It took him longer than he thought it should have to realize exactly how he'd messed it all up. In the moment, walking out of Sweets' office, amped up on the kid's exhortations to break the stalemate, he'd taken exactly the wrong tack for the woman he was talking to. And in the aftermath of her rejection, he'd been too caught up in how damn much he was hurting, and in projecting the idea that he was moving on, to think about how he might have done better in that moment.

But now, lying on his bunk in Bagram, staring at a picture of them her cousin Margaret had taken at Christmas, he saw all too clearly—so clearly it was like a sharp stab in the gut—how he'd screwed up the most important moment of his life.

I'm the gambler? Give this a shot? Had he really been so stupid as to present his feelings for her in terms of chance?

Who knows better than him that Bones doesn't do chance?

He wanted to be pissed at Sweets, for goading him into that dumbass confession, but deep down he knew that he'd taken gone down the wrong road all by himself. Sweets didn't tell him to use exactly the wrong metaphor to appeal to Brennan's feelings. And now she was in Muluku, he was in Afghanistan, and there was no way to correct the mistake.

Or, maybe… maybe there was a way. Rolling over onto his side and tucking the picture back into the album Angela had made for him, a plan started to form. It wasn't the one he would have liked; Booth would always prefer to have important conversations in person, but that was obviously out of the question for another seven months, and that was too long to wait. He could e-mail her, but that seemed a little too casual for what he wanted to say. No, if this was to be done right—and this was pretty clearly his last chance to get it right—he'd have to write. By hand. Using pen and paper. Affixing a stamp to an envelope with her name on it, sending it off to an island in the deep pacific, counting on people he'd never meet to deliver his words to her hands.

It was a romantic notion, really. Not that he expected her to pick up on that part, but he could appreciate the romance all on his own.

He remembered every word he'd said that night, and he regretted most of them. Not for the sentiment they conveyed—he was dead sure about that part—but for the way he went about conveying the sentiment. But more importantly, much more importantly, he remembered every word she'd said.

The FBI won't let us be partners. You need protecting from me. I don't have your kind of open heart. Love is ephemeral.

She was wrong. She was factually, demonstrably wrong about each of those things, and he'd prove it to her. He'd prove it using facts, evidence, the things she trusted and believed in. He grabbed a legal pad and a pen, and set to work.