Brennan leaned forward, digging into her back pocket as the taxi slowed before her apartment complex. She paid and thanked the cabbie curtly, then pulled herself and her satchel from the car. With a deep sigh, she began the long walk—ten steps to the lobby door, thirty-five to the elevator, then another eighteen to her door. She turned the key and inhaled the stale air. Growing more worn by the second, she headed to her laundry cupboard, unloading her "on-site" wardrobe into the washer. Rarely did Brennan ever travel to a dig with more than the bare necessities for the site's climate. With humanitarianism as her goal, she saw little need to weigh herself down with nicer outfits. Adding detergent and shutting the lid to the washer, Brennan turned, gingerly removed her boots, and placed them beside her carry-on rucksack. The papers and equipment it contained could wait for later. For now, she needed to clear her mind.
Ten steps from the laundry cupboard, Brennan pushed open her bedroom door and sat. Because she was naturally an early riser, she had long ago chosen this apartment, with its west-facing master bedroom, for her home. On the rare occasions that she left the lab before dark, one of Brennan's quiet pleasures was to lie on her bed, watching the sun sink beneath the skyline. She recognized that the aesthetic beauty of the daily occurrence stirred emotions within her, and that watching the sunset provided an appropriate setting for her to de-compartmentalize. Though Brennan experienced frustration with the assumption that she was emotionless, she chose to perpetuate the myth by waiting until she was alone to examine her feelings. Here on her bed, she imagined opening metaphoric boxes, removing their contents, and analyzing her findings.
Today, Brennan blinked back tears as she opened her grief and examined it. The dig she had just returned from had yielded heart-crushing conclusions. And though she knew that her reaction was purely psychosomatic, Brennan felt as though her heart had ached since she had reported her findings. The ache had only deepened as the dig was closed and she flew back to D.C. Now, as she laid a hand over her heart, she realized that although each chamber flowed with blood, it felt hollow. Curling on her side, Brennan rationalized her feelings, reminding herself that humans possessed a biological imperative to protect their young. She reacted as anyone—excepting a sociopath—would. Through her emotions, she was connected to the larger anthropological urges of the team, the community, hell, the world at large. Yet she had not felt so unbearably alone since her parents had vanished. Giving herself permission to cry if necessary, Brennan pulled her knees closer to her chest and sighed.
Booth had spent a pleasant enough weekend, culminating in a long-needed nap. After five days of fairly routine investigation, he'd been thrilled to pick Parker up from Rebecca's and bring him home. The two had passed the weekend watching movies and visiting the zoo. While they watched the monkeys, Booth realized how thankful he was for Max's afterschool science "enrichment." Clearly, Parker had asked him about his favorite animal because now he was spouting out facts as quickly as he could. Booth smiled and nodded proudly. As the two left the zoo and headed to Parker's favorite pizza parlor, Parker remarked that he might like to be a zoologist when he grew up.
"What about a zoo keeper, or a vet?" Booth asked. Parker turned to face his father.
"Well, I could do that, too. It'd be fun. I'd have to learn a lot of the same things."
Sunday came far too quickly, and after returning Parker to his mother, Booth stretched out on his couch to watch a rerun of the 2003 Heritage Classic. A subscription to the NHL network was quite possibly the most thoughtful Christmas present he'd ever received, especially from a forensic anthropologist. Though Booth was eager to watch Edmonton and Montreal duke it out, his fatigue caught up with him, and soon he was asleep. When at last he stretched and reached for his phone, Booth noticed that the sun had sunk deep in the afternoon sky.
Flipping open the phone, Booth realized that not only had he left his phone on silent after Mass that morning, but he had let the battery die as well. Pulling himself from the couch, he shuffled into his bedroom to plug it in and check for messages. After a few minutes, the screen blinked to life, then flashed "New Voicemail." Booth dialed and strained to hear the message over the crackling background noise.
"Booth? It's Bones. The dig ended early, but I haven't been able to call you until now. I'm at Dulles, and I would appreciate a ride. It's…it's been a difficult dig and an exhausting trip. I'm going to wait ten minutes, then take a taxi. I'll been in the lab tomorrow."
Booth's brow knitted as he listened again. Sure, Bones had said the trip was tiring, but her voice sounded more than weary or frustrated. She sounded defeated. Checking the call log, he saw that she'd arrived over an hour ago. By now, she'd have returned to apartment and settled in. She probably didn't have anything to eat there, and Booth didn't doubt that she'd only changed enough cash for the taxi. He pulled his shoes back on and grabbed his keys.
Half an hour later, Booth stood in front of her door, struggling to juggle take-out containers and a six pack of beer as he knocked. After five solid minutes, Booth set the food down and let himself in with his emergency key. Setting dinner on her table, he padded through her apartment, calling for her. At last, he stood before her bedroom door. Though he spent most of his weeknights in this apartment, Brennan's bedroom remained a mystery. His stomach tightened as he considered the intimacy of this space. He knocked once, but hearing no response, he allowed worry to trump propriety and opened the door.
Brennan was sound asleep above her covers, a pillow pulled above her head. Softening, Booth flipped on her lamp and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Bones? Hey, Bones?" Slowly, Brennan stretched and lifted the pillow from her face.
"Booth? What are you doing here?"
"Let myself in. I knocked and knocked, but you didn't answer."
"I was asleep," she explained.
"I know. Hey, I'm sorry I missed your call. I brought dinner, though, from Wong-foo's."
"I'm not really hungry," Brennan yawned and patted the bed beside her. Booth sat down and faced her.
"Oh, did you eat on the plane? I should've called—"
"I didn't eat on the plane," Brennan said, sitting. "I haven't really had much of an appetite since the dig." She leaned against him.
Booth could feel how tense Brennan was and longed to pull her into his arms, to let her know that she was all right now.
"This one really bothered you, didn't it?"
"I don't know why," Brennan admitted. "I've dealt with children before, even children treated far more brutally. But this time," she gulped. Booth nodded, reaching for her hand.
"This time," she began again, "I found it much more difficult to compartmentalize. I dreamt about these children. I saw them killed every night while I slept. I…I didn't know how to deal with that. How to put it away and do my job."
"How have dealt with this kind of thing in the past?" Booth asked, knowing that Brennan would want to solve this problem, rather than dwell on her own emotions.
But Brennan looked away.
"I've never dreamt about a victim before. And every other time I've been this effected, you've been there. You know how to handle these feelings. My colleagues were so…clinical. I'd hypothesize that I normally appear to so uncaring to others."
Booth pulled her closer.
"Does that bother you?"
"I care. I just don't let people see that. It's…unprofessional. It doesn't aid in the investigation at all. But this time, I just couldn't compartmentalize. I was angry at those men for reacting the same way I do every day. It was confusing."
"How does that make you feel?"
Brennan rolled her eyes.
"I thought you weren't one for psychology."
"I'm not. I just want to know how it makes you feel. I'm your partner, Bren, your friend. I want to help."
Brennan was silent for a long time, and Booth worried that he'd upset her. At last she responded,
"Out of control."
"Anything I can do?"
Again Brennan considered his words carefully.
"Bring dinner in here. And just…let me think."
"You got it, Bones."
Booth rose and walked back toward the hall. As he pulled open her bedroom door, Brennan called after him.
Booth turned back, flashing his charm smile.
Blue, is that you?
Well, don't bother knocking on my door this time
Blue, go be true for someone else
There's no room inside this heart of mine
My heart has four empty rooms
Three wait for lightning and one waits for you
-Jewel, "Enter from the East"