"Sweetie, you need to go home, you're seriously sick." Angela pleaded with her best friend from her perch on the couch.
"I can't, Angela, there's too much to do…" Brennan protested, but the veracity of her statement was definitely weakened by both her scratchy voice and the coughing fit at the end of her speech.
"Whatever you're working on can wait, trust me. Really, it's no wonder you've picked up something with how you've been running yourself ragged this past month but your body needs a break. Go home, have some soup, take some medicine and have a good long nap. The work will be here tomorrow."
"I… I can't, Ange." Brennan said softly, sitting down on her office chair but keeping her back to Angela. "I can't go home and I certainly can't sleep."
Something in her tone made the artist pause her gentle haranguing—there was something in Brennan's voice, something hurt and lost that had absolutely nothing to do with being physically ill. She sounded beyond exhausted, beyond depressed. She sounded utterly defeated. "Why? What's going on, Bren?" she asked softly and watched as Brennan drew in a shaky breath and seemed to steel her shoulders.
"Ange, it's nothing, don't worry about it. Forget I said anything. It's true that I'm feeling under the weather right now and that sometimes can make me a bit emotional, I'm sorry. You're right, I should head home at least so I don't infect others, especially you and the baby."
"Temperance Brennan, don't pull that 'I'm fine' crap with me," Angela said sternly. "You've been working until all hours of the night, you haven't been eating right, you can't completely hide those dark circles and I can tell you've been sad despite the fake smile you've been putting on your face. I know you better than that. What's going on? Spill it." Angela could count on one hand the number of times that her best friend had been sick over the past few years but she'd seen it enough to know how her friend's personality would change when she was sick. She became more emotional, more vulnerable and far less likely to censor herself than usual. So if Angela had to exploit that knowledge in order to finally figure out what had Brennan so sad, so be it.
"I haven't enjoyed going home lately, that's all. It hasn't felt much like home since I got back from Maluku. I think I need to move, but I haven't had the time or energy to look for another place."
"But you love your apartment! You've been there for years and you've set it up just how you want it!"
"I know but it just feels like too much space now. I just wander around from room to room at night and every little sound keeps me awake. So I usually just give up and come back to work."
"Sweetie, that's not your apartment. That's loneliness."
Brennan turned in her chair and faced Angela straight on, tears running silently down her face. "I know."
"Bren, talk to me." Angela urged, getting up and moving to her friend, grasping her hand tightly. "Let me help you make this better. You haven't been yourself ever since you got back from Indonesia. Did something happen there?"
"No, not exactly. Ange, if I tell you something will you promise to keep it just between us? I'm serious, you can't even tell Hodgins…"
"I think I have a broken heart." Brennan said simply, her voice completely flat. "I never understood that expression before—I mean the heart is a muscle so it can't be broken, only crushed—but now I do. It feels like something's broken inside me and I can't fix it."
"Is this because Booth came back with a girlfriend?"
"He told me he wanted to be with me for 30, 40 or 50 years."
"A couple of months before we left. He said that he's always known I was 'the one' for him, the person he wanted to spend his life with. He asked me to give us a chance…. And I said no."
"Oh honey, why?"
"Because it was too much to risk on a chance, on something that may or may not have worked. And I couldn't bear the thought of losing him. Because what we had together was the best relationship I'd ever had in my life, the first time that I felt like I had someone who would always be there, someone that I could count on and I couldn't give that up. Because I don't have the open heart that he has, I don't know how to change and he deserves better than me. Because I was scared. But being away for all those months gave me a chance to really think about how I felt and what I wanted and I realized that I do love him. I have changed since we met and it's all because of him. And that I didn't have to think of 30 years in the future, we could build it together slowly. So when Caroline called and I got to come home early… I was so excited to see him, to tell him what I'd realized and ask for another chance at us…. But…"
"But he wasn't alone."
"No. He showed me her picture on his phone and he seemed so damn happy. And he just expected me to be okay with it. He'd moved on while he was gone and apparently he'd accepted everything I said about what I wasn't capable of. Then she showed up and he started treating me with that distance we had that first year of our partnership and I had to see them together and smile all the time. It's just so much harder than I realized."
"So I started falling back into the habit of staying at work. Not intentionally at first but I'd lose track of time and I guess I just counted on Booth stopping by to drag me out to dinner. Then when I suddenly realized what I was doing and that he wasn't coming, it… it hurt. And when I went home to this empty place and all this silence, that hurt just turned into an ache. I'd rather keep working."
"That's not healthy, Bren. I'm so sorry about all this but you can't let yourself get run down like this. I'm sorry I didn't realize all this before but I know it now and we're going to get through this together. You're not alone. Broken hearts suck, I know, but they can heal. It just takes time."
"Maybe Ange, I don't know. This is all new to me. And to be honest, if this is what comes from loving someone, I'd rather go back to not knowing. I don't know how to handle this pain. I feel like it's killing me."
"I know sweetie, I know. You will feel better eventually, the pain won't last forever, it just takes time. But especially now, while you're sick on top of all this, you're coming to stay with me & Hodgie. "
"No Ange, you're newlyweds and preparing for the baby and…"
"And nothing. You're family and family helps each other get through tough times. You've done it for me more times that I can count. Let me repay the favor." Angela said with a smile and Brennan gave her a small smile in return, wiping away at the random tear drops that had escaped her eyes. Angela had never seen her friend this upset, this emotional. "Tonight you're going to have too much cold medicine and lots of soup and tea and we're going to come up with funny ways to get back at Booth and not do any of them!"
"No Ange," Brennan said firmly. "It's not his fault. Its mine. I turned him down and he moved on like he said he had to; he had no way of knowing I was going to change my mind. Hannah makes him happy and for that I will always be grateful to her. This is my burden to bear. Only…"
"Only I wish he hadn't proved me right," she continued when she saw Ange's raised eyebrows, "when I said love was temporary and ephemeral. He swore I was 'the one' he wanted to be with for the rest of his life but six months later he had someone else. And the bad result that I feared if we had started dating, that afterwards we would no longer be 'us' happened anyway."
"Oh Bren." Angela said sadly and put her arm around her friend. "We'll talk this out and see what we can make sense of once we get home. We'll put on our pajamas and eat ice cream out of the container and have hours of girl talk. We'll figure out what to do next."
"Okay." Brennan said in a tiny voice, wrapping her arms around her friend in an attempt to absorb her strength.
And as they gave and accepted comfort, neither noticed the shocked FBI agent eavesdropping outside the door.