanse oneself."

"That's a hot tub, Bones. Definitely meant for soaking in. Look," he arrived by her side. He brushed up against her as her gently nudged her arm, "there's a button for the jets."

"I see." She felt a tingle up her spine as she wondered for just a moment what it would be like in that tub with her partner. Her work partner, yet again she chastised herself. She felt an accompanying flush creep up her neck and shook herself out of the thought before Booth could notice her embarrassment. Luckily, he was standing next to her rather than in front of her.

"Besides, there's a shower in the main bathroom, and that looks plenty big enough." Booth exclaimed, before realising what he had said could also be construed very wrongly, and he disappeared as quickly as he'd arrived...

More to follow! Please let me know what you think!