To be honest, Temperance Brennan isn't exactly sure when she met Angela Montenegro, or even how they became close friends. Like so many other things in her life, there is simply before and after. Before her parents left, and after; before she started working with Booth, and after; before she knew Angela, and after. But with the other examples of dramatic change, Brennan can rely on specifics (she became a ward of the state on December 26, 1991 and Booth used the word "partner" during the Cleo Eller case, which was their second together); with Angela there is a blur where the experience of meeting should be.
Angela says there isn't much of a story to tell; she just likes lost causes, that's all. Brennan always laughs—this story is predictable now, as sure as the bones in her body—and says she was never a lost cause, and Angela always responds, "Sweetie, you were sleeping with your Russian TA," before ordering another round of drinks. Brennan knows this example is designed to elucidate the dismal state of her existence during her first year of graduate school, but it serves instead to reinforce Brennan's conclusion that though Angela is her best friend, there are some things they will never share.
Brennan has no idea why Angela chooses that example, or why everyone who hears it understands. Something about grades or academic dishonesty, Angela has tried to explain over and over again, but Brennan remembers only that he was kind and that they never discussed much of anything, let alone Russian.
Angela did not rescue Brennan from herself or anyone else that year, but Angela swore she would teach Brennan how to live—later modified to live a little. Brennan has always believed the appropriate answer to this exhortation is to state that she is already quite alive, thank you very much. She knows what the idiom means, of course, but does not agree that living (in whatever proportion, if it were possible to consider life as something other than a binary construct, which it is not) should necessarily involve copious quantities of alcohol or sex with strangers.
Either way, the first time Angela managed to convince her to come out on a Saturday night, it was with the words, "an opportunity to explore and engage in the youth culture of the nineteen-nineties." Brennan tried to explain that anthropologists only observed the cultures they studied and to interact would be inappropriate, but Angela's incredulous, "Seriously, Bren?" propelled her out the door.
Now, Brennan has learned to enjoy and appreciate the scene; the pulsing music and laughing crowds are invigorating and entertaining. She finds dates or drinks or simple fun. Her editor says these experiences bring realism to her stories, and Angela is always pleased to see her acting like a normal person. (She does not discuss the standard normal distribution of normal when Angela makes these comments, at least not any more.)
These days, though, Brennan's favorite nights with Angela are those when she wants to enjoy the anonymity of a crowded bar, where there is no chance that anyone there will recognize her from the dust jackets of her books. Where the expectations she has built into her life fall away, when they are just Bren and Ange and a few too many whiskey sours.
Anthropologically speaking, names are methods of classification. They are proper nouns, designed to convey different things in different cultures. Birth order, preferred personality traits, day of birth, memory, affection.
Brennan doesn't much like her own name, though she clings to it like a lifeline when she realizes that she was once someone else. She is Dr. Temperance Brennan, but only those who do not know her go through all of those syllables. Cam calls her Dr. Brennan, as do the interns—so did Zach, she remembers, and now that she knows how their story ends, Brennan wishes he could have called her Dr. B., like Hodgins does. Respectful, but affectionate, an indicator of shared experience if nothing else.
She gives her lovers Tempe because it feels personal—it is, after all, what her father and brother call her, and should she ever introduce a man to her family, it would be easier for everyone to refer to her in the same manner. She has never brought someone home to her father and does not expect to, not that it matters. She is Tempe to the people with whom she has personal relationships because that is her name.
Sometimes, she thinks Booth's name for her is the one that fits her best. She likes, now, that he found a title that is relevant, something truly indicative of who she is and what she does. Bones.
When he wakes up from his coma, the first words out of his mouth are, "Who are you?" Later, when he thinks he knows, he reaches out and says, "Bren?"
It is supposed to be Bones, she is supposed to be Bones. That he does not know, now, how much it means that she is Bones and he is Booth sends her reeling, first away from the hospital bed, then out the door, and finally out of the country.
While she is in Guatemala, she finds she is hurt because he picked a name that, in this real world, does not belong to him. Bren belongs to Angela.
Emotional understanding comes easily to Angela and Booth; people make sense to them. It is a skill that Brennan has always wanted, and she seeks out information about it from the most logical sources available. Brennan asks Booth about their suspects and Angela about Booth.
Brennan thinks Angela does her best to respond, carefully explaining about motivation and interpersonal relationships, at least most of the time. When she is frustrated, Angela reverts to the tired—"but true, Bren!"—response that Booth would really just like to be dating her, as if suppressed romantic attraction could explain every confusing action in which Booth has ever engaged.
Once, Brennan asked Angela to elaborate, demanding, "So why doesn't he do something about it?" Angela's straightforward response, "Because he wants you to want him, too," made far too much sense to Brennan, and she rapidly changed the subject.
Now, she sticks to easy questions. "Why is it a problem if I date his boss? He dated my boss."
The answer remains the same.
In return for Angela's insight into the human condition, Brennan provides Angela with honest assessments of her own dilemmas. Brennan has come to learn, over a decade of friendship, that Angela likes hearing the logical side of an argument; it is a good complement to the emotion in which Angela specializes.
"Is this celibacy thing crazy? I need you to tell me the truth."
"Sweets thinks it will help you reevaluate your priorities."
"I don't care what Sweets thinks, I care what you think. And besides, you don't believe in psychology."
"That's because psychology is a soft science that is not rooted in any legitimate—."
"I know, Bren, but you need to focus. Celibacy. Stupid?"
"I don't think denying yourself physical release is going to make you a better person, no."
"I hear a 'but' there, sweetie."
"But you don't need a partner to reach orgasm. In fact, reproductive specialists hypothesize that a woman who is comfortable with her body is more attractive to potential mates. So you could work on improving your masturbation technique."
"Uh, thanks, Bren."
It is not unlike the balance Brennan shares with Booth—"head and heart, Bones"—but she would never have had that conversation with Booth.
Brennan is working in bone storage, performing the tasks she assigns to her newest graduate students. Simple cataloguing, not identifying cause of death or place of origin, just counting bones and laying them out until they form human skeletons. One is missing distal phalanges, another, the right patella, but they are fairly complete. It is easy, too easy, and yet the rhythm of the work is familiar, and she can lose herself in it.
She will use these skeletons to teach her students that the information they can glean from bones is integral to understanding the human experience. This skeleton—male, mid-forties, Caucasian, no visible trauma to indicate that death was violent—belonged to someone who spent his childhood falling out of trees and off bicycles and playing rough sports. There is a fracture in the tibia that would have required traction to set, a frustrating and painful experience for a boy so accustomed to motion.
Her own skeleton, should someone ever examine it with such care, would reveal both the abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster parents and her later dedication to self-defense. She leads, Brennan supposes, something of a violent life; her bones will tell the story of the shootings and stabbings and periodic malnourishment she has suffered at the hands of suspects and dictators and poorly-maintained water supplies.
She doesn't know if she wants anyone to know the secrets hidden beneath her skin.
Angela approaches, the heels of her shoes clicking against the tile floor. Brennan doesn't say anything, returning the bone she holds to its proper place before straightening.
"You learn anything from this guy?" Angela asks.
Brennan nods, but does not elaborate. She strips off her gloves and shoves them in the pocket of her lab coat before turning toward the door.
Angela reaches out, grabs her by the elbow. "Hey," Angela says. Brennan does not respond, but stops with her back to her friend. "You know," Angela says, "we don't all wind up like that guy, all laid out for science."
"No, really," Angela continues. "Most people have friends who give them proper burials and say nice things and cry at their funerals. They tell all the stories so you don't have to."
Brennan knows what Angela is trying to say, understands the comfort offered under the guise of simple explanation. But her mind conjures Angela, old and hunched over, pouring tequila shots for the guests, finally able to talk about that one time in Rio when they were young and stupid and living a little. Brennan snorts at the image.
"What?" Angela asks, narrowing her eyes.
"Nothing," Brennan says, though her tone probably conveys amusement or affection or gratitude or some emotion she could never quite explain.
"Right," Angela responds. "Let's go, sweetie. There are real live people out there who are wondering where you are."