A/N So after lots of lurking and reading and commenting on stories of authors I admire, I decided it was about darn time to stop fidgeting and actually publish my own story; take the plunge. Pretty darn scary, admittedly, but very inspiring and energizing as well. And the help of the equally talented and lovely ForAReason as a beta made all the difference--thank you so much Ali!

On with the actual story, which is why you're here after all: once upon a time, there was a very moving scene between Stabler and Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which dealt with Benson's parenthood angst, and which always stuck with me. Upon reading internet gab about Baby in the Bough, I could well imagine Booth trying to make a similar, reassuring argument to Brennan. So I started with two of the original lines from SVU (see A/N at the end to see which) and it grew into a conversation between Booth & Brennan; post-ep but no real spoilers beyond the episode summary, a mild dose of angst, and a hint of romance.


ALL YOU CAN DO IS LOVE YOUR KIDS

That night, after they had left the infant that had been their charge for the last few days in the hands of his new, loving family, Booth found himself drawn back to the Jeffersonian by a niggling feeling that some things had been left unsaid in the wake of that unexpectedly difficult and pregnant moment in the FBI conference room.

As expected, he found Brennan, bathed in warm light, still at her desk peering into a file. Did she seem softer or was that a trick of the light?

He leaned against the doorframe and jammed his hands in his pockets, regarding her quietly for a moment. When she failed to acknowledge his presence and stubbornly kept her nose buried in the file in front of her, he cocked his head and said softly, "Hey Bones, it's time to go home."

To what? she thought wryly. She chastised herself immediately for the thought. She led the life that she had chosen herself. Temperance Brennan didn't do self-pity, so that was a definite sign that she was wiped out. Apparently child-rearing took its toll on your energy level as well as your figure. She'd been staring at the same page for twenty minutes, and it was obvious she wasn't going to get anything more done tonight. Might as well go home, enjoy a long soak in the relaxing company of Billie Holiday and the Merlot of excellent vintage she had been saving for just such an occasion, and then early to bed.

She really knew better than to think that ignoring him would make him go away. But the intensity of his gaze on her made her all but squirm in her seat. And it occurred to her that he was really starting to influence her, because she knew exactly what he was thinking, even though he remained silent.

"If you're going to ask me if I've changed my mind about having children, I swear I will shoot you," she threatened unconvincingly without looking at him.

"Well…now that you brought it up…." he drawled.

Dammit.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that I think it would be criminal to deprive future generations of your genius, not to mention your bone structure." He smiled, remembering the 'well-structured' comments they had exchanged once in this very same lab.

"That's not a good enough reason to put a child into the world, Booth," she chided gently.

But he wasn't finished yet. "And if there's anything the last few days should have proven, it's that maternal instincts or the 'natural instinct of primates to care for their young', as you would put it, just come naturally, whether you like it or not. Everything else….is like learning how to ride a bike, and don't get me started about your learning curve."

She had to smile at that. And she had to admit that the past few days had allowed her to experience first-hand what it was like to be a full-time caregiver. It put some things into perspective but didn't allay her core beliefs. That children were not annoying, or frightening, or all that difficult to take care of; they were just not for her.

Booth smiled to himself, voicing reassurances to her that he had once needed himself. He felt only slightly guilty for not sharing with her that he wasn't always as confident in his parenting skills as he was nowadays. He wasn't going to lie to her and pretend he wasn't scared shitless when Rebecca got pregnant. Or when he held his tiny, pink son, cradled in his palms, for the first time. Hell, he still was terrified, regularly. Worrying if the kid was and stayed healthy, was he safe, did he eat right, was he happy, was he still being a good father, were he and Rebecca handling the separated parents thing well enough, was his son scared, angry, happy, would the kid turn out okay, was he there for him…? All those constant, nagging insecurities.

She stood and gave him a pointed look. "If you think I'm going to change my fundamental beliefs just because I've spent a few days with an infant, that's just ridiculous."

A drawn-up eyebrow from him. An answering eye roll from her. He marveled yet again at the effortlessness of their unspoken communication.

She sighed and conceded part of her argument, "I can understand that you feel differently because Parker already exists and is a person that you love and can't imagine your life without," then she reiterated her original position, "but I still have a choice and the world I know is not a world I want to put a child in."

"It's the same world for every parent," he argued calmly.

She bent down to pick up her bag, suppressing a groan at the muscles protesting in her back. "I suppose it is, but we know the world like most people don't. They don't even want to know how dangerous it really is." She slowly moved to join him by the door.

"They can't," Booth stated. "If everyone was always thinking about the dangers that exist in the world, they would all be paralyzed with fear, be scared to leave the house at all, never get anything done, be afraid to put children into the world and then the species would be extinct in no time."

He was inordinately proud of himself for working his way from a psychological point of view to an anthropological slant she could better relate to. But she had yet another rationalization up her sleeve, a more personal one this time. A deeply-rooted fear that lay at the base of all the other rationalizations she had conjured up. And he was grateful because he recognized how remarkable it was that she shared it with him of her own volition, without his prompting or pushing or pulling.

"I have…" She pursed her lips in annoyance. "Bad genes. My family is prone to crime and abandoning their offspring." She offered it quietly, her eyes darting away from him.

He felt a tug of sympathy in his heart at her self-deprecating tone. And at how she used the more clinical term offspring instead of children, which he suspected was not accidental.

They stood opposite each other, a foot apart and yet not completely separate people anymore.

"Look how great you turned out," he stated gently in return. He poured all the endearment he felt for this woman, insecurities and all, into the sound of his voice.

He paused, hoping that it would sink in that he was not just making a logical argument but offering her his praise as well. He prayed she'd be receptive, but he feared everything in her screamed to reject the sentiment.

At the very least he had to make her understand that no matter the genetics of it and never mind that yes, parents could hurt and even abandon their children, only one thing was of paramount importance in the end; knowing all the dangers out there, and despite the less than ideal home life he'd been able to offer his son, he'd accepted this one truth. Embraced it. And voiced it for her, hoping she'd be open to it.

"Parenthood is not about genes. All you can do is love your kids, Temperance."

She felt the sting of tears at his use of her given name—how much the look of bottomless tenderness in his eyes affected her was something she chose not to contemplate.

Once, that name had been the name that was synonymous with childhood bliss, and feeling safe and loved. Later on in life, it became so closely associated with abandonment, loneliness and feeling homeless that she became averse to it. She could barely stand to hear it anymore and she'd shucked it like a snake shucks it skin. To grow a new one.

Sometimes she still felt a physical pain when someone addressed her with it, especially now, when Booth used it in the context of contemplating parenthood.

Everyone called her 'Doctor Brennan' or just 'Brennan', even Angela. To Booth, she was always 'Bones'. Since she recently became reacquainted with her estranged brother Russ, she noticed that she sometimes didn't respond when he called her 'Tempe'; she'd become so unaccustomed to the name after not seeing him all those years.

The perplexity that always accompanied the alternating of her various names drove home the point of how shipwrecked she'd felt in life. Long ago she had decided that the surest way to spare the next generation that anguish was to make the choice that there wouldn't be a next generation.

But she found it difficult to argue with him – disconcerting enough in and of itself – because he never outwardly dismissed the views she'd just expressed, merely offered another point of view. And the richness of his voice underscored how much he cared about her, as if his gentle insistence that she should keep an open mind about parenthood was not so much a difference of opinion but rather that he wished something for her that she did not deem herself worthy of.

"Let's just go home," she said as she passed by him through the door, feeling incapable of delving any deeper into how much of her old certainties remained intact under Booth's compassionate scrutiny and the warmth of his acceptance.

He nodded and accepted the cop-out without protest.

"I'll walk you out," he said warmly while his hand found its way home to the small of her back; guiding, connecting—as always.


For the curious reader, this story sprung from these two lines exchanged between Benson and Stabler:

Olivia Benson: At least you know what you're passing on... half my genes are drunk and the other half are violent and cruel.
Elliot Stabler: And look how great you turned out... It's not all about the genes, Liv. All you can do is love your kids.

Your comments are welcomed and deeply appreciated!