Author: K. Elisabeth PM
ATTN: Sequel, "Like an Island", now posted! Cause when a heart breaks, no it don't break even... angsty, kind of BB. You will understand "kind of" when you read it. Rated for language. Inspired by and named after the song "Break Even" by The Script.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - S. Booth & T. Brennan - Words: 3,248 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 8 - Published: 12-09-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5569797
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I'm still alive but I'm barely breathin'
Just prayed to a God that I don't believe in
'Cause I got time while she got freedom
'Cause when a heart breaks, no it don't break even
No it don't break, no it don't break even, no
What am I supposed to do
When the best part of me was always you?
And what am I supposed to say
When I'm all choked up and you're okay?
I'm falling to pieces, yeah
I'm falling to pieces, yeah
I'm falling to pieces
One's in love while the other one's leavin'
I'm falling to pieces
'Cause when a heart breaks, no it don't break even...
- Break Even, The Script
Booth looked around the half-disheveled apartment and sighed. Half-disheveled was the best way to describe it, since the half that was, or had been, clearly hers was Spartan and void. Her section of the closet empty, her drawer in the dresser cleared out, her side of the bed tucked in tidily with the pillow taken. Her toothbrush was gone from the edge of the sink, but she had left her shampoo bottle in the corner of the still-wet shower. Maybe she had forgotten it, but it was less like her to forget and more like her to intentionally leave it. For what reason, he couldn't know.
He didn't have any reason for anything at the moment. She had been bizarrely distant from him for the past month, but he had chalked it up to work. They were up to their armpits in murder after murder—there had been more violent muggings this December than any he could remember recently.
That's what this felt like, a violent mugging. Like someone had grabbed him from behind with a gun and ripped out half of him, leaving him to bleed to death on the cement. He sat down on the smooth-pressed edge of what had been 'her side' and rubbed his face with his hands. It was fast like a mugging, too. He hadn't seen it coming, and when blew past him it was so quick he could barely register what was happening until it had already happened.
When she brought up Sudan two weeks ago, it had seemed like a passing thought. She always brought up going to some Latin American or African country for bioarchaeological field work during the winter months, but she never did. She always bought the tickets, then stuffed them away in a coat pocket or a back drawer—a drawer that was now quite empty—and never went. She always stayed and celebrated with her family, and with him, and ever since they had become a 'family' of sorts earlier that year he had been waiting for the moment they could spend their first Christmas together, truly together.
And now, three days before the holiday, she had vanished, the one-way ticket to Sudan missing from the back of her panty drawer along with most of her necessaries.
"How long do they want you for this time?" he'd asked over a mug of coffee on a wet, slushy morning about two weeks prior.
"Well," she began, "when I am invited to work with the Latin American teams, it's always for as long as I can stay. Weeks, months, however long they can keep me. The human rights effort in Sudan is a multinational effort—I'd be looking at at least a year there, maybe more."
"A year?" he coughed.
"Do you have any idea the magnitude of the human rights violations in Darfur? Thousands are already dead, and the conflict is nowhere near settled. This has been going on for years and the way it looks, it will be for quite some time."
"Aren't the Janjaweed still active in Sudan?" he asked. She nodded.
"They are, in certain areas more than others. It's an ongoing ethnic battle, made worse by the water crisis."
"Then it wouldn't be safe for you to go," Booth said with something that sounded like finality in his voice.
"Rwanda wasn't safe either, but I went," she pointed out. "Srebrenica wasn't safe, Columbia wasn't safe, none of these places I go are safe but that's not the point, Booth. Human life is being lost and even though I can't stop what's happening, I can give humanity back to the victims and repatriate their remains to their families."
"I think we should talk about this later," Booth said, hoping that by delaying this conversation further she would come to her senses on her own and they wouldn't have to argue it out fully. It would be like Peru—she would realize that she had too much here to stay for, without having to be told.
"I don't see what there is to talk about," she said airily. "I either decide to go or I don't."
"You know, couples make these decisions together," Booth said with an edge to his voice. "One doesn't just go off without at least consulting the other on what they're doing."
"So I have to clear everything I choose to do in my life by you first, because you're what, my significant other?" Brennan asked, nostrils flaring, and he knew he had hit a button he hadn't wanted to.
"No, I'm not saying that," he backwheeled. "I'm just saying that you can't just up and say, 'I'm going to Africa for a year' without talking to me about it first."
Around that time she had thrown her napkin on the table and left, and they both fumed for a good two days before normal conversation was reinstated. There was no more talk about Darfur or Sudan or anything even remotely related to Africa for the next two weeks, until he woke up early one morning to find her standing in the dark bedroom, quietly opening and closing drawers, a suitcase lain open on the floor at her feet. For a moment he watched her move in the hazy grey-blue light of the early morning, unsure of whether he was even awake or not, until she turned and they made direct eye contact. That look on her face, that caught look, made him very much awake.
"What are you doing?" he asked, sitting up on his elbows.
"Packing," she said calmly, dropping the last handful of socks into her suitcase and quietly closing the top drawer.
"For what?" he asked. She would not look at him, but focused pointedly on whatever was in her hands as she spoke.
"Sudan," she said. He flew out of bed, feet hitting the floor and aching as if they had been broken all over again. It was the cold weather that did it.
"What?" he asked loudly, and the word sounded vulgar and out of place in the quiet morning light. She didn't flinch, but moved on to the closet where she pulled her shirts methodically off of hangers, folded them, and tossed them down into the bag.
"My plane leaves at nine," she said. "We connect in…"
"I thought we'd talked about this?" he said, trying to keep his voice calm.
"We did," she said. "And I evaluated your position. In the end, though, I decided that the potential human rights aid I could provide in Darfur is of immeasurable importance, and it would be selfish of me not to go."
"Selfish of you not to go?" he repeated, dumbstruck. When they had gone to bed the night before they had chatted briefly about what to bring to the annual Medico-Legal Lab's Christmas party, and now, six hours later, she was hopping a plane to Africa for a year out of selflessness?
"Yes, Booth," she said. "My expertise is needed in Africa."
"Your expertise is needed here!" he said. "We've got two active cases that need solving, and people aren't going to stop getting murdered just because you're on sabbatical in Africa for a year." She dropped the hanger that was in her hands and turned to him, nostrils flaring.
"Sabbatical? Is that what you think this is, a vacation?" she asked. "There are people dying by the thousands, buried in mass graves that you can't even imagine. You think what we do here is bad? You think the bodies we find are grotesque, the smell, the rotting flesh, you think all of that is bad? Try digging through a mass grave, Booth. Try unearthing layer upon layer of dead men, women, and children, some of them still holding onto the stuffed bears the relief workers gave them. Try identifying the unidentifiable, people who may only have a first name, and no family brave enough to stand up and give the antemortem information needed to identify their loved ones. Try watching a child struggle to carry a machine gun on his shoulder as he walks by the U.N. security bordering the grave sites. This is no vacation, Booth. This is as bad as it gets, but they need me."
"I need you," he said quietly. She looked away, into the closet that was now half empty. "Look, I get that your work over there is important, I do. But I need you, Bones, and I'm not the only one. What about your dad, and Russ, and everyone at the lab? We need you. I need you."
"You were fine before we started working together," she said with a sniff, her voice thick but determinedly steady. "You'll be fine while I'm gone."
"How can you even compare then and now?" he'd asked, banging his fist against the wall hard enough to rattle the window. "You think it's just about work? You think I just need you here to solve cases and drink coffee with? How long have you been living here now, Temperance? Six months? Seven? And you're going to just walk away from all that? You were going to just leave and not even tell me?"
"I told you before," she said. "We already had this discussion. I thought I made it perfectly clear that…"
"The only thing that's not clear to me is what the hell you're running from," he said angrily. "What's wrong with this? What's wrong with us? What's so horrible about you and me that you've got to pack your bag in the middle of the night and sneak out before my alarm goes off so I don't even get to say goodbye? What the fuck exactly are you running away from?"
She didn't say anything, but proceeded into the bathroom where she took her toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and hairbrush in her hands and threw them on the top of her luggage, not even bothering to bag them separately. She bent down and zipped around the sides, and he heard her sniff audibly but she would not break.
"You'll live," was all she said as she pulled the handle out of the rolling suitcase and headed out the door. He slammed his fist against the wall again, this time leaving a dent in the plaster, and leaned his weight against the wall as he listened to the front door open and shut.
Two days later he sat on the edge of their bed, all of her empty spaces still gaping like open wounds, and he didn't know what to do. No, he knew what to do—move on—just not how to. In the past two days he had not received a phone call, a text message, an e-mail, anything that might indicate where she was, that she was safe, that she gave a shit at all about him or their relationship. Failed relationship, he mentally corrected himself bitterly.
When he heard the lock of his front door jiggle, he didn't know what to think. Half of his heart, the half that was still his, prayed beyond prayer that she would walk through the door. When he heard a familiar female voice, but not hers, swearing at the jammed lock that wouldn't open properly, he let out a deflated sigh and let her in, surprising her by meeting her at the door.
"Angela?" She looked up almost sheepishly, her exotic features barely visible beneath a thick wooly scarf and a striped knitted cap.
"Hey," she said, unwrapping herself from the winter attire as she let herself into his apartment, draping the excess clothes on his couch. He shrugged and shut the door, not particularly in the mood for company but knowing that getting her out of his apartment would be like trying to usher out a stubborn moth. She would keep slipping through his fingers until he gave up and let her leave on her own.
"Bren called me," she said, and his stomach tightened into an angry knot.
"She called you," he said, his voice cool and feigning unaffected. "I guess she made it to Africa okay."
"She did," Angela nodded, voice laced with sympathy. "She wanted me to tell you, so you'd know she was okay. They flew into Addis Ababa; she's going to try to call when she gets past the Sudanese border."
"That's great," he said with more malice in his voice than he'd intended. He couldn't help it—the anger roiling in him was almost unbearable. Anger is a false emotion, Agent Booth, Sweets had said to him once. People feel anger when they don't want to feel the deeper, truer emotion behind that anger. They use it as a guard, a façade. We fool ourselves by being angry, when we're really hurt.
"She didn't mean to hurt you," Angela blurted, seated on the edge of his couch with her hands folded in her lap. He scoffed.
"I'm sure," he said. "Is that all you came here to tell me, Angela? I don't mean to be rude but I'm really not in the mood for company."
"She's scared," Angela said, her tone attempting to rouse some sort of sympathy or understanding. He had none of either.
"Scared," Booth said, in a way that made it sound almost laughable.
"Yes," Angela said.
"Of what, exactly?" Booth asked, turning to face her, standing in the middle of his small living area with his arms crossed over his chest. "What the hell has she got to be scared of, that she had to fly half-way around the world to get away from? Me?"
"Sort of," Angela said in a way that was both hesitant and apologetic. "You've been together for what, six months now?" Booth nodded. "Okay, see, that's a record for her. Really."
"Glad I could set that one for her," Booth said with bitterness. Angela sighed.
"She's afraid of things going right, okay?" Booth gave her a disbelieving look down his slightly crooked nose as she leaned back into his couch cushions, legs crossed, looking delicate but unrelenting.
"That's the biggest load of shit I've ever heard," Booth said plainly. Angela shook her head.
"Come on, think about it," she said. "I know I'm not Sweets or anything—"
"Thank God," Booth said. "If you were I really would've kicked you out five minutes ago." Angela smirked and continued.
"—but," she said, "I do know Bren. She's my best friend, has been for years. As awkward and weird and socially inept as she is sometimes, she is my best friend and I love her. That's why I know, she's scared. She's scared of this really working out."
"Why?" he asked, sinking down onto the end of the couch opposite of Angela. "What's so scary about a happy ending?"
"When you've never had one?" she asked. "Everything. Look, nothing in her life that was ever good, ever stayed that way. When she was fifteen her parents left, her brother left, she was thrown into foster care and horrible things happened to her, Booth. Really horrible things. But before that, everything was fine. She was happy, she was loved, she had her family and that was everything in the world to her. Then they left, just like that." She snapped her thin fingers for emphasis.
"What has that got to do with us, though?" he asked. "She knows I'm never leaving."
"She thought she knew her parents were never leaving," Angela said. "But they did. And like I said, I'm not Sweets or anything, but I think she runs away from good things before she can get too comfortable with them, because she's afraid they're gonna get yanked out from underneath her like her family was."
"But she has her family back, mostly," Booth pointed out.
"After how long?" Angela countered. "Fifteen years, Booth. Fifteen years of pain, of emptiness, of being completely alone. She was so loved, and then she had nobody in the world to love her. She doesn't know how to let somebody love her like that. In college she broke off every relationship she was in after a few months, even the really good ones. She let Sully sail away to the Caribbean or wherever the hell he went. Don't you see? She lets people go, or she leaves them, before they can get in and hurt her like she was hurt before."
"I always thought she trusted me more than that," Booth said sadly.
"She can't," Angela emphasized. "She wants to, but she can't. So when things started getting really comfortable with you guys, she moves in and you've got this little domestic routine and everything is looking good… well, what do you think that looks like to her? It looks like time to go, before that can all get taken from her."
"That's the most ass-backwards reasoning I've ever heard in my life," he said, resting his head in his hands. "But I kind of get it."
"You know she loves you, Booth," Angela said with as much emphasis as she could muster. "You know she does. It's that she loves you too much. She loves you so much it hurts, and she can't hurt like that again." There was a long silence between them, where Angela folded and refolded her hands in her lap and Booth stared off at the opposite wall.
"So what am I supposed to do?" he finally asked. "Call her? Go after her? Wait? Give up? What do I do? How do you fix someone loving you too much, when you didn't even know it was a problem in the first place?" Angela shrugged and sighed, scooting over on the couch and patting Booth on the arm.
"I don't know, honestly," she said. "Bren hasn't committed to the whole year though, I know that much. She never filed extended leave paperwork with the Jeffersonian. She just… left. But she has to come back."
"And until then?" he asked. Angela shrugged.
"I don't know," she said, looking down at her lap and then back up at him. "I guess you just keep breathing."