Title: Costly Signals
By: dharmamonkey and Lesera128
Disclaimer: Hart Hanson owns Bones—alas.
A/N: This story takes place at the very end of season 3, just before the events of the episode 3x14 - "The Wannabe in the Weeds."
This story is a collaboration with the amazingly talented Lesera128. It all began with her reviewing one of my stories, and me revewing one of hers, and a PM conversation following thereafter, during which we exchanged story ideas for Bones fics. Many PMs and a half-dozen emails later, we decided to co-write a fic. We brainstormed the story idea, divided up the writing duties—she being a great Brennanizer (particularly when mouthiness is needed, as Lesera128 says), me being a specialist in writing SFB (err, frustrated Booth, of course)—and went to work. This story is the product of that collaboration. It turned out to be longer, more complex and (we can only hope) better than we anticipated it would be when we set out to write a raw and angsty little ficlet about what happens when B&B get wasted after a very shitty day in the field and unfness ensues.
The moral of the foregoing story is that reviews matter. Reviews are the interactive life's blood of fan fiction. Reading without reviewing short-changes both writer and reader. So, don't be a lurker—leave a review. We want to know what you think and, besides, reviewing fosters good karma (and we all need that, right?).
Content Warning:This story is stuffed to the rafters with naughty language and some pretty epic unfness. (We imagine that's part of the reason you are here, in this section of the Bones archive, reading it.) Suffice it to say, sensitive readers should look elsewhere. All others, read on, and you might keep a cold washcloth or bucket of ice handy. The authors are not responsible for any physical distress readers may experience as a result of the seriously "guh" content that follows. Consider yourself warned.
CHAPTER 1 – Well Enough and Three Dollar Wells
Brennan's evening appeared to be starting out well enough.
After noticing how increasingly negative and moody her best friend had become after returning to the lab sans Brennan's standard issue G-man favorite accessory, Angela knew something had happened. It didn't seem to be anything so major as to go beyond the normal back and forth as far as the merry war in which the partners usually seemed to engage on a daily basis went, but Angela knew Brennan would benefit from being around some people as opposed to the bones in Limbo—just in case. So, after a brief stop over at Brennan's apartment, where her frumpy pumpkin-colored button down blouse had been exchanged for a simple black halter top and matching heels, to happy hour the pair had gone on the pretext of Brennan's need to bond socially with Angela as a close female friend.
"What is the symbolic meaning of participating in this ladies' night ritual with you, Ange?" Brennan had asked.
"Simple, sweetie. We're going to go have some fun. Cheap booze, good music, sexy men to look at—a bit of dancing, a bit of daring, and who knows what could happen tonight," Angela had said as Brennan finished changing.
"I know exactly what'll happen tonight. I'll have one or two drinks to show you that I support the idea of participating in a symbolic ritual to strengthen our bond as close female friends, but then I'm coming home and going to bed, Ange. The remains from the Greenbelt crime scene should be at the lab first thing in the morning, so I don't want to waste any time—"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bren. Whatever. I got you. A couple of drinks, and home for another boring night of your boring life it is," Angela sighed. "Really, Bren, one of these days you've got to ease up, just a little bit. You have no idea how much you're missing."
"Missing what?" Brennan asked in confusion.
Shaking her head in resignation, Angela said, "Life, sweetie. Life."
Despite, Angela's vague words, Brennan hadn't thought much of her friend's wistfulness now that they had arrived at their destination. It was Wednesday evening, and the club Angela picked out as the site at which they would engage in their ritualistic bonding, Gleam, struck Brennan as a typical urban regentrification project: a hundred year-old, two-story warehouse constructed of red brick with tall casement windows and a wide stone staircase in front. The front fascia revealed the building was originally the Patterson building and was constructed in 1896, which amused Brennan, who wondered what the outwardly prim Victorian era builder would have thought about the building's present incarnation as a nightclub. The front of the building was dominated by a bright blue neon eye with yellow neon eyelashes and a bright white, star-shaped flash in the corner (presumably the "gleam" to which the club's name referred), beneath which the club's name was unfurled in flickering yellow neon.
As the walked up to the entrance, Angela waved at the doorman who greeted her by name with a quick smile. Bypassing the queuing line of other patrons who yelled in protest as Angela and Brennan walked by without paying any cover charge, the pair quickly entered the club and were greeted by a strong base of pounding music and the pungent odors of alcohol, the glycerin of the house fog machines, and a combination of various perfumes and colognes used to cloak the strong body odors fueled by excessive amounts of testosterone, estrogen, and many other hormones that dominated the behavior of individuals who had come to this club on this particular evening.
"It's great, isn't it?" Angela yelled to Brennan over the din of the music and other club noises.
"It seems to be a fairly standard representative of Washington's club scene," Brennan conceded.
"Gleam hasn't been open that long, but they've got some great theme nights. Wednesday is Ladies Night, but I've been on Thursday nights which is 80s Night. I'm friends with one of the DJs, and he told me they hold drag shows twice a month on Monday nights that I haven't had a chance to go to yet, but it all sounds like fun, doesn't it?" Angela asked.
"Define 'fun'," Brennan responded.
Rolling her eyes, Angela suddenly realized that they needed alcohol—quickly—if for no other reason than so she could maintain her own sanity while dealing with Brennan's apparent uptight crankiness and, of course, her usual maddeningly-dense and mind-numbing literality.
"Okay, Bren, let's go get a drink. I know there are several drink specials tonight, I'm just not sure what they are. I think the bar upstairs is less crowded than the one down here, so head to the stairs on your right, huh?" Angela yelled, pointing with a finger in the direction she had indicated.
Nodding, Brennan moved as her friend had requested. A while later, drinks having been procured, the pair of friends sat next to each other on two stools at the upstairs bar. For some inexplicable reason, Brennan had become quite attached to her seat, and refused to move once she procured it. Angela's eyes were a bit more glassy than her friend's, as attested to by the two empty martini glasses that sat in front of her while she gratefully clasped a third in her left hand. The wood in front of Brennan's space on the bar, however, remained empty, much to Angela's chagrin. Hoping that a new tactic might work to distract Brennan, Angela tapped her on the shoulder and pointed at the far side of the bar.
"Ooooh, there's one, Bren," Angela said, looking up over the edge of her martini glass.
"There's one what, Ange?" Brennan said, holding her margarita and sipping it slowly.
"A guy, Bren. A cute one… who seems to be checking you out," Angela said. "You see, the one with the light brown hair? I mean, yeah, he's a bit short, but he's been making eyes at you for about ten minutes."
"Really? I hadn't noticed. It's fortuitous that you observed that, Ange. Thank you. Why do you believe him to be checking me out? Do you think it's a club detective who finds our behavior suspicious?" Brennan asked, mildly alarmed.
Sighing, as Angela's original assessment that it was going to be one of those nights, shook her head at Brennan as she said, "No, sweetie… that's not what I meant. He's not checking you out because he thinks you're suspicious, but he's checking you out, as in giving appreciative stares because he's looked at your body, he thinks you're hot, and he likes what he sees."
"I fail to see why a male's opinion about my body is relevant tonight, Ange, when you said the purpose of tonight's socialization rituals was for use to imbibe alcoholic beverages, listen to music, and bond as females," Brennan said.
"You know what, Bren? Try to stay with me. It's ladies' night. This is a bar. We're here to see what kind of trouble we can get into for once. Are you with me?"
"Of course, Angela. I'm right by your side. I haven't moved at all since we got here," Brennan said confused.
"No, no, no," Angela muttered. "That's not what I meant—"
"Bren, that's it," Angela said, looking up and signaling the bartender whom they'd befriended. "Hey, Jerry! Can we get a couple more over here?" Angela called with a smile. Jerry inclined his head at Angela to confirm his acknowledgement of her request. Turning to her friend, Angela said, "You need another drink, Bren. Several, in fact."
"Why, Angela? I'm quite content with the current rate at which I am consuming the margarita I initially ordered," Brennan replied.
"Because," Angela said. "I'm never going to get a good buzz going if you're analyzing every single guy's actions in here beyond the point of if you think he's cute or not. So, more drinking, less scrutinizing. Besides, it's 3-for-1, so you need to get going and start catching up already. Oherwise, I'm going to be way more screwed up tomorrow than I had planned to be because we're going to have to start doing shots."
"Ange—" Brennan protested.
"No, sweetie. Finish that drink. Right now. Glug, glug. Then… woooo hooo!"
Brennan scowled at Angela. "Angela, I really don't want to—"
Sighing, Brennan grabbed the margarita, but shook her head at Angela as she said, "Fine. But, I'm doing this under protest."
"I don't care, as long as you drink."
Throwing back her head, Brennan quickly finished the margarita. She stared at Angela for a minute before she set the glass back on the bar and turned to her best friend. "Happy now?"
"No," Angela said, smiling at the bartender and gesturing at Brennan's empty glass. "But, we both will be in about two more drinks, I think. Maybe three."
Booth's day had started off well enough.
He got called out to a case around ten that morning, swung by the Jeffersonian to pick up Bones and Hodgins and then drove to Greenbelt Lake Park, a municipal park in Prince George's County where a set of mostly skeletonized human remains had been found under a pile of leaves by a dogwalker. The Maryland State Police Crime Lab had already begun to pick over the scene, which sent Bones into a bonafide rage, and she proceeded to rip the state crime techs new assholes even while the state/federal jurisdiction of the case was uncertain. Booth had managed to assert control of the situation after Hodgins found the remnants of a wallet with a Virginia driver's license, which—when checked against the national missing persons database—revealed that the bearer (presumably the female corpse) had been believed kidnapped from Williamsburg two years earlier, which made it a probable case of interstate kidnapping and landed the case squarely within FBI jurisdiction. Bones' tirade had already pissed off the staties, so Booth was all too willing to send an FBI tech to assist her in taking the remains back to the Jeffersonian, lest she do any more damage for one day—thank you very much—but he kept Hodgins at the scene to package and process the leaves, soil and sundry other muck that was the vic's last resting place.
By the time Hodgins had wrapped things up at Greenbelt Lake Park, it was nine o'clock, and Booth's mood had gone from foul to worse. The State Police detective he normally worked with on cases like this in this part of Maryland was on vacation, and his substitute—one Toby Waldsachs, whose name nearly caused Booth to piss his pants upon hearing it and which struck him as the lamest porn star name ever devised—was an insolent, ignorant ass who spent most of the afternoon stonewalling Booth's request that they turn over to the FBI the evidence they collected at the scene before the FBI and Jeffersonian teams showed up. Booth had to call Caroline to get her involved, which meant he ended up getting a call from Cullen, who railed on him for his failure to timely assert federal jurisdiction and thereafter attain the prompt cooperation of the local law enforcement authority—as if Booth hadn't already explained twice about how the staties failed to find, or at least admit they'd found, and thereafter refused to acknowledge the probative value of the Virginia photo ID in establishing presumptive federal jurisdiction—and so by the time he and Hodgins crossed into the District, Booth had been in a slow, steady smolder for hours.
He took Hodgins back to the Jeffersonian to drop off his forensic kit, shower and change out into his street clothes, and, since Hodgins had rode in with Angela that morning, was going to give him a ride home. He and Booth were halfway to his place in Benning Ridge when he got a text from Angela asking him to meet her at a nightclub called "Gleam."
"It's called what?" Booth asked as he took a series of right turns to get them turned around and headed towards the nightclub.
"Gleam," Hodgins said with a wry smile.
"Sounds totally gay," Booth said with an arched eyebrow. "Not that I put it past Angela to go to that kind of place, but—"
"Nope," Hodgins said, "but this one is totally hetero, dude. It's ladies' night."
"You let your girlfriend go to ladies' night by herself?" Booth asked, narrowing his eyes as he shook his head. "That place is going to be a friggin' meatmarket, Hodgins. And Angela—she's a dry-aged, ten-ounce New York strip. Certified prime."
"Putting aside the fact that you just called my fiancée a steak, which I may or may not tell her depending on how tonight goes, a little possessive there, aren't we?" Hodgins snickered.
"About what?" Booth retorted, accusingly. "Angela's my friend, and the thought of—ugh! I can't believe you aren't more possessive. I'd sure be, if it was me."
Hodgins laughed. "If you think she wouldn't kick your ass if you tried that, you don't know Angie."
Booth shook his head dismissively. "Whatever," he growled.
Hodgins stared at him, wondering if, in the nearly four years since the first case Booth worked with the Jeffersonian, he had ever seen the agent in such a nasty mood. His face was the very portrait of tension: his jaw was tense, his lower mandible jutting slightly forward, his lower lip held between his teeth and his normally open and friendly brown eyes seemed nearly black with a smoldering fury that Hodgins didn't understand. If he weren't forty pounds heavier than me and capable of crushing me like an ant, he mused, I'd tell him he should go in that bar with me because he really, really needs to get laid.
"Stop staring at me, Hodgins," Booth growled.
Hodgins rolled his eyes. Yeah, he definitely needs to get laid.
"Now where is this place again?"
"Ninth and F Street," Hodgins replied as Booth rounded the corner onto F Street. "You can just drop me in front, Booth." Booth glared at Hodgins out of the corner of his eye.
"Maybe I'll come in for a drink," he said. "I've had a pretty shitty day."
He loosened his tie, unknotted it and threw it in the back seat as he pulled the car over to the side of the street in front of Gleam. He nearly cracked the steering column cover as he roughly shoved the gearshift into park. He stepped out before the valet could open the door and saw the valet swallow nervously and take a step back, eyeing him cautiously. Booth opened the back door, draped his suit coat on the back seat and handed the key to the valet. Hodgins watched him walk around the back of the truck, rolling up the sleeves of his French blue dress shirt and unbuttoning the top two buttons as he muttered something about the lack of parking in this part of D.C. and valet parking being a legalized form of racketeering.
At some point after Angela's earlier comments, Brennan sat staring at the bar, six empty margarita glasses lined up in front of her. A genuine smile and a generous tip towards the bartender had ensured that the glasses had remained exactly as Brennan arranged them, a small shrine of Brennan's trophies. Angela, glancing at her watch, grew impatient as Hodgins had still not arrived, and she was tired of watching Brennan play building blocks with the margarita glasses. Leaning into Brennan, Angela yelled out to her friend over the hypnotic beat of the music.
"You know, I was thinking, we've kinda been up here for a long time. Why don't we go cash out the tab and go down to the dance floor on the lower level?" Angela said, inclining her head in the vague direction of the stairs that led back down to the first floor.
"While I find the allure of the music appealing, Ange, can't we dance up here just as easily? It's not as crowded, and as long as we stay in visual distance of my seat, I know we won't lose my spot at the bar. I'm getting to know our bartender, Jerry, very well," Brennan replied.
"Yeah, I know," Angela muttered. "He's the only guy you've talked to the entire time we've been here."
"So? He's the only one who's served a purpose, in as far as there was a logical reason for me to make the effort to engage in conversation with him," Brennan said. "I thought you said the purpose of this evening's social excursion was for us to bond as females, not for me to solicit males for sex."
Stifling a groan of boredom, Angela said, "Oh, Brennan. Come on. Why can't it be both?"
"No, you come on, Ange!" Brennan immediately interrupted Angela's impending tirade. "You were the one who insisted I start consuming the margaritas in such large quanties. I still have two more to drink before I have reached the number of beverages that will satisfy the 3-for-1 promotion for which we've already paid…And, like I already told you, I have no intention of accepting any invitations from any men this evening. I will not be ending my evening by having sex tonight, with anyone, under any circumstances."
"Oh, all right!" Angela yelled. "Fine. We can stay. But, you're really missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, Bren."
"I acknowledge your opinion, Angela, but I'm happy where I am," Brennan said.
"Fine," Angela repeated. "We can stay. But, on one condition, Brennan. You've got to stop hunching over these glasses like you're Gollum and they're the one true ring. If I wanted to hang out with a socially inept hobbit, I would've brought Zach."
"I don't know what that means—"
"It means you're going to strike up a new conversation with the next guy who smiles at you, even if you don't want to go home with anyone, and even for some strange reason, don't want to get laid tonight," Angela said. "But, you're buying me another drink. Several, actually. And, then, you're going to explain to me what in the hell is going on. I've never known you to be one to turn your nose up at the chance for sex—"
"Fine," Brennan said. "I agree to your terms. But, I find it highly unlikely that any of the men within our vicinity will actually be brave enough to attempt to initiate a conversation with either one of us. And, as for the issue of explaining, there's nothing to explain. I'm just not in the mood."
"Not in the mood? Riiiigght," Angela said, her eyes leveling on Brennan. "And, you're right. No guys are going to come up to us if you keep scowling like a mad Frodo Baggins with your wall of margarita glasses," Angela snickered. "You've got to lighten up, Bren. We're supposed to be having fun, and all I've done over the past hour is what you learn the first step in LaToya Jackson's Cheap Party Tricks: Teach Yourself Magic Edition. It's been lame! And, not in the mood my ass. You've been uptight all night. Something happened with Booth today, didn't it? You only get this way when something pisses you off about Booth."
Brennan recognized Angela's exasperated tone. Letting her thought remain unfinished, Brennan decided that perhaps her friend was right. Maybe she did need to have another drink and talk to someone she didn't know. A bit of casual conversation, especially after the rather grueling morning she had had with the best and brightest of the State of Maryland Become-a-Law-Enforcement-Officer by completing your degree via Budget Value's Correspondence School Class of the Week $9.99 Special had left Brennan somewhat in an antisocial mood, might be just the thing she needed to purge the metaphorical rut she had felt mired in all day.
It actually hadn't started out that badly, and Brennan would've been the first one to compartmentalize the snickered comments that had been made about her behind her back when the field techs thought she wasn't listening. The words 'old maid' and 'hard-up harpy' had stuck in her mind, and Booth's rather foul temper hadn't helped matters either, Brennan recalled. Instead of reassuring her about the impertinence and inaccuracy of such statements, Booth had merely remained quiet after a parting vague comment about the importance of appropriate footwear sizes in determining metaphorical verisimilitude that still left Brennan puzzled.
"I'm not talking about Booth, Ange. He was a complete Neanderthal at the crime scene today."
"Oh?" Angela asked, suddenly curious. "What happened?"
"Nothing," Brennan replied, as Jerry suddenly appeared with the drinks Angela had ordered. Reaching for the glass that held the remnants of her first margarita, Brennan quickly drained it, and then reached for the new one. She swallowed half of the green concoction in one gulp as Angela watched in appreciative silence.
Nothing happened today, Angela mused. Right. One word about Booth, and Brennan starts downing margaritas like they're going out of style. Nothing happened, my ass.
Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Bren flushed a bit as the tequila started to warm her blood from the pit of her stomach. "Yes, Ange?"
"So, you gonna tell me what happened now or what?"
Pursing her lips, Brennan shook her head. "Nope. There's nothing to tell. Now, if you really want me to talk to a guy, then I suggest you see which of these men currently attempting to establish eye contact with me is the best choice, and make a recommendation, because I'm done talking about Booth for tonight."
"Oh, really?" Angela asked. Brennan nodded.
"Yes, really," Brennan said. Hard-up harpy, my ass. I don't need to get laid just to prove I can handle any of these men, even Booth himself if he were to show up here like I conjured him from a magician's hat. A man is merely a set of x and y chromosomes, and I can handle any man who's stupid enough to think he can get the better of me. No man can, no man ever will, and that's just how it is. "Now, which guy do you think is the best choice?"
Yes, maybe the chance to exercise some of her own social skills and collect some new data was exactly what she needed, as she watched Angela scan the room and eventually make her recommendation.
Booth set one foot inside Gleam and was instantly reminded of everything he hated about nightclubs: the mind-numbing pulse of the structureless, directionless trance beat, the clichéd swirl of black-light polka dots reflecting onto the floor from the mirrored disco ball that hung in the middle of the dance floor, the comingled smell of sweat, perfume and body wash on the one hand and gin, tequila and Jägermeister on the other. It was early yet—only ten o'clock—but the place was already starting to fill up. Booth guessed the male/female ratio to be one to two, but noted from the composition of the line of young men queued up to pay the cover charge at the door that the ratio would soon even out.
Hodgins nudged Booth's arm as they made their way toward the bar. "Did you know that several legal challenges have been brought in D.C. courts asserting that ladies' nights in bars violate the Civil Rights Act of 1871, all of them unsuccessful?"
"That's nice, Hodgins," Booth grumbled.
The DJ let the trance music fade and threw on a nu-metal, hip-hop piece that Booth recognized vaguely from one of the local hard rock radio stations:
All I know
time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away...
It's so unreal
Didn't look out below
Watch the time go right out the window
Trying to hold on but didn't even know
Wasted it all just to
Watch you go...
Booth smirked. The trance music that was playing when they first walked in was on the way to giving him a headache when the DJ switched tunes. So, in a sense, the current pick was an improvement over the trance crap that preceded it, but it still didn't seem exactly the kind of song that lends itself to guys hitting on hot girls to get them to come home with them, which was the ultimate point of ladies' night. Whatever. This hip-hoppy, nu-metal stuff wasn't quite his cup of tea, either, but at least it had a structure and a purpose, and wouldn't give him a headache—at least, not in the time it would take him to knock back a couple of Jamesons, neat. Because today was the shittiest day he'd had in a long while, and hell, he hadn't even got shot at or had to shoot anyone.
I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter...
"Let me get this, dude," Hodgins said to him, scanning around the room for Angela.
"Okay," Booth said. "Thanks." He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves as Hodgins mumbled something to the bartender about running a tab.
Handing him a heavy glass with a generous pour of Jameson, Hodgins smiled. "Sorry about today, Booth," he said. "Dr. B got a little out of control this morning. She takes the mission really seriously, and sometimes she can get a little intense."
"I know," Booth hissed, enjoying the burn of the whiskey as it seared his tongue and throat. "I know how she can be." He took another long sip of his Irish whiskey. "More than anyone," he added for no reason in particular. "I got my ass seriously chewed by both Caroline and Cullen. Between those two and that State Police asshole Toby Wildsex or whatever the fuck his name was, I got the ass-chewing trifecta today."
"Sorry, dude," Hodgins said, then fell silent, unsure of what else to say. He watched Booth, who sat at the bar, his normally straight-backed posture crooked as he sat there hunched over his drink, staring at the half-ounce of amber liquor that remained in his glass. The song on the PA changed, and Booth glanced up, narrowing his eyes as he mentally identified the band, the song name and album, then returned his gaze to his whiskey. As the song's guitar and piano intro gave way to the first verse, he lifted his glass to his lips, paused, then tossed back the rest of his drink.
She had hair like Jeannie Shrimpton back in 1965
She had legs that never ended
I was halfway paralyzed.
She was tall and cool and pretty and she dressed as black as coal
If she asked me to I'd murder, I would gladly lose my soul...
Hodgins looked over at him and shook his head at how quickly Booth had drained the eight-dollar glass of whiskey. At that rate, I might be better off buying him Dewars, Hodgins mused. His eyes met those of the bartender and, with slight jerk of his chin, he ordered Booth another round of Jameson. He had never seen Booth this way—a dark, brooding Heathcliff, silently pounding back whiskeys like they were going out of style—and it worried him.
Well she held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band
And she stood just like Bill Wyman
Now I am her biggest fan.
Now I know I'm one of many who would like to be your friend
And I've got to find a way to to let you know I'm not like them...
It has often been said that when the student is ready, the master or teacher will appear. In Brennan's case, the statement held some applicability when, not ten minutes after she had made her decision, a stocky young man with light brown hair came up to the bar carrying a shot glass after Brennan had made one small smile when he glanced in her direction. It was the same guy from earlier, the one who had been hanging around the part of the bar where Brennan and Angela had been holding court. The guy set the drink down in front of Brennan's empty wall of margarita glasses and smiled at her.
"Excuse, me. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I think the bartender brought your drink order over to me by mistake. I didn't order this—"
"Stop," Brennan said, raising her hand in a corresponding gesture.
"Please, cease your explanation and tell me if this is your attempt to use some type of spoken line to initiate a conversation with me because you wish to commence some type of mating ritual since I'm a sexually active female, and you appear to be a sexually active male in search of a partner with whom you can copulate?" Brennan rambled on in a very direct manner.
Smiling sheepishly, the young man inclined his head and said, "Whoa. Umm…wow. You just said all that without taking a single breath, didn't you, so… okay, yes. It's a line. I admit it."
"Your contrived candor is to be commended," Brennan nodded in approval.
"So, does that mean the line… is it… working?"
"That depends on what you hoped your efforts would allow you to obtain…."
"I'd say I've achieved my goal because you're still talking to me and haven't said 'fuck off' yet," he replied.
"Granted," Brennan said. "Can I ask you… why did you decide to come up to me just now?"
"Well," he began. "Because you're a very good looking woman, and I thought it might be a fun thing to come over here and see what would happen if I started talking to you since you seemed to be giving me a signal that such attentions wouldn't be unwelcome."
"Why 'fun'?" Brennan inquired. "What made you use that word?"
"'Fun'?" he repeated. "I, ah… I dunno. The random chance involved seemed appealing."
"You're correct," Brennan began, considering his words. "When you say that I'm a very good looking woman in comparison to the majority of the women currently located in close proximity to us, if one uses height and bodily proportions as comparative indicators."
"So, you think you're good looking just because you're tall and curvy?"
"Put in the vernacular, yes. The aesthetical value of curves in the female anatomy, as perceived by the male, indicate the high level of my fertility. Unconsciously, as a male who hopes to pass on his genes through procreation, you've responded to the visual cues. But, none of the process I've just described could accurately be labeled as random. It was very predictable from an anthropological point of view."
The man was quiet for a minute, and Brennan have expected him to spout some clipped retort in disgust before walking away. When he didn't, but grinned jovially at her, Brennan was somewhat surprised.
"I stand corrected then," he said. "But, I do insist on the validity of my approach. If nothing else, at least you're still talking to me now."
"But, your quantification of success began when you initiated the process under false pretenses. You only managed to started a dialogue with me because you attempted to deceive me with your false declaration about the bartender's alleged mix up regarding your drink order. Now, that's not very admirable behavior. In some parts of the world, certain tribes consider intentional verbal miscommunication between single males with single females to be one of the worst frauds that can be committed by one individual against another. Among the Kataran tribe of Malaysia, for example, your transgression would be punished by having one of the tribe's chief male warriors strip you naked, ritualistically beat you with a mat of woven palm fronds, and make you chant an ode to the sun god for two hours straight at midday without any water as a suitable form of punishment."
The man stared at Brennan for a minute and then said, "Point taken. And, while I'm extremely glad we're not in Malaysia at the moment from what you've just described, would it raise me in your estimate of my character if I apologized?"
"Perhaps," Brennan replied. "It would serve as a large amount of proof to begin to establish an evidentiary basis that would act as counter the nefarious veneer I currently hold as the basis of my opinion of your personal worth, given the levels to which you stooped to gain an introduction with me."
"I'm sorry," he said immediately. "Please accept my humble apologies for trying to deceive you."
"Very well," Brennan nodded. "I accept your apology."
"Good," the man said. "Now that I've apologized, will you tell me your name, or do I have to beg?"
"Do you see the good looking brunette standing over there in red?" Brennan said, pointing with her finger. Angela stood a few feet away, seemingly watching Brennan with an intent eye, as she moved away to give Brennan room to work and play with her phone at the same time. The man nodded. "Well, that's my friend Angela. And, she would say that making you beg is an entertaining way to pass the time."
"And, what would you say about it?" he asked, leaning in just a bit towards Brennan's personal space. She arched an eyebrow at his movement before responding.
"Before I decide to make a man beg, I need to be certain that he's worth my efforts and the energy that would be involved in the process that resulted in making him beg," Brennan said simply, and somewhat arrogantly. "He'd have to be quite exceptional to be worth my time."
"So, how do you go about making that decision, exactly?"
"Before I answer your question, I have one of my own that I'd like you to answer," Brennan countered.
"Okay," the man responded. "But, since we're negotiating now, you can ask your question, and I'll answer it…if you tell me your name."
"Agreed," Brennan said, tilting her head at the man. "It's Temperance."
"Temperance, ehh?" he smiled. "As in, you're name fits you because your literally quite the portrait of self-restraint…or, as in, your name fits you because its ironic given the fact that you've got quite a temper… or immoderate strain in that weird personality of yours?"
"Neither," Brennan said with a frown. "Instead, I like to think that my name says I both inspire and embody rational thought."
"Rationality is an important thing in life," the man agreed. "But, it can also be a good thing to let rational thought not overwhelm your perspective in life. Irrational thought can be fun, too, every once in a while. Gloriously irrational."
"I don't know if I concur with that assessment," Brennan responded.
"Because, I don't believe that I've ever been in a situation that I can recall where I've done something as illogical as to be purposely irrational, and thus, I have no evidentiary baseline against which I can begin to judge your assertion," Brennan told him.
"Well," the man said. "Then, maybe it's time you created, what did you call it? A new 'evidentiary baseline'."
"You're proposing an experiment of some sort?" Brennan asked with a critical eye staring at the man.
"Sure," he laughed. "You could call it that."
"While you proposal does sound intriguing, I'm hesitant to—"
"Oh, come on, Temperance," the man said. "Maybe that's what tonight is for, you know? Change your game a bit and let you take a walk on the wild side of irrationality?"
"I don't believe in fate, so your assertion is onerously imprecise and improbable," Brennan said. "However—"
"The scientific value of your suggestion still has some appeal," Brennan conceded.
"So," Brennan said. "I may agree with your proposal, pending an explanation of how you suggest we proceed, but first I want to know something because I have another question I would like you to answer."
"What's your name?" Brennan eyed him suspiciously.
"Oh," the man said, straightening up.
Standing at about 5'8 or 5'9, he was much shorter than the men Brennan usually allowed to engage in any extended form of social interplay with her. However, if she was going to experiment with intentional irrationalism, going against her established norms of behavior seemed like a promising way in which to begin her experiment. While the man was shorter than her normal preference, Brennan did concede he had a satisfying musculature in his upper body. While his elongated torso resulted in shortened legs which he didn't seem to emphasize in whatever weigh-training regimen he participated in, he did have appealingly broad shoulders. Brennan also found herself appreciating his dark brown eyes, refusing to admit that her appreciation might stem from any other fact besides the point that the brown of his irises indicated dominant genetics.
"My name's Ash," he said at last with a cheeky grin.
At his words, and at his effort of making a grin, Brennan swallowed back a bit of the wave of distaste that had come over her at his actions. Suddenly, she realized, his was not the pair of brown eyes and wide smile she wanted to be seeing. Fuck, Brennan, get a grip. Stop that. Stop comparing. She frowned again, resolving to concentrate only on the male who currently stood in front of her, particularly now that she knew from his ridiculous name that here was someone to play with at least.
"No, it's not."
"I highly doubt that 'Ash' is your legal name. I assume it must be a moniker you've adopted for your own purposes," Brennan said confidently.
Tilting his head at her with a strange look on his face, brow furrowed in confusion or annoyance, Brennan didn't know, the man who would be known as Ash asked, "Why do you think Ash isn't my real name? After all, wouldn't it be sorta stupid for me to lie to you since I've already done it once tonight? That would be like shooting myself in my own foot, wouldn't it?"
"I concur. However, you earlier attempt at disingenuous behavior does establish a pattern whereby, statistically, it is more likely that you would try to lie to me again if you thought it would benefit you in some way. Further, men do foolish things that can result in self-defeat when it comes to the pursuit of sexual partners. Particularly if they're not adroit at the social rituals involved in said pursuit," Brennan pointed out.
"That still doesn't tell me why you think Ash isn't my real name. Only why you think I might have said it if it isn't," he countered.
"Fair point," Brennan said. "The reason I believe Ash to not be your real name is because it's extremely pretentious. And, while the persona you've socially constructed to improve your chances of successfully obtaining an opportunity to engage in sexual intercourse is one where pretension should be a tool or valuable asset for you, it would only work if you can legitimately circumvent social tells that indicate that such levels of pretension aren't feigned or forced. Since you haven't been successful in that goal, I've concluded the pretension is another dishonest signal sent on your behalf to me as a part of your unconscious signaling to convince me of the worthiness of your person as a potential partner for sexual intercourse. Ergo, I can only assume that Ash is not your given name, but one that you chose without realizing how ridiculous it actually is to other people, especially women with whom you hope to engage in coitus. Am I correct?"
"Then, what's your legal name?" Brennan insisted.
Looking down, the response came reluctantly. "Richard."
"Richard Ashton Larraby V."
"You're the fifth male of your family to carry the moniker? Well, that would certainly explain your mental confusion as to why you think you should be able to pull off such social pretension despite a clear lack of economic resources to justify your initial assumption," Brennan observed.
"I don't have the time or deserve to explain anthropological theory to you, but suffice to say, an example of why you're a pretension paradox lies in your apparel. It's clear by the state of your wardrobe that you do not possess the financial resources necessary to appropriately merit such a naming legacy as the one your parents have foisted upon you. Perhaps, at some point in the past, did your family come from money, but lose it due to foolish investments or personal overindulgence in wealthy vanities? That would explain the traditional legacy being upheld, but also logically show why you have no significant wealth anymore," Brennan mused.
"Wait," the man said. "I'm…wait. Did you just call me poor… and a shabby dresser?"
"Not necessarily. I merely inferred that your persona does not accurately reflect either your social or economic status in our culture. Stylistically, your vestments are actually quite plain, but not necessarily of bad design from an aesthetic viewpoint. However, the quality of the material of the garments is indicative of an economical thread and cloth source," Brennan said.
Starting to turn red from being dressed down in such a specific way by a woman like Brennan, the man began to sputter. "I, ah—"
"Don't be embarrassed," Brennan immediately reassured him. "I assure you that most individuals would not be able to see through the shallowness of your constructed social identity. I'm just an extremely detailed oriented individual and my best friend's long term monogamous romantic partner is extremely well off. He's served as an excellent example for me to establish a baseline of comparison, as I explained earlier, is something I tend to do. You see, he too does not wear clothing with an extremely ostentatious or exaggerated style, but the quality of his clothing's fibers belies his extreme wealth and accurately corresponds to the fact that his full name – Jack Stanley Hodgins IV – is appropriately pretentious because he was named in correspondence with the naming patterns of his upper-class family's long-standing socio-cultural traditions."
Turning his head up at hers, the man suddenly muttered, "My mother calls me Rick. Is that better? Because, I have to tell you I feel fairly emasculated after bearing the brunt of your analytical processes, Temperance."
"I apologize. It wasn't my intent to negatively impact your mental outlook. I merely was stating a series of factual truths," Brennan said.
Moving to turn away, Rick said, "It's no problem."
"Your tone and movements contradict that statement," Brennan said. "It appears as if you've still taken offense at my words."
"No," Rick said. "Really. It's cool. I'm just going to go, though, I think."
"Wait!" Brennan suddenly said, standing up from her stool and turning to him. "Don't go. I thought you were going to help me in my experiment, remember?"
Looking up at her, Rick said, "Did you have something specific in mind that doesn't necessitate verbally deconstructing me?"
"Ummmm…." Brennan quickly scanned the bar, trying to latch on to an appropriate solution. The music, still beating at a steady trance, provided the soundtrack to her quick visual scan of the bar.
You know tonight
I'm feeling a little out of control
Is this me
You wanna get crazy
Cause I don't give a...
I'm out of character
I'm in rare form
If you really knew me
You'd know it's not the norm
Cause I'm doing things that I normally won't do
The old me's gone I feel brand new
And if you don't like it fuck you
The music's on and I'm dancing
I'm normally in the corner just standing
I'm feeling unusual
I don't care cause this is my night
I'm not myself tonight
Tonight I'm not the same girl (same girl)
Brennan's eyes falling on Angela, Brennan turned to Rick and said, "Can you wait right here just for one minute? I'll be right back."
"Uh, sure, I guess."
"Save my spot," Brennan said. "I feel particularly attached to this vantage point and don't wish to lose my seat."
Nodding, Brennan quickly turned and ran over to Angela.
"Hey, sweetie!" Angela said. "How's it going?"
"He, ahh… I need your advice."
"Sure," Angela said. "Hodgins just texted me, by the way. He finally got here. Apparently, Booth was being particularly bitchy when they finished up at the scene, so it took him a little longer than he thought it would—"
Her head snapping up, Brennan said, "Angela, you didn't tell me Hodgins was joining us. I thought this was supposed to be a 'girls night out'. That's what you said, isn't it? And, please, don't talk to me about Booth."
Realizing her faux pas through the haze of her martini-induced buzz, Angela said, "Hodgins wanted to grab a drink, Bren. That's all."
Trying to distract her friend, Angela said, "You said you needed some advice with the hottie at the bar?"
Turning her head back, Brennan looked at Rick, who was watching her with a bit of impatience and uncertainty in his gaze.
"Uh, yeah," Brennan said. "What's something I can do with him that's irrational and a ritual of social significance in this setting?"
"Ummm," Angela said. "I think you just asked me what's something you can do with a guy like him that's fun in a bar?"
"Yes," Brennan confirmed.
"Oh," Angela said. "Okay. Umm… how about a body shot?"
"A body shot?"
"Yeah," Angela said. "Order a shot of something… usually tequila works best. You put the lime in your mouth, put the shot in your boobs, and let him lick your shoulder with the salt before he reaches down and drinks the tequila and grabs the lime from you."
"That sounds… very involved and loaded with heavily sexual meaning," Brennan said. "Is he allowed to do this with any help from me or his hands?"
"Ummmm, no, not usually," Angela said. "If he's any good, he won't need to, though."
Brennan considered her words and then asked, "And, you're sure this is an appropriate ritual to suggest?"
"Uhh, yeah, sure, Bren."
"Okay," Brennan said. "I'll be back in a little bit."
Going back up to Rick, Brennan leaned in and said, "My proposal to you is that we participate in a ritual where you will consume a shot of tequila from my person. Is that acceptable?"
"Uh," Rick said. "You want me to do a body shot off you?"
"Yes," Brennan said. "Do you feel that is significantly irrational an act given our prior conversation?"
"You've never had someone do a body shot off you before?" Rick asked.
"Ahhhh… okay, then. Yeah. I'd say for you, that sounds pretty irrational, Temperance."
"So," Brennan said, signaling to Jerry the bartender. "Shall we proceed in our experiment?"
Glancing once in appreciation at her shapely curves and the tight halter top she wore, Rick shrugged and said with a small grin, "Sure. What the fuck? I'm in…."
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