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. 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 CSthis 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'sfan 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. The first half of this story, Chapters 1-10 have already been posted in their entirety under dharmamonkey's profile for "Cognitive Dissonance: Part I." You need to read those chapters or the second half of this story posted below (Chapters 11-20) will make absolutely no sense.

And—just to remind everyone—like its predecessor, this story is definitely rated M for a reason... the last ten chapters particularly as it contains very naughty language, very grown-up situations, and some very, very unf encounters of the strictly guh kind. We realize that this story isn't for everyone, so if it doesn't sound like your thing, we're not hurt when you go to click the back button right about now. However, for those of you who plan to stick around, constructive criticism is both welcome and encouraged, but uselessly mean comments that complain, or have nothing substantive to contribute are, no flames are required.

So, sit back, relax, and we shall now conclude this use of the Lesera128 public messaging system, as I've now taken over the posting duty reigns from a certain monkey. Should you be afraid? Oh, yeah. Be afraid. Be very afraid...~

Chapter 11 - Self-Evaluation Maintenance Theory

One of Brennan's favorite quotes was not, as one might expect, from a scientist. No, this particular favorite quote was from a philosopher, albeit a philosopher of Ancient Greece, who'd been dead for almost two millennia. However, Plato's words had always resonated with her: Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. Although Booth often made fun of the more well-known musical preferences she publicized in the context of her work as anthropologist, Brennan actually had an eclectic palate where music was concerned. Although she didn't know the song titles or artists' names to save her own life (something Booth seemed to excel at, even though, between the two of them, she had the better memory), she had a diverse collection of mp3s on her iPod. A small part of her reveled in keeping that tiny secret to herself, since it seemed so at odds with the face she presented to the world. She didn't need to know who sang a song to know she liked it, and when she listened to music, as Plato said—she felt more inspired than at just about any other time in her life, perhaps save for when she was reconstructing a set of bones. It was to music that she had turned for inspiration now as the music blared loudly around her, the bass throbbing as it ensnared her in its metaphoric tentacles of tempo and rhythm.

I recommend biting off more then you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears

The stereo speakers of Brennan's Toyota Prius were set at a volume that stretched them to their maximum levels, but not quite. The bass of the stereo pulsed around her, and Brennan felt a small amount of calm begin to wash over her as she concentrated on the stretch of highway that spread out in front of her. It was a time like this that Brennan regretted not being able to drive a manual transmission. She mentally made a promise to herselffor what seemed to be the fiftieth timeto ask for her dad or Russ to teach her how to drive a stick. For now, gunning the Prius' engine up to a speed of eighty miles per houra modest, but still illegal, ten miles above the speed limitDr. Temperance Brennan reveled in the only other way that she knew to assuage her nerves…driving. Another one of Brennan's dirty little secrets was revealedbesides Limbo, she did some of her best thinking when she could exercise her lead foot by driving hard, driving fast, and driving with the appropriate loud music blaring.

After Hastert had dropped her off at her apartment complex, and Brennan professionally offered her thanks, she stopped only long enough to run upstairs to change her clothes. Still clad in the Jeffersonian field jumpsuit and gumboots when she came homeas her change of clothes had been abandoned in the back of Booth's SUV in her haste to get away from the crime scene at Greenbelt Park and him—she had run upstairs quickly, sparing only a few minutes to change. Throwing on a casual cream colored knit blouse and dark blue denim skirt, Brennan didn't bother to consider if her outfit was appropriate or not for returning to the lab. All Brennan knew was that she needed a break. She needed some time by herself. She needed a chance to gather her thoughts, and to just calm down—and she needed it now.

As soon as she had dressed, Brennan bounded back down the stairs of her apartment building and threw herself into the Prius. She stopped only long enough to turn off her cell phone and to select a mix on her iPod that she knew would be appropriate given her current mindset. For once, the music didn't mock her, as it had so often done in the past week, particularly since the night of her encounter with Booth. Instead, it helped her to focus, helped her to concentrate, and helped her to decompress as she tried to get some type of equilibrium back to her mental and emotional state.

You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

Guiding her car towards the nearest stretch of highway that she knew would be relatively free of construction and traffic, and give her the ability to get her speed up as high as she knew she needed to be able to drive, Brennan soon found herself relaxing as she reached the interstate and could, finally, just drive.

Her thoughts continued to swirl about her, and she was at a loss of what to do with most of them. God, what's he done to me? It's only been a week, and look what he's done to me. This is so not fair. Not fair at all, Booth. How did this happen? This is complete and utter madness—

She shook her head in silent frustration and gripped the steering wheel tightly.

Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
Melt it down (you're gonna have to eventually anyway)
The fire trucks are coming up around the bend

"This is not fair," Brennan muttered to herself. "I can't—I can't tolerate this…well, whatever the fuck this is. It's simply too much. I don't like what it's doing to me. I don't like what he's doing to me because I just can't deal with thiswith all this. I just don't know how. I can't—and I won't."

Her thoughts drifted back to the maelstrom of emotion that had swept over her in the past few hours, in the past day, in the past week, and the more she thought about it, the more Brennan steeled her resolve. I'm not doing this. I'm just not. Look at what it's done to me. Booth tells me to shut off my goddamn brain, and I still haven't figured out how to turn it back on. I never should have even asked him that damn question in the SUV. If I'd just kept my mouth shut, I never would have had to hear about him, and Rebecca, and whatever it is that he can do with his tongue that can make her scream—

"Fuck!" Brennan yelled, smacking the steering wheel with the palm of her hand. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Shaking her head, Brennan muttered to herself, "You've got to stop this, Brennan. You're never going to be able to do what you need to do to effectively do your job if you can't even stop yourself from having a simple emotional response at the mere thought of Booth and one of his blonde sluts—"

The words were out of Brennan's mouth before she realized she had even said it. Her mouth stayed frozen in a small o-shape for a few seconds, as her rational brain process the meaning of her instinctual verbal response. Eventually, she started to shake her head as she comprehended the significance of her actions. Pursing her lips, she shook her head again. "No, no, no!"

Doctor, doctor won't you please prescribe something
A day in the life of someone else?
Cuz I'm a hazard to myself

"This isn't happening," Brennan said, punctuating her pronouncement with a sharp pounding of her fist on the steering wheel. "I'm not doing this. I'm just not— this is it. I can't and won't tolerate someone else having so much influence over me. I can't— I can't let this thing continue if it's something where— it's not going to change me. He's not going to change me. I just can't—he's just not—"

As Brennan revved the Prius' engine again, she sighed as she tried to make sense of the emotional free fall that she seemed to have fallen into. Why? Why is this happening? It was just sex. It was just Booth. It didn't mean anything. It was fun. It was good—hell, it was great. But, that's all it was. Just sex. Just fun. Just sex. Nothing more.

Don't let me get me
I'm my own worst enemy
Its bad when you annoy yourself
So irritating
Don't wanna be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else

Suddenly, a voice that sounded very much like Booth's voice rang in her head. You keep telling yourself that, Bones, if it makes it easier to sleep at night.

Brennan suddenly yelled, her scream of frustration reverberating in the car's passenger compartment.

"Stop telling me what to do!"

Her fingers gripped the steering wheel as she recalled the earlier morning dream Booth seeming to even dominate her inner monologue. Thoughts of Booth seemed to be permeating every single aspect of Brennan's existence—physically, mentally, emotionally…there wasn't any part of her that he hadn't touched, and it was scaring her—badly. Even the sacred domain of her brain was no longer her own, and Brennan felt her anger swell as she realized that she didn't have anything left that was just hers. The realization as to why she had felt her anger spike suddenly soothed Brennan. The epiphany seemed to kick off a bout of logical analysis that she clung to like some type of life preserver. Finally, Brennan knew she was going to have to try to work through the issues that'd she'd grudgingly admitted that the Booth in her dreams had been right about:she'd been in denial. Reluctantly, Brennan confessed to herself that she had spent a week trying to avoid with everything that'd had happened between her and Booth. Foolishly, she'd hoped that the issues, and the emotions they evoked in her, would somehow rectify themselves without the need for her direct intervention. Stupid, Brennan, the thought echoed in her mind. Stupid and foolish. Enough of that. It's time to do what needs to be done. So, to begin—

Shaking her head, Brennan began to talk slowly and calmly, "My oversensitivity to emotion has resulted in me being unable to compartmentalize and logically process information to form a suitable response to situations either about Booth or any that directly involve him. Ergo, to regain my equilibrium, I need to confront the root of my confusion and that which has resulted in my unpredictable behavior." Working through the problem logically, started to make Brennan feel a bit better. "I can do this," she told herself. "I just needed a chance to gather my thoughts and formulate a plan of action."

Do you really have everything you want?
You can't ever give somethin' you ain't got
You can't run away from yourself

As Brennan checked her rear view mirror, she started to dissect the issue in her head.

Problem #1: I'm having extremely unpredictable emotional responses. These responses began the night of my confrontation with Booth. Ergo, at some point between our verbal confrontation at Gleam, the culmination of that verbal sparring resulting in my retrieval of my cell phone, and our subsequent sexual encounter, something has changed so that I am not responding to external stimuli in a logical and rational way. I believe this may stem from the fact that Booth ordered me to "turn off my brain," and distracted by my inability to regain a physical equilibrium because of that action, I've been off kilter ever since.

"Okay, so now that I've identified the first issue, how do I fix it?" Brennan mused out loud. "How, to use Booth's terminology, do I turn my brain back on? Why have I been stuck in this mindset of continually verbally baiting Booth or choosing to react to his verbal taunts over the past week?" Brennan paused, and then tilted her head as she considered a thought that had just popped into her head. It's not possible that I keep initiating verbal sparring sessions in the hopes that another one will result in a new sexual encounter with Booth, is it? After all, there's a precedent there. She stopped and thought about how part of her had been pushing him at the crime scene. Booth starts arguing with women and fantastic sex ensues. It happened with Rebecca, it happened with me once before—is that what I was doing at Greenbelt? Is this phenomena something I've picked up on subconsciously and been trying to garner as a response from him ever since? Is that why I let things get out of control as fast and as much as I did when Agent Walters was all but spreading her legs and giving Booth the 'welcome, all aboard' sign of greeting?

Brennan stopped, and then another part of her mental processes chimed in...the one that spoke in a voice sounded annoyingly like Booth. Maybe, Bones. Or, maybe you were just jealous.

Quickly, shaking her head, Brennan dismissed the idea. No. If I wanted to have another sexual encounter with Booth, I wouldn't need to recreate the circumstances of our first coupling. And, I'm not jealous of any little stupid twenty-eight year-old surgically-enhanced FBI agent. If I had to chose between being me and being her—not even having enough mental capacity to tell the difference between an animal bone and a human bone—I'd don't think I could live with myself if I was Scarlett Walters. Besides, I think I'd have to commit ritualized suicide with a name like that. I know I should probably feel compassion with someone who has such a horrible name, and if she weren't such a bitch, I might. Hell, I wonder if her first name is that bad, how bad her middle name is—what could it be I wonder? Cerulean? Sepia? Fuchsia? Ochre? Magenta? Cyan? The possibilities are endless, really.

As her thoughts trailed off, and she snickered at her own cleverness, that voice in her head that sounded like Booth chimed in as it said, You're evading, Bones. Come on, now. Focus.

Sighing, Brennan flexed her fingers as she gripped the steering wheel. She then thought, Fine. I might've have been slightly jealous, particularly when Agent Walters questioned my skills. Her veiled insults were merely inflamed by her blatant propositioning of Booth. But, I have no doubt that if I really wanted to, if I really wanted to have sex with Booth again, there's no reason why I wouldn't simply proposition Booth, logically, rationally. There's no reason for me to be melodramatic about it. I don't have to fight with Booth if I want to fuck him, so—

A mental cough echoed in her head. You so sure about that, Bones?

"That can't be it," Brennan finished out loud, ignoring the question that seemed to be hinting at something that her conflicted conscience wanted to tell her. "Either be direct and tell me what I need to know or shut up," Brennan muttered at herself. "Now—"

Considerations to Arriving at a Suitable Solution to Problem #1 - A.) Booth. Through his imperious proclamations, I've allowed myself to be manipulated to go against a logical and rational course of action. I've allowed myself to respond emotionally to my perceived slights that I think his manipulation of me has wrought instead of either having a discussion with him to get Booth cease and desist in his efforts, or, more appropriately, stop myself from indulging in the irrational responses to his manipulative acts that have been dominating my actions all week. B.) Repression of my sexual needs. If I've been in a state of constant physical arousal for a week, it makes no logical sense not to engage in a simple physical act of self-gratification to release that tension and obtain relief. My confused reaction to Booth's manipulations has clouded my ability to see this choice as the rational one to make.

"There's no reason why I should feel uncomfortable about getting myself off," Brennan nodded. Unless I'm afraid that I won't be able to satisfy myself without thinking about how Booth touched me, how Booth made me feel—the voice of doubt crept into her analysis again. Stopping herself, Brennan shook her head. "No, no, no." She paused and said, "Allowing such divergent thoughts to impede the analytical process is not constructive. It's a waste of time and energy to allow myself to indulge in such distractions. Enough." She stopped, took a few deep breaths and then continued on confidently in her analysis. "So, as I was saying, the answers to both issues are quite simple—"

Solution to Problem #1 - A.) Confront Booth over his manipulation of me. B.) Achieve sexual release as soon as possible.

Could you look me in the eye?
and tell me that you're happy now, yeah, yeah
come on, tell it to my face or have i been replaced,
Are you happy now?
Ohhh, ohhhh
Are you happy now?

Continuing her deconstruction of the events, Brennan started to feel a happy calm fall over her as she realized she was forming a logical plan of action. No longer feeling as if she were spiraling out of control, but reclaiming and grounding herself in the face of the maelstrom of emotion that had threatened to drown her the past week, Brennan proceeded in her analysis of her recent emotional turmoil and the events that had come about because of those feelings.

Problem #2 - I'm not acting as professionally, or doing my job as thoroughly, as I need to, because I'm reacting too personally and too...reactively to Booth. She stopped and again reflected with a flush of embarrassment coloring her cheeks as she recalled how inappropriate her behavior had been at Greenbelt Park. I can't believe I acted that way at the crime scene. I allowed my personal feelings to impede a proper and thorough evaluation of the remains. Further, I've no doubt greatly reduced my standing—which was already tenuous at best—in the eyes of Booth's field detail, Agent Walters excepted—because I really, really don't like that woman. But, I digress...How can I expect to work with those people if they think that I don't even trust Booth enough, as my partner, to wait until we were able discuss my issues with his treatment of Agent Walters in private? In behaving this way, I've reduced myself to an immature high school drama queen when I wasn't even like that when I was actually in high school. I'm sure Angela would say the only thing that was missing in my confrontation with Agent Walters was the jello.

Furthermore, it's not just an issue of me feeling hostility towards Agent Walters—although she did make a novice mistake that wasted time and resources in the course of the investigation. No, it's not just her. I'm feeling an aggressive response any time he mentions any female with whom he has partnered in an intimate act in his past. I seem to have an especially strong response when said partners are blonde, as evidenced by the exchange with that new bothersome FBI agent that's joined Booth's team. While I maintain the ludicrousness of having a female offspring and naming her after a color—Scarlet?—it's Booth's job to control his personnel at crime scenes so that evidence isn't compromised. Despite the fact that she was exceedingly young and blonde, and seemed to be acting in a less intelligent manner than is actually indicative of her actual IQ—most likely to play up her neediness in front of Booth—none of that should concern me because what Booth does in his personal time is none of my concern.

"What Booth does when he's pursuing leisure activities is really none of my concern," Brennan repeated.

Unless you're jealous, Bones.

"Of course, I do enjoy it when we spend our free time together, especially when indulging in certain extracurricular activities, but there is no reason why I should be troubled when I'm not with him."

Unless you're jealous, Bones.

"I do what I do, he does what he does, and that's very satisfactory."

Unless you're jealous, Bones.

"Why should I be jealous?" Brennan finally snapped. "Now—"

Considerations to Arriving at a Suitable Solution to Problem #2 - A lack of proper reflective time to logically dissect and process information. While I'm currently rectifying this issue by my participation in this current exercise, it's still important to know why this has occurred. Simply put, given how emotional I've been, I've been afraid to allow myself enough time to think about the situation that has caused my emotional unbalance. This is illogical. I haven't—and should never have been afraid—to think about something. In fact, by not confronting the situation and processing it analytically, I have actually allowed emotions to dominate my interpretation of the situation and given them more power and control over me than I ever should've done in the first place. A logical review of the evidence shows that I have nothing to be afraid about regarding my encounter with Booth or any of the subsequent emotions I've experienced because of it. Understanding it and placing it in its proper context is the logical and rational thing to do.

"See?" she said to herself. "This isn't a big deal at all, Brennan, you've just been silly. Too silly. There is no issue, no problem, given the right amount of time, that can't be solved by careful thought and reflection."

Unless you're jealous, Bones.

"And, so—"

Solution to Problem #2 - Mentally confront and assess the situation of my sexual encounter with Booth. Done. That having been completed—

Conclusions Reached after Solution to Problem #2 Enacted: It is illogical to deny or repress the significance of my sexual encounter with Booth. Logically, this begins by verbalizing the situation.

"I had sex with my partner," Brennan admitted slowly. "There's nothing to be afraid in making that admission. Indeed, my acknowledgement of that admission is crucial towards getting my responses to Booth under control. I had sex with my partner. I had sex with…Booth." She stopped, again tightening her grip on the steering wheel, which her fingers were clutching so tightly that they were turning white. When she noticed, Brennan forced herself to ease her grip. Slowly, she took a breath nodded again. "There, I said it. I had sex with Booth, and it was a fun, enjoyable, pleasurable experience." She stopped, letting out another deep breath. She then added with a wry smile, "And, in the interests of complete honesty, given the opportunity, I would like to have sex with him again." Brennan paused. "Okay, there, I said it. I want to have sex with Booth again—provided that Booth understands that my desire to spend personal time in recreational acts with him in no way signifies my submission to him in any way, shape, or form. We're partners—"

We're partners, Brennan thought. We're partners. We're equals. Above all else, that aspect of our interaction must be preserved and maintained. Should I engage in another sexual encounter with Booth, it may serve two functions. First, it will alleviate any additional physical stress I feel—in reference to problem #1's solution. Second, it will allow me to cease reacting to Booth an overtly personal way and thus allow me to gain enough distance and perspective to do my job to the high standards of practice that I've become accustomed to doing it over the years. Both are desirable outcomes.

"Just like Booth," Brennan said with another smile cracking the seriousness of her face. "He can be quite desirable, and there's nothing wrong with me admitting that. Logically, nothing's wrong with me admitting it. I'm no different making that admission than if I were to deny it. Nothing's changed. Nothing's different. Everything's just as it's always been."

Would you look me in the eye?
Could you look me in the eye?
I've had all that I can take
I'm not about to break
Cause I'm happy now, ohhh, ohhh
Are you happy now?

"On that note," Brennan said, "there's only one thing left to consider."

Problem #3 - The current state of my partnership with Booth. Over the past week, his behavior has been such that he does not seem to remember the definition of the word 'partner'. I believe this stems from issues on his part that are notions whereby his typical alpha-male tendencies equate sexual coupling with ownership of me. Booth's acts to control me are inappropriate and cannot be tolerated. However, I must admit I find this somewhat confusing, as his lack of any disquieting response to our sexual encounter would seem to contradict this assessment. I'm uncertain how he can feel a need to control me if what we did was pleasurable by easily dismissible, since such attempts to claim ownership would be indicative of some type of bond with me.

"Hmmm...curious. Quite curious. But, in the end, perhaps it's not as big a deal as it seems. Perhaps once I tell Booth he needs to back off a bit about trying to control me, it probably won't even be an issue," Brennan told herself. "Really, it shouldn't be, because, well—I'm probably making this more complicated than it needs to be. Booth's just being Booth. I'm his partner, and that's why he's been demonstrating certain proprietary interests in me. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that we had sex."

Considerations to Arriving at a Suitable Solution to Problem #3 - Booth. While my recent emotional responses to a myriad of situations is an aberration from my the practicality of my normal logical and rational responses, his emotional responses are part of his intuitive nature. It will be difficult to confront him on this change in his behavior, and explain that he must modify it accordingly. At the very least, he may react combatively and aggressively when I point out the inappropriate and unfair aspects of his most recent actions towards me. I must be prepared to react in a calm and logical way to explain to him why his instinctual reaction is incorrect, and I'll need to be patient while he realizes the correct assessment I've made.

"I can do that," Brennan said. "That's simple. First, I'll apologize for my inappropriate behavior at the crime scene. He was right. I was not acting in a way that befits my status or talents. I overstepped, and I'll tell him I'm sorry. Then we'll talk. I'll tell him everything that I've just figured out, and I know I can definitely be persuasive and patient while Booth comes to realize the validity of my points."

When I saw my best friend yesterday,
She said she never liked you from the start,
Well me, I wish that I could claim the same,
But, you always knew you held my heart.
And, you're such a charming, handsome man,
Now I think I finally understand,
Is it in your genes, I don't know,
But I'll soon find out, that's for sure,
Why did you play me this way?

"So, the solution to all of this is pretty simple," Brennan said. "All I need to do to solve Problem #3 is arrange an opportunity to communicate with him in a constructive manner with Booth. I just need to maintain a calm and balanced mindset while discussing the aforementioned issues regarding his behavior. Simple. Easy. That's all there is to it, really."

Nodding to herself, Brennan felt a lot better than she had before she had begun her impromptu drive to calm down and gather her thoughts. As she continued to think about her recent conclusions and decisions, Brennan's stomach started to growl. Frowning at the noise, as Brennan glanced at the clock, and realized she had been driving for almost an hour, she shook her head as she now knew why her stomach was making noises as if it hadn't been fed in hours. It was making noises, in fact, because Brennan hadn't eaten all day. But for the coffee Booth had brought her that morning, and a protein bar she had as she rode with Hastert back into downtown, Brennan hadn't had a decent meal all day. It was now well past three o'clock, and Brennan surmised that if she hadn't eaten, Booth probably hadn't, either.

Her frown deepening at the thought, Brennan felt a pang of concern over her partner's well being. I doubt he's eaten, and he's never in a good mood when he's hungry. He probably won't even listen to me if he's pissy because he hasn't eaten. So, what can I do to tempt him?

An image of Brennan tempting him as she pressed her naked body up against his before they clashed in a searing kiss ran through her mind. Later, she said, pushing it away. Maybe later, if this all goes well, and I stick to the plan. But, for now, I need to get something to eat and choose a place where I can also get something that I know Booth will like. So, maybe— the diner, of course. Yeah, I'll swing by the diner and grab a salad for me and something for Booth and take it back to the lab. Maybe if I can procure some type of confection—something made from a lot of sugar— it will make it easier to tempt him into taking a brief respite. Then, once we're both in private, we'll be able to consume our food and freely discuss my recent realizations and proposed course of action.

Deciding she would make the slight detour en route back to the lab, Brennan immediately felt better about things than she had in several days—and most definitely than she had since her disastrous morning began. Putting on her turn signal, Brennan maneuvered the car off the next exit, and turned around. As she headed back into D.C., Brennan told herself, "While a useful exercise, I've indulged myself for long enough. I've got a plan of action, and now it's time to execute. End of story. Case closed."

Nodding again, perhaps as if to reassure herself, Brennan pretended not to hear a small part of her brain—the part that had annoyingly started speaking to her in Booth's voice—mutter again, You're still ignoring the whole jealously thing there, huh? But, I suppose, if you think it works, you keep telling yourself that, Bones. Just keep telling yourself that.

Well, I guess what you say is true,
I could never be the right kind of girl for you,
I could never be your woman.
I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman.

Booth walked into the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal Lab and approached the forensics platform, swiped his card and bounded up the steps with a determined stride. His eyes scanned the platform, which now held the most recent set of remains recovered from Greenbelt Park. Cam and Zach stood on opposite sides of the examination table, but Brennan was nowhere to be seen. Looking up at the newcomer, Cam merely glanced at Booth, gave him a slight nod, and then returned to the details she was examining near the victim's spleen.

Booth, noticing Cam's subdued response, waited for her to look up again. When she did, this time, Booth met her eyes with a nod. "Camille?"

"Yes, Seeley?"

"I don't suppose you squints have anything for me yet, right?" he asked.

Booth surveyed the remains on the table and noted with a quiet sigh that, in fact, the remains were not substantially different than they had appeared at the crime scene: most of the left half of the body, the portion that had been buried in the creek bed, was still caked with a quarter- to a half-inch of humus material. After Brennan's sudden departure from the crime scene, he'd watched Cam and Hodgins spend the rest of the morning struggling to free the body before finally giving up and more or less cutting the remains out of the hard-packed mud so that the remains could be transported back to and cleaned at the lab. Booth smiled vaguely as he thought how, while the crime scene itself was pretty messy, this body—at least, so far, as dead bodies went, it seemed fairly un-messy. It didn't really smell that bad, it didn't seem to be particularly gooey, slimy or otherwise icky, and there wasn't a tremendous amount of creepy crawly bug crap that made Hodgins' euphoric. There was some, yes, but a smaller amount that was doable without Booth wanting to toss his cookies. However, as he glanced at the body, he realized with a sigh, that it wasn't like he had any cookie in his stomach to toss, since the glazed donuts he'd eaten that morning were many hours in the past, and he didn't know when he'd have a chance to grab something.

Maybe I can run up to the lounge to grab something from the vending machines, Booth wondered, as he looked curiously at the remains.

The skeletonized part was pretty clean, and the other halfat least the parts that had the muck picked off of it—was pretty much mummified, much like Hodgins had described the Danish bog body. Errr, not muck, Booth thought, remembering Hodgins' diatribe about the term. Humus, right? Gotta remember that so I get it right when I tell Parks. Humus. Booth silently wondered how he could arrange to have more of the bodies be this un-gross. The one that we found dissolving in the bathtub full of lye was pretty damn nasty, he remembered. That might just be the worst. Then, again, Maggie Schilling's bodyleft to rot in an old refrigerator for a yearwas pretty heinous, too. Poor girl.

Shaking her head, Cam said, "Nope. Sorry. It takes longer than the five minutes we've had the remains on the slab to be able to get anything of substance, Booth." She paused and then leveled her gaze at him. "Of course, you know that already," she said in a low voice, "So, are you ready to tell me the real reason you're here or what?"

"Just checking on the case, Camille, just checking on the case," he said, as he hit the fist of one hand into the palm of the other and then snapped his fingers before he stole another glance around the platform.

Cam noticed the action and said, "Right." She stopped and then tilted her head at Booth as she asked, "Should I take your rather subdued manner to mean that that you're calmed down now, Seeley, and I'm not going to have to send you to time-out again?" Cam didn't bother to wait for an answer as she pulled a magnifying lens that was positioned over the victim's abdominal cavity a bit closer to her.

Shaking his head, Booth muttered, "Ha, ha, ha—very funny, Camille."

Looking up at him, Cam said, "I'm dead serious, Seeley." She then took a step away from the examination table and walked over to Booth. Lowering her voice so that only he could hear her, Cam said, "Now, look. That little stunt that you and Brennan pulled at the crime scene—whatever it was, I think we both don't need me to spell it out for you, but just to be on the safe side, you need to know that I'm not going to put up with that type of stuff here."

Booth sighed. "Look, Cam—"

Waving her hand, Cam said dismissively, "What you and Dr. Brennan want to do on your own time—be it screaming at each other at the top of your lungs just for fun or because it's some kind of weird kind of foreplay that you two are into, fine." She watched for his reaction, but he merely blinked in an outward response to her blatant innuendo—but, his inner response was another matter entirely.

No, Camille, Booth thought. I can definitely come up with several better ideas of awesome foreplay than a screaming match with Bones, thank you very much. He thought back to the delicious way he'd explored Brennan's body a week earlier, as she lay sprawled out and naked in his bed, ready, waiting, and anxious for his touch as they'd teased each other into a sexual frenzy. On the other hand, he reminded himself, that whole verbal duel thing we did at the nightclub, while wildly inappropriate and definitely high up on the list of things I'll never do again, was pretty damn erotic—and, not that I didn't think that before, but she's so hot when she's like thatI mean, how can anyone not get hard when she's staring at you like that, nostrils flaring, tits heaving? Shit, by the time Cam ambushed us at Greenbelt, I was so effin' horned u,p I was about ready to drag Bones back to the Tahoe, tear that goddamn jumpsuit off her body, throw her up against the truck, and fuck her damn brains out against the driver's side door. He looked away, his eyes resting on some indistinct spot over Cam's shoulder as he stared into space and briefly savored the image in his mind. But, if we're talking just straight foreplay here, I'd definitely have to stick with playing with those amazing, juicy tits of hers—goddamn, she's got the best pair I've ever seen. I mean, the way her nipples felt under my tongue was just so, wow—and then going down on her is so fucking great because I've never tasted anything as wonderful in my life, never mind the way it felt when she came in my mouth

Except that this entire train of thought is really not helping. Not at all.

For fuck's sake Booth, he thought trying to push away the stirring in his groin. Get a goddamn grip! Professional remember? What happened to keeping it strictly professional when you're on the clock, huh?

"So, whatever floats to your boat or whatever you two get off on, like I said, fine. But, keep it out of my lab, Seeley."

Booth frowned at her, and, deciding that ignoring her comment was the best defense—the best course of action for avoiding keeping sucked into another very bizarre conversation with Cam about a topic he really didn't want to think about before he saw Brennan—he said, "Speaking of, where is she?"

"Who?" Cam said, thinking that Booth was again evading the issue she had broached with him. It took her a minute to realize that he was serious by the tone of his answer.

Sighing an exasperated sigh, Booth said, "Bones?"

Standing a bit straighter, she said, "I don't know, Booth."

"What do you mean you don't know where she is, Camille?" Booth asked, his forehead wrinkled in annoyance. "This place isn't that big, and so there aren't that many places she could be hiding. So spill. Where is she?"

"I'm serious, Seeley," Cam told him. "As far as I know, Dr. Brennan isn't here."

"Of course, she's here," he said, shaking his head. "You must've just missed her."

"I'd know if she were here," Cam replied tartly. "As we both know, she has a tendency to react… strongly if I don't inform her promptly when remains arrive for examination. I tried to look for her twenty minutes ago, and I couldn't find her, so wherever Dr. Brennan is right now, I know it's not here."

Shaking his head again, Booth said, "That makes absolutely no sense, Camille. I had Vince Hastert drive her back from the crime scene almost four hours ago." He stopped and looked at Zach as he said, "Is she hiding down in Limbo?"

Zach shook his head and replied in the monotonous, Vulcan-like tone of his that always gave Booth the creeps. "No."

"Well, then where is she?" Booth pressed him. "Her office?"

Again, Zach shook his head. "No." He blinked at Booth, refusing to be cowed by the FBI agent in much the same way as his mentor. Booth narrowed his eyes, but remained quiet as he let the squint speak. "To my knowledge, I find I must concur with Dr. Saroyan's initial assessment. Dr. Brennan's not here."

"'Not here' as in 'not here' where? The lab? The Jeffersonian? Or what?" Booth asked, his growing annoyance clearly evident in his voice.

"Yes, yes, and I don't know how to answer your final question," Zach replied bluntly.

Sighing again, Booth shot Zach a dirty look—which Brennan's junior squint promptly ignored—before he reached into the pocket of his jeans. Grabbing his cell phone, Booth reluctantly pursed his lips as he spun around and faced away from the examination table and dialed Brennan's number. He immediately felt his annoyance flare into a sharp stab of intense irritation when his call didn't even register a single ring, but went straight to her voicemail. What the hell, Bones? Where in the hell are you? Booth wondered.

"She's not picking up her cell phone," Booth said, after he had tried a second time to get Brennan to answer her cell phone and had failed.

Sighing again, Booth immediately began to scroll through his contacts to get Hastert's number. Jesus, Bones. Ya know, I really don't have time for this. Where in the hell did you go?

"Maybe she had a detour to make that delayed her return to the lab," Zach offered, as he watched indicators in Booth's body language signifying that the FBI agent was growing steadily more and more agitated.

"No," Booth said immediately. "She's supposed to be here, at the lab, and she's supposed to have been here for almost four hours." He hooked his thumb in his jeans pocket and drummed his fingers on his Cocky belt buckle, sucking in a deep breath and exhaling in a tense huff through his nostrils. He cocked his head and glanced over to Brennan's office, rolling his jaw from side to side as he rubbed his eyes in frustration.

Cam watched Booth's mood shift, his annoyance clearly growing as he determined that Brennan's actions had apparently upset his plan. She also noticed that hidden just beneath the annoyance and frustration was something else. Although it was hidden, Cam could definitely sense just a subtle amount of another emotion in Booth's response to the fact that Brennan wasn't at the Jeffersonian as he had anticipated. She also doubted that anyone else but her would have been able to pick up on it from observing Booth's body language. However, because of it, she decided a bit of reassurance wasn't necessarily a bad thing, lest Booth start jumping to worst-case scenario conclusions as he was prone to do when it came to his partner—especially after she and Hodgins were abducted and nearly killed by the Gravedigger only a year earlier. "I'm sure she's fine, Seeley."

"Yeah, I'm sure she is, too, Camille," Booth snapped, as he dialed Hastert's number. He looked up at her, and Cam saw the emotion flash again behind his expressive brown eyes. Quickly pushing it away, Booth replied with an abruptness that would have made Brennan proud. "But, until I know that this is just another case of Bones being the classical pain in my ass that she's been lately, let's not make any assumptions, huh?"

Cam frowned at him, but said nothing as she returned to examining the victim's remains. She occasionally glanced up as Booth walked away from the examination table and down the stairs, taking his place several feet from the base of the platform, and Cam heard his lowered voice as he made his calls from a safe, more private distance.

A few minutes later, after Booth had talked to Hastert and been told of the detour that resulted in Brennan never returning to the lab, he pocketed his cell phone and sighed as he rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. Looking up at Cam and Zach, Booth said, "Hastert said he dropped her off at her apartment to pick up her car about three and a half hours ago. That's all he knows."

"Well, it is more than we knew before you called him," Zach noted in his logical tone that was just a bit more squinty than Booth had the patience to deal with on a good day—and this was definitely turning out not to be a good day, despite how promising the morning had started off before Brennan's bitchiness had rained all over his good mood. Silenced with a look, Zack didn't bother to finish his statement, and instead returned to examining the cranial sutures that suddenly seemed to demand his full attention.

Shaking his head, Booth said to no one in particular, "Where in the hell could she be?"

As if to irritate him more with her perfect timing, only forewarned by the swipe of an access card and heels clicking on the platform, Brennan suddenly appeared as if by magic and answered Booth's question with an even look in her eyes. "Where could who be, Booth?" Stunned, Booth blinked but said nothing as his partner approached the slab.

Booth couldn't help but stare at Brennan for several long moments after she appeared. Oh, thank God, Booth exhaled a breath of relief. His second thought was, Jesus, what a pain in the ass you are, Bones. She had obviously changed since he'd last seen her. Instead of wearing the Jeffersonian field jumpsuit, she was dressed in what Booth could only describe as casual for Brennan. She wore a cream-colored knit pull-over blouse that was fairly simple with its square neckline, although Booth did appreciate the touch of lace that adorned the neckline making it—and by default, Brennan—seem just a bit softer, just a bit more...feminine. The blouse was secured around her waist with a wide dark brown leather belt. Her dark blue denim skirt fell just above her knees, while the closed-toed dark brown heels she wore screamed practicality, but again, emphasized the shapeliness of her ankles and added a couple of inches to her height. Brennan's hair had already been pulled back into a careless ponytail. Her hairstyle, at least, brought some sense of normalcy to her appearance on the platform.

Walking up to him, she smiled and waited for his response. It took Booth a few seconds to again adjust to Brennan's unpredictable mood swings, and—if he were to be honest with himself—the fact that Brennan looked as she looked in that moment. Wow, he thought. She, ah...dammit. She looks great. Booth pursed his lips as another voice in his head spoke up at that particular moment. Ahh, Brennan's Co-dependent Bitch, table for one. One sway of her ass in a skirt, and stick a fork in ityou're done, Booth. How's that for sticking to your guns? Pathetic. Absolutely friggin' pathetic.

"Booth?" Brennan asked.

"Uh, yeah, Bones?" Booth eventually managed, his voice a bit rough as he tried to decide if he was still angry at her—yes!—and if so, how much—a bit, but not as much as before.

Arching an eyebrow at him, Brennan asked, "Who were you looking for?"

A voice from behind them interrupted Booth, just as he opened his mouth to speak.

"Agent Booth was quite agitated and perturbed when he arrived at the lab and couldn't determine your whereabouts, Dr. Brennan," Zach offered. Pursing his lips, he added, "Although, it might be pertinent to also mention that since your arrival, the prior signs of physical distress that he displayed during your absence have lessened. Instead, his rate of respiration appears to have decreased, and—"

"Oy!" Booth suddenly said, spinning around and pointing at Zach. Transferring his anger from Brennan to her assistant seemed like a convenient, although temporary, solution to his current predicament. "Zip it, would ya, kid?"

Slightly offended at Booth's sharp and patronizing response, Zach looked to Brennan who merely nodded with a silent chuckle.

Taking a deep breath, and trying to bite back a smile despite the fact as to how amusing and endearing she found Zach's description of Booth's reaction to her absence, Brennan said, "I apologize if my delay in returning to the lab inconvenienced you, Booth." She paused and then nodded at Cam, "Or, anyone else, for that matter. It was not my intent to be gone for as long as I was."

"So, where have ya been, Bones?" Booth asked, suddenly having recovered his ability to speak in complete sentences.

Lifting a small brown paper bag that Booth didn't notice she had been caring until that very minute, Brennan said, "I was hungry, and so I made a run to grab some food from the diner." Extending the bag to him, she said, "I know I hadn't eaten all day, and I'm guessing you probably didn't either, so I took the liberty of getting you a piece of pie, Booth."

Hesitantly taking the bag from her, Booth eyed it warily, almost as if it were holding a bomb and not a dessert. "Pie?" Booth finally said. "Wow—uhhh, you brought me a piece of pie, Bones?"

Brennan nodded. "I know you prefer apple pie, but the only choices they had today were cherry and French Silk pie. As I was concerned about leaving the French Silk pie unrefrigerated as I travelled between the diner and the lab, despite the fact that I know you prefer chocolate above all else, I selected the slice of cherry pie as more appropriate under the logistical circumstances."

Still slightly shocked, Booth arched his eyebrow and nodded slowly. Jesus, maybe she is developing split personalities. God, this is exhausting. Shit, who can keep up with her when she's like this? And, more importantly, what's next? "Uh, thanks, Bones."

"You're welcome," Brennan said as she moved past him. Accepting a fresh pair of gloves that Zach held out for her, Brennan she snapped them on and called over her shoulder. "We're going to need a bit of time with the remains, Booth, to give you the information you need. Why don't you go to my office, have your pie, and I'll come and get you as soon as we know something?" She stopped and then added, "I have several cans of the soda you like in the small refrigerator behind my desk. They should be cold, so feel free to help yourself."

The look Booth knew had fallen over his face, despite the fact that he knew he had one of the best poker faces around, could only convey one thing—surprise—at Brennan's actions, although he knew he should know better by this point in their partnership…relationship? For years now he knew that she could, and often would, surprise him. It was just that the surprises had become more frequent and, in no small measure, less pleasant, in the week since the night they'd spent together. Since when does Bones stock her mini-fridge with cans of Coke for me? Booth wondered, dumbfounded by this partner's behavior.

Glancing down at the brown paper bag, Booth's stomach suddenly rumbled, and he knew Brennan's assessment of his not stopping to eat during the course of the day had been correct. He'd just been too busy to eat. Deciding to not look a gift horse—or a forensic anthropologist bearing gifts—in the mouth, Booth nodded, and even though Brennan was already deep in conversation with Cam and Zach, he called to her. "I, uh, guess I'm just going to go take my pie back to your office and eat it there, Bones."

Looking up at him, Brennan quickly nodded, interrupted what she was saying to Zach. "An excellent plan of action, Booth," she said with a sudden smile. "Don't worry. I'll come get you when we're done here—or, if we find anything significant. I promise."

Booth watched Brennan smile at him again, and, again, he felt as if it were a very surreal experience. Nodding once in agreement, he turned to retreat from the platform to her office, and he wondered if she even knew he had left as she seemed already lost in discussion of Zach's cursory examination of the body.

Shaking his head, Booth muttered, half in annoyance and half in admiration, "Squints."


AN2: Okay, so there you have it. Brennan knows she's going nuts and is trying to do something about it. But, the first thing she does after coming to her self-cathartic revelation is that she brings Booth piecherry pie, mind you. Do you wonder how that's going to go over when the lab's resident Wife of Bath hears about it? Then, drop us a line, and let us know, because a special appearance by Angela is up next.

We (dharmamonkey and I) always wait on pins and needles when a chapter hits, because we want to know what you guys think. So, be kind and have mercy—put us out of our misery by clicking that little link below marked 'Review'.

And, keep your TV tuned to this same station because we're now only officially just past the half-way point in this story. There's lots more to come—if want to see it more quickly, you know what to do.~