Title: Distinctions of the Mind
Series: Bones, Haven
Characters: Dr. Temperance Brennan, Duke Crocker
Summary: Duke's never been caught before; suspected, yes, caught, no. Not until Guatemala, and Dr. Temperance Brennan.
Author's Note: Written for the Haven Comment Fic meme, recently upgraded to include a list of answered and unanswered prompts! Check it out!
Prompt: serenitymeimei - BONES CROSSOVER-Brennan/Duke, pre-series- The first time he saw her, he was "acquiring" an ancient artifact for one of his clients from her dig site.
"In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."
"I should warn you that despite my smaller stature I am more than capable of defending myself and even injuring you grievously."
The unexpected statement washed over Duke with the subtlety of a mack truck and though frozen in place with surprise he could see a shape convalescing in the shadows from the corner of his eye. "Okay," slipped from his lips without conscious thought and he forced himself to straighten up from where he hunched over the work table and turned to the voice. "I don't remember making a threat, though, so I think you're safe." The owner of the voice stepped fully into the sparse light and Duke's nervous smile transitioned into charming seamlessly. "I don't make a habit of threatening attractive women. Propositioning, yes. Threatening, no."
"I'm unsure how you were able to maneuver yourself past security, but I assure you I am not allowing you to damage the integrity of this project."
"I'm not here to damage anything," Duke replied, his hands cautiously moving into the air, palms out, to showcase his lack of a weapon. "I was just curious."
Her lips quirked in amusement, but her eyes remained serious. "We're in the middle of a Guatemalan jungle, fifty miles from the nearest town, and I am one of less than a dozen Americans granted permission to work in the country, but you expect me to believe that someone..." she paused and tilted her head as she studied him, "...hailing from the Northeastern coastal ridge of Maine found yourself in the direct proximity to a controversial architectural find just because you're curious? I find that unlikely."
Duke shrugged and struggled to keep his facial expression under control. He continued to smile though his thoughts scrambled and he ran down the list of people listed as being on location that day and likely to still be there at that time of night. Since only two of the people on that small list were American, and only one of them female, it wasn't hard to deduce who his confronter was.
"Dr. Temperance Brennan, right? I have to say the picture on the back of your books doesn't do you justice."
"Don't try to flirt or compliment me, I am immune to shallow platitudes. I demand you remain stationary while I call for security," she replied, unafraid of him physically it seemed to Duke, and though he knew he would never lay a hand on her in a harmful way, the fact that she took it for granted that he wouldn't attempt to do so alarmed him on a small level. Was he so easy to read that she easily deduced the unspoken rules of nonviolence that he held true in his less than legal pursuits, or was she so foolishly confident in her ability to protect herself? Duke didn't want to test either theory, but being thrown into a third world country's prison also wasn't on his to-do list.
"That's not going to work for me," Duke said sardonically, his lips twisting into a half-smile, even as he relaxed and leaned against the work table behind him. "I have a delivery to make, and five to ten in a foreign prison is going to be hell on my fee."
"That is not my problem," Dr. Brennan replied smartly, edging towards a side table and the walkie talkie that sat in plain sight on it. She didn't remove her eyes from him, as if just the weight of her eyes was enough to imprison him. Duke couldn't see a weapon in her hands, but that didn't mean she didn't have one on her somewhere. Her jacket was crafted from a thick corduroy and could easily hide the telltale bumps of a gun.
Duke nodded and turned his head slightly to the right, his stomach clenched tighter with every step she moved closer to the communication device that spelled the end of his side job, any job really, for the foreseeable future. Behind him a dirt encrusted skeleton seemed to mock him with empty promises and he fought the urge to step away from the bones. Then it occurred to him the solution to all his problems. Something that would place him firmly back in the upper hand of the situation and allow him a quick escape, and if he played the situation correctly she wouldn't even notice that he'd taken the item he'd initially come for.
"You study bones, right? Anthropology or whatever?" Duke asked, his non-sequitur surprising the female doctor and causing her to hesitate the slow movements toward her technological salvation.
"I do," she admitted, taking her eyes off of him for just a few seconds to ascertain the location of the short-range communicator but it was enough for Duke to make his play.
Though his skin crawled just from the contact, Duke determinedly forged again. "What does this crack on the skull tell you?" He asked, his long fingers easily cradling the bone dome and thrusting it outward for her to look at.
"Put that down right now," she immediately replied, his actions distracting her completely from her thoughts of calling for security.
"I'm just curious," Duke replied with a smile, "the dirt kinda covers the crack but-" he paused, using his nails to scrape at the mud encasing the dome before grinning widely and holding it out again, "see? Cracked skull."
"You're corrupting archaeological data, return it to the table now," Brennan demanded, her brow furrowing as she unconsciously took a step towards him, her hands reaching outward as if to snatch the item from him.
"I'm corrupting archaeological data?" He pretended surprise. "I'm so sorry. You know, I'm more than happy to leave, let you get back to work, but when you call the Federales they're going to go traipsing through here for hours, asking questions, taking evidence, interviewing and everything. They're going to want to know who I'm working for, what I was looking for, and anything and everything I touched is going in an evidence room." Duke shrugged and gestured with the skull, now holding it like a football, carelessly tossing it from hand to hand. "Including this beautiful specimen of bone structure. Female, you think? Late twenties," Duke guessed.
Brennan's surprise showed on her face and she crossed her arms disapprovingly as the situation slipped further from her control and firmly into his. Duke could have laughed at the expression on her face. "How do you know that?"
"I read your notes. Another thing they're going to be taking when they come arrest me. They're also going to shut down the site for at least a week, just long enough for thieves to come in and loot the dig, taking everything you're working so hard to protect."
Her displeasure at knowing he was correct was clear in her expression and Duke could feel the sweet wind of freedom beckoning him back to the ocean he'd used to sneak into the country. They stood silently for several minutes, stuck at an impasse that couldn't cease until one of them gave. Both were exceedingly stubborn and Duke hazarded a guess that the stalemate could continue for some time if he didn't do something to break the monotony. His playful nature was in full force, however, as it often was around beautiful women.
"Catch," he suggested lightly, his hands easily tossing the skull with accuracy. The panic on her face as she scrambled to unfold her arms before the bone hit her in the chest was well worth the price of admission, but he only caught a glimpse of it as he tossed himself through an opening in the tent structure and back into the forest that surrounded the camp. His boat was docked in a small cove in the Lago de Izabal, a few miles away; plenty of time for Dr. Brennan to send up an alarm and for him to be caught. He hesitated in the shadows, however, and found only silence continued behind him. Perhaps he'd judged her correctly, believing she'd place the importance of her work over the trifle of an unexpected visitor that had brought no harm. Duke smiled at the thought, his hand sliding into the pocket of his cargo pants and reassuring himself that the Mayan necklace remained in his possession.
He'd intended to unclasp the relic and sneak away with no one knowing he'd been there but seeing as Dr. Brennan had already disconnected skull and spine it'd been just as easy to pull it from the corpse with her none the wiser. She was a bone expert and her priority would be making sure that he'd done no damage to the remains, it could be hours before she realized that part of the outward clothing was missing. Duke knew that she would likely call for security then, it was the only responsible thing for her to do at that point, but for right now he had leeway. His long limbs were more than capable of giving him plenty of time to escape and he fully intended to be sailing through the Rio Dulce and on his way back to Florida for delivery by the time she tattled to security about her late night visitor.
Duke made a point of buying her next book, smiling at the more flattering picture of her now on the back of Grave Secrets, a book clearly based on her experiences in Guatemala. The fact that she described his "character" as an oddly angular but attractive man flattered him, though he appeared in only five pages of the book. He'd just finished reading it, pleased with the culmination and wondering if an anonymous email expressing his pleased feelings regarding her rendition of his charm would truly reach her, when his neighbor on the dock passes along the latest gossip of the small town he called home.
At the end of the conversation Dr. Temperance Brennan was forgotten, her book casually tossed onto his bedroom bookshelf, and Duke was looking forward to verbally tussling with a pretty FBI agent and her reluctant partner, wondering casually just how much trouble was heading his way this time.