|Seventeen and Forever
Author: halliwelldream PM
Even at seventeen, Tempe had her doubts about love.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - T. Brennan - Words: 2,287 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 2 - Published: 01-20-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6672275
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yet another story that took on a life of its own but was, nonetheless, lots of fun to write. This one I started writing a few months before the episode revisiting Brennan's high school which is why there is a boyfriend in the first place. Enjoy and, as always, constructive criticism would be much appreciated.
Spoilers: References to various episodes throughout the series though season 6 is excluded.
Disclaimers: Bones owned by Hart Hanson and FOX-I thank them for giving me such delightfully fun characters to play with.
AN: Slightly AU in that my premise is centered on teenage Brennan having a boyfriend, but other than that characterization and other facts are canonical.
Seventeen and Forever
Infinity linked to infinity circled her wrist in an unbroken chain. It was plain and couldn't have cost very much, but Tempe, not usually one for jewelry, admired the simple elegance of the design. Perhaps, Tempe mused, there was such a thing as looking into someone's eyes and understanding them.
He smiled, pleased that he had pleased her. Left on her own, Tempe's smiles were easy and frequent, but in the presence of others, they came less readily. With uncharacteristic boldness he declared that maybe it would good luck for them. Maybe—and this he said with a hint of his usual shyness—it promised that they would be together forever.
Tempe's own smile was gone in an instant and she almost pushed the bracelet back into his hands. The spark of an idea that had just begun to catch fizzled out and the shell around her bruised heart solidified just a bit more.
At seventeen years old, Temperance was a serious child and did not believe in forever. Science and her own experience backed her up. People who were supposed to stay left. Diamonds were thought to last forever but, in reality, slowly—albeit very slowly—decayed to nothing more than common graphite. Entropy acted on everything. Change was stable, constancy was not. Evolution made that clear. Even the most stable environment and conditions had to eventually be punctuated by major change. And in the absence of that were accumulating microchanges. There was no forever. She told him so.
He didn't understand. Didn't girls love gestures like that? Tempe frowned and told him she didn't know, but she was pretty sure that girls didn't like being generalized like that. She didn't like being generalized like that. And, she added after a pause, she didn't like empty promises.
He was quiet and Tempe, believing she had finally pushed him too far, thought, this is it. The experiment of them, about to come to fruition, some key piece of data about to be unveiled. The intellectual curiosity that had brought her here and had made her say yes when her study buddy had tentatively asked her out was about to reach its payoff. And, looking at him, she accepted it, ready to take from this a lesson on human relationships, expecting that any second now, he would make the same connection and tell her so.
Instead, he said, with great seriousness and without shyness, "But I love you." He said it as if the conclusion she should draw was, "And thus, you and I are in a unit of belonging." A unit of exactly two members.
Tempe struggled to breathe. How long since she had belonged? Inevitably she thought of Mom and Dad and Russ. Of grandpa saying "I love you" with pity and sadness in his eyes. Fourteen years later, she would say love is a chemical process that causes delusions and believing otherwise is irrational. Later that year, she would write a book, trying to figure out this physics-defying, delusion-inducing phenomenon. The following year she would be making a toast to love, conceding that perhaps the feelings come before the chemistry, no mention of delusions made.
But at seventeen, she hadn't yet decided what love is and what she wanted to ask was, what does it mean, "I love you"? What do you mean? What she said instead was, "I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing." Because hadn't her parents loved her? Hadn't Russ, in his indirect ways, always made it known that he loved her? And what was the worth, really, of "I love you" when it couldn't stop murder from happening to people, when it couldn't stop people from driving away and leaving?
And this boy, who had already promised forever and said "I love you," looked at her with sad eyes and said, "I'm sorry I'm not saying the right things, but I… I don't take them back and… and I will figure you out."
At seventeen, Tempe hadn't yet put herself above emotional subtext and she hadn't yet started to rationalize everything down to the smallest detail. Though she didn't know why, she understood that this boy wanted to give her the world and she didn't laugh at him for thinking such grand notions as she might have done in a couple of years. She was not above, however, looking him in the eye and telling him very clearly that she was not her peers. She was not some damsel in distress and she did not want to be saved. At fifteen, she had wanted to be rescued, but no one had wanted her baggage then. No one had even cared enough to know she had had baggage. To them, she had just been Morticia, just been the girl who had an unhealthy fascination with dead things. They hadn't needed to know anymore. They hadn't wanted to. By seventeen, she had learned not to care so much and to fend for herself. If ever she were to be a damsel, she would be her own knight as well. If he did insist on proclaiming himself her savior, then she would laugh at and ridicule him.
But he just stared at her, puzzled. Save her? Of course he had never thought she needed saving. There had never been cause to. But if she ever did, he would. Save her, that is.
That was settled then. He tried to put on a cheerier front. They would be okay, he assured her.
She just shrugged.
After that they drifted, sometimes closer, but more often, apart. He seemed to be operating on the hypothesis that if they saw less of each other, they would get along better when they were together. She wondered how things would or wouldn't have changed between them if she had just gone with him, just let him believe forever was plausible. She didn't wear the bracelet often. Her initial affinity to it was marred by the questions it raised when she saw it—questions she didn't yet have sufficient data to answer. He didn't ask, must have sensed that these were questions she didn't want to discuss with him. Perhaps he didn't want to discuss them with her either for fear that he would, once again, say the wrong thing and give her the ammunition to sever the tenuous thread of their relationship. Tempe, fascinated and curious and, in her own mind, still conducting an experiment, was content to let things unfold as they would for the time being.
Senior year and eighteen rolled around and they were still together. College applications was a bit of a sticky patch because Tempe wasn't interested in comparing notes and swapping schools. She had long ago thought out much of the process. Now it was a matter of doing and waiting. And still they remained together, holding out until summer.
Then came that sticky humid, sweltering hot day when all anyone wanted to do was shut himself in and turn up the AC high. Despite the heat, Tempe was packing and he was over, watching her pack because she wouldn't let him help. Still, there was something in his smile that made her think of the day he had given her the bracelet. Tempe didn't know how to react. And she wasn't at all sure that it had been an objective observation in the first place. What she had deduced, objectively, was that he seemed rather excited and in truth, Tempe was too. In just a little over two weeks they would be leaving for college, she, for Northwestern, he, for UChicago. Tempe was beyond impatient to arrive; she was ready for a new chapter in her life.
"Tempe, I've been thinking about us."
So had she.
"I know things haven't really been right between us lately, but Tempe," his eyes were shining, "I think that's about to change. It's kind of perfect, isn't it, the way things worked out? We could have a fresh start."
Yes! Tempe felt a wild flare of fondness. All summer she had felt the clock ticking for them, had known that it could only come down to one thing. Perhaps she had underestimated him and the distance between them wasn't so great after all.
"The distance will be good for us," he continued, "but you see, it's not impossible. We'd only be about twenty miles apart. I could come see you on weekends. Or you could come see me." His glee was uncontained and to anyone else, it would have been infectious.
Tempe felt her throat close for a different reason. She tugged a drawer open, thumbed through a pile of clothes, dropping a few on her bed.
He hopped off the windowsill and grabbed her arm to still her and get her attention. "Tempe, did you hear anything I just said?"
She pulled away from him, busied herself with refolding the mussed shirts. "I heard you."
"Well say something."
She hadn't meant to sound angry, but she found she did. "I'm not a forever kind of girl."
He began to laugh. "That's just it, Tempe, don't you see? This isn't about forever. This is about us having a real chance. I've been paying attention. I know you don't like it when I'm around too much; you're not comfortable with it, right? Well now you don't have to feel… I don't know… obligated, I guess."
Fifteen years later, she would say she was a scientist and she couldn't change, she didn't know how, but at eighteen, believing that no one her age could properly understand her, she was above explaining herself. And so, she didn't point out to him that while he had made valid observations, no, his assessment of them wasn't really it at all. Instead, she took a breath and said, "Look, this has been a noble experiment but there's nothing left to prove and this is the logical place for it to end."
He looked at her oddly. "I'm not sure I understand."
"I…" She scrambled to find the layman terms that would make him understand. "I don't think it'll be necessary for us to see each other."
"Tempe—" It hit him; he gaped at her. "You're ending this?"
"I'm only stating the inevitable."
He was silent for a long time. She didn't continue packing. "You're serious about this, aren't you?"
She could only nod.
"You know, Tempe," he said softly, "we could have worked. All it would have taken was a little faith. I'm sorry I couldn't earn your trust."
"That's not what it is," she countered.
"Then why end it? Why not see where we can go?"
"Because emotional ties are temporary and unreliable even when long-distance isn't a factor, and it would be irrational of us to hold on to something that's only going to fall apart."
"You're kind of messed up, you know that, Tempe?" He managed a small smile to show he wasn't saying it out of meanness.
"I accept your judgment."
He sighed. "Right. Well… good luck, Tempe."
"Wait…" She forced herself to face the hopeful curiosity in his eyes. "I can't promise forever, but if it helps, I…. I won't forget you." The words felt awkward, but then it had been a long time since she had made a conscious effort to say the right thing.
"Well," he fidgeted, "you know how I feel."
"Yes. Thank you, I suppose."
He edged towards the door. "I really should get going."
"I'm sorry," she whispered when he was gone. But mostly, she was relieved.
At eighteen, Temperance Brennan wasn't yet ready for love. She didn't want the world given to her—she wanted to discover it for herself. At eighteen, Temperance Brennan had big dreams and lofty goals; she was looking for change and she wasn't yet ready for the permanence of home and the constancy of returning to it again and again. In four years, she would arrive at a world-renowned scientific institution that was to be her professional home. Eight years after that, she would be surrounded by the colleagues who, though still learning to work together, would eventually become her closest friends as well. Three years later, she would find herself retreating to Guatemala, needing to get away from home, yet inexplicably drawn back as well. But at eighteen, Tempe was restless and the call of the world was strong. Home, like love, was still just an experiment, still just a concept waiting to acquire meaning.