Thanks to tempertemper77 for the beta job. Standard disclaimers apply.
The diner was about to close, they weren't done eating, and beyond that, Booth wasn't sure just how much longer he could listen to this conversation.
"It's one of the greatest conspiracies of our time, and no one—not even the government, is willing to acknowledge it." With the last, Hodgins looked over at Booth, who turned toward the window. Couldn't everyone just finish their damned pie already? What was this? Myths and Urban Legends Night at the Apollo?
Then Bones put down her fork and he knew they weren't getting out of there any time soon. "Urban legends are just a manifestation of--"
"Nooo no no no no." Hodgins cut her off, and Booth was never so glad. "Don't even tell me he's not real. Why have a bat signal, if he's not real?"
Bones had been going on for half an hour about how 'the Batman' could not possibly be real, but had to be an urban legend that played on the idea of an urban jungle and the myths of all the bad things that could happen to someone in the city—including large, mutated bats or deranged, but well-meaning vigilantes.
Angela, who, God bless her, had finished off her own cream pie, and had been discretely picking at Hodgins' sweet potato and whipped cream monstrosity, licked her fork. "Psychological warfare. At least, that's what Sweets said, the last time this came up." Because, apparently, it came up a LOT at the Jeffersonian. "Something like—if the police neither confirm nor deny the existence of 'the Batman,' then the criminal element can think what they want. And God—Gotham, what a creepy place to live." She rubbed her bare arms and shivered. "It makes DC's crime rate look like…River City, Iowa. They need all the help they can get."
Booth kept looking toward the counter, trying to catch the waitress's attention. At this point, he'd pay for everything, if it got them out of there any faster. But she was talking on the phone, rather angrily it seemed.
"Ok. So the police perpetuate the urban legend. WHY? What does it get them?" He hated when Hodgins went to his happy, conspiracy theory place. "Nothing, really. Except for psychos coming to town, looking to even the score with the Batman. And no one's ever beaten him. That says training. And from what they say on the internet…"
"Because the internet is ALWAYS right," Angela interrupted.
"He's got a plan for every occasion, and a gadget for every occasion. Which says MONEY. I'm thinking that Bruce Wayne guy."
Bones waved her hands in a flurry of protest. "Oh no. It is DEFINITELY not Bruce Wayne."
"Why?" Hodgins wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, completely ignoring the napkin sitting next to his plate. "He's certainly got the cash for it."
Bones put down her coffee mug. They were NEVER getting the hell out of here, if this conversation continued. "By that same logic, YOU could be the Batman. IF the Batman existed."
Silently, Booth tried to calculate how much cash he had in his pocket, and in which denominations, and how much the tab should be for four pies and four coffees. He could just throw cash on the table and leave.
"No—I have a day job. Batman needs to be someone with a lot of time on their hands. And what the hell does that Bruce Wayne guy do? Other than look good and drive fast cars?"
"He has sex with a lot of women," Angela pointed out bluntly. "I'm sure that's gotta take up, what? Thirty percent of his week. At least."
"Oh it would, if I were him." Hodgins gave a naughty little grin in his former fiancee's direction. "Possibly more."
Shaking her head, Bones leaned in closer, almost getting between the two, who were sitting across from each other, which was weird. "No. It's not Bruce Wayne. He's funny, and he's nice, and he really cares about the city, but…"
Angela twisted in the booth, grabbing her best friends arms. "Oh my god. You? And him?"
"Well, it was just once." Bones shrugged it off, but Booth could tell she was secretly proud.
Somehow, in an act of sheer will, Booth managed to not allow the capillaries in his face to flood with the blood attempting to rush there. He prayed someone would get murdered. Possibly RIGHT the HELL NOW. This was just… intolerable.
Blinking, Hodgins had to hold back a laugh. "Wait, YOU, and the richest guy on the eastern seaboard…And WHY didn't you TELL us about this?"
Booth was trying to summon the waitress with just the power of his mind, but the older woman whispering angrily into the old Ma Bell wall phone was just not having any of it. He could feel Bone's eyes on him, she was waiting for some sort of reaction. "Your sex life is none of my business," he said calmly, talking for the first time in the last hour.
"Well, it was a few years ago. I was getting an award for my help in identifying victims of the Gotham Earthquake. And there was this lovely dinner…"
Angela shook her head in disbelief. "I still can't believe you hooked up with one of the most eligible bachelors in… the UNIVERSE, and just failed to mention this to me? SWEETIE. I thought we were FRIENDS."
"Well, it just didn't seem relevant at the time."
Maybe Booth could just… crawl into a hole and pull it in after himself.
"Ok. You, Gotham, dinner… my one and only candidate for Batman."
"For the last time, the Batman isn't real. And if the Batman WAS real, it certainly wouldn't be Bruce Wayne. I mean, he really does care. He paid, himself, for anthropologists to come in for SIX WEEKS to identify the bodies. Not his foundation—HIM. And he's taken in several children over the years."
"Because Batman needs a SIDEKICK." Hodgins' smile was sickly self-satisfying.
"Oh please. He's NOT Batman. Bruce Wayne is… a decent man. And if Gotham has any heroes, Bruce Wayne is one of them. But he's NOT your fictional Batman. He's just…"
"Funny, charming… sexy…looks good in a tux?"
"And trust me, he looks even better OUT of it." Somehow, Bones seemed to have forgotten Booth was even there, which was odd—she was ALWAYS fishing for a reaction from him. But the memory of Gotham's most eligible bachelor swept her away.
Booth began fishing in his pocket for his wallet as discretely as possible. The last thing he wanted was to be dragged into this particular conversation.
"And he listened to me go on for like three hours about decomposition rates in varying depths of rubble. And he waited until I was done to put moves on me."
There was a long pause, and Booth realized Bones was looking at him, and his face was scrunched in obvious disgust. "What? He WOULDN'T he put moves on me?"
"'THE MOVES,' Bones. Cripes. Besides--doesn't Bruce Wayne only go for, I don't know? Airheads and Bobble Dolls? I just figure… you're too smart for him" Booth opened his wallet. It figured—he only had twenties. This was DC, and inflation was high, but there was no way coffee and pie this bad was worth $60. His sanity, however, was. "And who knows what sort of STDs that guy has."
Bones picked her head up indignantly. "Well, in a lifetime of bad decision making when it comes to women, he made at least one good choice. And we used protection."
"TMI, Bones. Or how about this—the law of averages finally kicked in, and he lucked out." Booth tossed the twenties on the table.
"It WAS consensual, Booth. It wasn't like he had to coerce me into bed with him."
Hodgins waved a hand between them, breaking the sudden and intense eye contact. "Hello? Back to why he couldn't POSSIBLY be Batman?"
Bones grinned. "Well, he's funny and sweet, and he called me the next morning…"
"Oh, he DID?" Angela seemed hell bent on derailing what was already a train-wreck of a conversation just a little further.
"But he's just not… that bright." Bones shrugged off that bit of information, as if it should have been common knowledge. "Really. He couldn't find his cranium if he didn't have his butler to help. There's a level of competency that would inevitably be involved in being the Batman (who doesn't exist) which Bruce Wayne is just not capable of managing."
Booth tried to usher Hodgins out of the table stall. "I think the phrase is 'find his head if it wasn't attached.' Can we go, please? Some of us have to be at the office at eight."
Hodgins didn't budge, however. "Wait, because he's stupid? No! That's the perfect cover. Don't you see--"
Pushing Hodgins off the bench seat, Booth started sliding out. "Ok, look, I didn't tell you this—Batman's real. But he's not Bruce Wayne." Before anyone could react, he walked out the door and waited on the street for the others to catch up. There was no way he was going to escape this conversation—the only way was to put it down. Hard.
Hodgins was the first out, as he suspected. "Wait, what? You knew all the time, and let us go on and on?"
Angela came tripping out the glass door next. She punched him in the arm. "Ok. Lets have it." Bones came out on her heels, seemingly oblivious to the violence.
Booth put his hands on his hips sternly. "Look, it was a couple of years ago—after they opened Gotham City again. I was tracking down a federal prisoner who'd escaped into Gotham when it was a No Man's Land. I… had a run-in with the Big Guy. He's not Bruce Wayne, I can tell you that much."
"The Batman is REAL?" Bones was clearly waiting for the punch line to some joke that she inevitably wouldn't understand anyway. "And you met him?"
"And he's not Bruce Wayne?" Hodgins was not taking this well.
"No. Unless Bruce Wayne is secretly seven foot tall, and hiding a pair of fleshy bat wings under his arms." He looked to Bones for confirmation. "And trust me, you two would have seen them when you two were doing the horizontal tango—they're hard to miss. The guy's a freak of nature—some kind of mutant or something. But he's good people. So we keep him around." He might as well at least confirm Hodgins' government cover up theory. It'd distract him from the truth.
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks. He could see Bones' brain attempting to work out what sort of mutation would make a man look like a bat. Angela was drawing a picture in her mind, and Hodgins was watching his new pet conspiracy theory crumble before his eyes.
His work was done here for the evening. "Ok, does anyone need a ride home? Because I'm looking at three hours' sleep, if I leave RIGHT now. I don't want any calls about the train not going to your stop or whatever in half an hour."
Fortunately, they were still too stunned for a response. Booth turned the corner, got into his SUV and drove through the quiet one-way streets of the nation's capital. Keeping his eyes on the road, he pressed a less familiar number on his speed dial.
It connected, but no one greeted him on the other end. That was fine. He knew how this worked. "Your boss owes me one."
"He owes you several," the mechanical voice responded quickly.
"Yeah. And tell him to quit fooling around with scientists."
"What you mean is that he should not fool around with YOUR scientist."
The computer voice sounded dispassionate, but there was some sort of annoyed subtext there, Booth just knew it. "Yeah, something like that. And if you see someone online, username Jackalope17337, going on about the Batman being a giant mutant bat—he's a federal employee. Avoid wiping him off the face of the earth for me, please"
Booth sighed. "God. You Gotham people are so messed up."
"Perhaps. But highly effective."
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "This, right here, the computer voice. This is why WE never worked out. I'm going to bed. Babs, tell your dad I said hi and stuff."