Disclaimer: 'Bones' and its characters are the property of Josephson Entertainment and Far Field Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television. I'm writing this story for entertainment purpose only. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's note: This story takes place in the near future. It's my second fanfic ('Family' being the first) about Parker (he's just so adorable) but with some Brennan/Booth thrown in there as well. As a devoted shipper I couldn't resist!

English is not my native language, and this story was written and published without the help of a beta. If you find any annoying writing errors in this story, please send me a personal message (instead of mentioning it in a review), and I will correct it immediately. Thanks!

Comfort and Gratitude

By Karin

Dr. Temperance Brennan was on her way to her office, her face set in a dark scowl. She'd just had a rather unpleasant argument with some bureaucrat about the relocation of a burial site to the Jeffersonian. Apparently he didn't understand the urgency of her request for he had dared to remark that 'they have been dead for over six hundred years, it's not like anyone is missing them.'

Deeply in thought, Temperance entered her office and walked over to her desk. The sight that welcomed her made her stop right in her tracks. There, behind her desk, a young boy with curly blonde hair was sitting on the ground. He was surrounded by several pieces of white paper and colorful markers. Her paper and her markers, from her desk, in her office. Apparently the child had been there for a while given the amount of finished drawings.

Temperance frowned, her face betraying her confusion along with a hint of concern. Parker wasn't a regular visitor after all. "Parker?" she asked tentatively as she stepped closer to him. He kept his eyes on the piece of paper in his hands. "What are you doing here?"

The young child just shrugged in reply, obviously without the intention of disclosing the reason for his presence to her.

Temperance crouched down in front of Parker so that she was at eyelevel with him. "Where's your dad? Is he here?"

Booth was supposed to be having the day off. He'd been looking forward to this day for over two weeks, constantly reminding her of all the activities he had planned with his son. If Booth was here at the Jeffersonian, he couldn't be very pleased.

A small nod was her answer.

"Then shouldn't you be with him?" The presence of the child interfered with her intentions to resume her work on the transcript of her new book. Arguments like the one she'd just had always seemed to fuel her imagination, and she had a wonderful scene in mind: a verbal sparring between Kathy and the prime murder suspect.

"He said I could wait here," Parker explained in a small voice.

Temperance sighed. She knew that Booth wouldn't have left his son in her office if it hadn't been important. Maybe she could work on her book and at the same time look after Parker. After all, he was just quietly drawing.

While she was contemplating the situation, she suddenly heard a soft sniff. It took her brain exactly five seconds to process that the sound came from the child in front of her. Another sniff. He was obviously crying. Oh no. Temperance immediately looked over her shoulder to see if Booth was anywhere nearby but was sadly disappointed. He was nowhere in sight.

She turned back towards the child, eyeing him warily. "Parker? Do you…" Before Temperance could finish her sentence, Parker suddenly wrapped his small arms around her waist and buried his face in her sweater.

"Parker?" she asked incredulously, awkwardly patting the child on his back as he sobbed in her arms.

She wasn't good with children. She had only recently discovered that she was capable of bonding with a baby. Babies didn't talk though. They were easy. You just had to feed, change, and bathe them, and occasionally you could indulge yourself in some childlike behavior that obviously seemed to please the infant. However, Parker wasn't a baby anymore, and Temperance fully acknowledged that she was now treading on treacherous grounds.

"Parker, should I get your dad? Let me get Booth." She attempted to untangle herself out of his embrace, but the more she tried to get away, the tighter Parker seemed to be holding on to her. After a couple of futile attempts, she gave up. Apparently she had to deal with this situation herself. Hopefully, Booth would still talk to her afterwards.

Sighing inwardly, Temperance tried again: "If you tell me what's wrong, Parker, I might be able to help you."

Parker's hold on her seemed to lessen a bit, and after a few hesitant seconds the young child looked up at her. She didn't need to be a mother to be affected by the immense sadness that was reflected in his big brown eyes.

"Robby and Joey…," sniff, "teased me…," sniff, "today at school," he tried to explain through his sobs.

"They teased you? Why?" Indignation seeped through her words. She was surprised by the strong sense of protectiveness surging through her body. She had no idea who Robby and Joey were but assumed they were Parker's classmates. Why would they want to tease Parker? Temperance frowned. When Booth learned of this, he would certainly pay the boys' families a visit. Perhaps he could pull out his gun; that would certainly impress and teach them not to harass the agent's son.

"Mrs. Landon said we...," sniff, "we had to draw our family." Parker took something out of his backpack and showed it to her. It was a colorful drawing of three persons. The bodies were entirely anatomically incorrect, making Temperance cringe with indignation at the lack of knowledge eight-year-olds seemed to be having of human anatomy, but she could make out two males and a female. Above it, Parker had written in a childlike handwriting: 'Dad, mom, and Michael.'

Temperance knew all about Rebecca's new lover. A few weeks ago, Booth had dropped by her place with pizza and beer and had confided in her about the new man in Parker's life. It was difficult for him to accept that Rebecca was thinking about marrying this man, which would make him Parker's stepfather. Even though she was oblivious to many things, mostly to do with modern pop culture, Temperance had immediately sensed that Booth was afraid of being replaced. She had tried, in her own logical way, to reason with him that he would always be Parker's father, that nothing could replace the bond they shared. She'd managed to erase some of his fears and doubts, but apparently Booth had not been the only one affected by the whole situation.

"They're always mean to me. They say I'm stupid," Parker whispered sadly, playing with the paper tissue he had received from Temperance. "They say I can't have two dads. They say that my dad didn't love me. That he left mommy. That he didn't want to be with me."

Temperance shook her head. The cruelty of children never ceased to surprise her. Although there were several anthropological explanations for this type of behavior, she had enough experience with being the bullies' victim to relate to the young boy and sympathize with him. At least she'd had Russ to look after her during her early school years.

"Parker, bullying is used by individuals to assert their dominance over someone else, mostly a person who is weaker in form or rank. Bullies often have been victims themselves. They exhibit this behavior to hide their insecurity, to gain popularity with their peers or boost their self-esteem. They…"

She paused abruptly when she met Parker's blank stare. She'd totally forgotten that she was talking to a young child. He looked up at her with a forlorn expression on his face that told her that he probably hadn't understood a word she'd said.

However, before she could clarify her statement to the child, Parker muttered: "I'm the only one in class. Everyone's mom and dad live together."

"Statistically there should be more children in your classroom living under similar conditions," Temperance replied with a frown, recalling the latest data she had read on this subject. "The traditional nuclear family, constituted by two parents and their children, is an idealized view of the family anyway. Nowadays, there are a wide variety of household arrangements: single parent families, stepfamilies, families formed by same-sex couples, and in some parts of the world it is common for an entire community to look after a child. The child is being raised not only by the mother or father but also by grandparents, siblings, aunts, nieces, and often individuals that are not even related by blood. This alloparenting strengthens the chance of survival. Those children do not fare worse because of this arrangement. In fact…"

As before, Temperance met with total confusion. Parker's bottom lip even started to tremble again, and tears pooled in his big brown eyes, probably as a reaction to her inadequate attempts to reassure the young boy.

Temperance sighed. It was difficult talking to a child. In one last desperate attempt to comfort him, she tried picturing herself talking to Booth and how he always pleaded with her to use 'common' English. Choosing her words carefully, she continued: "Parker, there are many children in the world whose mother and father don't live together. That doesn't necessarily mean that the parents don't love their child. They often do. They just can't live together anymore. And sometimes they marry again, but that means that the child obtains even more people who care for him. Let me ask you this: Do you like Michael?"

The boy nodded vigorously, a watery smile forming on his face. "He bought me this really cool truck yesterday. A red one!"

A smile curled upon Temperance's lips, relieved as she was by the shift of emotion on Parker's face. Finally, she was getting through to the boy. "So you not only have your mother and your father who love you very much, but now you also have Michael. You are very lucky, Parker. You have three people who care for you."

Parker seemed to need a few moments to think about that. His sobbing had decreased to an occasional hiccup. "Do your mom and dad love you too?"

Her body tensed in reaction to Parker's unexpected question. She swallowed hard, trying to push back the unwelcome feeling of loss and pain that threatened to overwhelm her as memories of her past flashed through her mind. "My father loves me," she said eventually, her voice soft and warm, thankful for his renewed presence in her life. "My mother died a long time ago."

Parker looked up at her, his eyes wide. He knew what 'dying' meant. "I'm sorry." He placed a small hand on her shoulder in a childlike attempt to comfort her. "Don't be sad."

Temperance's features softened as a warm glow brightened her expressive eyes. "You are a very good boy, Parker. And you shouldn't believe what your classmates tell you. I know for a fact that your father loves you very much and is very proud of you." She ruffled Parker's hair, eliciting a squeak from the child. "So no more crying, okay?" With a tenderness that secretly surprised her, she wiped away the tears that still lingered on Parker's cheeks. "I don't want your father to think that I scared you to tears," she added dryly.

Parker started laughing, the ringing and joyful sound sufficient proof that the crisis was over and dealt with. "You don't scare me! I like you. You're nice. And my dad likes you too. He… Daddy!"

Parker's face lightened up when he noticed his father standing in the door opening. He immediately jumped up and ran towards Booth.

The FBI agent caught his son easily and lifted him up in his arms, holding him tight. "Hey big guy," Booth greeted his son warmly. "Everything okay?"

"I made a drawing for you. And Bones and I talked!" Before Booth could admonish his son for calling his partner Bones, Parker enthusiastically rattled on: "She's really nice. She said a lot of things but I didn't understand them all. They were long, difficult words. I had to cry, but she said that I shouldn't cry, because you love me. And she was afraid that you think that she made me cry. But she didn't!" Parker looked at Booth with a fierce determination on his face that challenged his father to doubt or contradict him.

Booth smiled, amused by his son's overtly admiration for and protectiveness of the forensic anthropologist. She had obviously gained a devoted fan. "I would never think that, kiddo," he reassured his son sincerely.

There was something in his voice that made Temperance look up as she rose from the floor. From the way he was staring at her, the intense expression that masked his face, she deduced that he'd probably heard their entire conversation. She suddenly couldn't help but feel a little self-conscious. After all, she was the first to admit that dealing with upset children was not one of her many specialties. Parker wasn't crying anymore though and actually seemed happy, so apparently she hadn't done such a terrible job.

"You know what, Parker?" Booth said, lowering Parker to the ground but never breaking eye contact with the woman in front of him. "Why don't you go and see if Angela has a lollipop for you. Or maybe Jack will let you look through a microscope."

"Okay!" Parker immediately ran off, leaving the two adults behind.

Temperance had intended to wait for Parker to leave so she could explain what had happened, but her partner didn't let her. Before she could utter a single word, Booth had already wrapped his strong arms tightly around her slender frame and pulled her close against his chest. Not so long ago, Temperance would have felt awkward by this display of affection, but now she gently let herself relax in his embrace, resting her face against his shirt. Even though she had always considered herself an independent woman, not in need of an alpha male to protect and care for her, she couldn't deny that for one moment she felt completely safe and at ease in her partner's arms.

"Thank you," Booth whispered in her ear, his warm breath tickling her skin.

Temperance gave a small shrug. "For what? All I did was tell the truth. He's lucky to have you as his father."

When he remained silent, Temperance raised her head curiously only to find his face merely inches from hers. Booth was looking at her intently, his eyes soft and caring, but there was something shimmering beneath the surface, something she could not quite decipher. The unrestrained intensity of his stare unnerved her for some reason, yet she was unable to look away, being captivated by his warm brown eyes.

She had to suppress a shiver when his hand trailed from its original position on the small of her back, over the sensitive skin of her neck, to her face where he let his fingers linger against her cheek. The warmth of his hand made her skin tingle, and Temperance resisted the urge to close her eyes and lean into his touch. His face was so close that she could feel his breath caressing her lips. Just when she thought that he was going to kiss her, and secretly surprised when her body whispered that it wouldn't exactly mind if he did, Booth took one step away from her, creating some distance between them. A sudden sense of disappointment surged through her body, confusing her with its force.

Booth then smiled at her, that warm, lazy smile she had come to love. "Wanna grab breakfast tomorrow? My treat."

Knowing that it was his way of paying her back, Temperance nodded gently in response. "I'd like that." She returned his smile while effectively filing away her unexpected strong reaction to his presence only moments ago for a more appropriate time to review and analyze.

With one last look at her, a look that betrayed all his gratitude for being there for his son when he needed it, Booth turned around and left her office. At the same moment, Parker was coming from a doorway on the other side of the hall.

"Daddy! Daddy!" the child yelled enthusiastically as he ran up to his father. "Uncle Jack put maggots in a blender and then turned it on! That was soooo cool! I want to do that too when I grow up!" His face broke into a huge grin. "He said I can be a good ento… entom… entomologist!"

It was probably for the best that Temperance had already seated herself behind her desk, because she probably wouldn't have been so pleased to witness the horrified expression that formed on Booth's face in reaction to his son's words. She did look up in confusion though when she heard the FBI agent yell: "Hoooodgins!"

Thank you for reading my second Bones fanfic! I hope you enjoyed it. Feedback would be very much appreciated. - Karin -