There was no point in even discussing the matter; the Brennan who walked into Angela's office early on a Monday morning had definitely come straight out of an alternate universe. Or perhaps was even a clone. There could be no other explanation, at least to an untrained eye, for the strangeness of her demeanor.

Angela, who was nobody's fool, noticed the difference right away, even when the male interns talking to Hodgins just outside her door did not.

But what did men know about these things in the first place?

Her friend was much more subdued-in a good kind of way-and more...glowy. Yes, Angela decided after some consideration, Brennan was glowing from the inside, a certain magical aura seemingly surrounding and enveloping her. She probably didn't even realize it, but the way she projected herself to the outside world, even the way she was moving, had subtly changed over the weekend. Everything about her had.

Brennan looked content in a way which Angela had never seen her look-in perfect sync with the universe, if such a thing existed.

It wasn't fair to the female half of the general population that the cause of that happiness was so easy for Angela to pinpoint, but so it went.

A one-of-a-kind ring, where a ring on a one-of-a-kind girl should be; on the finger right between tall man and pinky. Shooting off slivers of rainbows even as it reflected only the low light which Angela preferred in her workspace because the fluorescent overhead ones made everything look barren and dull.

She wanted to jump for joy, to grab her friend and twirl her around while yelling at the top of her lungs "oh my god, it finally happened!" so that everyone else at the lab could hear it, but she wasn't going to let her best pal get off that easy. She was going to make the girl work for it, even if it meant biting the insides of her cheeks until they bled to keep the happies from coming out.

So she tightened the lid on the pressure cooker that had suddenly become her insides, looking straight into Brennan's eyes without showing even the slightest hint of being in the know.

"Hi sweetie; you're in early today. Any particular reason?"

She could feel Brennan already cracking under the strain of the seemingly innocent question, and she bit down harder until the urgent need to burst out laughing eventually died away.

"I do have some news, Angela. I wanted to tell you in person, though, before anyone else found out and spoiled the surprise" Brennan answered. "But first, I needed to acknowledge that you were correct and I was in error when we spoke a few weeks ago; I can see that now."

"Oh really? Are you actually admitting that my infallible bestie was in the wrong about something? Between Michael pulling himself up in his crib this morning and your titillating comment, this is already shaping out to be a day of wonders, and it's not even 9 am yet" Angela exclaimed, leaning back into her desk and studiously avoiding looking at Brennan's left hand.

"I'm not infallible, Angela; just right the vast percentage of time."

Brennan caught sight of the repressed smirk on her friend's face, and smiled sheepishly in return.

"But you were just teasing me right now, weren't you?"

"Indeed I was, sweetie. Now to the good part-what exactly is it that I was so right about? I'm dying, here."

"What you said about not loving someone properly if you're still holding a piece of yourself back, that it's equivalent to emotional cheating, it's true Angela. In recent weeks I've come to understand that; you either have to let that person go, or you have to give yourself to them without reservations. Without this critical element of personal surrender, a relationship simply can't survive, let alone thrive. I had already given myself to Booth long before his brush with death, I just wasn't willing to admit it. But I am now-I'm marrying him, Angela."

That last line made Angela's proverbial cup run over, and her feigned reserve turned to dust.

"Yes. yes, yes!" she squealed, rushing forward and hugging her friend. "I'm so, so happy for you both! It's incredible, and wonderful! So, let's see that hand."

Overcome with embarrassment as she suddenly was, Brennan still obliged the artist by holding up her left hand.

"Looks good on you, babe," Angela said with a wink.

"Booth told me I have you to thank for the beautiful design of the ring."

"Uh, uh, sister. Far be it for me to turn down a compliment in the artistic department since they come by so rarely these days, but the fact is that this spectacular piece of jewelry is almost all Booth; I just put on paper what he was already seeing on your hand. He wanted the dolphins on the band and he wanted it to look old, so I suggested going with a Minoan feel which I knew you would appreciate, and he agreed. He also told me that the gold had to look like the real, antique kind you see in museum jewelry, so we did 18 K with some 22 k details-it's more luminous, softer looking that way. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part-he specifically asked for the low setting, that way you could wear your work gloves over it. I hate to break it to you, but that puppy's not coming off, ever. You know that, right?"

Brennan looked down thoughtfully at her hand and nodded.

"Yes, I know. I never thought I would be doing this, Angela" she said, looking once again at her friend. Her face betrayed the wonder and surprise she still felt about the unexpected new developments in her life. "I had always assumed-accepted in fact-that I would end up alone. At most, I figured there would be temporary relationships along the way to provide some distraction and give me some semblance of human connection to the rest of the world. I had convinced myself that I was perfectly fine with that outcome, that it was the correct one for me."

"We all tell ourselves whatever little lies we must in order to keep going. So, do you think you'll end up missing that old version of your life now that you've chosen to go down a completely different path?"

"No, not at all" Brennan replied without hesitation. "In fact, the world has never seemed so full of possibilities to me; it continues to stun me that I'm able to experience things from such a different perspective now, as if I'd been blind before and had just been given the gift of sight. The thought of spending the rest of my life with Booth is actually liberating" she said quietly; "the exact opposite of what I feared it would be. Besides, the things I love, that I'm passionate about and committed to-my work, my family, my friends-will continue to surround me even after we're married; that won't change. There's just a lot more of those things now."

As if the ring had emitted a silent whistle which only females could hear, Daisy and Cam appeared in tandem at Angela's door. The din of the men discussing the outcome of last night's ballgame could be still be detected just outside, in the hallway.

Still as clueless as ever, Angela thought, shaking her head at the group.

"I heard" Cam said with a big grin, clapping her hands softly. "I'm sorry; I know you wanted to to tell us, but I was talking to Booth about this latest case and I knew something was up from the weird way he sounded. I've known him too long, I guess. I practically had to hammer the news out of him, though-so please try not to be too mad at him. He really didn't have much choice in the matter."

Brennan smiled. "I won't."

"Oh, oh, ooh...so beautiful" chirped Daisy, vigorously grabbing her mentor's hand and putting it up to her face, then dropping it suddenly as soon as she realized how inappropriate that violation of personal space was.

"Congratulations, Dr. Brennan. I am so happy for you and Seeley. May I give you a hug?" Cam asked.

The request went unanswered as Brennan lunged forward and squeezed Cam affectionately.

Hodgins' head popped into the room, just in time to witness all the hugging. The events inside his wife's office had apparently began to make themselves felt among the male members of the staff, like the soft rumble of a volcano just coming to life.

"What the heck is going on in here? Estrogen levels are totally off the charts in this place today" he commented, wide-eyed. "And whatever is causing it is definitely starting to scare me. What, another baby?"

"Oh, it's just that Doctor Brennan finally got engaged to Agent Booth" Clark answered with a patient sigh, as if only an idiot wouldn't have figured out something as obvious as that.

"At long last, pray Jesus," the intern went on under his breath as he looked to the skies, thankful to be liberated from the rampant will-they/won't they speculation concerning the couple that had intermittently invaded his workspace over the years. First it was about the sex, and then about the marriage. Hopefully, that was all over and done with now.

"Dude, how'd you even catch that?" Wendell asked in awe, finally noticing the ring on the anthropologist's finger.

"Years of being subsumed under a gaggle of sisters and aunts and cousins, forced to observe and sometimes even occasionally to take part as an accomplice in their dating rituals," Clark rattled off almost mechanically. "The minute a ring comes on, it automatically sends a bat signal that only women can see; they invariably spot one on a finger within seconds of it making an appearance." He cocked his head to one side. "I must confess that no matter how often I've witnessed this phenomenon, it still continues to baffle me."

Brennan's phone rang in the middle of the announcement frenzy, and she pulled it out of her purse, answering with some trepidation when she noticed that all conversation around her had suddenly ceased.

"Yes Booth, they all know. And no, I'm not upset about Cam. I'll meet you at the diner for breakfast in a couple of minutes." She knew what he was going to say at the end of the call because he always said it, and she looked around guardedly as she added, because she always did, "love you too," in as low of a whisper as she could manage. Still, everyone heard.

Good-natured smiles and whistles followed that pronouncement, until Brennan's nonplussed demeanor effectively dampened the party atmosphere that had blossomed at the Jeffersonian over the last few minutes-at least somewhat.

"Well, hope you don't mind company Dr. Brennan, because we're all going to the diner with you to celebrate with the happy couple-I'm picking up the tab," Cam said cheerfully. "It's not everyday that two really deserving, great friends find their way to each other, right where they belong. And," she added with an impish grin, "I'm sure Seeley will love seeing all of us there with you-I know how much he enjoys having his personal life dissected in public."

"I'll call Sweets and have him bring the balloons," Angela offered with a twinkle in her eyes. "Maybe a clown, too."

Despite the entourage that walked with her to the diner-and no, there was no clown-there were no complaints from Brennan, who was in too high of spirits to be put off by all the attention she was getting from her coworkers, and none from Booth-at least he wasn't going to get stuck with the group's bill this time.

Besides, they both knew, sharing news as good as this one with close friends only made it that much sweeter.

I want to thank each and every person who followed this story, and also give special thanks to those of you who took the time to repeatedly give me such positive feedback. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been the recipient of all those kind, encouraging comments; I'm going to particularly miss the personal messages which so often were both funny and sweet. Hopefully we'll meet again in another story. Blessings to you and yours!

Maria