By: dharmamonkey & Lesera128
Disclaimer: We still own nothing, obviously. And, no, we haven't left the sandbox that we crashed quite yet, and we haven't really decided if we're going to or not. We've grown rather fond of it, actually. So, there.
A/N: "Cognitive Dissonance" is the sequel to "Costly Signals" (CS for short). We strongly urge you to read CS because the events of "Cognitive Dissonance" pick up immediately after the end of CS. If you have not read CS this story will be, at best, extremely confusing, and will in all likelihood, probably not make any sense at all. "Costly Signals: Part One" may be viewed under dharmamonkey's fan fic dot com profile, while "Costly Signals: Part Two" may be viewed under Lesera128's fan fic dot com profile. This story is set towards the end of Season 3, a week or so before the events of "Wannabe in the Weeds." Like CS, this work is the product of a collaboration between dharmamonkey and Lesera128.
And—just in case you missed the hint in the summary—like its predecessor, this work will definitely live up to its rating. What follows contains naughty language and some very, very epic unfness. (Consider yourself warned.) So if that's not your kind of thing, no problem. Click the back button, and happy fic hunting.
For the rest of you, fasten your seatbelts, because we promise a hell of a ride.
Like "Costly Signals" before it, "Cognitive Dissonance" is an edgy little fic and it's definitely not for everyone. We know that. Constructive criticism is both welcome and encouraged, but uselessly mean comments that complain about the edginess or have nothing to contribute are ignored...so please don't flame us.
Now, when last we left Booth and Brennan...
Chapter 1 : About Last Night…
It was well after one o'clock by the time Booth arrived at his office at the J. Edgar Hoover Building.
He'd showered, shaved, and finished getting ready so quickly that the back of his dress shirt was still a little damp from him having not completely dried off before throwing it on. Despite the two large bottles of water he'd chugged and the two extra-strength Advils now swimming in his bloodstream, his head was still pounding from the three double Jamesons and that ill-advised shot of Cuervo Gold that he'd slammed at the bar upstairs the night before.
His whole body hurt, like he'd been run over by a freight train, and he winced as he sat down in his chair behind his desk. Where do I even begin? Booth asked himself, as he glanced over at the thick case file sitting on the top of his inbox. He shook his head in defeat, resignation to the task at hand having finally beaten him into submission. He leaned over to press his computer's power button, cursing silently as the hulking machine began to sputter and twitter as it booted up, stubbornly reminding him of all he had to do and hadn't yet done in the course of his workday. He watched the Windows icon dancing in front of him as it took five minutes just to get to the desktop screen as the computer finished "updating your preferences" while simultaneously trying to download a rather large security update. Booth drummed his fingers on the desk as he thought about how this might be a sign of what was to come that day. Great, Booth thought. Just great. Fine-fuckin'-dandy. He looked over again at the large stack of file folders, and briefly toyed with the idea of chucking them all in the blue plastic bin underneath his desk so they could be sent off to be gloriously shredded. Come on, now, he admonished himself. Waiting for the computer to finish logging onto the FBI's intranet, Booth sighed and reached for the first file on top of the pile of files that awaited his attention.
Booth had just opened the first file folder when he heard two sharp raps on his office door. It startled him, interrupting his newfound rhythm—just when he had finally decided to put his nose to the grindstone to knock out some work—and he jerked his head up with an annoyed scowl as he looked to see who it was.
"Hey, Booth—" Charlie Burns stood at Booth's office door with an arched eyebrow and a puzzled expression on his face as he noted his colleague's demeanor.
Narrowing his eyes, Booth nodded once to acknowledge the unwelcome and unwanted interruption. "Charlie," he said, his voice more of a warning than a greeting.
"Jesus, what in the hell happened to you?" Charlie asked. "You look like shit."
"Thanks, and good morning to you, too, Charlie," Booth retorted, flipping the case file in front of him shut as he reached for his Steelers mug and lifted it to his lips to take a sip.
His nostrils flared at the smell of the strong, bitter, stale-smelling FBI coffee. When he was in the Army, he couldn't imagine that it was possible to brew shittier-tasting coffee than the slurry they served in the mess hall. Then Booth joined the FBI, and he learned the bitter truth of how wrong that assumption was. But, as if by divine providence, while working the Cleo Eller case, he discovered one of the unforeseeable fringe benefits of being the FBI's liaison with the Jeffersonian: they had way, way better coffee. Not just coffee, actually: coffee, cappuccino, lattes, espresso—if it was some type of hot caffeinated drink, chances were, it was probably available at the Jeffersonian. Man, what I wouldn't give for a cup of their coffee right now, Booth thought. This shit is even worse than normal. Shaking his head, he set the coffee mug down and looked up at Charlie, who was glancing at his watch as he spoke.
"Uh, just FYI, Booth? At least as far as Eastern Daylight Time is concerned, you missed morning about, oh...an hour and twenty minutes ago, give or take." Charlie's voice trailed off as a smirk broke across his face.
Shaking his head, Booth volleyed back with a growl, "Thanks for the update, Charlie. And, just FYI...you better have a legitimate government purpose for standing at my door besides just being a pain in my ass."
"Not a good morning, I take it?" Charlie asked. Shaking his head, making a soft clucking noise at Booth, Charlie said, "You know, you really should be more careful if you're going out drinking with your squints," Charlie said. "I heard that they brew their own hooch over there, you know, in their spare time, just for fun. One of the techs said the stuff they brew is 160 proof—"
"Yeah, Charlie, I know that," Booth interrupted them. "They're my squints, so I kinda already know what they're capable of—" Especially one certain squint, Booth thought. Well, at least, I thought I did.
"Then, you know they get a lot of practice drinking hard shit," Charlie said. "You should know better than to to try and keep up with that—"
I'm so not in the mood for this crap right now, Booth thought. He then narrowed his eyes and glared at Charlie Burns with a steely-eyed look that had stared down far more dangerous men in various situations from combat to interrogations of serial killers.
"Legitimate government purpose, Charlie—remember?"
Hearing the renewed sharpness in Booth's clipped voice, Charlie blinked once, and as if a switch had been flipped, he smoothed his tie self-consciously. "I got you the file on that missing girl that you asked for—it's on your desk." He glanced at the piles on the desk and added, "Somewhere anyway. I put it on top this morning." Booth leveled a stare at him at the mention of the word morning. "Virginia State Police sent over the complete file from when her disappearance was investigated back in '06."
"Okay," Booth said gruffly, with a curt nod, making it clear that he was dismissed. "Thanks."
Charlie shrugged and gave a casual salute, then walked away.
"Ugh," Booth muttered, shaking his head and squeezing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. His head was still pounding, and Booth contemplated if he should pop another couple of pain tablets.
What a mess, Booth thought. What a complete and utter mess. He took a deep breath, calm and measured, its steady deliberateness at odds with how he really felt. He tried to will away his headache. Booth guessed that willing away the headache was not going to be any more effective than the Advil. Probably a lot less, Booth thought as he reached into his desk drawer and began to rummage around for the bottle of aspirin he knew he had stashed in there at some point.
As he searched, Booth tried to remember the last time he'd gotten that drunk. He thought back to the night after his graduation from Quantico. Yeah, that might have been it—double whiskeys from that cute Irish bartender with the red hair that liked me. What was her name again? Rochelle...Rachel... Raquel? Damn...don't remember. But, she was fun, especially at the after party...man, what a night that was...
Yeah...fun. Booth's mind raced to the image of another redhead at another type of after-party that was very, very fresh in his mind due to the much more recent nature of that particular set of memories. Redhead? Well, not quite red, exactly—more like auburn, really. But, hell, what an after-party. Oh, yeah. What a night...
A crooked smile broke across Booth's face as he thought back to the night before.
Bones. In bed. With me. Yeah. Booth allowed himself to indulge for a minute as he smiled at the picture of her in his mind. And, then, just as quickly, another voice whispered to him from somewhere in the back of his mind, Yeah, Booth, what about that? What about that thing that happened last night?
He felt a tingle run down his spine as he recalled the way the pebbled surface of Brennan's nipples had felt against his tongue, and the way she tasted—better than any dessert he'd ever had, so sweet and tart and smooth...the way her neatly-trimmed hair had tickled his nose and almost embarrassed him by making him sneeze as he brought her to the edge of oblivion with his mouth...the way he'd finally gotten her to moan his name the way he'd always wanted her to...Booth. He felt himself get hard just thinking about the way it had felt, sliding into her wet, tight warmth for the very the first time, the way her arousal glistened on his swollen length as he pumped her, his hands holding her tight as he saw himself disappear beneath her firm, heart-shaped ass. And, that was just last night, he smirked. To say nothing of what had happened that morning...
Yeah, Booth, and what about that other thing—that thing that happened this morning? Booth sighed at the memory.
God, what a morning...
He knew, he just knew—he'd always known, really, from the moment they shared that very first kiss in the rain behind the pool bar, the way her mouth worked his as they kissed that night—that she would give amazing, earth-shatteringly good head. Booth smiled as he thought of how she had teased him—but then again, turnabout is fair play, isn't it?—and how Brennan had nearly driven him out of his skin before finally taking him into her mouth again and working him over with that mind-bending suction as her nimble tongue stroked him up and down and drew little circles all along the underside of his cock.
Booth felt his slacks tighten as the memories of that night and that morning flooded his mind, and somehow his headache seemed to have faded in favor of another kind of ache. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, suddenly grateful for the old-fashioned style of his FBI desk and, even more so, the fact that he was longer trapped in the bullpen.
Man...what a morning. Wow. Just...was that even real?
As he continued to try to make sense of it all, Booth suddenly wondered what happened to The Line: the line he had drawn a year earlier, after Cam nearly died after exposure to that neurotoxin, the line that he and Bones had agreed they could not cross. But wait. Had they actually agreed? Or, had Brennan simply acquiesced to his declaration about the line? Booth shrugged to himself. I guess it really doesn't matter anymore, does it? he supposed. I mean, even if there was a line, it's kinda been blown up and devastated now, hasn't it? What we did last night—there's no coming back from that, right? We most definitely crossed that line last night. Wait, right? He imagined that line now lay twisted, torn and tossed aside, like used dental floss, somewhere between Gleam's downstairs and upstairs bars. He nodded to himself, and thought. Yeah, definitely blown up and devastated.
Booth thought back to that surreal scene in the nightclub: Brennan standing next to the bar in painted-on acid-washed jeans, a snug halter top, a push-up bra and three-inch heels, looking absolutely ravishing. He cringed at the memory of watching that loser guy do a body shot off of her, the guy with the pumped-up chest, arms and shoulders and the twiggy legs. Booth thought how close he had come to punching the guy. Had that guy—he couldn't remember his name, and wasn't sure had he even known it—made the slightest move in his direction, or in Bones' direction, he would have laid him flat with his right hook. Booth glanced down at his hand and flexed his fingers into a fist, the burn across his split knuckle reminding him of the entire wild exchange. Luckily, the only thing he'd punched was a wall. It wouldn't have been right, of course, had he slugged that guy. The guy was only doing what came natural: Bones was an incredibly attractive woman, and he came on to her. Props to him for giving it the old school try—there was no way he could have known, just by looking at her, that she was so far out of his league. Sometimes I think she's even out of my league, Booth smirked. But, only sometimes—
Booth cringed again as he thought of the way he'd laid into her, accusing her of trolling for sex. "Were you going to go home and fuck him?" He was lucky she hadn't promptly turned around and kicked him right in the nuts when he'd started tossing such insulting accusations at her. Then again, he grinned with some self-satisfaction, Bones was lucky she didn't do that either. Three times he'd made her come that night, despite Brennan's insistence to the contrary. Yeah, Booth thought. Three times, he smiled. Definitely three times.
And, then—the things she said to him: "I doubt you're as incredible, accomplished, and satisfying a sexual partner as you think you are." He couldn't believe she'd said that. "I have serious doubts that you have any notable capabilities or talents to make any woman who was dumb and unlucky enough to stumble into your bed to leave it with her needs fulfilled. I'm fairly certain you can't get the job done." That was a low blow—a challenge, of course—and her words had lit him off.
"You haven't been fucked until you've been fucked by me," he'd told her. "I'd ruin you for any other man." Never in a million years would Booth have imagined he would say that out loud to any woman. Pops would flay my ass if he knew I'd said that to a woman, he frowned. And that he said it to Bones—the woman he had silently smoldered for these last three and a half years—it was totally unbelievable, and completely inexcusable. Brennan had rebuffed the suggestion, clearly insulted, and Booth, as if her words had posed some kind of worst case scenario, had exercised the nuclear option when he suggested that she was in fact afraid, not that he couldn't satisfy her, but that she couldn't satisfy him.
I was wrong on that one, he grinned. Not that I ever really meant it.
Her words echoed in his memory: "I'm fairly certain you can't get the job done." The whole exchange had been so bizarre. You were definitely wrong on that one, Bones. Wrong three times by my count. Heh, he chuckled as he stared distractedly at the file in front of him. Three times he had pushed her over the edge, and—as she stood at his bedroom door that morning, on her way out, the taste of his cum still in her mouth—she had, for all intents and purposes, admitted it.
"Booth? I was wrong, you know. I'm…well, I'm not leaving here physically unsatisfied, no matter what else I may have claimed to the contrary last night, just after—when I said I hadn't. You were right. I was lying. I just—well, I just wanted you to know that."
Booth shook his head at the memory.
Yeah, you were definitely wrong on that one, Bones—
The smug grin faded from Booth's face as his memory ran to what had happened after her admission. She left. She had just left him there. Booth recalled her parting words—"I'll just let myself out"—and watching her walk out, shutting his bedroom door behind her.
What now? he wondered, a knot forming in the pit of his stomach as he watched her disappear behind that door. Jesus, Bones. What happens next?
Booth remembered how he nearly howled in anguish that morning when she left, the door latching behind her with a quiet click as her empty farewell—"I'll just let myself out"—echoed in his head. Did it really mean nothing to her? Everything that had happened, everything that they'd shared? Was it really that easy for her to just dismiss? Was he that easy for her to dismiss? God, Booth silently groaned. It can't be, can it? I can't be, right? Did he really mean that little to her even before everything they'd shared in the past twenty-four hours?
He'd watched her walk away with an unreadable, almost blank expression on her face, closing the door behind her as she'd just left him like that—alone, naked in his bed, his mind trapped behind a thick haze as he recovered from one of the best goddamn orgasms he'd ever had. God, what's happened?
He put his elbows on his desk, buried his face in his hands and silently groaned. What've I done? What have I let us do? Jesus—
His phone rang and snapped him out of the rolling newsreel of his memory.
"Booth, it's Cam."
Fuck. Not again.
"Hey," he said, mumbled into the phone, a bit more restrained than he'd intended. No rest for the wicked, right? Back to work, Booth. Back to work, he chided himself silently. Perking up a bit, he altered his tone slightly and said, "What do you have for me, Cam?"
"Oh, nothing major—just her identity," she said dryly. "We checked the dentals from your missing person against the remains that came in this morning," she said. Booth swore he heard her emphasize the words this morning. "It's a match. This is Melissa Lauda."
"Okay," Booth sighed, glancing down at the file that he had scarcely read. "I guess it's time to go tell her parents we found their daughter."
"Shall I tell Dr. Brennan you're coming?" Booth narrowed his eyes at the unintended pun. She can't possibly know, right? He remembered answering Bones' phone that morning, but surely his wasn't an obviously post-orgasm voice, since it had been, well, at least a couple of hours between the time they'd finished early that morning and when he answered her phone.
Booth swallowed, somewhat unnerved by the prospect of having to visit the Jeffersonian quite so soon when he still didn't know what in the hell to make of what had happened between him and his partner—or, more importantly, what to do about it.. "Yeah, okay," he sighed. "Tell her I'm on my way."
Booth climbed into the SUV, put the key in the ignition and took a long, deep breath.
Professional, he reminded himself. Keep it totally professional. He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip, grasping onto the thought that the events of the prior evening, that night, and that morning never happened: at least, for the purpose of getting through the next few hours, he had to pretend that the events of the night before and that morning had never actually happened.
Right, Booth thought. This morning, it never happened. His mind was overtaken by the image of soft auburn hair cascading down and tickling the inside of his thighs. But, oh, wow. It did, though. Just—wow.
He shook his head and growled at himself. Not helping, Booth. He mentally smacked himself as he struggled to get a grip. Gotta keep it professional, Booth, he thought. Totally professional.
He turned the key and took some comfort as he felt the Tahoe's throaty engine roar to life. He pulled out of the Hoover garage and onto 9th Avenue, repeating that mantra—totally professional, totally professional—to himself as he maneuvered the lumbering Tahoe through traffic.
The repetition of that mantra worked for about fifteen seconds before Booth's mind was once again invaded by an onslaught of images and sounds and the emotions that both mixed together evoked. In a way, the sounds were the worst part: the little gaspy breaths he'd never heard from her in all the time they'd worked together; the little needy whimpers of protest she made when he wasn't quite giving her what she wanted, and the sound of her sultry voice, moaning his name over and over again in a way that no other woman ever had before and—a part of Booth hoped—in a way that only one woman ever would again. He tried to dismiss such thoughts, reminding himself of his overriding duty to keep himself entirely focused on the mission at hand.
But, the sensations kept flooding his thoughts, and Booth found himself unable to summon the willpower to keep himself from succumbing to them. He saw her laying there in his bed, naked and curled up next to him as she slept: her skin so smooth and warm against his, her eyes closed and her face completely relaxed and slightly vulnerable in her slumber, her mouth agape as a quiet, almost imperceptible little breathy sound—one that Booth knew she'd complain about if she heard him call a snore—escaping her soft, exquisitely kissable lips. A part of Booth wanted to hold that image close as if it were a rare and priceless treasure—to be hoarded and never shared with anyone else again—but another part of him, a nagging voice of doubt residing somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind, sought to jettison that memory.
Last night was just sex to her, that voice said, nothing more. Don't forget who we're dealing with here: Dr. Temperance Brennan, remember? As far as she's concerned, she was just satisfying a biological urge. She had an itch, and you conveniently helped her to scratch it. So—why torture yourself? that voice asked. Nothing's changed. She will never love you the way you want her to love you. Last night was the best it's ever gonna get, buddy. So, you can either take it, or you can leave it. But, don't you dare be some love-struck kid mooning over a woman who's never gonna give you more than great sex. If you want, take it. If not, then leave it and make your peace with the fact that last night was a mistake. A huge, giant, blundering fuck-up to end all fuck-ups. Accept it. Be finished with it. Move on. End of story.
His phone rang and jerked Booth out of the war that raged in his head. Glancing down at the display, he felt his stomach clench as he saw her name flash across the display: Bones. Shaking his head, Booth sighed in frustration, and then slowly pressed the button to answer the call.
"Hey, it's me," Brennan said simply, as if the last time she had seen him had been on any other normal day when they'd said goodbye after one last round at the Founding Fathers instead of her slinking out of his bedroom in last night's rumpled clothes after saying goodbye with a blow job. "Where are you, Booth? Cam said you were coming for me half an hour ago. Is there some problem?"
He groaned silently. Her improper use of colloquialisms notwithstanding, he knew that Bones seldom if ever uttered something without meaning what she had said. She's playing with me, right? And, if she is, what in the hell does that mean? Damn it, if I'm as good at reading people as I always thought I was, I should be able to get a read on her of all people.
Unsure if he had the energy or desire to fight her, Booth frowned silently into the phone. "Nope, Bones," he replied. "I'm good. I just hit some traffic on the way over. A couple of stop lights were out, and I got detoured all the way over to Dupont, but I'm almost there."
For several moments, there was nothing but silence on the other end of the line.
"Well, don't leave me waiting, Booth," she said. "I'm ready when you are." Then she hung up with an abrupt click.
Fuck, he whispered as he made the turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue and headed towards the Jeffersonian. Unable to make the short drive in silence lest he be assaulted by any more memories of that morning or the night before, he glanced over to the stereo and pressed the play button on the CD player. As soon as he heard the punchy bassline, crisp snare drum and the atmospherically weaving guitar, he smiled. Floyd, baby, he grinned, bopping his head to the rhythm as David Gilmour's deep baritone began the song's verse...
The sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land
Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky.
A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers,
But awakes to a morning with no reason for waking...
Booth tapped his left heel on the floorboard and mouthed the words along with the singer as he maneuvered the Tahoe through heavier-than-usual afternoon traffic, keeping the beat as he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream, he can't be precise
He's chained forever to a world that's departed
It's not enough, it's not enough
He glanced over at the stereo as he heard the words, then shook his head and sighed.
His blood has frozen and curdled with fright
His knees have trembled and given way in the night
His hand has weakened at the moment of truth
His step has faltered...
Booth pulled into the Jeffersonian's underground parking garage and found a space close to the door that his partner would exit from. He sighed again and picked up his phone, hesitating before dialing. What have I done?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
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There will be 20 chapters in this fic, by the way.
So there's a lot more where this came from.
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