"A Step Up"

Summary: For the April CBPC. A comment that Booth made to Brennan about her choice in men during a conversation in "The Boneless Bride in the River" inspired this story.

Disclaimer: Ho-hum, still not mine.

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Brennan sighed deeply as she stole a glance at David as he was driving. He had picked her up at her apartment for their date with the promise of a surprise. She hated surprises, especially since she'd had enough of them in the last two months. First, being targeted for murder and almost killed by Kenton and then seeing a holographic image of her mother's face on the Angelator. Maybe David's surprise would be a nice secluded Italian restaurant that boasted about its wine, she thought as another sigh escaped her.

"Hey, you okay over there?" David asked as he reached out and placed his hand over hers.

Brennan forced a smile and nodded. "I'm fine; just a little tired. It's been a long week."

He patted her hand and returned his concentration to the road and the traffic around them. "I think this evening is just what you need Temperance."

"Would you like to expound on that statement or do you plan to keep me in suspense the entire night?"

David chuckled as he removed his hand from hers. "You are stressed. Which is completely understandable given your profession and association with the FBI," he added quickly. "I was like you once…until I transgressed. Tonight I'm going to introduce you to some people who will offer enlightenment and the opportunity for more beyond the everyday stresses of life."

Brennan's brow furrowed as she stared out the window. "Transgressed? David, I don't need enlightenment. Enlightenment is a philosophical movement from the eighteenth century that emphasized rationalism. I personally think philosophy is as useless as psychology but I do appreciate the emphasis on rationalism promoted by that movement. And if I want to forget the 'everyday stresses of life' I could always go to a spa with Angela."

An uncomfortable feeling suddenly settled over her. Brennan knew Booth would define the feeling as being one's 'gut instinct'. Perhaps her exhaustion was catching up with her but Brennan decided to go with her 'gut' on this occasion. "Why don't we go back to my place, order takeout and just…freeze?"

"I think you mean 'chill' Tempe," David replied good-naturedly as he stole a quick glance at her. "Besides, I really do think you'll enjoy this. And if you don't, well, it's just three hours out of your night."

"Three hours?" She suddenly wished she had accepted Angela's offer to go dancing.

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Twenty minutes later David pulled his small sports car into the driveway of a massive house. Brennan glanced around and noticed several people slowly making their way inside the front door, stopping every few feet to shake hands and hug each other. She observed that most of the cars in the driveway near David's were expensive vehicles indicating the socio-economic background of the other attendees. She groaned inwardly as she climbed out of the vehicle.

While she didn't really want to attend this enlightening little seminar, advice from Angela seeped into her thought process. "Sweetie, relationships are about give and take…and sometimes you gotta give a little more than you're used to." Brennan took a deep breath as David approached her and took her hand in his.

"You ready to change your life?" he inquired.

She shook her head. "I'm ready to sit in there for three hours with an open mind because this is important to you…and sometimes you've got to give a little."

He smiled at her as he pulled her toward the house. "You'll start with an open mind and end with the experience of a lifetime."

They entered the house and were ushered into a large room furnished with plush oversized furniture and pillows. A tall middle-aged man with a receding hairline and glasses approached them and hugged David tightly.

"I'm so happy you were able to come tonight David!"

"I'm happy to be here," he replied as the man released him. David gestured toward Brennan and smiled. "This is Temperance, the woman I was telling you about. Temperance, this is Morgan."

Morgan reached out to gather Brennan in an embrace. She quickly backed away and offered her hand.

"It is so good to finally meet you! I've heard so many wonderful things about you Temperance!" Morgan said as he shook her hand vigorously.

"Well, I've never heard anything about you," she replied bluntly as she attempted to extricate her hand from his grasp.

Morgan laughed as he released her hand. "Honesty. I like that. We need more of that in this life…and beyond. Why don't you two take a seat? We're about to start."

"Beyond?" Brennan whispered as David escorted her to a plush loveseat.

"Open mind," he reminded her as they took their seats.

Morgan stood at the front of the room waiting for everyone to focus their attention on him. He smiled warmly at the group and clasped his hands in front of him. "Welcome, my friends. I see that many of you brought new friends for us to meet. For those of you who are new, we are glad to have you here…and I have a feeling, once you hear what we have to offer, you'll be glad you came to us."

Brennan leaned in close to David. "Is this a business seminar?"

"No." His eyes remained on Morgan as though he didn't want to miss anything.

"I asked my friends to bring other friends here tonight because we need to spread the word of our enlightenment. We need to spread it to the right type of people. People who are hardworking, trustworthy, stable," he paused as he glanced at Brennan, "and honest. I believe we have many new friends tonight who fit our standards….and the standards of Roh-han."

"Who's Roh-han?" Brennan whispered to David.

"He's the being who brings us enlightenment…who shows us the path we must take on this plane before we join him on the next plane."

Brennan's eyes grew wide as she sat up straight. "This is a cult," she announced, interrupting Morgan's speech.

"Temperance, this is not a cult," Morgan corrected her. "This is an organization of people who treat others well, offering aid financially and emotionally when necessary, in an effort to prepare ourselves for the next plane of existence. A plane where people of our intelligence and wealth will achieve the ultimate gift of enlightenment."

"As I said, this is a cult." She stood and began to make her way through the crowd of people sitting on the pillows on the floor.

"Tempe, wait," David called after her as she made her way out the door. He finally caught up with her as she was walking down the driveway. "Tempe, please, give this a chance!" He grabbed her arm in an effort to stop her.

Brennan pulled her arm away as she turned toward him and grabbed his wrist, twisting it into an unnatural position. "If you ever touch me again I'll send you to that next plane of existence before you're ready." She released him and watched as he backed away, massaging his wrist. "I don't think I need to tell you not to call me again…"

"No, I get it," he mumbled. "You're beyond help Temperance Brennan. I was hoping to take you away from all of this…"

Brennan rolled her eyes as she slipped her cell phone from her jacket pocket and walked away from David. She dialed Angela's cell phone hoping that her friend would answer. Brennan needed a lift home and felt compelled to use this incident as a lesson in why one should not always give a little in a relationship.

She sighed with exasperation as Angela's phone went straight to voicemail. "Hi, you've reached Angela's phone which means I'm probably out doing something naughty at the moment. Leave your name and number and I'll call you back with all the details…if you're lucky."

She ended the call without leaving a message and groaned. "Why didn't I bring any money with me?" she questioned aloud. She stared at her phone, knowing there was only one option left—she had to call Booth. Even as she dialed his number, Brennan knew she would regret her decision.

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An hour later Brennan was sitting on a bench on the quiet street, watching the occasional car go by, contemplating how it had escaped her attention that David was a member of a cult. Booth's SUV pulled up to the curb and he quickly exited the vehicle.

"Are you okay?!" He jogged over to her and his eyes swept over her body and face for any signs of injury.

"I'm fine Booth; I just needed a ride home. I didn't bring any money with me…"

"Did 'Dick 341' or whatever his handle is, leave you out here?"

"Booth, let's just go, okay?" She attempted to move past him but he stepped in front of her.

"Did he try to hurt you? Where the hell is he anyway?" With each question, Brennan noticed Booth becoming angrier.

"He didn't try to hurt me…," she sighed and crossed her arms as she lowered her head. She didn't want to see his 'I-told-you-so' smile. "He tried to recruit me into the cult he belongs to."

Booth watched as she avoided eye contact with him and a wave of relief washed over him. Then the absurdity of what she had just confessed to him hit him and he began laughing. "He tried to recruit you?! Oh, that's good…" He continued to laugh as she raised her head and rolled her eyes.

"Can we go now?"

"Oh, Bones, wait…you didn't drink the Kool-Aid did you?" He burst into a fit of laughter as she stared at him.

"They weren't serving Kool-Aid…"

He put his arm around her shoulders as he led her to the SUV. "How about Nikes? Were they giving those away?"

Brennan shook her head and opened the passenger's door of the SUV. "You're not going to let me forget about this, are you?"

"Ah, you know me so well…"

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Six months later

Brennan and Booth were seated in his SUV watching Sully across the street standing in front of a dark alleyway waiting to trap their murder suspect. She watched as he paced back and forth and rubbed his hands together. Brennan felt her heart drop a little at the thought of him leaving. She had made her decision about his invitation but she hadn't mustered up the nerve to tell him yet.

She never thought the day would come that she would rather spend time with a man than working in the lab...and apparently it still hadn't. Her job, her friends…Booth…were too important to her. The thought of leaving everything she was and everyone she cared about for an entire year was unsettling. But if anyone was worth it, Tim Sullivan was. So why couldn't she make the commitment to leave with him?

Brennan decided to break the silence in the SUV and pull herself out of her thoughts for awhile. "How did Sully find Harper so quickly?"

"Ah, he didn't say," Booth replied as he kept his eyes on Sully's position across the street. "You know, Sully's a nice guy."

Brennan wondered for a brief moment how her partner was able to read her mind sometimes. She scrunched her face in confusion, curious as to why he had broached the subject. "You sound condescending," she informed him.

He chuckled as he continued to monitor Sully's movements. "I'm just trying to be nice, okay? I'm complimenting the fact that you got a good one this time." He was baiting her and he knew it, yet he couldn't seem to resist.

"Thereby implying I'm incapable of making my own judgments," she stated, slightly offended by the implication.

Booth turned his head a little so he was looking straight ahead with a wistful, far away glint in his eyes. "The physicist who couldn't tie his shoes…oh, the former professor who was jealous of your own success…should I stop?" He quickly glanced at her before returning his focus to Sully.

Brennan shifted slightly in her seat. "Yes," she replied, slightly exasperated with him listing some of her failed relationships. She also sensed the direction he was heading and she desperately wanted to halt the conversation.

Booth, however, didn't seem to notice her exasperated reply and continued his list. "Oh, the guy you found on the Internet who ended up being some kind of recruiter for a cult."

Brennan pursed her lips and stared at him, anticipating the start of the Kool-Aid and Nike jokes that had plagued her for weeks after he had picked her up and driven her home. Instead he continued with the list.

"Oh and this is my favorite: the guy who cut off his own brother's head because he thought he was possessed by a witch." He chuckled again as Brennan pursed her lips together and stared straight ahead, all thoughts of Sully and the reason for their stakeout forgotten.

"Yeah, you made your point," she conceded, a little irritated that he knew and her history so well. She had never bothered to share those stories with Sully.

Booth's expression softened a little as he glanced over at her. He could sense her irritation and he knew he had crossed the line with the 'witch' comment. The cult recruiter story still amused him though. "Look, I'm just saying a guy who wants to take you away from all of this on a sailboat, that's a step up." He resumed watching Sully, feeling a wave of jealousy take hold at the thought of the other agent taking his partner away.

Brennan leaned a little closer to Booth. "Condescending!" she reiterated forcefully. She breathed a small sigh of relief that she had managed to avoid being asked what flavor of Kool-Aid was her favorite.

Author's notes: I just found the concept of someone attempting to recruit Brennan, of all people, into a cult extremely amusing. I've had the idea for this story since I saw "The Boneless Bride in the River" episode. And since I've never personally been in a cult, I took major liberties with this story…so to anyone who is offended by this fic, sorry…oh and get help.