Episode tag for 3.12 "The Baby in the Bough."
It was almost one a.m. when Booth was jarred awake by the strident ring of his cell phone. He fumbled for it without opening his eyes; by instinct alone, his thumb hit the answer button.
"Something's wrong! I need your help!"
The fear in Brennan's voice cleared the fog of sleep from his head.
"Bones?" He sat up, instantly on alert, already reaching for the jeans he'd left draped over the back of a chair. "What is it? What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"It's Andy! He won't stop crying!" Sure enough, the loud wailing of a very unhappy infant almost drowned out her words. "I've done everything the books suggest but it's lasted for hours! I don't know what to do!"
He paused only long enough to grab the car keys from the kitchen counter before he raced out of his apartment.
"I'm on my way, okay? I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
"Thank you." The relief in her voice was palpable. "Thank you, Booth."
He flipped on the siren and made it in ten.
He could hear the baby crying when he knocked on Brennan's door. When she opened it and greeted him with Andy in her arms, the sound was loud enough to make him wince.
"Whoa. Someone's not happy."
As he stepped inside, he divested himself of his jacket and stuffed it in Brennan's hands in exchange for the screaming child.
"Hey, little man." His voice dropped to a low, soothing croon as he tucked the boy against his shoulder and began to pace automatically. "What's up with you, huh? Why are you giving your Auntie Bones so much trouble tonight?"
Brennan tossed the soft leather coat aside without looking to see where it landed. As Booth walked in a slow circuit through the living room to her kitchen and back again, she matched him step for step, staying right beside him.
"I don't know what's wrong," she said again. "He's not hungry. He has a clean diaper - although I suppose it's possible he's urinated since I changed him."
The volume of the baby's cries increased, despite the rhythmic patting on his back and the deep, reassuring murmurs meant to comfort him.
"I've done that, too," Brennan insisted. "I sang to him as well. Nothing worked! He won't sleep. He won't eat. He just cries! One expert suggested leaving him alone in a dark room but it seems unfair to punish him because he's unable to verbalize his needs."
The low table in front of the sofa caught Booth's eye when he turned to begin another lap through the apartment. More than half a dozen obviously new books lay scattered on top, all concerning infant and child development or touting advice on behavior and education. He looked at Brennan then, really looked at her, for the first time since he'd arrived. With great effort, he managed not to laugh.
She looked . . . frazzled. Wispy tendrils of dark hair brushed against her cheeks, having escaped from a ponytail that drooped low on the back of her neck. A wet stain marred the shoulder of her red blouse, there was a dried smear of something yellow near her chin and, ever so faintly, just a hint of the smell of sour milk around her.
He found himself oddly charmed by the sight. He'd seen her angry before. He'd seen her weary and sad and determined and, on rare occasions, uncertain.
He'd never seen her rattled. Discombobulated, even. It was adorable.
He bounced Andy in his arms and pressed his lips against the soft, flushed cheek to hide a smile. His whisper was lost in the child's loud wailing.
"Remind me to buy you a pony someday, kid."
"Do you think it's the key?" Brennan's anxious gaze was on the baby. "Perhaps it's causing an obstruction in his bowels. We should take him to the emergency room . . ."
Booth shook his head.
"No, he's not in pain, he's just mad." He switched Andy to the other arm and ran a practiced hand over the small limbs. "See how loose he is? He's not curled up and tight like he's got something hurting him." He moved the little boy back to his shoulder and kept walking.
Another loop through the apartment brought the edge of the diaper bag to his attention. An idea occurred to him.
"Is there a blanket or anything in that bag? Something his mother might have packed?"
Brennan hurried to check and came up with a thin, rather ragged old receiving blanket. "There's this but it's too small to be of any use."
"That's exactly what I need."
Booth reached for it and when she handed it over, deftly juggled both infant and blanket until the threadbare piece of cotton was spread loosely over his shoulder. When he was done, he put his hand on the baby's head and tucked him close to the soft material.
"Parker used to cry like this when Rebecca had a night class," he explained to Brennan, his voice barely above a whisper, as Andy grabbed a fistful of the blanket and rubbed his nose in it. The screams slowly faded to hiccuping sobs. "Sometimes it would help if I wrapped him in one of her nightgowns or a t-shirt."
Brennan's face showed dismay. "He misses his mother. She probably washed their clothes together - the blanket smells like her. I should have considered that."
"You would have," Booth assured her. "I've just been through it before, that's all." They were still walking, their steps matching foot for foot. Against the warmth of the wide shoulder beneath his cheek, the exhausted, overwrought infant slowly began to succumb to sleep.
"This is why I should never have children of my own." Tired and drained in her own right, Brennan's eyes filled with tears. "The olfactory sense is tied to memory. It's especially strong in infants - I know that! I do! I should have thought of it when Andy didn't respond to my other attempts to calm him and instead I -"
"Don't be so hard on yourself," Booth interrupted the self-blame session. "A baby screaming in your ear can make you forget your own name sometimes." He crooked his head to get a better look at the tiny face. "I think he's out now. Did you get a bed for him?"
Brennan led him to the spare bedroom where she'd set up the portable crib purchased earlier that day. When Booth bent over to place him inside, however, Andy jolted awake.
"Okay, okay. It's okay. I've gotcha." The soothing whispers were back. Three more laps around the living room and they tried again, with the same results.
After one more unsuccessful attempt, Booth sank to the couch with Andy nestled on his chest. Content and comfortable, the baby rubbed his cheek into the blanket, yawned, and slept.
Brennan sat down beside them.
"Perhaps it wasn't a good idea for me to agree to act as guardian for Russ and Amy's daughters. If I can't handle one infant for one night -"
"Babies take practice, Bones." Booth let his head fall back to the top of the sofa and closed his eyes. "No one just knows how to be a parent right off the bat. You figure it out as you go along. The important thing is that you love 'em and you do the best you can. The rest takes care of itself." One eye opened to snag hers. His mouth edged up in a crooked smile. "You would be a great mom."
Brennan looked at the sleeping baby, her expression sad, and touched the edge of the blanket with the tip of one finger.
"We have to find out who killed his mother, Booth. He deserves that much."
"We will." After a wide, jaw-cracking yawn, Booth closed his eyes again. "Five minutes and we'll try putting him down again."
Less than two minutes later, they were all asleep.
Thanks for reading!