Author's note: as some of you already know, I prefer to post all of my stories at once, to prevent 6 month gaps between posting. I apologize for any inconvenience. Enjoy, or don't. It's up to you.
Who could have coined this phrase? Obviously not a scientist. The heart is a muscle, and as anyone with any sort of biology background knows, muscles aren't capable of breaking. They can emaciate, be torn, ripped, cut, or even crushed. But not broken.
People seem to be so fascinated with the idea. A broken heart. They write songs about it, create paintings, movies, plays. I myself had contemplated studying the effects of grief (aka heartbrokenness - which is a real word), for a thesis in college. The trouble was that anyone that was in any sort of heartbroken state was never a willing subject. I often wondered why they never wanted to participate in my study, after all it was in the interests of science. I had even experienced it myself once before, as a teen; though to be fair that part of my life is hazy at best. Now, though, I seem to understand. I'd hate to think what would have happened to anyone that attempted to interview me on my feelings about Booth following the conclusion of our relationship. The truth is, I don't believe there is a word in the English language, or any language for that matter (I am fluent in several) that accurately quantifies the exquisite pain I felt then.
It also seems as though any previous dealings with being heartbroken do not at all prepare you for future heartbreak. For instance, the pain I felt when Booth ended our relationship was just as bad, if not worse, as when I found out that my parents were missing. At that time, I was scared of course, and confused. But I was younger, more naïve. I still had hope.
This time, the only dim flicker of hope I could hold onto was that perhaps when I woke up in the morning, the pain might be fractionally lessened. It seemed I had finally found the perfect candidate for my study. Myself.
In the brief months of our relationship I had learned more from Booth than even someone with my learning curve could have guessed was possible. And in the long weeks following our breakup, he taught me more about myself than I'd ever wanted to know.
For instance, the fact that the life of solitude I had coveted for so long was not really a life at all. As I ate alone at the diner, slept in the cold sheets of my bed, lay up at night watching the television he'd insisted on buying (despite the fact that I make more than he does), I realized that I had only been fooling myself into believing I wanted to be alone. Now who was the fool.
The loneliness that awoke within me was tangible, and so much worse than the dull ache it had been in the years prior to meeting my friends at the Jeffersonain. Somehow in the time it had been away, it had grown, evolved into a living entity. It slithered through my body and clawed at my lungs with fingernails laced with accusation. (To clarify, I am using a literary device here, in this case personification…I was not afflicted with some sort of parasite)
Never was I more acutely aware of this loneliness than when I was standing right next to him. My body did not understand that he was no longer mine. It had already been trained in a Pavlovian style to react to his proximity, to respond to his smell, his touch, the heat from his body. When he would stand beside me on the platform, the hairs on my arms would rise, my skin would prickle uncomfortably, my heart rate would increase dramatically, and eventually I would be forced to leave. I did this because I knew that if I stayed, I wouldn't have been able to control myself. I knew that I would take his wrist in my fingers and pull him close to me, rest my forehead on his so I could feel the heat of his breath on my face, and state to him everything I wanted to say, all the things I knew he wanted to hear. But I have spent my life disciplining myself. I know how to keep myself under control when I need to. So I would go work in my office until I knew that he had left. Angela calls it hiding. I call it surviving.
When the chance to speak at a conference was presented to me, I knew immediately that I would go. It was the perfect opportunity to remove myself from an environment that was becoming increasingly hard to exist in. While the lab had been my home for many years, a fact that Booth had forced to me admit, it was now my enemy. I wasn't safe there. I could feel their eyes on me when he entered the room, waiting to see how I would react. Everything became silent, as though someone had thrown a blanket of stillness over the Jeffersonian. I think they were all waiting for me to have some sort of mental episode.
But this trip gave me the excuse I needed to leave that, at least for a period of time, and in my absence I hoped things could return to normal. I was to present at the forensic archeology symposium on my research concerning the reverse engineering of bullets using bone markings, a project I'd been cultivating for several years that was only then coming to fruition. The last time I had been to the "city of sin" was an opportunity to role-play, wear clothes that revealed more skin than I would normally show at the beach, do and say things I would never dream of doing, and subtly experiment as to what it might be like to live my life with Booth. Now it was an experiment on whether I could survive without him. I left the next day. I believe that my altered emotional state prevented me from seeing what I should have known was obvious.
He was already there when I arrived.
Any protestations I had to Booth's entirely unneeded presence fell on deaf ears. The idea that I am one of the Jeffersonain's "assets" that needs to be protected never ceases to infuriate me. Not only am I wholly capable of taking care of myself, but the idea that I am simply a possession of the Institute I work for; and not an autonomous, and invaluable employee, is simply insulting. I considered backing out of my presentation, but I'd already committed myself to the members of the coordination board. They'd given me free accommodations at the MGM, as a thank you for my attendance. They'd also ensured that me and my "bodyguard" were given rooms with an adjoining door, "for added convenience". I tried not to dwell upon this fact when I arrived there, but upon entering the hotel, there was an instant feeling of…Booth. This makes no rational sense, I know.
Making my way to my upstairs after check-in I forced my eyes not to look at his door as I walked past and quickly retreated into the safety of my own unlit room. As I sank on the bed, the bright lights of the strip washing my skin in garish pinks and yellows, (my editor tells me I need to indulge in more frivolous detail) I found myself facing the joining door that led directly into his suite.
I knew that he was aware of my presence.
I felt as though we were having a silent conversation through the door.
I know you're there.
I wasn't sure how I was going to get through these few days, now that I had been thrust up against the very person I was hoping to avoid. Well, that's not entirely correct. I didn't want to avoid him, but I felt as though decorum asked it of me. What I truly desired was for everything to go back to the way it was before, to burst through that door and press my body against his, let my tears fall silently against his neck, and make him swear to me he'd never leave me again. Pathetic, but true. Even though I knew he no longer wanted to be with me, one can't help but dream. As I thought this I somehow found myself standing in front of his door with my fingers raised in a fist. It disturbs me when my body makes decisions independently of my conscious mind.
I wondered what would happen if I knocked. If he would ignore me (improbable), if he would tell me to leave (unlikely), if he would grab a fistful of my hair in one hand, a fistful of my flesh in the other, and make us both forget why we were in separate rooms in the first place (I wish). I dropped my hand. I was speculating on things I knew wouldn't happen, and it was irrational. I took a shower instead.
As the steaming water ran over my skin, I felt my mind pulling me to the moment when everything had gone wrong. No matter how much I didn't want to think about it, I am a scientist first, and my brain must methodically sift through every failed experiment in the hopes of a better outcome next time.
I had been sitting in his arms on the couch, reading, while behind me he dozed. It was a chilly day, we'd spent the cold, sunny afternoon playing with Parker on a playground. (He was throwing leaves at me as I explained about photosynthesis.) Thinking of Parker hurt me. Though he is not my own biological child, I couldn't deny that I felt a deep sense of love and maternal protection for him. It used to bother me, but Booth taught me that I shouldn't be afraid of loving people, or of being happy. At that moment, in a lonely hotel room in Las Vegas, I wished that he had not.
We had been lying there, and I recall I had started to feel a curious sensation in my stomach. With his arms around me, warming me, while outside it was cold, I experienced an overwhelming happiness; something I haven't felt since I was very small. I should have known it was too good to be true. Maybe I did.
He leaned forward and kissed my neck, and I smiled without looking up. I had no way of knowing that it would be the last time he would kiss me. When he whispered the words in my ear, I think he immediately sensed that he should not have. My body went stiff. I could feel my heart rate rapidly increase as my adrenal glands pumped adrenaline through my veins. I was panicking.
He didn't show me a ring. It wasn't planned. He didn't say the words " Temperance will you marry me?" He just said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, holding me in moments just like the one we had been enjoying. It was everything I had always needed to hear, though I didn't know it at the time. And because I didn't know it, it scared me. I think I was so afraid of losing Booth that…I lost him. I don't really know what that means.
When I didn't answer, he told me to look at him. I couldn't. He pulled the book I was still pretending to read from my hands and tossed it on the ground. "Temperance, please." I turned around to face him and he saw the fear in my eyes, but for once he misread me. He took it as rejection. He thought I was repulsed by the idea of spending night after night in his arms, Temperance Brennan, the antichrist of monogamy. Though I am not adept at reading facial expressions, he'd been so hurt that even I could read the pain on his face, a pain that cut to the bone. Perhaps those sessions with Sweets on reading emotions have been of some use after all.
He looked at me, waiting for me to say something, and I was fighting not to run. I felt myself launching into my usual lecture on the antiquated notions of marriage and fidelity, how it was really just a thinly veiled way of making a woman a man's property. Even as the words came out of my mouth I knew I did not believe them anymore. Maybe I had never believed them. Booth had changed me, the way I thought, the way that I saw things. I don't mean to say that I was different in the essential ways. I was still methodical, rational, brilliant. But I had lost some of my cynicism, perhaps because Booth had showed me that it really is possible to be happy. Marriage may be an antiquated ritual, but it stands to reason that there is an explanation for why it has survived when so many other traditions have fallen into disuse.
He had closed his eyes as I was saying the things he had heard me say a hundred times, and shook his head slowly. I believe that he had been hoping that I had moved beyond my negative ideals on the situation, and was now realizing that I had not. I had disappointed him, and that hurt me more than anything. I don't like to admit it when I'm hurt, but I don't think I could have hidden it no matter how hard I'd tried.
I stopped mid-sentence, knowing there was no point in continuing. "You don't really believe that bullshit Temperance, I know you don't. Maybe you did once, but not anymore," he had whispered. His eyes were clouded over in grief, and maybe anger as well.
He was right, I knew that he was right. But for some reason, maybe because I hate to be proved wrong, I insisted that I did mean it.
"Does the idea of being with me disgust you that much?" he'd asked.
My mouth hung open. I don't know what to do in these types of situations. Normally I would run, or ask Booth, but I could do neither at that particular moment. "No, Booth. How can you say that?" was all I could manage.
"Because I thought that you had grown. Evolved, remember?" He asked, throwing my own word back in my face. He clutched the back of my head, his fingers winding so tightly into my hair that I gasped. "I had convinced myself that you were moving past all that fear of yours." He released me and stood. "I had convinced myself that you loved me."
"I-Booth, I—" I have never known myself to be unable to finish a sentence. But then I have never known myself to feel such hollow, heartbreaking fear. I did love him. If love exists, and if I am capable of it, then I did. I do. But I couldn't say it. Perhaps because everyone I have ever loved has left me; and I would rather lose Booth as a lover than lose him altogether.
He looked at me in a way that I couldn't understand and he turned to go. "Booth, please!" I called. My voice cracked, and I was ashamed of how desperate I sounded. I stood, reaching out, and grabbed his wrist in my hands, pulling him back to me. I felt like my stomach was going to fall through my abdominal cavity, though I know it was due to emotion rather than an actual physical possibility. "Booth, please don't go," I begged. "Please. Stay, talk to me!" I have never known myself to beg anyone, either. It was a lot of firsts for me that night. And a lot of lasts.
I stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. I still hadn't bothered to turn on a light, my head was pounding and I found the glow of the neon signs from the street to be sufficient. As I pulled a towel from the rack, it trailed along the counter and brought a glass that had been set next to the sink crashing to the floor, where it shattered explosively.
As I bent to pick up the pieces, I thought of another literary device. My heart was the broken shards of glass that littered the floor. That one is a metaphor.