Disclaimer :: The characters herein are the property of their creators. I make no profit from their use.

:: R i t u a l ::

written by Starlet2367 { e-mail // livejournal }



"…and Hodgins also has a bottle of pure alcohol in his desk." Bones cut her eyes at Booth. "It's left over from Christmas."

"So what you're saying is, you Squints have enough alcohol in your offices to fuel Fort Benning." Booth calculated the open parking space against the size of the Yukon. It would be close, but it was the only opening on 7th.

"What I'm saying is that we didn't need to come to a bar to drink."

"Yes, we did." He put his right hand on the back of Brennan's seat and looked over his shoulder, guiding the SUV into the space with his left. The pain meds the doctor gave him for his wrist were starting to wear off, but he could still maneuver.

He killed the ignition then jogged around and opened her door. That she let him do it clued him in as to how fine she really wasn't.

"But, I don't understand." She shook her head.

"I know," said Booth. "Just pretend."

She paused at the plate glass window next to the carved wooden door and said, over her shoulder, "Shaky's?"

He glanced at the window, noticing it for the first time in years. The Old English letters were hand-painted in gold, outlined in black, and said "Shaky's Pub, Est. 1979."

"I told you the bartender was named Shaky." Booth pulled the door open and motioned her in. Music flowed out, topping the low hum of chatter and the clink of beer bottles on scarred wooden tables. He hummed to Dr. John's "Right Place Wrong Time" as they crossed the boards to the bar.

"Hey, Booth." Someone brushed his elbow.

He glanced down. "Welch. How's it going?"

Laura Welch sat with two other women, all wearing the power suits and fuck-me pumps that sent mixed signals to men up and down the Beltway. Laura's drink was half-full and her shirt was unbuttoned far enough to show more than a discreet shadow of cleavage.

Since he'd already seen it, up close and personal, he kept his eyes on her face.

She smiled. "Busy. Good. Haven't seen you around."

"You know how it is."

"Who's your friend?" Welch nodded at Brennan.

Booth pulled her close to get her out of the aisle. "My partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan."

Brennan shook Welch's hand. "Nice to meet you."

"So you're Booth's partner?" Laura shot Booth a sly look from under her lashes.

"Uh huh." Brennan crossed her arms and said, "What do you do?"

"I'm a DA." Laura smiled.

"Oh. Booth likes lawyers."

Booth didn't like where this was going. "Right. Well, it was good to see you. Brennan? Bar?" He moved her in that direction with a strong push.

There was one empty barstool at the end. He pulled it out for her. "Would you rather have a table?"

She shook her head. "But why don't you take the seat? I can stand."

"No, I'm fine." He motioned to Shaky, who started working his way toward them.

"Agent Booth." Shaky was short and bull-necked with a bristly gray flat top. His nose was crooked and he walked with a limp. His shirt was a faded standard-issue tee with ARMY across the front.

They shook. "Been awhile." He glanced at Brennan.

Booth put his hand on her shoulder. "My partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan."


Brennan blinked. "I prefer Dr. Brennan."

He smiled at her then looked at Booth. "What can I get you two to drink?" Over his shoulder hung a row of framed black-and-white photos including the Hoover under construction, the White House festooned with snow and Shaky, shaking President Reagan's hand.

"Two Jack and Diet Cokes," Booth said.

Bones looked back at him. "I thought we were getting drunk."

Booth rested his arms on the back of her high-backed barstool, careful not to jar his wrist. "We're just getting warmed up."

Shaky came back with two tumblers, said, "Ma'am," and went to help another customer.

Brennan picked up her glass. "I told him not to call me that."

"He's an old Army dog. You'll never get him to stop." He picked up his drink and sipped. The sweet-cold-heat effervesced on his tongue. He swallowed another mouthful.

If it'd been just him, he'd have ordered a shot and told Shaky to leave the bottle. But in a bar like Shaky's, around the corner from the Hoover, and packed with off-duty cops, lawyers and Feebs, that was like hanging a sign around your neck that said, "I killed someone today."

He wanted to spare Brennan that attention and speculation. But he also respected the ritual.

Brennan revolved the seat of her barstool so they were knee to knee. She sucked her drink through the skinny red straw. "The production of alcohol is present in all cultures. It reflects their cultural and religious peculiarities."

Booth blinked. "Uh huh."

"Intentionally fermented beverages were discovered as early as the Neolithic period."

Booth waved at Shaky then held up two fingers. By the time he got back with the next round, they'd be ready for them. "I'll drink to that."

When Brennan shifted, one leg slid between his. Booth gently squeezed his thighs together to keep her leg from sliding any farther inland.

She was jiggling ice when Shaky arrived with round two.

"Ma'am," he said. He nodded at Booth and left, wiping down the bar with a terry towel.

Brennan dropped the straw on the bar behind her and chugged half of her drink.

"You're gonna get brain freeze."

"Brain freeze?"

"Ice cream headache?"

The confusion cleared. "There's no real scientific explanation for that phenomenon."


"'scuse me." The guy sitting next to Brennan shuffled off the barstool and Booth slipped in behind him and sat down. He propped his wrist on the bar, wincing at the twinge of pain.

Brennan twirled to face the bar. "How's your wrist?"

"What? Oh, it's fine." He shrugged. He glanced at her. "How you doing?"

She smiled. "Fine. Good. Better."

Booth motioned to Shaky. "Bump us up to Jack. Rocks."

"Sure thing."

He sipped his drink, pacing it so he was just finishing off his first Jack as she was throwing back the last of her third.

When Shaky came back this time, he stayed, propping one foot on the bar rail while he wiped down the bar. "How you been, Booth?"

"Been good. You?"

"Can't complain." He eyeballed Brennan. "Your partner, you said?"

He nodded. "Bones is a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian." He glanced at Brennan. "Shaky was a Ranger, back in the day. One of the best." He tipped his drink at him.

Shaky shifted his toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other. "That's debatable."

"Modest too," said Booth.

"Did you ever shoot anyone?" asked Brennan.

"Uh, Brennan –" Booth cut his eyes from Shaky to Brennan.

A barback carried out a rack of steaming glasses and dropped them behind the bar. Shaky started drying and stacking.

"I was a sniper, like your partner here." He put down a glass and pulled up his pants leg. "Got my leg shot up in Afghanistan. Docs took it off, sent me home."

Brennan leaned over the bar. "That looks like a C-Leg." She sounded impressed.

Shaky rapped his knuckles on it. "Bionic." He winked at her.

Her brows pulled down. "Bionic?"

"Jaime Summers? Steve Austin?"

Booth said, "Bones was a little sheltered growing up."

Shaky refreshed their glasses. "You ever shot anyone, Miss Anthropologist?" he asked, in a teasing tone.


Shaky's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

Booth's hand tightened on his glass.

"Twice. Once last year and once today."

"Today? Seriously?"

Brennan nodded. "I shot a serial killer." She looked at Booth. "I killed him."

Shaky glanced from the brace on Booth's arm, to Brennan's face. Then he turned back to Booth.

Booth shrugged.

Shaky ducked under the bar and came up with a bottle of Jameson's and three shot glasses. He poured all three with a rock steady hand.

They picked them up, clinked and rocked back the shot in unison. Even with his taste buds numbed by Jack, the Jameson's warmed like a banked fire on the way down.

Brennan coughed. Booth patted her on the back.

Shaky held up the bottle. "Another?"

"Sure," said Booth.

They did one more shot. When Brennan put her glass down on the bar, she closed her eyes and breathed deep through her nose.

Booth took that as his cue. "I think we've had enough."

"Take this girl home," Shaky said. He patted Brennan's hand. "Come back any time."

Booth threw enough money on the bar to cover the drinks and leave a $20 tip.

At Brennan's apartment, he parked the car in her garage and, with his arm around her shoulder, helped her to her door. He took the key from her and put it in the lock.

She leaned her forehead on the doorjamb. "Hey," she said. She pivoted her head so she could see him. Her hand moved and she held up Jasper in fingers that trembled slightly. "Thanks."

Sometimes the emptiness in her life snuck up on him and sucker punched him. "You gonna be okay?"

She put Jasper back in her coat pocket. "I'll be fine."

He pushed the door open. She went in and closed the door behind her.

Booth stood, palm on the wood, until the light under the door went dark and he could no longer hear her moving inside the apartment.