AN: Dangeli continues to rock my socks. Her beta-reads are fantastic and spot-on. She pushes me hard enough when I need it, and backs off when I need it. She's a dream and I'm lucky to have her on my side. ;-) Thanks, gal.
To all of you who suggested a second part, this is for you. I enjoyed writing this, too. Thanks for prompting me to do it! (Deep talks ahead. Be warned.) And I'd love to hear from you all again if you have the time to review. ;-)
Parker had been bundled in a warm blanket that Booth knew was one of Brennan's favorite. So when she had merely wrapped the boy snuggly in the blanket before handing him off to Booth to be loaded into Rebecca's car, Booth was more proud than shocked. He knew what a caring heart his partner had; he just wished others saw it, too.
"Let me take you to dinner?" he asked, when the door to the apartment shut behind him. He brushed the light dusting of snow from his shoulders.
"It's not necessary," was her reply, moving to straighten the pillows and cushions on her couch.
"Bones, come on," he pushed. "I wish I could do something to thank you for helping out today."
She turned, her arms folded in front of her chest. "Booth, if I had a child and the child was sick, and I wasn't able to be there, wouldn't you take care of her for me?"
"You know I would, Bones."
"So how is today something special? I didn't do anything you wouldn't have done. I certainly didn't do anything that was a hardship."
He moved towards her, his hands resting on her shoulders and sliding down her arms. He squeezed his hands gently around her biceps. "You did something you didn't have to do. And knowing you were with him … I didn't worry once, Bones. Not once. I knew he was in the best hands."
"Thank you," she said, correctly inferring his statement to be a compliment.
"No, thank you," Booth said, leaning in and kissing her forehead quickly. "Now. Dinner?"
"It's not necessary," she replied again but rolled her eyes and smiled under his unrelenting glare. "Fine. Let me get my coat."
"Lots of experience caring for Booth men, huh?" he said as he settled into the chair across from her at the diner.
"I anticipated that you'd bring that comment up again."
"You're pretty good at anticipating me," he said with a grin. "It's all those years of caring for Booth men."
Brennan rolled her eyes and shook her head. "In this instance the anticipation was because I knew your ego wouldn't let that comment die."
Their usual waitress came over and took their typical order of a burger and salad.
"You seemed to jump into the 'mom' role easily today," he said, taking a sip of the fresh coffee the waitress had dropped by.
"Anthropologically, caring for society's young hasn't changed that much in centuries. The instinct to provide care for a child – ill or healthy – is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Instinct is very helpful with the perpetuation of the species."
He shook his head. "Don't short-change yourself, Bones. Instinct is making sure the kid doesn't die. Instinct is making sure he has food and water. What you did was care. There's a big difference," he forestalled her protest with an upraised hand. "I saw you all snuggled up with him on the sofa. I saw you brushing his hair out of his face. That's caring and that has nothing to do with anthropology and everything to do with you having the ability to be an awesome mom."
"I'm not his mother, Booth."
No need to remind me. He smiled softly at her and sat back, allowing the waitress to place his burger in front of him. He watched as she stole a fry before ever sparing a glance at her garden salad.
"I know we haven't talked about it in a while," he said when the waitress had left, leaving them alone again. "But have you thought more about having children?"
"Not really, no." She shook her head, prodding her salad with a fork. "It doesn't seem to be realistic expectation."
Brennan gaze remained firmly on her plate.
"Bones?" Booth prodded.
"I hadn't looked into other options," she said, looking up and meeting his questioning look.
He frowned for a split second before finally catching on. "Other than me?"
"I was your only option?"
"Not my only 'option,'" she corrected, willing herself not to react to his small smile. "I had many options. You were my first choice and the only one I really pursued."
His voice was soft and almost reluctant when he spoke. "I'm kinda touched by that."
"I knew telling you would only boost your alpha-male ego!"
"Well why wouldn't it? I just had a beautiful woman tell me that if she couldn't have my baby then she didn't want anyone's."
"That is not what I said."
"Isn't it? That's what it sounds like to me."
"That fact doesn't surprise me. Your alpha-male ego makes you prone to misinterpreting things I say so that they're more flattering to you." She glared at him.
"Bones, you pretty much said you wanna have my baby or no baby at all. How am I misinterpreting that?" he said, chuckling. He knew he was stretching her words, but the opportunity was too good to resist.
She set her fork down with a startling amount of force, her temper clearly on edge.
"I selected you for your genetic traits, Booth."
It was one of the largest unprompted-displays of temper he had ever witnessed in her. "Bones," he said softly, keeping her gaze steadily across the table. "Do you understand why I said no?"
"Booth, I really don't know that now is the time to be discussing this."
He slid a hand across the table and covered her fingers with his own, trying to sooth her agitated state. "If we had a baby, Bones, I couldn't stay away."
His voice was quiet and even and he managed to still her fidgeting fingers. He stroked his thumb across the back of her hand.
"I'd want to be there for everything," he continued. "I'd want to hold your hand while you're in labor. I'd want to go to the sonograms. I'd want to be there when you take the test."
"Those things could be arranged," she said softly.
"No, Bones. Everything," he said again. "First dirty diapers, first feedings, first naps, first tooth, first steps, first words. And those aren't things that can be scheduled. We can't swap weekends with an infant like we do with Parker and hope that something important happens when we're both in the room. That's not how it is."
"It's highly unlikely that we'd both be present for all of the important events even if there was co-habitation."
"True," he said, conceding her point. "But I don't want to hear about my baby's first words from a text message you managed to send me during the day. I want to come home from work and have you wrap your arms around my neck. I want to see your face all excited and proud when you tell me that she said 'cookie' or 'mama.' That's the way it should be."
He felt her fingers tense under his hand and Booth mentally replayed the words that had just tumbled from his mouth. He instantly recognized where he had overstepped, but he couldn't bring himself to back-peddle over what was the honest truth.
It was a thick moment of silence before she cleared her throat and finally spoke. "I've seen how challenging it is for you to share parenting with Rebecca. I can understand why you don't want to do that again."
"Thank you," Booth replied sincerely.
"You're a very good father, Booth."
"Thank you," he said again. "You're going to be a great mother someday, Bones."
She half-smiled. "There are several obstacles in the way before that will happen, it seems."
Booth shook his head. "You remember what we discussed in the hospital? Before my surgery?"
She nodded, prompting him to continue.
"I want you to be happy, Bones," he said softly.
"I'm aware of that," she replied, clearly not understanding his inference.
"If having a baby makes you happy, Bones, then … I want to be a part of that. I want to help, if I can."
"But you don't want to miss out on your child's life," she supplied.
Booth nodded and half-shrugged. "Can you blame me? I've already got one kid where I've missed out on lots of the good stuff. I don't want to do it again. And it's different with you than with Rebecca."
He watched the small furrow between her brow as she frowned at his words. "I'm not sure I understand."
Both smirked. "I care about her because she's my son's mother. I care about you because you're you. Having a baby together won't make me care about you, Bones. It'll just make me care about you more –if that's possible."
He watched her face as she mulled his words and was disconcerted by the tension he saw on her features.
Booth shook his head, deciding to ease her mind. "And if you've changed your mind, there's nothing that says you can't start looking into your 'other options'. I'm sure there are plenty of donors out there who will happily supply you with the DNA you need."
She was quiet for a beat before slowly twisting her hand under his, lacing their fingers together. "I imagine midnight feedings are easier with two people."
"And I imagine school sick-days are easier with two people."
"And it is logical to assume that while the child would receive sufficient enrichment and education from one parent, there are certain things the second parent may be more adept at teaching on a daily basis."
"Very logical," he agreed. Hand-holding wasn't something they traditionally did, but he certainly wasn't going to refuse the small gesture of intimacy she offered.
"My childhood was much more stable and much happier in a dual-parent home."
He nodded. "I wish I could say the same. But I get your point."
Brennan twisted her mouth in thought. "I believe I need to re-evaluate my original reasoning behind having a child on my own. Perhaps I need to make some changes before I pursue this any further."
"You'll make a great mom, Bones. Don't re-evaluate that part." Booth spared her a wink before slowly pulling his hand away and eating his burger with gusto.
"Thank you," she said, turning her attention back to her salad. "I believe I learned by watching you be such a good father."
Booth looked up at her, mid chew. His eyebrows rose and he couldn't help but smile as much as his mouthful of food would allow.
"Booth?" she started, looking up at him with a somewhat worried expression. "Perhaps after dinner we could discuss your required parameters? What circumstances you need to feel comfortable having another child?"
"So I'm back on the list?" he asked with a wink.
"You were never off it," she said, reaching across and stealing a fry.