A/N – I apologize for the extremely long delay in updating this (or any of my fics). Real life has been hectic. My muse has been on walkabout. Neither are conducive to writing. Thanks to a nudge from a reader and some inspiration from the Season 10 premier (wasn't it fantastic?), I give you this. Hope you like it. ~ craftyjhawk
While AJ went in search of his mom to tell her about the three goals he scored in his soccer game, Booth stopped by the kitchen counter to look at the mail Brennan had left out for him. Picking up the cream-colored envelope on top of the pile, he flipped it over to see the return address. Smiling when he recognized it, he set aside and looked through the rest. He saw nothing that required his immediate attention until he reached the bottom of the pile. There, he found a plain white envelope, no name, no address, just a field of white. He had seen envelopes like this many times in the years since he had given Brennan 'the box.' He had found them with the mail, on his nightstand, even in his favorite chair in his man cave. He recognized the significance – she had chosen something to read. He picked up the first envelope along with the last and followed the voices of his wife and son coming from her office.
"Congratulations, Andrew, that's excellent! Did you father record the game for me to watch later?"
"I think so, Mom, but you need to double check with him."
Booth took that as his cue to enter the office. "Yes, Bones," he leaned down to kiss her, "I recorded it for you. It's a good thing, too. It might have been his best game ever."
"Thanks, Dad. I'm just glad you were there to see it. I think I'll going to go jump in the shower. I'm going out with the guys tonight. It's going to be a late night, so I'll probably go back to the dorm." He turned and left the office, leaving his parents smiling in his wake.
"I know it might sound selfish, Bones, but I'm really glad he decided to stay here and go to Georgetown. With Parker in California and Christine in Atlanta, it's nice to have AJ so close to home."
"You do realize that he probably won't stay here for law school, don't you?"
"I know, which is why I'm going to enjoy having him close to home now." Booth glanced at his hand, remembering the envelopes he was holding. "I see that we got something in the mail from Daisy. What is it?"
"Booth, if you want to know, just open it."
He slid the other envelope he was holding into the back pocket of his jeans. He wouldn't be opening it until AJ had left for the evening. Turning his attention back to the cream-colored envelope, he slid his finger under the flap, along the top edge. Once open, he removed the contents, finding another envelope with his family's names handwritten in calligraphy.
"Daisy never does anything halfway, does she?" he chuckled as he removed the contents of the inner envelope. He blinked away a tear as he realized what he held. "It's Lance's graduation invitation." He brushed his fingers across the embossed lettering of the invitation, pausing when he reached the name of the school, The Julliard School. "Sweets would be so proud."
Brennan rose from her desk chair to stand beside her husband. She wrapped an arm around his back as she laid her head on his shoulder. "Do you think he would be disappointed that Lance didn't go into medicine or another science?"
"No, Bones, not at all. You've heard Lance play. He's one of the most talented pianist I've ever heard. Sweets would be very proud. And he would be happy that Lance is doing something that he loves. I just wish Sweets were here to see it."
"You believe that Sweets is looking down, watching his son. So, in a way, maybe he is here to see it."
"Thank you, Bones. That was exactly the right thing to say." He put the invitation back in its envelope, before placing it on Brennan's desk. "So, I guess we will be heading to New York for a graduation next month."
Before Brennan could respond, AJ came bounding in the room, a freshly showered, slightly taller version of his father. "Hey, folks, I've gotta run. The guys are meeting me at the dorm in fifteen minutes. I'm already going to be late. I'll be back for dinner this weekend." With a kiss on his mother's cheek and a pat on his father's shoulder, he was out the door before either of them could say a word.
"Well, there goes Hurricane AJ, always in such a hurry!"
"That hasn't changed since he took his first steps, Booth, I doubt it will change now." Brennan laughed to herself, seeing the same trait in Andrew that Booth didn't see in himself.
Booth pulled the other envelope from his back pocket, holding it up for Brennan to see. "Now that the kid is gone, do you want to open this? Or would you rather wait until later?"
"I believe I am ready now. I'm anxious to read it, although I don't understand why. Maybe it's because it has been quite a while since we have done this."
"That's probably it. C'mon." Grabbing her hand, he pulled her toward her office couch. "Let's do this."
So many times over the past eight years, they had found themselves here, in her office, reading these scraps. He always sat at one end, she curled up next to him, the two of them as close as possible in order to comfort and reassure each other.
Booth handed Brennan the envelope once she was settled on the couch and waited. He always followed her lead, her pace at these times. After a minute or two, she opened the envelope and removed the paper inside. It was yellow, apparently ripped from a legal pad and showed signs of having been crumpled and then smoothed out. Taking a deep breath, she began to read.
Patrolled a village about 30 km from base. It was supposed to be a routine patrol. We were cautious, as always, never knowing if there would be a hostile hiding around the next corner. We were doing our jobs. From across the street, one of the villagers yells "Fahran," the name of one of my trainees. Fahran yells back at him, then tells me they are from the same village. Fahran's village is 300 hundred km from where we are. What are the odds that 2 boys from the same tiny village end up staring at each other across the street 300 km from home? In Afghanistan, I think those odds are slim. What we very quickly found out was they were not only on opposite sides of the street, they were on opposite sides of the war. In an instant, Fahran's friend had swung his rifle into his hands and started firing at us. That's when the sniper fire started. We were pinned down next to a café with few options. I was screaming in my radio for evac. The chopper was supposed to be nearby. Fahran went down. Another trainee went down. Minutes later, minutes that seemed like hours, I heard the thump thump of the chopper blades. I threw Fahran over my shoulder while yelling at the guys to make a break for the chopper. The two more experienced guys covered our rear, another picked up the second injured guy and we hauled ass. Fahran died in route. Another guy that I carried out didn't make it. Another kid that was too green to be here in the first place. Two months down, ten to go.
Brennan's heart broke for her husband. The similarity between this incident and the one with Teddy Parker was painfully obvious. For Booth to have to experience it twice seemed more than unfair to her. She looked at him, expecting to see sadness or even tears, but what she saw was nothing like that. He was almost smiling, even chuckling a little. At her shocked look, he rushed to explain.
"It was sad, Bones. At the time, it was very sad. It was like reliving Teddy's death all over again. I'm smiling because, out of all of the papers you could have pulled out of the box today, you picked this one. Let me tell you the rest of the story, then you'll understand."
Brennan turned slightly more toward Booth, so that she was looking directly at his face. She nodded at him when she was ready and waited.
"Several months after Fahran's death, I was walking across base, I don't remember why now. Anyway, I walked past a few of the Afghan troops and heard Fahran's name and the Pashto word for baby. I didn't understand most of what was being said, but his name was enough to catch my attention. I stopped and asked if they were talking about Fahran. The one doing most of the speaking said he was Fahran's cousin and had just received a letter from home. Fahran's wife has recently had a baby, a boy, who Fahran didn't live long enough to see."
"And, that reminds you of Sweets. He died before Lance was born."
"Exactly, Bones. It's funny that you picked that page on the same day we got Lance's invitation." He smiled at her as he thought for a moment. "I'm past being sad about Fahran and Sweets. I know they would be proud of their sons. I'm just grateful that we have been part of Lance's life. It's like we were able to keep a piece of Sweets with us."
"I'm very thankful for that, too. Sweets was family, as are Daisy and Lance." Preparing to change topics, she paused before continuing. "I've been thinking."
"Uh oh, should I be worried?" He smirked, knowing that she would understand that he was joking.
"No worry needed. I thought that we could take an extended trip when we go to Lance's graduation. We could fly from New York to Atlanta to see Christine. I'm sure she can squeeze in some time for us between shifts at the hospital."
"I don't like that they use interns as slave labor. She looks more exhausted every time we see her."
"Booth, we've talked about this before. There is nothing you can do about it. It's just the way the system works. She will survive it and probably be a better doctor for it. Now, back to what I was saying. After we visit with Christine, I thought we could fly to California to see Parker, Charlotte and the girls. It has been a very long time since we played Grandma and Grandpa."
"Great idea, babe. As much as I miss Christine and Parker, I hate that we see Emma and Brennan so rarely. Parker said they are playing t-ball this spring, maybe we can see a game or two while we're there."
"That sounds like fun. I've missed them, too. I've been planning some activities to do with them while we are there, some science experiments."
"Bones, they won't be five until the end of the month. Why don't we just plan some fun outings? We could even go to a museum or two. Let's just wait a while on the experiments."
"If you think that's best, but they are entering kindergarten this fall. They need to be prepared."
"They are smart girls. They will be more than prepared. They'll probably be smarter than the teacher." He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "That's settled, then. New York, Atlanta, SoCal. We can start making arrangements tomorrow." He grimaced when his stomach growled loudly. "Are you hungry, because obviously, I am. I was thinking-"
"Uh oh, should I be worried?" Her eyes twinkled as she joked.
"Good one, Bones, very funny. I was thinking we could order Thai. We haven't had that in a while. What do you think?"
"Sounds good. The usual?" she asked as she picked up her phone.
"You know me so well. You call it in, I'll go pick it up. Be back soon." With a peck on her cheek, he was out the door, mimicking AJ's earlier actions.