A/N: Two out-of-character things for me. First, I'm not one to usually go back in time to write a story, but I got an idea and this is what came of it. Second, I wrote this in celebration of sunsetdreamer's graduation day. I don't usually do this kind of thing, but her good friend RositaLG invited other friends to write stories for her as a present and thankfully, we had a month warning, which is the only reason I came up with anything in time! If you follow the lovely RositaLG's stories (as you should), you will have already read this (ie: feel free to skip over it). Since many people have different tastes in whom they follow and what they read, though, I decided to go ahead and post under my own account, too. I do NOT expect double reviews – if you are a faithful reviewer-type and happened to have already left a review on RositaLG's story, please please do not feel like you need to leave another here.
Thanks to OwlStory for the awesome Egyptian anthropological trivia, allowing me many choices to find the one that worked just right for this story.
It had just been a homework question.
Booth didn't have Parker as often during the week, but Rebecca had thought it might be good for him to have his son to hold onto while Brennan and Christine were away. "Away" was Rebecca's word for it. He accepted the euphemism and he welcomed the extra time with his son. With Parker he remembered there were reasons to smile. God, he was such a great kid. There were baseball games, tossing the football around, watching classic movies together like The Sandlot, and hearing all about the pranks he and his friends played on each other at school.
Tonight they made homemade pizza together and started some advance planning for their fantasy football teams while downing bottles of root beer. After clearing the table, Parker settled in with his homework and Booth pulled out his current Brennan read. Sometimes he liked to imagine her reading it to him; he always appreciated how she would explain things to him without making him feel stupid. He read for a while, then paused to look up and stare at nothing in particular as he tried to process a section he didn't yet fully understand. He often kept the laptop next to him so that he could look something up if he got really stumped.
Parker was using it now, pencil in his mouth as he two-finger typed whatever it was he was searching for. Booth glanced over to find out the topic of his worksheet. Egyptian cultural practices. "Explore: Find an Egyptian social practice to compare with a related U.S. custom past or present." Bones would have all kinds of ideas to help Parker with that one, Booth thought.
"Dad, did you know that a woman in Egypt could get a divorce just by moving out of the house?"
"Sounds easier than getting all the lawyers involved, that's for sure."
"Bones doesn't believe in marriage, right?"
Booth chuckled in surprise. "Yeah, that's right. How did you know that?"
"I asked her one day if you guys were gonna get married sometime. She said she didn't believe a piece of paper was a logical reflection of the commitment two people have for one another."
Booth smiled at Parker's quote. "What do you think about that?"
He shrugged. "I think she's probably right. Parents get divorced all of the time, so what's the point of the piece of paper if you can just get rid of it later? It doesn't seem like it makes people any more likely to stay together."
Booth debated how to approach his son on the topic. On one hand, Parker and Brennan were both completely right – some people treated marriage like it was just a status message. On the other, Booth obviously didn't feel that way. Before he could respond, though, Parker threw out his own curve ball.
"Do you think the Egyptians felt that if the woman moved out of the house with the kids that they were divorced from their dad, too?"
"What? No. It doesn't work that way."
"Maybe it does. It kind of works that way here."
He wasn't sure he wanted to know what Parker meant, but forced himself to ask, anyway. "What do you mean?"
"Kids hardly ever live with their dads and have weekends with their moms. Josh lives with his mom and only sees his dad a couple of weekends a month. Mark's dad doesn't even live near enough for him to visit a lot. Why don't they live with their dads? Even Bones took Christine with her when she left instead of leaving her with you."
Booth froze at Parker's unintentionally painful observation. Was the hidden question actually asking why the mother of his children didn't trust his ability to care for them and protect them? Did Parker doubt this? Somewhere in his heart he knew this probably wasn't true. Parker knew he could count on him.
After a few moments, Booth noticed that Parker hadn't really waited for an answer and was copying down information he found on the Internet into his notes. Booth looked away and back at the book in his hand, realizing that he had long since let it fall to the table and close. His hands shook now as he tried to share his thoughts with Parker, even though he hadn't demanded an answer.
"Kids, you know, they have this special bond with their moms, right? And Christine, well, she's still just a baby, and babies especially like to be with their moms."
"I guess," Parker said. "I think you would have done okay with her, though. And it'd be easier for Bones to stay hidden without her though, wouldn't it?"
Please stop reminding me of all the arguments I already had with myself about this, Booth pleaded silently. "Maybe. But maybe she'd miss her too much, you know? I mean, at least I've still got you here, right?" He gave him a weak smile.
"Yeah," Parker smiled back. "I've got your back, Dad."
Who knew that hearing such words from his son could be so reassuring? He bumped Parker's fist and stood to take care of the dishes they'd left in the sink while Parker finished his homework. They went through the bedtime routine together – changing and brushing teeth. It was about thirty minutes past when Booth expected Parker to be asleep when his son came downstairs.
"Want to stay in my room tonight?"
"Nah, I just figured I could keep you company. I don't want you to be sad and lonely here in the living room. You can sleep in my bed and I'll use my sleeping bag on the floor."
When had Booth become so transparent that his son could figure out how much he didn't want to sleep in the bed he and Brennan usually shared? Parker's offer invited a warmth into his heart that almost made him tear up. "Yeah, buddy. I'd like that. Thanks." He grabbed his pillow and followed Parker back upstairs.
"You should just always sleep in my room, Dad. Even when I'm at Mom's. Then you'll always see that my stuff is still here."
"You're not going to move out and divorce me?" Booth smirked.
"Because you've got my back?"
"Right. You and me, Dad. We're partners, right?"
A bit more of his heart opened up again. He ruffled his kid's hair. "Yeah, buddy, we are. No matter what."