This story was started in response to another great LJ challenge from cathmarchr. But it just grew and grew, and I missed the deadline. But then – magic – another comment fic meme ("What if ..?") on LJ resurrected it, so here it is. Hope you enjoy it!
Thanks once more to the wonderful nudgy cathmarchr for her (several) read throughs and input - you're a treasure, hunny - you really got me back on track with this one!
Disclaimer: The only thing I own is my soul, and I even lend that out on occasion, but only if you ask nice. Anything that even looks familiar in this story probably belongs to someone else (except the actual story - that's all mine, Mine, MINE [*maniacal laughter*]!)
July 1, 2010
July 1, 2010
Balkh Province, Afghanistan
Booth patted his breast pocket again, the action unconscious, almost a habit now. Another talisman added to his collection. He knew the words off by heart, all twenty-four of them.
"Landed safely. Flight excellent (first class)." Booth smiled every time he thought of that, not entirely sure that she'd meant it as a joke, but hoping that she had. "Denpasar hot and crowded. Flight to Ambon then Seram Laut tomorrow pm." He'd googled the places she'd mentioned; there was apparently a lot of island hopping to get to where she was going. "Gov't reception tonight." Booth's smile always spread to a grin when he thought of those words. He knew how much she hated that kind of stuff, but he didn't have any trouble imagining her donning some little black number she had tucked in the corner of her pack, something that would take the breath away from those government types and leave them begging for more. He knew the feeling; oh, how he knew the feeling. But it was the valediction that had kept the battered rectangle of cardboard in his pocket since the mail jockey had slapped it into his hand with a grin.
In the few idle moments he'd had in the weeks since he'd got her postcard he'd found his mind going back to her final words again and again. "Miss you. B." He missed her so much it was like there was a hole in his chest big enough to put his fist through. When he'd spotted the familiar writing, her tightly controlled script and those seemingly random oversized looping tails on the 'g's, he'd felt his pulse start to race. Even her handwriting set off an avalanche of memory that only hard physical exertion could stem.
The reproduction vintage postcard was typically her. Three angelically beautiful pre-pubescent Balinese girls danced across the front, the words "Spice Islands" elegantly engraved above them. There was probably some anthropological significance to their elaborate costumes or their ridiculously long fingernails or something. He'd immediately searched for the crassest, most garish cartoon of Army life he could find, and whipped back a clichéd reply. "Having a great time. Wish you were here." He wondered what significance, anthropological or otherwise, Brennan might care to give to that.
He recalled the conversation in her office just before she finished up at the Jeffersonian where they'd made that stupid half-assed agreement not to call unless there was an emergency. Brennan argued logically and rationally that it would give them each a chance to settle properly into their new environments. As always, he'd gone along with what she wanted. But he felt his resolve waver daily, hourly. Things had changed. Twelve months. Shit.
A year until he could feel the silk of her skin against his again, smell her arousal, feel her hands on his body … before he could lose himself in her again. He didn't think he could make it. Booth closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the metal skin of the craft, hoping the intense vibrations he could feel through his skull would shatter the longing he felt. Images of her hovering over him, her eyes alight with lust, the sound of his name on her breath, intruded against the black of his subconscious, images that almost overwhelmed him. He tried to think of something else but memories of the delicious friction of their bodies joined together almost made him come apart at the seams …
The Blackhawk hit a clear air pocket over the stark desert landscape and the resulting lurch of the aircraft almost tipped him out of his seat. Laughter crackled through his headset, cutting across the syncopated roar of the rotors. Booth good-naturedly tolerated the catcalls and guffaws, settling himself more securely on the bench. His nostrils filled with the now familiar smells of JP8 from the chopper engines, and sweat and fear from the men in his squad. He could barely remember a time when there wasn't the smell of sweat around him. His hand reached up and patted his breast pocket in a gesture so completely automatic he was no longer aware of it. Several of the rag-tag group of soldiers he been assigned exchanged knowing glances; there was already a book running on just what it was that was in the Sarge's pocket.
Booth was halfway through what would now only be an eight week tour in northern Afghanistan; the powers that be had decided he'd be utilized more effectively Stateside. Back at Fort Benning, where he could "process" a higher number of trainees. He grimaced at the Army-speak. They made it sound like he'd be stamping their foreheads and shrinkwrapping them. Even the usual sixty-one day turnaround for trainees had been cut to forty-six. Things were changing here; the war was changing. His skills had to be passed on to the greatest number of soldiers in the shortest amount of time, and those soldiers were destined to go back and in turn train the locals. So it was back to the States for him. In a few months the weather here would turn to shit anyway and everything would slow down to a crawl. Winter is harsh across the country, with temperatures sitting below zero and Wakhan Corridor, and its labyrinth of connecting caves they were detailed to investigate, would be inaccessible due to the heavy snows. He didn't really know how he felt about this change in plans; all he really cared about was that he'd be even further away from Bones.
"Boss?" Booth's head shot up at his corporal's voice and he pulled himself together rapidly. The chopper descended abruptly to the drop off point, sending up a cloud of dust that tinted everything and everyone in a fifty foot radius a sickly gray. Mountain phase training had begun.
May 20, 2010
Six weeks earlier …
Booth rang the bell to Brennan's apartment again. She had to be there. He'd wangled and schmoozed to try and get off base until his face ached, and in the end he'd just left. No one had challenged him. Getting back in without getting put on a charge might take all the finagling he could muster, but he'd worry about that later. There was something much more important he needed to do now.
His hand fluttered nervously down his chest to straighten the tie that wasn't there. It still felt weird to be in uniform again. The building was quiet, creaking now and then the way old buildings do as they settle under a blanket of cool air. He looked at his watch: 1:17am. Damn. The first flight he could get out of Columbus, Georgia had been at 11pm, and he'd gotten into Dulles a little after midnight. Now he stood at her door, a 'Rangers Lead the Way' tee shirt in a crumpled paper bag in his hand, his hair slicked down like an eighth grader's. When there was no sign of life from inside the apartment he sighed, resignation pushing down on his shoulders. He really must be crazy.
If he were honest with himself, he wasn't even sure he was welcome. Things had been weird between them since he'd taken his gamble on telling her how he felt, asking her to give 'them' a chance. A gamble that he'd lost. He'd backed off, trying not to hurt her and in the process fatally wounding himself.
Without warning the latch snicked and the door eased open an inch, then swung wide.
"Booth?" Sleep clouded her eyes, but her burgeoning smile set his heart beating faster.
"Hey," he said softly, flicking his tongue over his lips nervously.
"Hey yourself." Her nipples crested under the thin camisole she wore as cold air rushed around her. He tried to not to stare but his eyes were drawn back to their impudent presence despite himself. "What are you doing here?" she went on, "I put you on the plane to Fort Benning myself." Her voice rose on a crescendo of disbelief.
He didn't answer her straight away, instead looking past her and raising his brows, silently asking to come in. She stepped aside, hugging her arms across her chest, and the night breeze sent the satiny pajama bottoms in a caress against her legs. He reached behind her door and pulled at the ancient pashmina he knew was always hung there. His hands shook a little as he tucked it around her shoulders. He let her go abruptly, closing the apartment door behind him.
Brennan looked at him expectantly, waiting for an explanation of his presence at this hour of the morning, five hundred miles from where she thought he was.
"I needed to tell you -" Something in his voice or in his expression must have signalled his intensity and a look of trepidation shot across her face. He hastily amended his words, easing back, "Ah, to see you again before you left, make sure you were okay. You know how it is. Five years, every day; I can't help it." His grin belied his thoughts. He didn't tell her the truth, that he'd come here to ask for another chance. Or that he couldn't let her go without telling her he loved her, holding her against him just once more without the others around looking on expectantly. What they had between them had never been for sharing, always just for them, alone.
She gave him a wary smile and hugged the shawl tighter around her, the superfine cashmere outlining her breasts like a second skin. He felt the familiar tension flare in his groin, but ignored it as he always did. She turned and headed towards the kitchen.
"I've got instant coffee, no cream or sugar, or something called házi palinka. Everything else is either in the trash or non-perishable." Brennan yawned and the pashmina slipped off her shoulders. She didn't even notice or try to catch it, instead reaching for the bottle of alcohol that she'd left in its gift bag, a farewell present from Mr Szabo, the man who ran the whole food store on the corner.
Booth held out the crumpled paper carrier that he'd brought with him and she took it with a small frown. She smirked at the gung ho slogan on the tee shirt and surprised him by slipping it over her head straight away. It swam on her, skimming her thighs, and Booth thought she'd never looked so adorable. She picked up the bottle, barely waiting for his nod before she unscrewed the cap.
"It's strange to see you in uniform, here in my apartment. It feels … wrong." She frowned as she poured two generous measures out into matching bone china tea cups, holding one out to Booth. "Cheers, or I think you're supposed to say 'egészségedre!'."
"Gesundheit!" Booth joked back on a grin but the wisecrack went over her head.
"I'm instructed you drink it like a shot." She continued, her brows raised doubtfully.
Booth sniffed the olive green tinged drink suspiciously, his eyes watering at the fumes coming from it, but he bravely sculled the brew when she did. They both broke into paroxysms of coughing as the neat alcohol hit their stomachs.
"Ah jeez, Bones, that's disgusting! What is it?"
Brennan gasped for air, "He said it was just fruit and some herbs." Their eyes met and she started to laugh. "Oh, that was just awful." Booth joined in and she held up the bottle again. "Want another one?"
He met the challenge in her eyes and wordlessly held out the cup. Another generous splash, a chink as their cups met, a fair amount of blinking back spontaneous eye watering, but this time no coughing. Brennan's gaze never left his face, her expression cautious.
"Why are you here, Booth?"
Booth wasn't sure whether the huskiness in her voice was an effect of the alcohol or the question. He dropped his eyes to the cup in his hands. "This stuff's not half bad after the first couple, hey Bones? Hit me." Brennan's face screwed up in confusion and Booth clarified, "Pour another shot."
She retrieved the bottle from the counter, muttering under her breath, "It might be quite satisfying to actually hit you."
"I told you, Bones, just making sure you're okay." He looked away, needing a break from the directness of her gaze. She poured two more shots, her hand a little unsteady. He drew a deep breath. "Bones -"
"Drink, Booth." She cut in hurriedly, "Wish me well on my journey."
"Don't go, Bones." The words tumbled out without thought. Who was he to ask her not to go; wasn't he going too? There was no getting out of that. He wanted to turn the clock back, but time and events seemed to be barrelling out of his control and he wasn't ready for it. His expression was bleak and he tried to make eye contact with but she kept her eyes downcast.
"I can't talk about that, Booth. Please." She pressed her lips together to stop them trembling; she was obviously determined to avoid the conversation he was desperate to have. She raised the cup to her lips, throwing the liquor down the back of her throat. She looked so miserable and it broke his heart, that he was causing her pain by intruding into her life after she thought she'd successfully filed him away for a while. A muscle in his jaw worked furiously as he battled with himself. Consideration for her feelings won and he raised his cup in a silent toast and followed her example, letting the burn of the homemade brandy erode the words that were stuck in his throat.
"I hope you have a great trip, Bones." Another forced smile, letting the speech he'd prepared dissolve into nothing. "I really do." At least he could be sincere in that.
"Thanks, Booth." She put the cup in the sink, tiredness etched on her face. "I really need to get some sleep." She turned away from him, fruitlessly attempting to keep her hands occupied by tidying the empty kitchen counter. "When do you have to get back to Benning?"
"Tomorrow." He looked at his watch. "Ah, today. My flight leaves about twenty minutes after yours."
She swung around to face him, astonished. "I don't understand, you came back to Washington for just a few hours? You are not behaving rationally, Agent Booth."
Agent Booth? How much of that brandy stuff had she had? "It's Sergeant Major Booth now, Bones." he reminded her gently, "You don't get to boss me around any more." He flicked a strand of hair away from her face.
At his words she looked stricken, as if the reality of what they were doing had only now occurred to her. She tried to recover her poise, but failed.
He pulled her into his embrace and she let him. His hug was purely for comfort, comfort for both of them.
"Yeah, I know, I'm nuts." He murmured into her hair, his tone self deprecating. "C'mon, you should get to bed. Big day tomorrow."
"You too. Do you want to stay? The spare bed's still made up." She looked up at him with a frown, her confusion fuelled by alcohol and the lateness of the hour. "I can't believe you're here, Booth. How could you know I -?" she broke off and left the rest unsaid.
He let her guileless comment pass, convinced she'd forget it in the morning. She'd made her feelings clear, and he'd just have to live with it.
Brennan sat up in bed, her face damp with perspiration. She'd been dreaming, a tangled mess of soldiers and blood and Booth. A shudder went through her body and she felt the tears of her dream begin to seep down her cheeks. She dashed them away with the back of her hand, impatient with herself. Dreams were not real, dreams meant nothing except the mind processing the minutiae of life.
She checked the bedside clock: 2:12am. She'd been asleep less than half an hour. Up until then she'd been tossing and turning, unable to rest knowing Booth was in the next room. Why had he come? She was angry with him for turning up like that, when she'd finally resigned herself to the reality of the future she'd chosen, when the doubts had finally been silenced. It was only a year, the time it took for the earth to rotate once around the sun. Time enough to realign herself and reprioritize, rediscover the delight of ancient remains, reclaim the fascination from her life before hunting murderers had consumed her. Before Booth.
Panic crowded in on her again as images flooded her mind and she felt her heart pound in her chest. A hundred images splayed across her mind's eye. Booth shielding her with his body, pushing her out of the way of trouble, getting the bad guy … stopping a bullet meant for her. And always a hero; always her hero. What if he died, what if he didn't stop being a hero, being Booth? What had she done by making this separation come about?
She crossed her arms across her body, hugging the unidentifiable feelings against her flesh. She was feverish with uncertainty, not understanding that she was trying to deal with grief. Grief for what was actually her deepest fear. A world without Booth.
God, she ached for him. She did the only thing she could do then. She went to him.
Just as Booth finally let himself relax and was ready for sleep Brennan slid beside him without fanfare, barely disturbing the sheets.
"Bones?" He didn't raise his voice above a whisper even though her appearance took him completely by surprise.
"Damn you, Booth." Her voice shook with suppressed emotion and with the enormity of what she was doing.
When she slid her arm across his bare chest he couldn't help the jolt that wracked his body. He was instantly hard and as her hand swept down his torso and across his hips he tried to shy away from her touch, embarrassed to be found hot and ready for sex like a teenager. She didn't hesitate to take him in her hand, stroking him gently and all the while sprinkling kisses along the line of his shoulder.
"What is this? Feeling sorry for me?" he asked bitterly, hating himself as he said it. She pinched the soft flesh of his inner thigh, hard enough to make him yelp.
"It is what it is. Pity has nothing to do with it." She sat up, slipping off her sweat dampened tee shirt and camisole, revealing a field of creamy skin that shone in the dim light. "Can't you just let me have this?" The harsh rejoinder froze on his lips at her soft entreaty.
A groan escaped him at the sight of her, her breasts full and round and perfect. He pulled her onto his chest and wrapped his arms around her, savouring the feel of those breasts flattened against his skin, taking what was on offer without question or thought. His mouth finally found hers and he lost himself in the feel of the soft flesh inside her upper lip, the satiny slide of her legs across his thighs and the sting of her nails digging into his upper arms as they explored each other eagerly. They traded heat and murmured inarticulate expressions of tenderness that meant everything and nothing, coaxing heart into the physicality of their union. She straddled him, teasing him by rubbing her sex along the length of his hardness. She laughed, exulted, when she felt the strength of his response and pressed against him even harder, all the while whispering his name like some sort of chant. Lust flared in her eyes and he flipped her over until she was squirming beneath him, still laughing, and he studied her. Her face slowly stilled and she looked back at him solemnly. She repeated her earlier words, this time edged with husky desire. "Damn you, Booth."
He hesitated for a moment, poised above her, capturing in his memory the picture her hair splayed across the pillow like a living thing and the heat of their breath mingling. He felt his stomach clench as a wave of fierce possessiveness surged across his brain and through his heart, before he gave into the urgency of her hands. When they came together in a tangle of limbs and lips, the emotional release was almost stronger than the physical; fast and furious, almost feral. He pounded into her and her hips rose from the bed to meet every thrust until they both cried out in pleasure as they came apart, one after the other.
Their movements slowed then stilled, and they lay in each other arms, panting, neither of them able to find words that fit the time. Brennan drifted into an exhausted sleep, her head wedged stubbornly in the crook of his shoulder, finally finding a modicum of peace through their actions.
Booth watched the steady rise and fall of her breathing for a long time, his jaw set and his eyes sad. He didn't understand this woman; his partner. But he knew he loved her. He tried to let the sound of her breathing, deep and even, soothe him. Maybe it was a mistake to come here after all. Their almost wordless union had been a release of tension for both of them – but was it anything more? Whether Brennan would regret her actions he didn't know, but he realised he couldn't bear the thought of seeing the rejection in her eyes when she woke up. He wanted to leave with the picture of her face that was seared to his brain, the picture of her face as she came.
So he got up, stealthily so as not to disturb her, rewarded by the fact that her breathing didn't even falter. He was dressed and out on the street before he'd given himself time to think. He needed action, movement now - something to blot out thought, so he walked. He kept walking, putting one foot in front of the other, breaking into a trot after a couple of blocks. He felt the steady rhythm of his pace begin to soothe him, as it always did, the resilient rubber soles of his tan combat boots changing his gait so that he had to concentrate on placing his feet at precise intervals on the sidewalk. The streets were empty and he had the city to himself, walking, then running, then walking again.
As dawn broke he found himself at one end of the Reflecting Pool, breathless and saturated with sweat. He smiled without humor at the irony of it all and flagged down a passing cab.
"Dulles." The cab driver nodded and pulled away from the curb. The Washington Monument shimmered gold on the surface of the pool in the early morning light, but Booth had closed his eyes, his head falling back on the seat.
He let her go, because that was what she wanted.
They were all there at the departure gate; Hodgins and Angela, happiness like a halo around them, Cam looking elegantly beautiful and every so faintly bemused by the fact that this moment had actually come. Daisy's eagerness to go only made Sweets' sad smile more heartbreaking to witness. Brennan felt the lack of Booth's presence keenly and her eyes kept flicking through the crowd.
"Uh-oh – here we go." Brennan's gaze scoured the concourse at Cam's words, the thrill she felt when she spied Booth in the distance causing an ache in her gut that she struggled to rationalise. Thank god he'd come. She tried to keep calm, and managed to keep her usual tranquil mask in place but inside she was an uncharacteristic jumble of nerves.
Booth spotted the small clutch of squints, the others blurred against the reality of Brennan. His resolve to stay away had lasted as far as the entrance to the domestic terminal and he had turned on his heel like an automaton; he may as well try to stop breathing as try to keep away from one more look of her. Their eyes met, hers lighting with pleasure that she couldn't hide.
And so they said their public goodbyes, a sanitized version for the benefit of their colleagues, neither of them acknowledging what had passed between them the night before. One last look back at him, then she was gone.
August 9, 2010
Booth's reintroduction to Fort Benning had been relatively painless. He'd passed through debriefing in record time and had headed down range on day three. He knew it would take him a damn sight longer than that to get rid of the dust of Afghanistan; those two months would stay with him for a long time.
Standard Army snafu meant his quarters weren't ready yet and he spent his first few nights in one of the old twelve bunk enlisted barracks, but they'd moved him within a few days. He was quietly glad; sharing a shower block with eleven able-bodied twentysomethings fuelled by adrenaline and a sense of their own invincibility had made him feel old and tired. His new quarters were decent, but soulless; the regulation one hundred and thirty-five square feet of net living area. More than enough room when all you did in your spare time was lie on your bunk and stare at the ceiling. Single personnel accommodation always smelled the same; fried food, boot polish and sweat.
When he'd first arrived, he'd thrown his duffel on the floor and stacked the two small cardboard boxes which held the rest of his possessions in a corner, stuff that had been in storage here at Benning while he'd been overseas. He couldn't be bothered unpacking them up to now, but if this was to be his home for the next nine months he figured now was as good a time as any to find a place for it all.
He settled himself on the floor and half-heartedly pulled the first box towards him. Two framed photos of Parker were on the top and he returned his son's smile, the sight of the cheeky face in the picture giving him an instant lift. Parker was such a great kid. How did that happen? he thought wryly, not recognising the self-deprecating observation as evidence of the black depression that had settled on him in the last few days. Booth used his sleeve to wipe the dust off a shelf and put the photos there; a place of honor.
He knelt back down beside the box with a sigh, resigning himself to sorting through the rest of the contents. His hand fell on something yielding and a tingle went through him at the contact. He fingered the cotton fabric that had been wrapped around the frames and his mood pooled in his gut again.
It was an old FBI tee shirt of his that had been washed a hundred times, until it was soft and worn. Brennan had borrowed it one night at his place. He held it up to his face, breathing in her scent. They'd been caught in a storm and ended up back at his apartment, both soaked to the skin. Thai food eaten at his coffee table, sitting on the floor, while they waited for her wet clothes to go through the cycle in the dryer. She'd changed back into her own clothes when they were dry and he'd tossed the tee shirt into a drawer. Funny how he'd never gotten around to washing it. Funny how he'd brought it with him.
He gave himself a mental shake and sat back on his heels. Jesus, way to torture himself. He tossed it over his shoulder with feigned nonchalance, rummaging through the box for a bottle of scotch he was sure he'd shoved in at the last minute. His fingers touched the long cool hardness of the bottle neck, and he tugged at it, spilling papers and mementoes onto the floor; a motley collection he'd thought he couldn't live without.
He stared at the mess he'd made, picking up the little plastic pig that had landed near his foot. He'd given it to Brennan ages ago and had surreptitiously swiped it off her desk on his last day at work. His legs started to cramp and he let his butt slide onto the floor, groaning as his overworked muscles stretched and contracted to accommodate the new position. He'd thought he was fit, but the punishing regime that RAP week demanded had almost killed him. Then the ten day Benning patrol phase: a five mile run and a sixteen mile road march with seventy pounds of gear each and every day, land navigation both day and night, demolition training, bayonet assault course, physical fitness test, combat water survival test, basic patrolling classes, artillery training, obstacle courses, and a great deal of sleep loss. He'd walked, run and crawled every inch with his men. They'd spent four hours a day planning, sixteen hours executing each mission, one hour in recovery/refit, and a princely three hours asleep, all on two thousand calories a day. In the three weeks since he'd been a Ranger Instructor at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command here at Fort Benning, food had become a luxury. He'd lost almost twenty pounds but his muscles were like iron. Thank god the next four weeks were classroom based and he could get a burger any time he liked. His mouth watered at the thought of a mega burger and fries, sitting across from Bones at their table at the diner.
Bones. He couldn't stop thinking about her.
And all he'd had was that one postcard from her. He wanted to hear her voice, even if it meant getting ticked off in no uncertain terms. He sighed, and put that idea back in its box.
He'd finally gotten around to writing a letter to her yesterday, though he hadn't mailed it yet. It sat on his desk, folded in thirds, next to an envelope he'd carefully addressed. The letter was full of news and the stupid things the grunts did, lighthearted stories of what he'd been up to. He'd made a couple of grade school jokes about spicy food and eventually remembered to ask her about the bones she'd gone half a world away to work on. He missed telling her about his day.
In his head he heard the echo of his own voice when, before he'd left, he'd quizzed Brennan on something that had bugged him for ages.
Doesn't it make you lonely, not having someone in your life? Who do you tell your stories to?
She'd shrugged, not bothered by the question or her answer, I guess I keep them to myself. Or tell them to you.
He forced the memory – and the loneliness – back. The sound of her voice faded away along with the sweet sincerity of the smile that had accompanied her remark.
The need to talk to her was like a living thing inside him.
He dragged himself back to the present and cracked the seal on the scotch, taking a long swig straight from the bottle. She'd said no phone calls. He took another generous gulp, enjoying the burn of the alcohol as it travelled down his gullet. Yet another rule he'd promised to follow. Resentment billowed through him.
He stood up, his head buzzing a little with the effects of the alcohol and the residual exhaustion from the last few weeks. Anger was beginning to percolate through him at the high handed little rule maker he adored with all his being. Oh yeah, did he mention the rule about spending twelve months apart to try and … what? He wasn't even sure he knew what this separation was supposed to achieve. In his agitation he paced the room, the muscles across his back complaining at each twist of his heels.
No phone calls, huh? How was he supposed survive on that one night of passion they'd shared? He felt like some kind of junkie, only his drug of choice was Temperance Brennan. One fuck was too many and a thousand would never be enough. He wondered mockingly if there was a twelve step program for love-sick former FBI agents.
His level of frustration started to escalate. No phone calls. He'd give her 'no phone calls'. He pulled his chair up to the small desk and brushed his chatty platonic letter away, heedless of it skittering across and over the back of the desk. He pulled out a fresh sheet of paper and stared at the blank page for a second, the image of her spread beneath him filling his mind's eye, her hair in wild chaos half across her face and half across the pillow. A salacious grin widened his mouth.
He wrote furiously for an age, punctuating his rhetoric with more scotch, until he'd filled a dozen pages with his untidy scrawl. When he finally pushed back on the chair his head was fuzzy and the room swam, but he felt really good for the first time in weeks. Every intimate thing he'd ever wanted to do to, with and for Brennan was written down in graphic detail. Every touch, every caress, kiss, lick, bite, every suck, every thrust. His chest was heaving as if he'd just performed the physical acts themselves and he knew on some level he should feel ashamed, but instead he felt exhilarated. Excruciatingly horny, but pretty damn good. And three quarters drunk. An unexpected headspin forced him to grab the edge of the desk for support. Make that four quarters drunk. He sniggered, inordinately pleased with himself, and meticulously folded the pages together and put them carefully on the desk.
As he staggered to his bunk and fell heavily into its horizontal embrace, his last conscious thought that he would really love to watch Bones' face when she read it.
Booth's head was pounding from the outside in; it'd been a long time since he'd hit the sauce like that. Wait, it wasn't just his head; someone was hammering on the door. He groaned and turned away from the sound but it didn't let up.
"Sergeant Major?" It was Evan Mackenzie, his corporal. The door opened a crack. "You've got twenty minutes to get over to TRADOC for the briefing with the Captain. Lieutenant Morales is already there; he sent me over." A disembodied arm appeared through the open door, a mug of coffee held outstretched in appeasement.
Booth opened his eyes cautiously, wincing at the sunlight that streamed through the narrow window. Holy shit. He took a deep breath and threw back the covers, hitting the ground running. He grabbed the coffee on the way to the bathroom and simultaneously barked orders over his shoulder at Mackenzie as he went.
The young corporal stood in the middle of the room, irresolute. He looked around him with interest; the sarge was pretty much a closed book to the squad. Well-liked, respected, even admired, but still an enigma; speculation about him had fuelled several afterhours drinking sessions. Mackenzie checked the bathroom door but he could still hear the shower running, so he took a few seconds to a nose around a bit. Some kid's farmyard toy figurine was on the shelf next to a couple photos of a little boy. Nephew, maybe? There weren't any other personal possessions on display, only an old FBI tee shirt that was draped over one of the cartons. Mackenzie backed off, filing that interesting titbit away to share with the squad over a beer tonight.
He spotted a letter and an envelope on the small desk under the window and he glanced over his shoulder one more time before gingerly picking it up. He peered at the address on the envelope; Dr T Brennan at some place called Seram Laut, Maluku. Just as he had his finger poised to unfold the pages, the bathroom door opened abruptly. Booth came out, tucking his sand coloured tee shirt into his trousers, his face like thunder. Mackenzie panicked, stuffing the letter mindlessly into the envelope, only relaxing when he realized that Booth was too distracted to notice what he'd been doing.
"Mail this for you, Sarge?" The close call made his tone ingratiating. Booth barely heard him, preoccupied as he was with the upcoming briefing and the concern of being late for it.
"Yeah, thanks." He snatched his tan beret from his bedside chest and shrugged on his ACU jacket, heading out the door without a second thought. "Let's go."
Mackenzie licked the flap, pressed it closed and slipped the letter into his breast pocket. Booth's fate was sealed.
August 22, 2010
Booth let the door to his quarters swing closed behind him. He took a seat at the desk and just let the tiredness pool in his legs, amusing himself by pretending to undo the laces of his boots through the power of his mind, without actually having to bend over. He was bone weary and his back hurt. He jiggled his feet comically, on some level hoping it might work. Another tough day, only this time he'd been using brain power instead of muscle and he wasn't sure he preferred it. Too much time to think.
A triple rap on the door heralded mail, and he dropped his feet to the floor with a self conscious grin, feeling foolish. A dog-eared envelope came skittling through the gap under the door and crossed the floorboards to nudge his feet. When he saw the handwriting a wide smile lit his face, and he ripped the envelope open impatiently.
One folded sheet of paper, crowded with Brennan's tidy script on both sides, and a photo. He squinted at the pixilated snap; seems she didn't have access to a decent printer. He didn't recognize her at first. It was a group shot of about a dozen men and women stood around an open fire, drinks in their hands. Looked like they were celebrating something. Brennan stood to one side, slightly apart from the rest, looking down the camera lens unsmilingly. She had the Rangers tee shirt on. She looked … sad.
His eyes quickly scanned the letter. Groundbreaking discovery … more skeletal remains … yadda yadda. Apparently Daisy Wick was driving her nuts, although Brennan used words like perspicacious and overweening and magniloquent. He could almost hear the disdain in her voice and he grinned despite himself. They'd had a threat of a cyclone but it had passed them by. She expressed a hope that Parker was performing well at school. She'd eaten a great many bananas which were growing wild all around the site and which coincidentally helped addressed the low selenium levels that geophysical analysis had revealed. Who knew?
Booth's grin turned to a frown as he read the last paragraph. Brennan wanted to know whether everything was okay with him and if he going to eventually write to her and tell her. Her request for news surprised him a little, since it was her idea to keep communications to a minimum. He smiled - maybe she was rethinking that whole idea? But then, he'd sent her a newsy letter a few weeks ago. Surely she would have received it by now? Mail shouldn't take more than two weeks to get through; he'd checked.
He tried to remember exactly when he'd sent it but he couldn't recall actually putting in the outgoing mail. A quick glance confirmed it wasn't on the desk. He pulled out a pile of papers and flicked though them but he didn't see it, so it must have gone. Something nagged at the back of his mind about it and his expression cleared as the memory of Mackenzie offering to post it came back to him. But, come to think of it, he didn't have a memory of actually putting the letter in the envelope … wait, didn't he see Mackenzie doing something like that? He cursed himself for the hangover that made that morning a blur.
His frown deepened as he tried to put the pieces together and then his heart rate slammed into overdrive as he remembered another, very explicit, very x-rated letter he'd written under the influence of some pretty decent scotch. Papers flew in every direction as he searched the desk top and the drawers and every other available hiding place for the missing letter. Nothing. He pulled the desk away from the wall an inch or two and peered myopically along the gap with a feeling akin to panic. He spotted the folded pages caught against the baseboard. He slid his arm along and grabbed the sheets of paper with a sigh of relief.
Brennan would never have understood about his motivation to write those things. Come to think of it, he wondered if Brennan would comprehend everything he'd suggested doing. His mind wandered off onto the particularly pleasant tangent of potentially filling in any gaps in her education. He spread out the pages on the desk, a little embarrassed to be reminded of the way his fantasies had been committed to paper.
He stared at the pages incredulously; nothing there to be embarrassed about. No siree. The pages were full of carefully composed newsy nothings that he'd thought she'd enjoy hearing about. Not one lewd suggestion.
Which meant the other letter must have gone …
September 2, 2010
He tried half a dozen times to call her over the next couple of weeks, to apologise before she got the letter and to tell her to tear it up, but nothing was getting through. He even tracked down Sweets and got Daisy Wick's email address, only to find out that Brennan had travelled to one of the tiny atolls that dotted the area and was incommunicado until her return.
He put his apology into a letter and sent it off with a heavy heart, wondering whether he'd get a reply or whether he'd really stuffed things up this time.
"Hey, Booth!" The voice boomed through the hum of conversation. A man mountain of a sergeant carved his way through the crowded mess to Booth's table. "You got a priority call over at the DFMWR Admin." The look he shot at Booth set a warning bell off in his brain. "You offend somebody important? They been looking for you all over the base." Booth's stomach flipped with nerves. Jesus, it must be bad. Fear cascaded through his body … Parker?
"What's going on? Is it my son? Has something happened to Parker?" He was already on his feet and heading towards the exit. The heavyset NCO caught up with him in three strides.
"No, man. Some lady professor in China or somewhere weird like that. Order came through the Colonel's office, you gotta take the call. She's on a secure State Department satellite video link that we're going to lose in -" the other man checked his watch impassively, "- twelve minutes, soldier." Booth had already left him behind.
Jesus Freakin' H Christ Mother of God, it was Bones. Booth's head pounded with anxiety. The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation administration building was about a five minute hike along Sightseeing Road. He made it in three.
He burst through the door of the office and the clerk indicated a partitioned alcove with a nod of his head.
There she was, on the screen, lines of cosmic interference criss-crossing her gorgeous face. She looked skinnier than when he'd seen her last, but tanned too. Her hair was different. Perspiration dribbled down between her breasts, leaving a damp trail that drew his gaze automatically. Even over a distance of ten thousand miles and a crappy satellite connection she was still astonishingly beautiful. It almost hurt his eyes to look at her.
"Booth?" She looked pissed. She was still speaking but the sound had dropped out after she'd said his name. He looked around for some help, but the clerk had left the office. The screen emitted a high pitched squeal and the audio came back in abruptly, stronger than before.
"- even listening to me?" She was looking at him strangely.
"What? Yes, I'm listening. Are you okay? Are you hurt?" He couldn't keep the anxiety out of his voice.
"No, why?" She shook her head impatiently. "I'm fine. I said I got your letter."
It took a moment before guilt and remorse shot through him; in his anxiety he'd forgotten about that stupid obscene letter.
"Oh, Bones, I'm so sorry about that. I-" He scrunched his eyes up, embarrassed.
"I'm -" She started speaking but the sound dropped out again, and he bulldozed through the silence.
"- I was frustrated, angry. I missed you. Maybe I'd had a little too much to drink." He waited for the lecture that he knew was coming.
"Did you hear me, Booth? I've resigned from the project. I'm coming home."
"What?" He was dumbfounded; surely he'd misheard her.
"I'm coming back to the States." She reiterated, screwing her mouth to one side at his apparent inability to comprehend a straightforward statement.
"Bones, you said it yourself, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. It's really important for you to do this." His voice rose in his confusion.
"No, Booth, it isn't." Her eyes softened and she leaned in a little closer to the screen, a wry smile playing on her lips. "I have to take in nourishment, expel waste and breathe air. I've learned that for a human being, everything else is optional. That sort of turns everything I thought was important on its head." When he didn't respond immediately, a shadow of uncertainty crossed her face and her eyes widened. Uncharacteristically, she stumbled over her next words. "Unless you'd rather I didn't come back?"
"What? Are you serious – how can you think that?" Now that he'd taken in that she was really coming back, a huge grin split his face. "Are you going back to the Jeffersonian?"
"I figured, uh," She paused, catching her bottom lip between her teeth uncertainly, "I figured I'd come and stay with you for a while. Maybe just have some time with you before anyone needs to know I'm back. What do you think?"
Booth let out a yelp of sheer happiness, ignoring the faintly disapproving look she gave him. "Yes! Oh, man, yes! I can't wait to see you – when are you coming back?"
"I'll be in Atlanta in three days; I can get a direct flight there. Will you come to the airport and pick me up?" Again, that uncertainty. "It's a three hour drive from Benning."
"That doesn't matter - you know I will. I'd go to Maluku to put you on the plane if I thought it would get you here faster." He caught his breath and waited for his heart to start beating again.
"That would be irrational, Booth." There was his Bones, looking at him like he had a screw loose.
They spent a long moment just taking each other in, sharing a smile at what was happening between them.
"Bones," he asked gently, "What brought this on?"
"Your letter made me give careful consideration to our relationship." She took several deep breaths and his eyes were drawn inexorably towards the slow rise and fall of her breasts. "I had to accept the depth of the emotional pain that our separation has brought me, and acknowledge your importance in my life. And-"
He dragged his eyes up to meet hers. "And, what, Bones?"
She shrugged, looking a little sheepish. "There was no one I wanted to tell my stories to."
"Yeah. Me neither." He said softly. God, how he loved her.
He was surprised by the expression that crossed her face then; she looked almost playful. "I've also given careful consideration to the many and varied propositions outlined in your letter -" was that a twinkle in her eye? "- particularly paragraphs three, four, ten and sixteen, and I wanted to put you on notice that I am going to take you up on those as soon as I'm able. And just for your information, I don't believe the scenario you described in your penultimate paragraph is actually physically possible, but I'm willing to test your hypothesis. Those in the rest of your letter can wait for now."
Booth swallowed hard at the promise in her voice. "Won't be much of a wait if I get my way."
Her expression sobered, a ray of sunlight from the east sending her features into sharp relief. "Booth, I've realized that I'm not happy when I'm not with you. I don't want us to be apart again."
A slow smile spread across his face and he felt the prick of moisture at the back of his eyes. "What took you so long, Bones?"
A voice off screen muttered something and she nodded. She turned back to him, looking vaguely discomfited, and she took a moment to frame her next words. "Booth, there's something you need to know." She gave him a look that melted his heart, a haunting mix of tenderness and contrition. "Booth, I never thought I'd say this, but I love -"
The screen went black; the sat time had expired, but Booth was unconcerned.
He'd get to hear the rest of that sentence in person soon enough.
Seriously - anyone fancy an epilogue to this? Just let me know :D