The Remains in the Tropics
by Amy L. Hull
Written (extremely late) for Yahtzee63 in the help_haiti challenge. Prompt was "A Bones-centric ficlet with a strong B/B vibe with words/ideas: babies, gossip, dissection, the more things change, the more they stay the same, Hawai'i." Thanks to Jennasq, Ayiana2, and Mel for beta work!
"Come on, Bones, it's Hawaii!"
"That is not a cogent argument, Booth."
His tendons stood out as he gripped the steering wheel. "All right, then. How about this? We're partners. Partners share things-like tickets to Led Zeppelin concerts."
She frowned. "I didn't share those tickets with you, though."
"Exactly my point. You owe me." He grinned at her then swerved and bit back a curse as a yellow BMW cut them off.
"I 'owe' you?"
"Yep. No Led Zeppelin, so...Hawaii instead." He turned to her, waggling his eyebrows.
She stared at him.
"How about this? You might need me."
"Need you?" She laughed. "Booth, these are 400-year-old remains in an undisturbed burial cave. There are no criminals to watch out for or anything that would justify bringing you with me so you can have a tropical vacation using government funds. This is purely an archaeological dig."
He was silent for a moment. "Caves, Bones! You said it was a burial cave. Caves are really dangerous. I could be there to make sure you're safe in the caves, make sure there are no criminals hiding in them, and that you don't get caught by flooding while you're focused on your bones."
"These caves are over forty feet above sea level."
"I'm telling you." He shook his head. "Caves are tricky things."
"Exactly how much experience do you have spelunking?"
"Um, hello? Afghanistan? Made of mountains and caves?"
"I would have thought you would rather spend time in Hawai'i on beaches and consuming fruity beverages out of pineapples. But I supposed your expertise could prove valuable."
"That's what I'm saying here!"
She smiled. "To be clear, you are interested in assisting with the spelunking training and supervision on my trip to Hawai'i, in a research location that already has a cadre of experts in fields from archaeology to forensic anthropology."
"You know what? Just forget it, Bones."
Her phone buzzed. "Sorry," she said as Booth glanced her way, "it's not about the case." She put a hand over the ear not to the phone and listened. "Yes, that will be fine. Thank you." She turned to Booth. "Actually, I don't want you to forget it."
He frowned. "Forget what?"
"You told me to forget it. Hawai'i," she clarified. "But I was just getting you running."
"You were what?" He looked like he looked when she spoke in scientific terminology, but she was quite sure the words she had been using were very basic.
"I want you to come." She glanced away. "I mean, if you want to. I was getting you running, before."
"Getting me going, Bones, and you don't have to do that, especially not because I was pestering you. I was trying to get you going too."
"But I knew I'd already bought the tickets. You were not fully informed."
His jaw tightened and his chest puffed out slightly in a universal mammalian expression of pride. "Bones, you can't buy me a ticket. If work were taking us, like when you were going to do that thing in China, that would be one-"
"No, Booth. You taught me this."
His fingers flexed on the steering wheel. "What did I teach you?"
"I learned that it's important to take vacations. That it's important to spend time with friends. That it's important to let people know you value them."
His voice was softer. "Bones...a dig for 400-year-old bones is not a vacation."
"It is for me. It's my first passion. And it's like you said: partners share things. I know you wanted to take Parker to Hawai'i, so when I found out about this dig, I called Rebecca. Parker has spring recess during part of the time I am in the islands, and Andrew confirmed that you have vacation time available."
He opened his mouth, closed it, turned to her and back to the road.
"I don't think you would enjoy the dig, though it is a very impressive find, and I don't want to intrude on your time with Parker. However, I thought that, if you were amenable, I could join you some evenings." She risked a glance at him.
He kept his eyes on the road but shook his head. "Bones, I can't accept this."
"You told me: brains and heart. My heart-metaphorical heart-says that going on a vacation and including a good friend-you-is an act of camaraderie, something we've agreed we still share, that expresses that I'm...glad you're my partner."
He looked at her and his expression was...relaxed, or sad, or...she wasn't sure what, and he looked away. She held her breath until he sighed and smiled. "I guess I can't argue with me, then, can I?"
She couldn't help grinning and his expression soon matched hers.
Then he turned to her again and wiggled his eyebrows. "Hey, Bones. We're going to Hawaii! Seriously, Parker is going to love this." His grin turned lopsided. "He already loves you-I mean, the pool and everything-and he's only going to love you more."
"I'm forwarding you the travel information for you and Parker now." She poked at her phone. "Thank you, Booth."
"Why are you thanking me?"
"For letting me thank you. It's not an easy thing for someone so independent."
He snorted. "You should know."
Brennan stood and did an upward salute to stretch the kinks out of her neck and shoulders. She moved into a forward fold, a lunge, then into warrior one, then warrior two, taking three even breaths in each pose. She reversed the sequence to open herself evenly on both sides and, after the upward salute, ended with three breaths in tree pose. Yoga brought balance in the same way that karate brought release, and as she breathed out and placed both feet on the floor, ending in prayer pose.
Open. She felt open and refreshed, despite a day hunched over remains with a soft brush. She stepped out of the artificial light set up in the cave and lifted her face into the afternoon sunlight as the breeze lifted her hair. She pressed her phone's memory dial.
"Hi. We finished early. How is your day going?"
"Great. Parks and I just got done at the USS Arizona memorial. We're planning on hitting the beach next."
"It sounds like you're enjoying your time together."
"Parker's been begging me to get you to join us." His voice was quiet, but there was a smile in it. "I'd like that too."
"Well, our plane is here, so I should be back in 45 minutes. Do you want me to meet you at the hotel?"
"Sure. See you then."
The Cessna flew near the surface, revealing of the clear blue waters and the volcanic shores sloping into the Pacific depths, where the waves crashed against the island, as the ocean slowly reclaimed the land that had erupted from it. They flew past the sheer, green-topped cliffs of Molokai and, far below, Brennan thought she could see a few leaping dolphins or whales. She leaned her forehead against the window and let the beauty wash over her.
She was jolted awake as the plane landed. She took off her ear muffs and gave them to the pilot. "Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow at 8:30?"
"Yes, ma'am. See you then." He waved.
A short walk got her to the hotel and she blinked as she stepped into the lobby.
"Dr. Bones!" Parker leapt up from his seat at the fountain to run toward her. "Dad said you were going to go swimming in the ocean with us!"
"That's what we planned."
Parker flung his arms around her waist. "This is the best trip ever! Thank you so much for bringing us!" His head no longer barely reached the tip of her sternum but was nearing the top of it. When had he grown so tall?
"You're very welcome." She smiled at them. "I bet I can be back here in my bathing suit before you two."
"You cannot," Parker protested. "It takes girls forever to get ready."
"Parker!" Booth said sharply. "That is rude."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"Where did you hear that, anyway?"
"Brett. And he's right! Whenever we go somewhere, it takes Mom, like, an hour longer than us."
"Well, I'm not your mom. What do you think the first one back should win?"
"The right to dunk the other one first!" Parker shouted.
Booth gestured with a hand, "Shh." He grinned at Brennan. "What do you think? Stakes too high for you?"
"You can't bet with us, Booth. You're-" she paused, "not part of this challenge. And anyway, I'm going to leave you in the dirt." She turned and sprinted for the elevator.
"No fair!" Parker called and she heard him chasing her.
Seven minutes later she checked her watch and left her room in her bathing suit and a sarong, a towel draped over her arm. As the elevator door closed, she heard Parker's heavy footfalls. The beach was only few hundred feet from the hotel, and she strolled until she heard Parker behind her, then sprinted.
Just as she reached the water, an arm reached around her shoulders and a knee pressed into the back of hers. Booth turned, and she twisted the opposite direction, reaching back to stomp at him, but her foot only caught air and then sand and they were falling. They hit the water, and a wave washed over them. As it pulled back, she could hear Parker giggling.
"I guess Dad won after all," he said.
She and Booth glanced at each other and an understanding she could achieve with no one else passed between them. They stood, grabbed Parker from either side, and ran into the water, tipping them all into the next wave and wading still farther out.
Brennan looked down. "Booth! You got my sarong all wet!" She glanced toward the shore. "And my towel!"
Booth just stared at her and for a moment, she saw desire before he looked away.
She adjusted the knot on her suit's halter, then untied the sarong and waded ashore to spread it and her towel in the remaining sun.
Parker ran past her onto the sand, stripped out of his t-shirt, dropped it in a heap, and raced back toward the water. Shaking his head, Booth followed. Brennan indulged in watching the ripple of his back muscles as he pulled off his dripping-wet Hawaiian shirt-a ridiculous thing that was rust and white with green leaves-planning to look away before he noticed. Then she noticed his swim gear.
"Booth, where did you get those?"
"Parker! Get back here!" He frowned at her. "Get what?"
"Your swimming suit. It has Flyers logos all over it."
"Yep!" He slathered sun block on Parker's back and shoulders.
"But...hockey is a winter sport!"
"It's played on ice. Ice is frozen water. You swim in water." He shrugged and squirted sun block into Parker's hand. "All over your arms, face, and the tips of your ears, Bub." Parker nodded.
"But...that makes no sense!"
"Hey, they have swim trunks. And it's the Flyers. If you want to be horrified, look at the fake Japanese critters all over Parks' trunks."
"They're Pokémon, not critters, Dad."
They headed back to the water and Parker launched earnestly into a description of his battles with the various creatures and their evolution through a series of forms.
Booth interrupted and gave him a little shove. "Parker. Go swim. Don't waste the light."
Parker kept explaining as wave after wave flowed over their legs and receded.
"That's enough video games, Bub. We're here to enjoy Hawaii."
Parker shrugged. "Okay." He threw himself directly into the next wave. They waded slowly after him
"Booth, do you really think Parker should be playing that game? It sounds like it involves capturing and imprisoning animals and forcing them to fight to the death. And its depiction of evolution is entirely misleading. Of course, it does draw on the ancient notion of the elements: fire, earth-"
"Bones. It's okay. There aren't death matches. It's just Pokémon. All the kids play together and trade...whatever. Parker's got it on his DSi and at home on the Wii."
"The we? Who are the we?"
"Wii. W-I-I. Wii. It's a Nintendo game system where you have to stand up and move the controllers around. It can be pretty good exercise and builds coordination."
Brennan laughed. "Are you trying to sell me one or something?"
"Would it make you get a TV?"
"I have a TV!" She reached chest-deep water.
"Well, then, you're all ready to set up the game."
She rolled her eyes at him.
"Hey, Dad! Watch this!"
Parker did a handstand before going over into the water. While Booth was applauding him, Brennan splashed water at him and the war was on.
It was over an hour and a half later when they meandered back to the hotel, the island air drying them quickly even with the sun setting. Booth's hand settled into the small of her back for a moment, but before the warmth of his skin even soaked in, he reached to pull Parker between them and left the hand draped over his son's shoulder . She'd forgotten how much his touch felt like home.
Parker took a bite of the mini cocktail shrimp scattered over his salad. "So, what did you find, Dr. Bones?"
"I didn't find it. I'm just part of the team analyzing the find, but it's really very exciting. The small island south of here, Lanai, was believed first to have become inhabited in the 15th century, and the grave we are studying appears to be from that period"
"How can you tell?"
"The ancient Polynesian seafarers who came to these islands found ways to get the remains up to caves high above the water and then would position the remains in a tight ball, tying the knees to the chest like a fetus in utero then wrapping them with cloth made of bark. That practice was abandoned after the Europeans came, and very few of the burial caves from this period remain that have not been looted."
"What's 'looted'?" Parker asked.
"You know how pirates have loot?" Booth asked.
"Well, when you take the loot from somewhere, it's looting."
"But, if you take the bones and artifacts, isn't that looting, too?"
"Lots of people do feel that way, yes. But because this tomb is on the island of Lanai, the city government nearest the find gets to decide. They've invited us to come and document the find and learn all we can about the ancient inhabitants-"
"Do you get to dissect the bodies?"
"No. We're going to use observation and imaging to confirm the age of the remains and determine how they lived, how long they lived, and any other information while leaving the site as intact as possible."
"Can I see the site?" Parker asked around a mouthful of fresh greens.
"Manners," Booth said soto voce from behind his napkin.
"If it's all right with your father, I can ask if you can accompany us. But you'd have to do exactly as you're told."
"I can do that."
She smiled at him. "I know you can. You're a very responsible child. She glanced at Booth. "If they were to give permission-and I think they will-you'd have to teach him to rock-climb; the cave is 40 feet up a cliff. And..."
She looked at her own plate, forking some salad.
"What is it, Bones?"
"Well, I'm not sure you'll want to see these remains. It seems to be a family. There are two infant remains and one child's remains amongst the four adults. I know how you feel about babies and children and Parker is still quite young." She smiled, but it felt awkward, twisted with sympathy and sadness. "It was common for many children to die quite young," she offered.
"We learned about that this year! At Jamestown, only a tenth of the settlers survived!"
"Wow...only one in ten? That's harsh. You really paid attention to that, huh?"
"And these remains are older than the 1607 English settlement at Jamestown," Brennan said.
The waiter brought their fruit plates and Parker grabbed a wedge of grilled pineapple. "I wanna go, Dad. Can we?"
Booth looked at her through the flickering light of the torches that lit the outdoor dining area and her throat felt tight. He examined her face and they held each other's gaze. His eyes were dark, full of longing, still sad, but no longer edged with bitter anger. She slid her hand forward till their fingers touched and a slow, small smile spread across Booth's features.
"Ew! You two aren't going to kiss, are you?" Parker's lip was actually curled.
She and Booth both laughed. "Yeah, Parker," Booth said. He turned back to Brennan and his eyes twinkled. "Yeah, we can go climb to the cave and search around inside. But only if Bones will let us drag her away from work one day to go on the boat tour to see the whales and swim with the dolphins."
Brennan thought Parker had gotten the word just right.