I know you guys haven't heard from me in a while, and Murder in the Marriage is just kind of dangling out there, but I wrote this over the summer in between RL writerly pursuits, and figured since it's finished, I might as well post it here. I actually am back to working on MitM, and hope to have another chapter posted soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in my day job writing, I'd love it if you'd check out my website, at www dot doggedwriter dot com. If you like what you see, consider friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter or, better yet, subscribing to my blog. Thanks, and hope you enjoy Letters From Home!
In his first letter to Brennan, Booth sent approximately one gram of sand in the envelope. She wasn't certain what to do with it – if she were Hodgins, sand would have made much more sense. As it was, she carefully funneled the sand from the envelope into a specimen jar and set it on a box beside her cot. His letter was brief. Brennan read it the first time late in the night, several hours after it had arrived, while her tent-mates – Daisy and another graduate student, a young woman named Trista from New Zealand – slept.
I know emails the way to go in the 21st century and all, but right now we're out of range in the sticks for a few days. I was thinking about you tonight, though, and I know it's been a couple months since the last time we talked, so… I figured now was as good a time as any.
How are you? It's hotter than deep-fried hell here, but other than that things are going okay. One war's not so different from any other, it turns out – I get up, do my job, sit around and wait for the days to end. Could be worse, I guess.
Anyway, sorry I haven't checked in sooner. It seems like I have all these things to say to you and all these stories I want to tell, but then the second my pen hits the paper, all I can come up with is I miss you. Which, all things considered, doesn't really make for much of a letter.
I guess I better go. Write me when you get the chance – I'm sure your busy digging up the missing link or something, but… All the same, I'd love to hear from you. - Booth
She read the letter repeatedly – exhaustively, in fact. She found herself wondering what his days were like, how far from enemy fire he might have been while writing… What he was wearing. There were graduate students and professors on the dig with her, many of them men who were very physically appealing in their way. And yet, she couldn't seem to get Booth out of her mind.
He'd written the letter on nondescript, lined notebook paper. The spiral edges had been trimmed neatly. Lying in her cot that night, she looked around self-consciously before surreptitiously bringing the paper to her nose. She closed her eyes, breathed it in. Imagined that she could smell him – the cologne of early morning when their days first began, or the deeper, more masculine scent of late evenings that was his alone. The leather of his jacket, the tang of beer on his breath.
She lay there listening to Daisy and Trista sleeping. It had been a long, physically rigorous day, and yet she wasn't tired. She reached for the specimen jar holding Booth's sand, and spilled it onto her palm.
Nine months until she would see him again.
She let out a long-suffering sigh, got up, and went outside with pen and paper. Their camp was approximately fifty yards from the water, on sand that was a mixture of volcanic ash and fine-grained minerals. Carrying a battery-operated lantern, pen, and paper, she went to the edge of the water and sat.
It's late here – two a.m. I'm not certain of the time difference. It seems like I should know, as I had become accustomed to you and I living on the same schedule for what seemed a very long time. It makes me uneasy when I don't know what your routine might be, or where you are in your day. I can't explain why, precisely – it just does.
I wrote you an e-mail the first day I was here, but – like you – I couldn't seem to say anything of consequence. It seemed wiser to simply delete it at the time. Since then, I have written several subsequent messages… I just never seem to get very far with them.
Thank you for the sand. Though I am not entirely certain what I am to do with it, I enjoy the idea that you held it in your hands before mailing it away. It makes me feel as though nine months isn't actually that long at all.
She wrote several pages on the dig, the others in the group, the things they'd learned thus far and the impact it might have on the scientific community. By the time she'd finished, the sun was coming up. Before she could convince herself otherwise, Brennan selected one of the less highly prized fossils discovered over the past several days – a flat piece of mineral with the imprint of a leaf from the Paleozoic era – and slipped it into the envelope.
The next letter came three weeks later. In the interim, Brennan had contemplated simply e-mailing Booth – at the very least to let him know she'd gotten his letter. For some reason, however, she had never gotten farther than his e-mail address.
She waited for his response.
The day that it came, it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and Brennan had been working on excavating for several hours. Nevertheless, she chose to take her dinner back to the tent rather than remain with the others to discuss the day's findings.
She zipped the tent back up and sat on her cot. Her fingers were trembling when she opened the letter – a condition she attributed to overexertion, and possible heat sensitivity.
It was really great to get your letter. I don't know if it's weird to keep writing like this when we could just email everyday or something, but… I don't know, I kind of like it. Emails are great for hearing from Parker and Jared and Cam and the squints, but Pops used to talk about getting letters from my Grans, when he was shipped overseas. He always talked about how much it meant, and everything they talked about that way. I guess you just want something you can hold in your hands when it's your girl, you know?
Now don't freak out on me, Bones – I know, you're not my girl. But give a guy a break, huh? I'm stuck out here with fifty sweaty, pimply-faced kids who've never even dreamed of somebody as good looking as you. One of them found a picture of you in with my stuff, and it was all over from there. As far as they're concerned, anyway, you're my girl.
And you're gorgeous.
Anyway, thanks for that whole dissertation on the evolution of man – what I used to know about the Paleozoic era could fit in your pretty little pinky finger, but now I'm thinking of running the lecture circuit when I get home. How the hell do you remember all that crap, anyway? Sometimes, your brain's a little scary, Bones.
Don't get mad and stop writing, though. I'm just kidding around – truth is, I was glad to hear you babbling away about stuff that's always gonna be way over my head, like nothing's changed. Don't stop writing, okay, Bones?
Uh oh – reveille, guess that's one night's sleep I won't be getting. Doesn't matter, it's just another day of teaching kids how to kill each other. Guess you don't need much rest for that.
This time, instead of sand I sent my poker chip. The sand just passed through my fingers, but that chip's spent the past few years clutched in my hand, pressed to my skin, riding in my pocket, rubbed smooth by my thumb… That poker chip's a lot bigger a part of me, you know? Kind of like you. You take good care of yourself, Bones. I'll talk to you soon.
She re-read the section about Pops a dozen times before dawn. "His girl" – she should be offended. Or at least disturbed that he was allowing others to believe they had a romantic relationship. She found herself wondering instead which photograph he had of her.
The next day, she carried Booth's poker chip in her shorts pocket. In the midst of bringing the latest finds from the dig back to the boat, on which they would be transferred to the mainland, she found herself returning to his words continually. "Gorgeous," he'd called her. She knew he found her attractive, of course – in truth, the way Booth simply looked at her could make the most flattering words from anyone else pale in comparison.
That night, though tired, she returned to the beach with lantern, pen, and paper.
I understand what you mean about the letters. When I was in the foster care system, I was unable to carry very much of my parents' belongings with me, but I took the letters Max wrote to my mother when they were younger. They were very sweet, very personal, and I found myself appreciating the bond between them that much more as I read the words my father had written.
Objectively, I can understand why you told the other men in your unit that we were romantically involved. And while the phrase does imply ownership of another human being (of which I tacitly disapprove)… I find that I don't mind that much if you'd like to tell them I'm "your girl."
I don't mind at all, to be honest. It's the least one can do for one's country.
However, if you are going to start flashing my photograph around to your fellow soldiers, I would prefer the picture be current. I have included one of me after a volleyball match with Daisy and our tent-mate, Trista, at a recent pig roast. I am not especially fond of photos of myself, but Dr. Landry (one of my colleagues here) was very complimentary of it.
I will keep writing as long as you do, Booth. You have now said several things that lead me to think you may be having a difficult time right now. I know I'm not typically that intuitive about such things, so I may be wrong. But if you are unhappy or lonely, I am sorry. I wish I could do something. I wish sometimes that I were there with you, or you were here…
A year never used to seem like such a very long time. Please be safe. Please be well.
P.S. Angela told me that, in order to bond with your colleagues during wartime, dirty jokes are often highly lauded. Trista told this one the other day, which I thought your friends might enjoy:
A construction worker on the 5th floor of a building needs a handsaw. He spots another worker on the ground floor and yells down to him, but the man on the ground floor can't hear him. So, he tries sign points to his eye meaning "I", points to his knee meaning "need", then moves his hand back and forth in a hand saw motion. The man on the ground floor nods his head, pulls down his pants, takes out his cock and begins masturbating.
The worker on 5th floor gets so pissed off he runs down to the ground floor and says, "What the fuck is your problem! I said I needed a hand saw!".
The other guy says, "I knew that! I was just trying to tell you - I'm coming!"
Once she'd carefully folded the paper and put it in an envelope, she held the photograph she had promised for a very long time. It was a good picture – she knew, actually, that it was a good picture. It was also a fairly revealing picture, as it had been 96 degrees when they'd been playing volleyball on the beach. She was wearing a sheer wraparound skirt and a bikini top, her skin more tanned than she typically allowed, her hair up. In the photograph, they had just finished the game and she was seated on the rocks, her face flushed, a beer in her hands. It really was a good picture.
There just happened to be more cleavage than she typically revealed to Booth, in the picture.
She bit her lip. Looked at the specimen jar of sand, the poker chip, the photograph of Booth she'd brought with her. In the picture, he was wearing a suit and a striped tie. They'd been on a case – it was a crime scene photo, and she'd taken it because… Well, because it was Booth. She liked the photo, but it was nothing like she was sending him now.
She took a breath, and released it. Put the picture in the envelope. Sealed it.
It was done.
Booth's response took another three weeks – enough time for Brennan to rethink everything she'd said in the letter, to suffer any number of remonstrations for sending the photo, to vow that she would just e-mail in the future… To worry, nightly, about Booth's safety.
When his letter arrived this time, Brennan left the dig early that day and returned to the camp without the others. She didn't bother going to her tent, instead taking her by-now customary spot on the beach. She opened the envelope and bit her lip at what fell out. It took a moment to remember how to breathe properly.
In the photograph, Booth was seated on a stool outside a tent. The sun had set, and the sky behind was blue-black and hazy. Booth wore camouflage pants and Army boots. His St. Christopher's medal.
His legs were spread, his elbows resting loosely on his knees. He held a beer in his hands.
She studied his body – a body she knew, because there truly was no part of Booth that she hadn't seen at this point. From her impromptu visit to his bathtub that day to back adjustments to the surgery that had nearly taken him from her, she'd seen all of him now. Always from a distance, always an observer, but she'd seen.
She wet her lips. Her throat had gotten dry. Booth's arms were well-muscled, the definition in his chest more sharply defined than it had been before. The long fingers of his left hand were wrapped around the neck of the beer bottle. Brennan closed her eyes. Imagined, just for a moment, what it felt like to have those fingers moving over her skin. She'd felt it before – the first night they kissed. The last night they kissed. A thousand other times, when he'd touched her arm, the small of her back, her hand, her shoulder, her knee.
He'd touched her before. Never exactly where she wanted, but she'd still felt his hands on her body before.
She opened her eyes, and read his words.
Holy shit. I'll start with the joke, because that seems like the place I'm likely to be the most coherent. You're a big hit with the guys, I'll tell you that much. It sounds like your friend Trista's a firecracker – you ever wanna set her up with anybody, I've got about twenty-five guys standing in line. Just between you and me, though, while I was reading the letter, I just kept thinking of you saying it to me – picturing your pretty lips wrapped around words like cock and fuck and… Maybe it's all those years in parochial school, but I'll tell you a little secret: A woman like you with a mouth like that gets me hard in about twenty seconds flat, Bones.
Brennan stopped and re-read the line. She wet her lips again. There was an ache, a flush of heat and moisture and emptiness spreading down low. She swallowed hard, and returned to the letter.
Anyway, the joke was appreciated. I'll see what I can find around here to keep you guys entertained out on the Mukluk Islands, but the humor isn't exactly high brow. There are a lotta fart jokes in the desert, Bones. It's not pretty.
She finished reading it and checked the postmark – he'd dated it October 5. It was now the 17th. She'd received an e-mail from Angela yesterday, who had assured her then that she'd just gotten a message from Booth. He was fine. Things were good. He had apparently been very clear that it was important for the artist to convey that information to Brennan.
Not that it sounds like you guys need much entertainment. Pig roasts and volleyball on the beach? Geez, Bones, if I'd known you were gonna be at Club Med for the next year, I might've rethought this whole Army thing and just gone off with you instead. So, you've got Daisy and Trista there, right? What about everybody else? I guess there are probably a lot of good looking guys there helping dig this place up with you. There's not much in the way of women here, of course, so I'm not dating. Not that you asked or anything. But, you know, if you were wondering.
Shit – I just got a call, something's up. I've gotta finish this and get it out, looks like I'll be on the move for a few days.
Before I go, though, I just wanted to say… That picture just about took my breath away. No doubt about it, Bones, you're the most beautiful woman on the planet. No question. I've stared at that picture for days now, so much that when I close my eyes I can smell that sweet, fruity shampoo you wear that I love so much, I can feel your head on my shoulder… And maybe it's because I'm on my way out to God knows where and it's late and I've got a couple beers in me and there's no one in the world I miss more than you (except Parker, of course, but in a REALLY different way), but I just wanted to say, before the moment's passed and I never get the chance again… I'm trying to get space and make things in my head change, but you're still the one I think of before I go to bed every night. And they're not exactly the pure thoughts of friendship and charity, either. The things I'd do to you if we were alone, if you gave me the nod, if the stars were lined up and the heavens were smiling… Temperance, I swear to Christ, I'd worship every inch of you for days at a time, and then when you couldn't take anymore we'd take a break, order a little take-out, drink a couple beers, and then I'd start all over. From the tip of that cute nose all the way down those mile-and-a-half long legs, and… God, everywhere in between. Please, God, definitely everywhere in between.
Okay. I've gotta go. And you might think I'm gonna chicken out and not send this, but you're wrong. I've got the envelope set, I've got a shot the guys took of me the other night that isn't half bad, and I've got somebody in a jeep waiting to dump me in the sand for some godforsaken mission or other. I'm sending it.
I miss you, just in case you didn't get that.
Now, Brennan understood why – he'd known that, once she got the letter, she would be concerned for his safety. Whatever the mission had been, he'd apparently come through unharmed.
He was alive. He was well. She looked at the photograph again; ran her fingers over the smooth surface, touching the hard planes of his chest, his shoulders, his jaw. Careful not to wrinkle them, she placed both photograph and letter in the back of her notebook. The others were on their way back to the camp, but she ignored them. The sun was setting when she began to write.
I'm very glad that you liked Trista's joke. I asked her to tell me others, which I have recorded and will include at the closing of my letter. As for your soldier friends, they will be disappointed, as Trista is a lesbian. She has actually made several overtures toward me, but I think if she were to see the photo you just sent, she might be open to a threesome
Angela informed me yesterday that you returned safely from whatever mission you were on. Obviously, I received your letter. And your photograph. It's a very good photograph. Have you been exercising more? It's not that you weren't very physically appealing before, but it looks as though you have built up more muscle mass since I last saw you. You look
She stopped. Thought of the words he'd written. The fact of where he was. If he could be honest with her, why the hell couldn't she be honest with him? Who knew what would happen in the next few months, but did she really want to risk not saying what she desperately wanted to say, simply out of fear? She chewed on her lower lip for a moment, contemplating for a moment, before she returned to her task with renewed determination.
You look good. If I took your breath away in my photograph, you succeeded in doing the same for me. I've always admired your body – if I were to be as honest with you as you've been with me, I have to admit that I've thought about it, at times, lying awake at night. Last week, we took a schooner to the mainland on a three-day sail. I slept in a closet-sized berth that smelled of sweat and strangers, rocked to sleep by a gentle surf, and lying there I imagined you beside me. Imagined your mouth at my neck, your hard body behind mine, your hands at my breasts. My hand traced a path over the places I wanted you most – drifting over my nipples, down my stomach, teasing lower, and lighter… I imagine that you are a tease, that you go slowly when I would want to go fast, would just want you inside me, and so I forced myself to take more time. My fingertips skirted down, parting my legs, lazing along my inner thighs the way I imagine you would do. I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to feel your tongue, your talented mouth, kissing its way along my upper thigh.
I ached that night, Booth. By the time I finally allowed my fingers to my center, I was dripping. Slick, yearning, writhing for an impossible memory – impossible because I know it never happened, and yet thinking of you and I together feels as natural as a favorite song played so long ago that it lives on only in my subconscious. I came that night with your name on my lips, my back arched and my heart racing. Imagined you stroking my hair, your lips at my temple. At times over the years, I've convinced myself that all I really need from you is sex – just one time, just one night where we let ourselves go, and I would be able to forget this. Move onto someone else, something else. But that theory seems invalid, because once I'm sated I still want you near me. I still long to be in your arms.
You were brave to send your letter – you're always brave, though. I am not, but I think you deserve a response. You deserve to know that I think of you. There are other men on this island, they are good looking and intelligent and interested.
They barely exist to me, at the moment. At night, I dream of you.
Continue to be safe. Don't be you. Please don't be you. There's nothing I want so much as to see your face, waiting for me at the coffee cart in six months.
She included another joke Trista had told her, and then, after a great deal of thought, took the kerchief that had been holding her hair back, and folded it into quarters before sealing it and the letter in an envelope. There was no turning back, she told herself – even if she tore the letter up, never sent it, something had changed in her mind.
They had changed.