The boy pulls the heavy book from the shelf, then sits on the floor to flip through the brightly illustrated pages. He remembers this book, it was the fairy tale book his father used to read to him when he was a real little boy. He stops at one picture, biting his lip and furrowing his brow.
Hands on his hips, he stares around the room, looking at the scattered toys as if asking for inspiration. His eyes light on the small wooden box peeking from beneath his bed. Kneeling on the floor he reaches for the box and opens it, examining all of the secret treasures he has collected.
He absently brushes the hair from his forehead with the back of his hand, and reaches for another crayon. Staring at the purple wax stick, he gives a quick shake of his head and replaces it with a blue one. He bends his head over his play table, concentrating on making this project a masterpiece.
Booth and Brennan sit on the sofa, both unsuccessfully trying to hide amused smiles as they wait for Parker to return. The little boy had been so excited about this new game of pretend that neither had been able to refuse to participate.
He comes out of his bedroom, carrying the little backpack that he uses for preschool. Placing it on the floor, he begins rummaging through the contents—getting it ready, he tells them.
First, he shakes a snow globe and places it in the center of the table in front of them. Seeing the small castle inside amid the tiny plastic snowflakes, the grown-ups begin trying to guess the game that they will be playing.
First, his father. "Are we going to play Knights of the Round Table again, Parker?" The boy shakes his head, eyes brimming with the excitement of his secret. "Un-uh, Daddy. Not yet, it's almost ready."
After Parker reaches into his bag and pulls out a construction paper crown covered with blue and red crayon jewels, Brennan tries next. "Maybe princess and princes?"
With one hand, he motions her to lean her head forward. Placing the crown on her head, Parker thinks for a moment. "Sorta, Dr. Bones". He quickly returns to the contents of his bag, removing two sheets of construction paper covered with a seemingly random pattern of blue, red, green and orange circles, that he carefully props against two of the candles on the coffee table.
Brennan looks at the two squares of paper, discerning that he's drawn bouquets of flowers in two vases. "This is very nicely done, Parker. I can't wait to see what we are going to be imagining…"
Parker moves to stand in front of them, "Weelll, it's not 'xactly 'magining, Dr. Bones."
Confusion crosses the faces of the two adults as they try to figure out where this is headed. Booth starts to open his mouth to ask Parker for an explanation, when his son asks him to hold out his hand.
"Okay, Daddy. Here you go, now you can tell her you're gonna get married." As he talks, Parker reaches into his front pocket and then places a plastic skull ring, last year's Halloween party favor, in the center of his father's palm. He leans forward, speaking in a loud whisper, "You don't hafta be scared. You make her smile too, Daddy."
"Um, Parker…" Booth is turning the ring in his hand, looking from the wide-eyed Brennan to the sincere expression on his son's face. He feels caught between the cross-hairs, not wanting to disappoint or confuse the little boy and not wanting to scare her away. He's still trying to find the right words when Parker begins speaking again, this time to Brennan.
"It's not a really a girl ring, but I bet Daddy can get you a more prettier one. Then we can get to be a fam'ly."
Brennan opens and closes her mouth, unsure of what to say. This was certainly not what she had expected—pirates, cops and robbers, sure. But not this. She looks to Booth for help, but is nonplussed to find that the stunned look in his eyes has been replaced by a spark of curiosity as he waits for her to respond. She takes a deep breath and faces an expectant Parker—and immediately forgets that she is addressing a little boy as she begins talking about pieces of paper and non-conformist family structures.
Seeing the crease form between his son's eyebrows, Booth is about to intervene when Parker once again beats him to the draw, placing a hand on Brennan's, stopping her words in mid-stream.
"I don't know what that means, Dr. Bones. I just…" He stops, rocking back and forth on his heels, not sure how to express what he's thinking.
Booth stands from the couch and kneels on the floor next to Parker, gently putting a hand on each small arm, turning the boy to face him. "Parker, I know you are only trying to help, but this is a very grown-up conversatio…"
The boy's lower lip starts to tremble, as he worries that not only has his big plan fallen apart but that he's upset his father. "I just wanted to help, Daddy. Cause she makes us happy…"
Knowing that his son's heart was in the right place, Booth tries to reassure the boy. "Yeah, son, she does. But this is something that Dr. Bones and I need to figure out, okay, little man?"
"But fam'lies love each other. We love each other, so we should be a fam'ly, Daddy."
Out of the corner of his eye, Booth sees Brennan leaning over to put her face in her hands, her makeshift crown sliding to the floor.
"Um, Parker, let's say we give Dr. Bones a minute, okay…to fix her crown. We can go talk some more in your room…"
Reluctantly, Parker nods at his father and then walks over to Brennan, solemnly placing a kiss on top of her bent head and whispering something in her ear before following Booth to his room.
Father and son sit on the edge of the bed, talking quietly as the little boy kicks one foot against the bed frame. At first, the tone of the conversation is serious, marked by a nod of the head from the little boy, or a reassuring pat on the shoulder from the man. Eventually though, there is an occasional smile, and finally full-fledged laughter as the man tickles the boy's stomach.
After setting up the play table with plenty of crayons and paper, the father extends his hand to his son. They shake hands in a 'gentleman's agreement', both smiling broadly. The man moves to the door, turning back with a final word to the boy. He then exits the room, leaving the door slightly open.
Brennan hasn't moved from her spot on the sofa. She is turning the paper crown in her hands, stopping only to wipe away a tear. The little boy's words keep running through her mind.
Please be in our fam'ly. We need you, Dr. Bones.
She tenses as she hears Booth exit Parker's room, saying something about no peeking this time. She's surprised when he turns to his own room, but can understand that he needs a minute to collect his thoughts. She herself feels as if she has been granted another moment's reprieve from the conversation that she knows is coming. The very grown-up conversation.
Booth returns to the room, and sits next to her with a nervous sigh, rubbing both palms against the tops of his thighs. Both continue to face forward, not looking at the other. The tension in the room drives them both to speak at the same time.
Their nervous laughter dissolves quickly back to silence. He takes a deep breath and begins again.
"Temperance, about what just happened…"
"I know, Booth. He's a little boy with a vivid imagination…"
"No. Well, yeah, but….the thing is…I think he got this right, Bones."
Unnerved by his direct approach, she stands and begins pacing, her instincts warring between wanting to flee the room and needing to hear what he says next. She stops when he moves to stand in front of her, but is unable to look up at him as he begins speaking.
"Temperance, look at me…please."
She raises her eyes to meet his, and finds herself calmed despite the intensity she finds there.
"I know you have…strong feelings about marriage, but please…please hear me out on this before you say anything."
He pauses, then takes her silence as permission to continue.
"Parker was right. You do make me smile…and make me happy. Even when you absolutely are driving me up the wall, you still…you make me happy."
She starts to interrupt, but he stops her with a shake of his head.
"I'd like to think that I make you happy too, Temperance. Would like to keep making you happy for the rest of our lives. I love you, and think...know we can be a family…your family, if you will have me…"
He stops, reaching into his pocket. Her breath catches when he pulls out his hand and opens his palm. Instead of a child's party ring, he's holding a delicate circle of pale gold filigree threaded around a single blue sapphire.
She reaches to run a single finger along it's edge, but doesn't take it from his hand.
"You've had this…"
"Waiting for the right time," he laughs wryly, "Just never expected my kid would be the one to point out the right moment….." He takes a breath, working up his courage "So, is it?... The right moment?"
He smiles nervously, watching the emotions play out across her face as she prepares her response. When she finally starts speaking, the words come in a torrent.
"Are you sure, Booth? You know me, know about my history…my family. I've never been good at families. And I'm always having to think of the right things to say…to do. What if I hurt you…" Seeing that he's about to interject, she holds up a hand. "Please, let me say this. What if I hurt you…or that little boy in there…"
He takes a step closer, so that they are almost touching, and she forgets what she was going to say next.
"Listen, Bones. Neither of us has all of the answers, and I don't deny that there may be times that will test either or both of us. Things happen in life, but wouldn't it be better to go face them together? As for hurting me...the only thing that you could do to hurt me would be to walk out of my life. And Parker…you have to know the little man worships the ground you walk on. The fact that you care enough to make sure that you don't hurt him? That's the key…."
Worried that his feelings are lost in the words, he stops abruptly and closes his eyes.
"I…we…we both need you, Temperance." He's afraid to open his eyes, afraid that he will look at her face and see that he said too much or that he hasn't said enough. As the seconds tick by, he begins to think he's lost her. Then he feels her arms around him, holding him tightly.
"I…" She begins to whisper to him, but feeling his arms move around her, she pauses, knowing that she is going to cross a line that will change everything.
"I need you too."
The little boy wanders around his room, in circles increasingly closer to the gap in the doorway. He's tried to be good and not peek—he already drew about a billion pictures already—but they are still out there talking. At the moment when he decides to give into temptation, he hears footsteps approaching the door and runs quickly back to the play table.
They open the door to find Parker studiously applying green crayon to the yellow page on the table. When Booth knocks against the doorjamb, the little boy looks up and studies them carefully.
When he sees that they both have happy eyes, he is out of his chair like a shot, running over to them. He is hugging them both around the legs when he takes Brennan's left hand in his own.
Eyes wide in amazement, he examines the ring on her finger. "Oh, wow." He looks up at her with a knowing look, "Toldja Daddy would get a more prettier one."
Booth kneels down in front of his son, "Thanks, little man." He reaches over to ruffle the boy's hair, "But tell me…you don't have any more secret plans up your sleeve, right?"
Parker hesitates, then shakes his head, smiling back at his father.
Silly, Daddy. I don't keep 'em in my sleeve!