Cognitive Dissonance
By:
dharmamonkey & Lesera128
Rated:
M
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. In fact, we think we'll stay a while longer.


A/N:

Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this crazy little fic so far. We've been absolutely knocked sideways by the overwhelmingly positive response. (Seems the only real negative comments we've received can basically be summed up as "Why won't they just do it already?")

After this chapter, I'll be handing over the chapter-posting reins to my coauthor, the incomparable Lesera128. If you haven't put her on your author alerts, you need to do so immediately, if not sooner.

Firstly, because she writes some fantastic fanfics that you really, really should read (e.g. "What I Wish I Could've Said" and "Buried With The Bones").

Secondly, because you'll need to be subscribed to her alerts to get notified of further updates, which will appear as Cognitive Dissonance: Part Two, which will contain Chapters 11 through 20 of this fic. And like Costly Signals before it, all the really good stuff you've been waiting for shows up in the latter half. (And I mean really, really good stuff.) If you don't do this, you will not be notified when we post chapters 11, et seq, and you'll miss out on the conclusion of this crazy story. No further Cognitive Dissonance updates will issue forth from me. And you really want to know how this ends. No, really, you do. Trust me. So, before you read further, go ahead and put my homegirl Lesera128 on your alerts (she appears as the very first reviewer of this fic, in case you're looking for a shortcut to find her profile).

Now, where were we? ;-)


Chapter 10 - The Ben Franklin Effect


The two partners stood staring at each other, both bodies rigid with barely constrained anger, Brennan with her hands on her hips while Booth's were clenched in fists at his side. They stood toe-to-toe, both of them shaking with aggression. Booth's eyes were aflame with emotion, while Brennan's had hardened to reflect her resolution not to back down simply because she'd been confronted by her partner's anger. Her own emotions blazed just as strong, and she refused to be intimidated or cowed by any man. As they stood glaring at each other, a hundred different thoughts going through their respective minds, their noses flaring as they were so close they almost touched, it was unclear who would break the stalemate and speak first.

As Booth's gaze drilled into Brennan's for a split second, he pictured reaching out, yanking her towards him, and preceding to see how easily the Jeffersonian jumpsuit really could be removed in an explicit sexual situation. Keep pushing me, Bones, Booth thought to himself, trying desperately to keep the anger he felt from translating into a throbbing hard on, knowing full well that he'd already started to feel the usually pleasant tightening in the vicinity of his groin and trying his best to will away that unwelcome sensation. Go ahead and keep pushing me, and I won't be held responsible for those actions. Especially, when we're gonna find out how shameless you really are when I rip that goddamn jumpsuit off of you, throw you to the ground, and start pounding into you like there's no tomorrow.

For her part, Brennan wondered what she'd have to do to press Booth into finally feeling something for her. What do I have to do, Booth? Brennan thought to herself. You said it yourself. You like getting laid after you have a knock-down drag out fight. If this doesn't count, then what does? What do I have to do to get your attention... to have some kind of personal response to me? Huh? What do I have to do to make you lose control?

As Booth looked into Brennan's eyes, and saw her refusal to concede, he was both further infuriated and incredibly turned on by her at the same time. Although Brennan would never realize just how close she had come in that moment to making Booth lose control as she seemed to think she wanted, she almost found out when Booth broke down first and opened his mouth to fire another verbal salvo. However, just as he was about to open his mouth and make a rather lewd comment about wanting to use her to sheathe his gun, a hand grabbed his shoulder roughly, twirling him away from Brennan.

"Stop it, right now," Camille Saroyan said, a dangerous edge coming into her voice as she stepped between Booth and Brennan, a look of incredulous disbelief and silent anger clear on her face. "What in the hell do you two think you're doing?" She eyed Brennan for a moment, and the forensic anthropologist flushed and looked away. Glancing back at Booth, he too looked flushed with embarrassment, but, unlike Brennan, didn't break his gaze when Cam attempted to stare him down. Realizing that Booth was the more agitated of the two, Cam concentrated her efforts on him.

"In case you didn't know, we could hear you two yelling from fifty meters away." She stopped and swung to face Brennan, "Now, look. Do you have any idea of how embarrassing it is to have an NPS ranger come and interrupt my work with a set of remains because he's excitedly trotted over like some spaniel to tell me that you two are going at one another like you're in the first round of some twisted FBI/Jeffersonian version of Celebrity Death Match?" At this, Cam shook her head. She just wanted to be away from here and back with the body. Sighing, she said, "I don't know what happened here, but you two need to knock it off. Immediately."

"Camille," Booth said, his angry voice wilting to a pleading whine.

"Don't 'Camille' me, Seeley," Cam snapped, glaring at him in anger and embarrassment. "Of all people, I'd never expect something this from you. I...I never thought you'd be capable of pulling something like this, but I guess I was wrong." Booth opened his mouth to retort, but quickly snapped it shut. He stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, but Cam could tell he was clenching his fists in anger. Not really caring, Cam tuned back to Brennan, who already looked more contrite than the pathologist would've expected given the situation into which she had been pulled.

"And, you," Cam said, shaking her head at the forensic anthropologist who stood slightly back from the pair, struggling to regain her composure and self-control. "If I never thought Booth could ever pull a stunt like this, I never would've bet in a million years that you'd be involved in this, too, Dr. Brennan." She stopped, shook her head, and then continued, "Now, I know I agreed to give you a certain number of free passes in deference to your considerable knowledge, skills, and expertise, but this—this—crosses the damn line." She stopped and then shook her head again as she said, "No, scratch that. This doesn't just cross the line—it doesn't even jump over it. It eradicates it, Dr. Brennan—completely and totally obliterates it."

Brennan opened her mouth to reply, and then, suddenly as if the fight had gone out of her, closed it instantly. God, what am I doing here? What's...what's happening to me? What am I doing? I don't...I, wewhat just happened? Her eyes darted over to Booth, but he had turned away from her, his breathing rapid and his hands still on his hips as he tried to get himself under control. What's happening to us? she wondered in confused desperation. Although Booth didn't seem able to meet her gaze, Cam was all too happy to stare at her with a look of intense censure on her face. Brennan, again not one to let herself be chastised, after several seconds, finally managed a response.

"I know," Brennan said, her voice softer than Cam had expected, thus, once again surprising her. Straightening her back, Brennan nodded. "You're right. I...was, no wewere out of line. I was acting immature and unprofessional, and I apologize if I've caused any embarrassment to you or the Jeffersonian."

Out of the corner of his eye, Booth waited for the scathing, vitriolic response to burst through Brennan's lips. For a brief second, he wondered if he'd have to jump in when she started in on Cam. What is her fucking problem? Why...she was fine before Walters showed up. Yeah, I've seen her smack down some more annoying assholes than that when they makes mistakes or, God help them, question her abilities. But, I've never seen her go postal like that beforein private, okay. But, not at a crime scene in front of the other squints

Then, suddenly, Brennan's final words before Cam had pulled them apart finally registered in his mind.

"I noticed that you wore your gun in a shoulder holster today, Booth. Don't think the metaphor wasn't lost on me since I know, for a fact, you usually prefer to go sheathe your gun before you thrust it home, but I suppose if Agent Walters is the next one through you're bedroom's revolving door, it's probably a good thing to make sure your gun's protected so you don't catch any of those nasty STDs that some promiscuous slut like her is sure to have—"

Wait, Booth thought. Bedroom's revolving door? Promiscuous slut? Thrusting my gun home? What...wait a minute. Jesus, Bones. You aren't...jealous? Is that it? Are you jealous for some reason?

He continued to look at her as she spoke to Cam, but didn't hear a word she said. Studying her intently, almost as if his obtuse obliviousness had vanished, Booth again was of two minds about how to respond to this latest revelation. Is it really that simple, Bones? Are you freaking out because...you're jealous for some reason? As Booth tried to process everything that had happened since he had picked her up a little more than two hours earlier, it was almost as if he had to go back and reevaluate every word, every action, every reaction with this new information. What in the hell is she jealous about? That doesn't make any sense...but, it's the only thing that explains why she's gone nutty

As Cam finished talking to Brennan, slightly mollified by the forensic anthropologist's apology, she spun back to stare at Booth. It was clear from his defensive posture that he wasn't going to be as easily cowed as Brennan had apparently been.

Recognizing the look on her face for what it was, desperate to stall for time to work through his recent epiphany about Brennan's behavior, Booth raised his hands in supplication. "Now, Cam," Booth began. "Just, look, okay? You don't know—"

"Save it, Booth. I really don't care, and I don't want to hear it," she said, shaking her head sharply. Turning to look back at Booth's partner, Cam said, "Dr. Brennan, please go back there and assist Dr. Hodgins with—"

Cam's head snapped up when, instead of hearing Brennan meekly comply as she had anticipated, given the forensic anthropologist's genuine display of contrition just a minute before, Brennan laughed darkly.

"No," she said. "I don't think so, Dr. Saroyan."

Cam's eyes flashed as she looked at Brennan's words as a challenge to her authority. The pathologist had to resist falling into whatever quagmire of hostility that the pair seemed to have created among themselves. Like a black hole sucking anyone and everything near it into its depth, Cam had to resist the urge to respond to Brennan's curt words in kind.

Brennan, oblivious to Cam's words, continued speaking, her spur of the moment decision made. "I've completed my preliminary analysis of the skeletonized portion of the remains. Barring the actual—" She paused and shot a look at Booth before she continued speaking. "—discovery of any of the missing human distal or intermediate phalanges, it's patently obvious that my expertise is no longer needed here, so...I've decided that I'm going back to the lab." She paused to fling one more scathing look at Booth. His eyebrows narrowed at her, but Booth didn't say anything. Nodding once, Brennan added, "Now. Right now, actually." She paused to stare at Cam with a tilt of her head, challenging her to object. "Unless there's something else for which you require me, Dr. Saroyan?"

Cam's eyes narrowed as she again struggled to keep her own bewilderment, annoyance, and growing hostility in check even as another small part of her brain wondered when Brennan had turned into such a schizophrenic. "Fine. Fair enough, Dr. Brennan," she said, somewhat relieved that Brennan was going to save her the effort of tossing her from the crime scene. "That will be all, then," she said, raising her eyebrows as she waited for Brennan to take her leave.

"Fine," Brennan sneered, shaking her head and muttering under her breath, stopping for only a split second to shot Booth another scathing look before she stomped away without a further word.

When it was clear that Brennan was out of earshot, Booth sighed to himself. "Goddamn it," Booth whispered, as he watched her walk up the ravine and disappear over the tree-lined rise. What are you doing to me, woman? What have you done? And, more importantly, why? Why here? Why now? "Fuck, Bones—"

Hoping that the colorful metaphor he had uttered in that moment had been heard by no one else save him, Booth was sadly disappointed when Cam's head spun around and her gaze narrowed at him. Taking a step forward, she finally waggled a finger of warning at him. "Jesus, Seeley," Cam said, poking his chest with a pointed, vinyl-gloved finger. "I don't know what in the hell's going on. I don't know you've done to her…or what's gotten into her because of it, and I'm still pretty certain I don't want to know, but—"

"Me!" Booth asked incredulously. "Me? What makes you think I did anything to her?"

"—you two better get your shit together," Cam continued, ignoring Booth's words, "because this is too much. Seriously. Arguing in public like that? What's gotten into you two? I'd expect something like that from Angela or Hodgins or even Zach, but not you two. You guys are supposed to be the poster kids for by-the-book professionalism. I don't know how it's gotten to the point where it seems like you two were about to either come to physical blows or start grudge fucking one another when I got here, but you had better get a fucking grip on things. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the last thing I need is anyone from either the Hoover or the Jeffersonian's Board of Trustees breathing down my neck about whispers of sexual harassment or personal misconduct, right? So, seriously. Do whatever you have to do to fix this. I need my anthropologist back instead of whatever Sybil that's been impersonating her lately. Understand?"

Booth laughed as he shook his head. "You better not hear her say that you consider her 'your' anything, Camille. She's very touchy about possessive pronouns lately."

The pathologist shook her head and groaned. "I'm serious, Booth. I'm about to give you a very crucial piece of advice that I strongly suggest you follow to the letter. Do whatever you need to do to get you two back to a level set because we can't work this way. You two are behaving in a manner so unprofessional that it just... it defies description. And, you know that's not an easy thing for me to say since I consider myself pretty good with a turn of phrase." She stopped and then thought of the conversation that the park ranger had interrupted when she and Hodgins had been gossiping about the very topic of Booth and Brennan and whatever was happening between the pair. What was it that Hodgins said Angela called it? Cam wondered. And, then, after a minute, she fought back smiling in front of Booth as she finally recalled the verbal ditty. Oh, right. 'Sexfest to shatter all orgiastic, polyorgasmic sexfest records. Hmmm... Hodigins is right. Angela really does have a way with words when she wants to— "Okay, so maybe not as good as Angela," Cam suddenly mused out loud. "But, even still—"

Booth shot Cam a petulant look, and she shook her head as her friend refused to take advice when he really, really needed to listen to someone about the Brennan situation.

"Look, Booth. You need to cut this bush league shit out." She paused, and then sighed as she reluctantly continued, "Whether I like it or not, you two are the center of this little operation of ours. In fact, I really don't like it. But, when I took the job last year, I came to understand that little fact quite well." She stopped again, and then met his eyes before she continued, "Remember, Seeley? You told me that day that you were, and I quote 'I'm with Bones, Cam. All the way. Don't doubt it for a second.'"

"I remember," Booth finally grumbled. Only too fucking well, he thought.

"Well, it sure as hell didn't seem like you remembered it when I interrupted you two, Seeley. If anything, it looked like the exact opposite of you being with Dr. Brennan—"

Wrong again, Cam, Booth mused. I can promise you, if you'd arrived about three minutes later, you'd have seen just how with Bones I actually am. With her, as in, with her in every way possible. Near her, on her, in her. You name it. Booth couldn't help himself as a surge of renewed lewd images danced in his mind. As they did, another part of Booth randomly wondered how in the hell it was possible that he hadn't gone from a semi hard-on to full out stiff in the course of the confrontation with Brennan. Luck, he finally decided. Pure dumb fucking luck.

"Seeley, are you even listening to me anymore?" Cam suddenly asked, reaching out to shake him slightly to get his attention.

Scowling, Booth immediately said, "Yes."

"No, you weren't," Cam countered, as she folded her arms.

"Yes, I was," Booth insisted.

"Then, if you really were paying attention to me, what did I just say?" Cam asked, as she narrowed her eyes at Booth in suspicion.

Knowing he'd been caught, but still unwilling to concede, Booth mumbled, "You said—"

"I said," Cam immediately snapped, feeling it was more important for Booth to take her counsel than be proved right in that he was lying to cover up the fact that he had spaced out. "I said that if you two can't work together, then this whole thing of ours falls apart, and that's something that I can't tolerate or allow to occur, alright?" She squeezed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, trying to relax away the tension headache she could feel gripping her jaw and sinuses.

Again, Booth stared at her for a minute, but said nothing. Cam took that as a sign, knowing it was probably the best she was going to get from the FBI agent on the matter.

Nodding at him, Cam said, "So, just so that we're clear—knock it the hell off, okay? Whatever the issue is, you two damn well better work it out so we can all get back to normal, all right?"

Booth exhaled slowly through his nose, trying to defuse his anger using one of his old sniper techniques, and turned away from his old friend with one final glance. Cam, for her part, shook her head in frustration before heading back in the direction of where she had left Hodgins, much to his frenzied sadness, alone and working on the remains. "Damn," Cam said. "What a hell of a morning—"

Meanwhile, Booth began walking downstream towards where Walters and Martin were working. He stopped in his tracks, looked up into the leafy canopy that hung over the banks of the little creek, and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket as a thought suddenly occurred to him. He quickly dialed a number with a sigh. "You see what you're doing to me, Bones?" he muttered to no one but himself. "Great. Just fucking great."

After a couple of rings, Booth finally nodded in satisfaction. "Yeah, it's Booth," he said when the phone on the other end picked up. "Yeah—"

His shook his head, sighing, not believing he was doing this given what she had just done to him. "Good, you're still here. I need a favor..."

Goddamn it. What the fuck, Bones? I mean, seriously. What guy in his right mind would make a call like this for you after what just happened? What kind of putz am I?

"Yeah...Dr. Brennan needs to return to the lab, but I've gotta stay here."

I can't believe I'm doing this. Damn it. Damn it. DAMN IT!

"Yes. So, since she rode in with me this morning—"

He thought for a moment of how she rode him in the juicy fantasy he'd enjoyed in the shower that morning and how quickly things had degenerated since then. This is not my fault, Booth said. Even if, for some strange fucked up reason she decided on today of all days that she was going to be the jealous type, none of this is on me. She's a big girl and makes her own decisions. This is all her fault. Not mine. Shaking his head, Booth sighed as he listened to the response through the phone.

"Exactly. So you can give her a lift?" Do you see what you've done to me, Bones? Insane. That's what you've made me. In-fucking-sane.

"Great." Booth paused and reflected for a moment. "Hey—yeah, just a sec. Ummm, when you see her... well, you know how she gets. It'd be better if you don't jump right out and offer her a ride, all right? She's...well. Just trust me. It'll go over a lot easier if you let her ask around a little and then—" Of course it has to be your idea, Bones. Everything has to be your idea because you're a control freak, and you've made me into your co-dependent bitch. Fuck

"Yeah, I know it sounds weird..." Booth nodded, realizing how exhausting the past hour had been, and it was barely eight o'clock yet. God, this is going to be a long day. Another goddamn long day on a day of the week I'm really starting to hate. Man, this blows.

"Hey, you have no idea, pal. You think it's bad just working a case every couple of months with them? No, no way, Vince. You don't get to complain. That's nothing. You've got no idea whatsoever what it's like to deal with these squints all the time..." Booth said, pushing back another exasperated sigh.

"What? That's really funny, Vince. Me becoming a squint? Hell no," Booth said, vehemently shaking his head. "I don't think so, but, look, if that ever happens, you have my permission to take me out back behind the woodshed and give me the ol' double-tap behind the head." He stopped, paused for a second, and then added, "And, maybe an extra two to the chest for good measure, just to make sure—"

Booth laughed at Hastert's reply. "Okay, great." He paused for a few seconds, his tone softening a bit as he said, "Hey, Vince. I appreciate you doing this..." Total bullshit, Bones. Me having to call in a favor because you're being a bitch just because I called you on it when you tried to do my job instead of yours… total and utter fucking bullshit. "No, I really do. It's a personal favor, and I won't forget it. You know I don't forget stuff like this, so just—thanks."

God, why am I even doing this?

"Oh—and, Vince? Yeah, one more thing...if for some reason she doesn't want to go back to the lab—" Like I said, I should just order all new jackets now. Replace the "S. Booth" on my name patch with "B.'s Co-dependent Bitch."

"Yes, please. Take her wherever she wants to go..." Just as long as it's very far away from me, he added silently.

"Thanks, Hastert."

"Okay, bye."

Booth exhaled loudly and squeezed his eyes shut.

"Agent Booth!" the high pitched call of Walters' voice suddenly cracked out in the air.

He reluctantly opened his eyes, and he saw that Walters was still some distance off, but that she'd spotted him. When she saw that he was alone, she plastered a huge, if fake, smile all over her face as she waved a new evidence bag in the air. "Sir?" she called out happily. "I think we've finally found something of importance." She gestured with the bag again as she continued to walk towards him. "Sir?" she called out with an easy smile clear on her face.

"God help me," he muttered and he glanced once more downstream at the young Agent Walters and the technician combing the side of the ravine.

And, as Booth considered Walter's approaching form, he squinted at her in the early morning sunlight. And, in that moment, he realized for the first time that her tits did look unusually large for her build—just as Brennan had said. Oh, fuck, Booth suddenly muttered as he not only realized that Brennan had been right, but what he had been doing to verify that bit of information—squinting. Oh, dear God...

PPPPPPPPPPPPP

On the ride back from the crime scene, Brennan felt agitated, unbalanced, unsettled, and generally not pleased with her current frame of mind. The entire day had gone from bad to worse, it wasn't even 9 o'clock in the morning, and Brennan wasn't sure how to deal with the entire situation. Booth's hard words echoed in her mind, despite the miles that put some much needed physical distance between them.

"I keep my professional life professional, my personal life private, and I don't mix business and pleasure, Bones. I don't do stupid things like that."

Except for me, right, Booth? I'm the exception to the rule against doing stupid things. I was the something that you did that was stupid. Crazy, insane, and incredibly, incredibly stupid. Fuck!

Forcing herself to take a deep breath, Brennan contemplated her options. Her initial thought had been to return to the labsince she had a good two to three hours lead time on the rest of the teamand to sneak down into Limbo to gather her thoughts with a preliminary examination of a new case. It really didn't matter to Brennan what set of remains she examined, as long as they were unidentified, at least a hundred years old, had no connection whatsoever to the FBI, and she could be left alone. However, the more she thought about it, the more Brennan realized that she was in too fragmented a frame of mind to be able to even let the panacea of Limbo soothe her frayed nerves. Limbo isn't going to satisfy my current level of agitation, Brennan thought, as she stared out the window and watched the road go past. I need more than that—I need…I don't know why, but I just need more than that. I need to get somewhere where I can be by myself, uninterrupted, and just think—

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Brennan. She only took a few seconds to contemplate it before she realized that it was a good idea, and exactly what she wanted to do. Turning to face the driver's seat, Brennan spoke. "Agent Hastert?" Brennan asked as she looked at the older man who was driving the car in which she had managed to catch a ride back from the crime scene.

Her companion was a relatively quiet man, and aside from a few brief words to confirm that he'd be dropping her off at the Jeffersonian, neither had said much once they'd left the crime scene, but each seemed content to let a companionable silence fall over them. Brennan felt marginally grateful to the manner. Earlier, as if out of the blue, Hastert had appeared with a solution to her problem of how to leave the crime scene without having to face the indignity of calling a taxi. He seemed to offer Brennan a fortuitous opportunity when he suddenly materialized out of thin air and offered her a ride since he was leaving the scene to return to the Hoover to finish some paperwork before calling it a day. As a favor to Booth, he had already stayed long past the required time constraints of his late shift. Thus, he was leaving anyway and was happy to help out his friend when Booth called. Thus, when Brennan had stalked off from the crime scene—and Booth—in anger, and in so doing, had lost her original ride back to the Jeffersonian in the process of bolting from the site, he'd proven to have most fortuitous timing in offering her a ride back to town.

One of the older agents that Brennan had come into contact with off and on through the years, as Booth had correctly noted earlier, Hastert didn't piss her off as much as many of the FBI personnel she had come into contact with over the years. Brennan knew Hastert to be a quiet, even-tempered agent, and one of the few people that worked with Booth who actually annoyed her less than more in just about any of her normal mindsets. Surely, that's a pure coincidence, Brennan thought. He just happened to be heading back from the scene at the same time I wanted to leave. It's pure coincidence…or, at least, it better be.

"Yes, Dr. Brennan?" he asked quietly. "What can I do for you?"

"I know it's a deviation from our original agreement, but would it be possible for us to bypass the Jeffersonian?" Brennan inquired.

"Is there a problem, Dr. Brennan?" Hastert asked, the curiosity clear in his voice.

Shaking her head, Brennan said, "No, not at all. I just would like to pick up my automobile. If I can return with you to the Hoover Building, I can take a cab—"

"That's not necessary, Dr. Brennan," Hastert said. "Agent Booth requested that I take you from the crime scene to wherever you needed to go, so it's not a big deal for me to drop you off wherever your car is."

At his words, Brennan narrowed her eyes. "That's very considerate of you, Agent Hastert."

"Not a problem, Dr. Brennan. I'm just doing what Booth asked me to do, so it's not a problem. Really," Hastert said. "Now, where was it that you wanted to drop me off again?"

As Brennan looked at Hastert, she quickly gave him the address of her apartment building. If she hadn't been certain in her choice to make a slight detour before returning to the lab, Brennan was more certain than ever once she had heard of how Booth had once again made a unilateral decision in an attempt to control her actions. Enough, Brennan thought. This has gone far enough. I don't know who in the hell Booth thinks he is, but he's got another thing coming if he thinks he can control me. This is it. It stops now. Enough is enough!


Oh boy. How'd you like that one, huh?

Of course, there's more fun yet to come.

::snort::

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