Okay. So umm, this is half me convincing myself that my heart is not crushed into little pieces on the floor somewhere and half a love letter to italics, brackets and entirely improper sentence structure. Hurrah!
What follows is heavily inspired by and borrows from Jo Rowling's 2008 Harvard Commencement address "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination." I'm sorry for bastardising her amazing words for my own purposes. Let me know if you want a link to her speech and I will place it somewhere in my horribly baron profile. As always, your feedback is love.
"Infinity goes in both directions. There is no unique event, no singular moment."
"I don't know what that means."
"It means you will get another chance."
- Brennan, to Angela. 1x17 The Skull in the Desert.
In the past she has made the observation that human beings of their modern age often resist change.
She has marked this down as an inherent failure of their kind; the ability to grow and adapt to a volatile set of circumstances is pivotal to survival. This adaption, evolution, is the very phenomenon, the very process that has allowed them to move from their early beginnings of Ramapithecus and Australopithecus to Homo sapiens Sapiens – a species with a capacity to learn and understand, like no other.
(Because unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's places.)
But tonight all she can think about is how much this would change things.
And yet she cannot change.
(She is a scientist.)
On instinct, she tries to rationalise it; evolution occurred (is occurring) over millions of years and not just in the space of one (may it be, monumental) conversation. She cannot be expected to adjust the very notion of her existence and expand the bounds of her comprehension in such a confined environment.
She does not see, she is not ready to understand, that this evolution of self has already begun.
(But it is not yet complete.)
Instead she sees a woman who does not love like he loves. She does not believe in the things he believes.
A woman who cannot change to be the things he needs.
Instead she recognises that what she knows is safe. That what they have now is already something special. That what she has experienced and tested can be relied upon.
She cannot be relied upon. Feelings cannot be relied upon. Not like this.
Because she cannot change. And feelings can change.
(People can leave. People can stop loving other people.
And she cannot change, you see. She cannot change the way she feels even in 30, 40 or 50 years, even if people change. Even if people stop loving other people.)
And for once, she cannot think like an anthropologist, she cannot separate herself from the human experience. She is one of them, she is just like them and she fails just as they do. She does not know how to change.
Later, when he's alone, he thinks about the words he chose.
When you're in the moment, that moment, there's this thing that happens. It's like, you're not in your own head anymore, you're in a Place. Most people will go to the Place some time in their lives, where the words just come out and while you may know what it is you're saying, you don't know what it's all going to mean.
And when everything's getting away from you, the control, the meaning, the months and years of carefully guarded feelings and emotions and hopes, all you can do to stem the flow of the enormity is to say more things.
And so he reflects.
What did he say, what did it mean.
He said that he wanted to give it a shot. That they should try for a different result.
That he wanted a story to tell in 30, 40, 50 years time.
That he wanted to be man that can say he was the one who knew.
This is what he said.
He knows what he wants it to mean.
He wants it to mean I am in love with you. You are enough, more than enough, you are what I want. What I want is who you are, right now, whatever that might be.
Is that what it means?
Or, does it mean I love you. I want you to believe in love the way I do, because then we can be something great.
There is a vast difference.
As they walked through the night, they didn't really talk. There were words, sentences and moments marked as possibilities, but each was inadequate or ill-fitting or just... awkward. They didn't talk. Instead they sought a complicated physical comfort, the kind where you're not really sure if it's appropriate but you both kind of need it and you touch and hug and share each other anyway.
("I wish you wouldn't let me hug you every time I get scared.")
But for this reason, he does not know what she has taken from his words tonight and from all of the words he has given her since they met.
He does not regret taking the chance and he does not regret making it a possibility.
But as he seeks and as he reaches to remember the finite details of their exchange, of all of their exchanges – because that is what they do, they exchange, they give and take little pieces of themselves, he begins to wonder. They do these things, they offer and they steal and they claim but they do so without comment or commentary. Though he can be sure of his feelings, he cannot be sure of her concept of such things.
There is a line he walks.
The possibility that she does not understand he could never want her to change, never want from her something she was not willing to give, that he knows what he is asking is something she is so very capable of, something he can show her she is capable of...
Yet he recognises, with a sense of self-awareness that can scarcely be rivalled, he is just another man who didn't get what he wanted.
He doesn't want to be clutching at straws. Looking for a way to repackage this in some way that doesn't come out with a big red REJECTED sticker stuck on the front.
But he doesn't want to fail her either.
Later when she is alone, and when an initial and unexpected wave of anger has passed, she analyses this failure she has found within herself. It gives her something purposeful to think about.
Once she believed that to fully understand the human condition was to be immune from its failings. That in some way, her role as an expert on the multifaceted, functioning organism that is society, meant that on an individual level, she was superior to it.
Over time she had come to question this idea. As Booth chipped away at her walls and at her impositions of grandeur, she has come to recognise that society can have beliefs and that she can have beliefs and while they may not intersect, what a person deeply and honestly feels to be true should never be dismissed wholly as wrong.
And so she questions this idea, though she does not disregard it entirely.
She wonders if this is because she cannot change.
Circular logic, round and round until she's dizzy.
She feels a little bit dizzy.
(Which is somewhat ridiculous. Disequilibrium is caused generally by the inertia of liquid within the inner ear and she has been standing still for a significant amount of time.)
For so many reasons, this feeling that she has a fault so common and so detrimental to the process of evolution and human progression makes her... uncomfortable.
Even considered at the most superficial level; she is Temperance Brennan, she has three doctorates and as this might very well might suggest, she is not well-acquainted with failure. Indeed, in a moment of quiet honesty, she can admit that in her life she has been driven by a fear of failure almost as much as a desire for success.
You do not fail. If you fail you are weak. If you are weak there are consequences.
Except she's trying not to speculate on those right now.
(For she is a scientist. And speculation is nothing but pointless conjecture.)
(Yet, she cannot help but think about the way he paused when she asked if they could still work together. As though, no matter what she chose, it seemed right then that complete upheaval (change) in her carefully ordered life was inevitable.
As though her shaky efforts to maintain their status quo, that which had seemed the only available option to her was no longer-
This is not a matter of fact nor evidence. She must not speculate.)
She made her choice, she made the best one she could make. She knows if she were to be put back in that moment, she'd make it again. This does not change how it makes her feel.
For a while, he's furious at Sweets.
Just six months ago he was actively discouraging his pursuit of Dr Brennan, showing him brain scans and harping on about it will fade and telling him that it was the wrong thing to do. And then tonight, his "One of you has to have the courage to break this stalemate. You, it's got to be you, cause you're the gambler. For once, make that work for you." And everything that it entailed.
He doesn't understand how when lined up in a row, both can be good pieces of advice.
Then for a while, he is mad at himself. Because he should've known, no matter what Sweets all wild-eyed and imploring tried to make him believe, that she wasn't ready (though he won't define ready right at this moment. He hasn't decided what kind of ready he means just yet).
And because he's not sure if he stopped fighting too early.
Each comes with their own reservations, qualifications, refinements and justifications to the point that he has to stop thinking about it for a little while. Propelling himself out of his seat, he goes for a glass of water.
When he dropped her at her apartment earlier that night, he'd hopped out of the car behind her and on the sidewalk they'd hugged for several minutes. Her arms had tightened around him and for a time longer than necessary he's sure, they'd clung to each other not really saying anything.
He said he had to move on. And let's be honest, it's that thing that you say when you've had your heart politely handed back to you by someone that doesn't want it. (Pressed carefully and folded at the corners as though it's your favourite coat or something.)
Part of him wants to wish this could be the case, that having said that means he can now just turn around and find something he wants more than this, more satisfying or less complicated, something easier. He knows this it doesn't work that easily.
He has reconciled himself with this fact.
This does not mean he doesn't think about it sometimes.
He knows, despite this, it is time to move on. He needs to move on from the idea whatever they were doing (everything happens eventually and all that) was going to work. He needs to move on from their relationship in the sense that until tonight it was all-together stagnant, veiled comments and lingering looks and a lot more complicated than they like to let on to a merry band of people, generally including but not limited to: their closest friends, their family, occasionally even a public defender and their therapist. (That fact that they even need a therapist?) They both need to move past this idea.
But he also needs to show her that he can move on from this, that tonight is was not tantamount to some kind of partnership self-destruct, or worse, the prelude to a Seeley Booth downspiral in which he mopes and breaks and aches and just generally doesn't do well. Because it's not.
He's going to have to show her that.
That he's going to be okay. (Because he is.)
That in the interim, they're going to be okay.
That they're going to be the same but different.
(It's probably not going to be easy. Or, y'know, pretty.)
(You know what I'm talking about.)
"When Booth and I first met I didn't believe that such a thing as love existed. I maintained that it was simply brain chemistry. But, perhaps Booth is correct; perhaps love comes first and then creates the reaction. I have no tangible proof, but...I'm willing to accept Booth's premise."
5 + 1/2.
A couple of months ago, she opened herself up to the premise of love.
Something about her beliefs changed.
Tonight she does not recognise this.
She just thinks about how it isn't enough.
Does this means they have failed?
(You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.")
-When she realises now that she is only human. (That just this once she's going to disappoint the nice Mr Darwin. Big time.)
-When he has to wonder if she knows. (It's Bridget Jones and blue soup (and the unavoidable fact that sometimes he watches chick-flicks); it's wanting her just the way she is.)
-When there was that time that they were on the steps and he said, I think I want to do this and she said No, except no one's really sure what kind of No it was, especially after the part that she was protecting him and he kissed her and it all got really, really sad.
As individuals and together, have they in some way, failed?
(Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.)
Even if they have;
When you fail, when you reach some arbitrarily defined point of reprehension, when you acknowledge to yourself that you have not achieved something in a manner you deem satisfactory, in some way you have to resign yourself to not being anything better than you are. Failure means the stripping away of the inessential.
Hello there rock bottom, nice to meet you.
There is nothing pretend about failure.
She cannot pretend any longer that she is anything more than human. She's one of them; she lives and breathes and eats and walks just the way they do. With this knowledge (which isn't just formed by this one realisation, but combined in with many, most of which he has in some way contributed to) maybe one day she'll see that she loves just like they do too.
He cannot pretend that he doesn't love her any longer. So yeah, maybe the whole saying it out loud thing helped (though, note: didn't actually use the word love, Bucko), but he also has to acknowledge that vague just isn't working for him anymore and that perhaps it's time for a more... defined approach. One way or another.
Therein lies a choice.
He'll make the right one.
And together, they cannot pretend that they are anything other than they are. They cannot pretend they are just partners or just collecting evidence or friends or any of that other bullshit that seems to have been floating for far too long. They have to be something else now.
This is progress, it's all progress.
These are the fringe benefits of failure.
But here's the thing;
They haven't failed.
There are a wide range of definitions for failure but what it really boils down to is this:
Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective.
Because she might not be able to see it yet; she might not understand that there are all these examples of the many ways that she has already grown and evolved and changed to become who she is now. But there are.
Temperance Brennan six years ago would never have extolled the virtues of love and of feeling before science. She never would've lied about the identity of a former president or given Angela thousands of dollars for a pig or just... there are so many things.
She is so very capable of this.
There is a desired outcome and she is... getting there.
But is not not there.
Every day. He smiles at her every day and she feels safe. There's Jasper and Brainy Smurf and the way he can just show up at her apartment at almost the middle of the night and they can just drink scotch.
He knows that the heart is a muscle and it cannot break.
(But he knows that it can be crushed. This will, for at least a small amount of time, be a somewhat... raw topic between the two.)
He knows who she is. (I work at the Jeffersonian Institution. I'm a Forensic Anthropologist. I specialize in identify- in identifying... in identifying people when nobody knows who they are. My father was a science teacher. My mother was a bookkeeper. My brother- I have a brother. I'm Dr. Temperance Brennan.)
And she knows she is loved.
So maybe it's a little bit more complicated than that.
Maybe she still has to actually understand quite what this love thing is (she's almost there, really) but once she does, she'll know without shadow of a doubt.
He loves her.
One day she will understand that it is for who she is.
He has an objective. There is a state or condition to which he has conformed.
(8 + a little bit.
"You see two people and you think they belong together but nothing happens.")
They have not failed.
They are not failed.
It's just a little bit hard to look through the bits where everyone is sad to recognise that something happened.