Thanks for all the feedback! Sorry this is a little later than usual…midnight movie, then continued internet problems are to blame for that! Enjoy!
The drive back from Willow River was uneventful, Booth and Brennan mostly quiet, lost in their own thoughts.
"You want to come up?" Brennan asked as they neared her building.
"Not today," Booth sighed halfheartedly.
"I just don't feel like it, okay?"
"Come on, Booth," she replied, eying him. "I'll make you a Hank-style grilled cheese," she finished with a tiny lilt in her voice.
"What do you know about Pops' grilled cheese?" Booth mused intrigued, eyes narrowing slightly as he alternated glancing at her and the road.
"Hank taught me thing or two," she told him cryptically.
"Was this before or after the fire in my apartment?" He couldn't keep the sharpness--and perhaps a little sadness--out of his voice.
Her tone shifted to a serious one. "I'm sorry that happened."
"It's fine," Booth sighed. "I'm just glad he wasn't hurt."
"Me too," Brennan agreed. "He's a good man, Booth," she continued after a moment.
Booth smiled nostalgically and nodded his head. "Yeah, he is. He likes you, too, you know."
Brennan smiled and looked down, almost embarrassed. What was it about the Booth men that made her want to reexamine the staunch life goals she'd set for herself so long ago? And why did all of the Booth men--Seeley, Parker, Hank, and even Jared--gravitate toward her?
"You okay over there?" Booth asked as he pulled into a parking space.
"Yeah," she muttered quickly. "I was just thinking how nice it was to have Hank around."
"I could've done without the trouble, but you're right, it was great to have the company. Not that I don't enjoy your company," he added quickly, "because I do."
"All the more reason for you to come upstairs, Booth."
He looked over at her.
"What were you going to do, leave here, get take out, and go home to a destroyed kitchen that makes your whole apartment smell like smoke?"
"Actually, I was thinking of stopping at Club Jiggle."
"Oh," Brennan sighed, surprised and dejected, as she reached for the door handle, "then I won't keep you."
Booth's hand shot out and grabbed Brennan's arm before she could get out.
Brennan glanced down at his hand on her arm then up at him.
"It was a joke, Bones," he said, his grip loosening, though he didn't pull away completely. "I'd rather have your company any day," he grinned. "And I'd really love to try your grilled cheese."
After one more glance down at his hand still on her arm, she smiled back.
The times were few and far between when either of them cooked for the other, and that made Booth even more appreciative of those instances. He offered to help her--a tiny bit jealous that Pops had shared the recipe with her and not him--but she sent him out of the kitchen and told him she wouldn't be long.
Two grilled cheeses later, Booth leaned back in the chair and patted his stomach. "That was amazing, Bones."
"You're just saying that."
"Hey, do I say things I don't mean?" Booth asked with a grin.
"Thank you," she replied, unable to tear her gaze from his.
With that moment of mutual gazing, they'd reached a crossroads. However, Booth, always the gentleman, took the safer, well-traveled road that defined their partnership and slipped back into the teasing persona that made them comfortable around each other.
"So you just happened to have the ingredients here?" he questioned.
She shifted in her chair and pushed her plate forward on the table. "I've been experimenting, trying to make them like Hank does. They're not as good, but they pass the edibility test."
"No, Bones, they're excellent. Just as good as Pops'. Trust me, I've eaten enough grilled cheeses in my life to know when I've had the perfect ones. I'm curious about one thing, though."
"Why'd Pops show you how to make them and not me?"
"Because he knew you'd always need someone," she informed him, thinking about one of the last things Hank had said to her, though it had absolutely nothing to do with cooking. "Hank said that cooking for yourself isn't as fun because you don't feel the love. I don't know what that means…"
Booth chuckled. The words that were repeated so frequently the first couple of years they were partners had become less common over the last few, yet he still couldn't help but smile when she uttered them.
"It means you appreciate it more when someone cooks for you. Or you take more pride in cooking when you're doing it for someone else."
"That makes sense," she nodded thoughtfully. "Have you decided what you're going to do about your kitchen?"
Booth sighed. "Insurance should cover the damages, but there's a lot of work to be done. Walls have to be fixed, I've got to get a new stove. You want to come with me to look for a new one?"
"You sure you want me to come?"
"Of course, Bones. I need you."
She peered over at him, thinking again about what Hank had told her a few short hours ago. Everyone needs someone. She sighed and wondered why she couldn't get those words out of her head.
"Your opinion. I need your opinion," Booth sputtered quickly, seeing Brennan slip into a moment of deep thought. "Then maybe once the new stove is in," he grinned, "you can show me how to make Pops' grilled cheese the Bones way. You know, in case you ever need one made by someone else…"
Thanks for reading!