"Hey, Bones, I'm home!"
Booth listened for a response and heard none. In fact, the house was completely silent. The kids were gone for the weekend. AJ was camping with a friend. Chrissie had tagged along with Jack and Angela to visit Michael at Berklee. Taking advantage of the kids' absence, he had made reservations at their favorite Italian restaurant. In his favorite suit, a gray Armani three-piece, he would look his best for their date. He knew Brennan loved when he wore that suit.
She was home. Her car was in the garage. He decided that she must be buried in her next book and went to look for her. He draped the dry cleaning over the back of the couch before heading to their office. Years of experience had taught him that startling her when she was neck-deep in writing never ended well for him. He called out again to give her some warning.
"Bones! I'm home. Our reservations aren't until-"
He stepped into the office and stopped in his tracks. Curled in a corner of the couch was his wife, sobbing into a pillow, clutching a scrap of paper in her left hand. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the box, exactly where he had placed it two months earlier. He had seen her glance at the box, stare at it, contemplating its contents. Once or twice, she stood by it, almost reaching for the lid. Each time he thought she would open it. As far as he knew, she hadn't until today.
Striding across the room, his heart broke as he saw how distraught she was.
"Oh, Baby, come here."
Reaching out, he took her hand and pulled her to her feet. Stepping around her, he took her spot on the couch and pulled her to his lap.
"Shh. It's okay, Bones. Whatever it was, it was a long time ago. Shh, Baby, please stop crying."
He continued to whisper reassurances as he stroked her back, trying to calm her. Taking her left hand, he gently pried her fingers open and plucked the page from her grasp. He wouldn't know how to fix this until he knew what had upset her. As her rubbed her back, she began to calm down. As she calmed, he read the crumpled page, dreading its contents.
Andy died. It took a long time for it to seem real. We were on patrol, a tiny abandoned village. God, I hated going on patrol. Nothing good happens on patrol. Andy was walking 3 meters to my right. 3 meters. The dogs had been through. The road had been swept for mines. The EOD guys had removed 2 or 3 up the road, ahead of us. We were out in the open, on high alert. Andy was walking next to me. He took a step and froze when he heard a click. I heard it, too, and froze right along with him. I told Andy to stay still and I started yelling, for my CO, the EOD guys, anyone who could help Andy. My CO ordered the rest of us back while one of the EOD guys slowly made his way to Andy. He must have thought he could disarm it, because the next thing I knew, he was on his knees, carefully moving the sand away from Andy's foot. I think we were all holding our breath while he moved with painstaking precision. Just when I started to relax, sure that the EOD guy had this, there was an explosion. I can still see it. I can still hear the ringing in my ears. They were just pieces, Andy and the EOD guy. I guess someone like Bones had to decide which pieces belonged to whom. In the meantime, Andy was dead. And the next day, we were back on patrol.
"Is this the first time you've opened the box?"
She nodded against his chest.
"I'm so sorry, Bones. I hate that the first thing you read was this. I was, what, twenty, twenty-one, when that happened. I was a scared kid and Andy's death cemented the reality of war in my mind. Any idealistic thoughts I had were killed that day, right along with Andy. That was the day I grew up.
I thought about Andy a lot over the years. He was about my age, so I would compare my life to what he might have been doing, had he lived. I was sad that he died so young, but I thought I had dealt with it. In Afghanistan, the guys I was training were Andy's age and younger. After we lost a couple of them, everything about Andy's death came back. That's when I wrote this."
She pulled away, just enough to see his eyes. Smiling at her, he thumbed the tears from her cheeks. He hated to see her hurting over something from his past, but he had promised to let her into this dark corner of his world.
"I promise, not everything in the box is this awful. Some of it is just boring. And some of those scraps hold the bits and pieces that got me through seven months in Afghanistan. They're about Parker, Pops and you. Even though I thought I was moving on, there were days that memories of you were the only things that kept me going. Even after I met Hannah, even though I wouldn't admit it, you helped me survive Afghanistan."
Tangling his hand in her hair, he kissed her deeply, trying to erase the pain she felt.
Taking the page back from him, she waved it back and forth.
"This is why you chose the name Andrew, isn't it?"
He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. "Well, yeah. I was insistent that we not use Seeley. You were just as insistent that we use Joseph. I didn't like the sound of Joey Booth."
"You mean Joseph Booth." She corrected him, more out of habit than anything else.
"Nicknames, Bones, nicknames. He would have been Joey. Anyway, that's why I agreed to use it as his middle name. Look, Chrissie is named for the two most important women in your life, your mom and Angela. I only had one strong male influence growing up, Pops."
"By the time Andrew was born, Jared and Padme had Henry."
"Yeah." He sighed. "They had Henry. We could have honored Pops and Hank Lutrell with the name, but they didn't give us the chance."
"You're never going to forgive him for that, are you?" She smiled, amused that he felt possessive of the name.
"Forgive? Sure, already done. Forget it?" He shook his head. "Probably not. Since we couldn't name him for Pops, I thought maybe we could honor one of my fallen comrades like Rebecca and I did with Parker. That's why I chose Andrew."
"I am pleased that we could honor your friend."
"Even if you didn't know that's what we were doing?"
"Even then. Andy was obviously important to you. I find it sad that he died without a mate or progeny. While Andrew is our son, not his, I find it appropriate to honor him in such a way."
"Thanks, Bones. Um, Babe, I know I said I didn't care if you went through the box on your own, but, maybe for now, we should do it together."
"I think that is wise. Having you explain the context seems to have helped, although it is quite a bit to process."
"Take your time. The box will be here when you're ready and, more importantly, so will I. So… you still up for dinner? Our reservations are at seven thirty, so we have," looking at his watch, "two hours."
"Yes, I would enjoy going out tonight. I only need a half hour to prepare, however. Do you have any suggestions for how we should spend the rest of the time?"
Giving her a nudge, a hint to stand, he stood after her, wrapping his arms around her.
"Why, yes, Dr. Brennan, I believe I do. If you'll follow me…"
Taking her hand, he led her up the stairs, to their bedroom, to show her exactly what he had in mind.
A/N – Hi, guys! I hope you enjoyed this one. LMM has been pretty insistent over the last few days and these two chapters are the result.
I apologize for any military inaccuracies in this or future chapters. It is not my wish to offend anyone. I strive of accuracy in my fics. This one, to me, however, is about 'feel' more than it is about 'fact.' So, if things seem a little off, please keep that in mind.
I'm placing this about 15 years in the future, which puts it in line with my 'The Results in the Change' timeline.
As always, thanks for reading and reviewing. You have no idea how much it feeds the muse. LMM is very appreciative, as am I.