A/N: Yeah, yeah, another "Sweets is alive" story. Sue me. ;) Not sure I'm going to finish this... but so far I like it. I've got a few key scenes set up in my head, but I can't come up with a way to transition between them. Let me know what you think! :)

"Look, Scully, if you're resistant because you don't believe, I'll respect that.
But if you're resistant because of some bureaucratic pressure, they've not only reeled you in. They've already skinned you."

- Fox Mulder, The X-Files (Tooms, 1x20)

It begins with a body dumped in an open field in the middle of May, rotted and halfway decomposed in the early morning sunlight. The case report that landed on Booth's desk never mentioned it, but he discovers upon arrival that the wheat stalks, now faded and stiff, had all been broken. Bent back in varying direction, they somehow form a clearing, a near-perfect circle around a patch of short grass, where the victim lies in all their decayed, miasmic glory.

He can't drive his van onto the field – for fear of either damaging possible evidence or damaging any crop that could possibly be salvaged – and neither can any of the forensic scientists or federal agents attending. So they walk the distance, holding their equipment close to their chests, swatting away wayward flies as they go. It is not a terribly long journey, and at the end of it, that start right to work.

While the remains look vaguely eaten at, there are no bugs, animals, living things or otherwise within any working radius. So Jack Hodgins begins with the wheat. He finds no discernable cause for crop failure at first glance, no reason for the strange set of their bends, so he simply keeps looking, studying, analyzing. A field journal in hand, he circles around the perimeter, a planet orbiting its center.

Cam Saroyan, having taken her place by the head, looks on with an expression of slight disgust – something so rarely seen in a pathologist so accustomed to performing autopsy after autopsy. The woman has held brain matter in her hands, sliced clean through knotted half-semblances of flesh. Even so, she shares the same expression as Booth, loathe to set sight on the body on the ground, yet unable to look away.

"Oh, God, is this even human? I've never seen anything like that."

Neither, so the wager goes, has anyone else in this clearing. While some bones are peaking through, partly visible, the majority of what lies before them is an off-grey lump of tissue and excess skin. Underneath, just barely seen, is a small smear of white, reflecting the morning light as would some opaque liquid.

As they speak, it is being collected into evidence containers, and as soon as the grunt agent in between them steps aside, Brennan tilts her head to one side and answers, her voice a soft, factual hum. Her tone is far more intrigued than anything else.

"It would appear to be human," she says, gently pressing her gloved fingertips against what looks to be the victim's neck. Or, at least, whatever's left of it. "If you feel it, you'll find the flesh has the same texture and consistency as that of the average human. And that aside, the remains retain the general human skeletal structure, save for a few markers. At this point, I would make a preliminary hypothesis that the victim was severely physically handicapped. As for the color and other substances…"

She runs her index finger over a small patch of grass, now stained white, and glances over to the far end of the clearing, where their resident botanist is still studying the lifeless wheat.

"I trust that Dr. Hodgins will be able to find the chemical cause for those changes."

Cam just nods. Angela, from her spot just behind her, snaps her camera, and from behind the flash, her face shares the same expression as Cam's, as Booth's.

The investigation moves forward slowly, with the team trudging through the case's strangeness as if it were thick mud around their feet. They aren't even halfway through their analysis when a rustling sound starts echoing through the open space and a figure makes its way into view.

This is where it starts.

Time seems to freeze in that very second, along with Booth, Angela, and every Jeffersonian scientist in the vicinity, because appearing in front of them, just feet from Hodgins, is a man roughly six feet tall. His dark hair is cut short, the front standing straight in contrast to his old tight curls, but his eyes, his face – they're unmistakable.


It's Hodgins who says it. The man standing just a few arms' lengths away is the picture of a man he once knew – a man they all knew.

But Lance Sweets was killed in 2014. He was murdered. He's dead, long gone, part of the Earth once again. Surely not standing in front of them in 2018, alive and well.

And yet – when have his eyes ever truly lied to him? A man of science, Jack Hodgins trusts his eyes. In front of him, plain and clear, is Lance Sweets. The new man in the clearing, on the other hand – does not seem to agree.

"Excuse me?" he says, his voice a familiar hum in the ear of everyone listening. His eyebrows are knitted in short-tempered confusion, and his head tilts forward, practically demanding an answer. He receives only silence at first; to the people scattered in front of him, the sight of a man long dead is not something to be taken lightly, and the air is therefore charged with a tense mix of apprehension, fear – and a sudden hope that almost surely seems false.

"Lance Sweets," is all Hodgins can stammer out. "It's – it's you."

And he trails right off. The more a person says, after all – the greater chance they have of being wrong. So, as if he could will the sight in front of him to be true, just by refusing to consider the alternative, he goes quiet.

But the man in front of him, slightly irritable and confused still, does not afford him the same false hope.

"Is that a name? You must have the wrong guy."

Hodgins can't find the words to form a response. Thankfully, he doesn't have to. The new man covers that for him, clearing his throat and raising his voice just slightly so as to be heard among the rush of activity in the clearing.

"Who's the agent in charge here?"

Special Agent Seeley Booth, still caught in a trance, can only see a ghost in front of him. Still, he steps right up to that spitting image and stares.

"I am," he starts, but cannot finish with anything related to the case. "But… you're Sweets."

"I can assure you, sir, that I am no such person," the new man insists, choosing his words carefully. In the moment of widespread silence that follows, he clears his throat and changes the subject. "Name's Agent Daley. I'm going to have to dismiss your team and ask for all your paperwork on this case. It's been reassigned to me."

A/N: Yeah. I had a page break here for the longest time, intending to continue this chapter, but I just can't find a good enough transition. The situation is just too bizarre, ya know?

Anyway, aside from that - I had a thought awhile ago that the stories I write (at least the ones for Bones) might be able to function as original work. I mean, if I changed the names, switched a few details out, and applied a little extra exposition, do you think they could pass? I love fanfiction, but I just don't want to be stuck as a fanfic writer forever, you feel me?

Thanks for reading! Feedback and even suggestions are not only welcomed - they are very, very necessary on this one! ;)