Observing the man standing just inside his doorway, Dr. Lance Sweets is a bit confused. Something is off. Usually there is an air of cockiness and subtle irritation, but today it's gone and replaced by what? Sweets sat on the arm of an overstuffed chair watching and wondering. How should he approach this side of Special Agent Seeley Booth? His usual abrupt behavior toward the therapist was not apparent today, and that mildly surprised him.
"You look like you've had a rough day Agent Booth. Why don't you have a seat?" He stood and patted the back of the chair he'd just vacated, but Booth simply shook his head and began to pace. The man looked like a caged lion that could turn on its trainer at any moment. Neither spoke at first as Booth stopped to look at the pictures and diplomas up on the therapist's walls. "I do have to say I was rather surprised to hear from you earlier. You sounded…distracted on the phone."
With a shake of his head, Booth moved from the wall and began pacing again, his arms across his chest in an effort to close himself off from the world. Lance kept his eyes on the FBI agent, watching as Booth's gaze refused to linger on any one thing. From their positioning, it was as though he were reliving something in his head. Finally after what seemed to be several minutes, Booth looked up at the therapist and opened his mouth to speak.
"I'm not sure why I came here."
"I'm sure you do Agent Booth, otherwise you wouldn't be in my office right now." There was no sarcasm to the comment as the young man continued to observe the agent.
"Something happened today that…" He shook his head and began to pace again.
"Does it have to do with Dr. Brennan?"
"No, it's nothing to do with Bones. I…" Booth sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. How was he going to talk about this? He couldn't handle the intense way Sweets was watching him, so when the younger man asked his next question, it caught Booth off guard.
"How's your son Parker doing? You mentioned once that he's in softball was it?"
"Yeah, he plays softball. His team is undefeated right now."
"Like the Pats, huh?" Booth quirked the corner of his mouth up at the words.
"Something like that. They're possibly going to be in the world series of softball."
"What position does he play?"
"He's a pitcher, and is on the way to a wicked fastball." Booth smiled wryly for a moment then frowned. "Softball is one of the few ways I get to see my son regularly. It's not like Rebecca lets me see him all that often."
"Rebecca's your ex?"
"You know, I wanted to marry her, but apparently she thought I was a horrible person and turned me down. She has this new guy in her life, Captain Fantastic. He spends more time with my son than I do. What's fair about that? Why is it that his own father can't see him, but some random guy that's sleeping with her can see him all the time?"
"I'm sensing that you're angry about something."
"Gee you think? It's just not fair. I'm a good father. She knows I'm a good father, so why the hell," he hit a wall with his fist, "don't I get to see him more often. It's like the whole world is against me sometimes. My parents gave me hell for having Parker out of wedlock."
"You don't generally speak about your parents."
"No, why would I? The only thing I ever hear from them is how lousy I am. I can't stick to one thing, I'm going against my faith, I have problems, and then there's my brother. Jared is the golden child. He's the doctor with the wife and three kids. They go to church every Sunday like the good Catholics they are. As if I don't go every week myself."
"No, I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear how problems that I have now are related to my parents. Gordon Gordon tried that with me, and it didn't work then."
"I wasn't going to say anything of the sort. Something is bothering you, that much is obvious, and I'd like to find out what it is. What makes you angry?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Just give me a list of things that bother you. What makes you angry?" Sweets leaned back in his chair and waited for Booth to absorb the question. The agent was quiet for a long moment and rubbed a hand through his hair.
"You want to know what it is that makes me angry? People who drive too slowly in the fast lane on the freeway make me angry. It's like can't you just obey traffic laws like the rest of us? If you aren't going to drive fast, then move over and stay out of my way.
"It pisses me off when I'm working with Bones and none of her people speak English. If they try not to use all of those squinty terms, then they sound condescending. Just because I don't speak squint doesn't make me stupid. I'm smart; I know how to conduct an investigation. I don't need them to solve a crime. I was solving crimes long before I started working with Bones.
"I hate that no one understands my job enough to realize that I can't have a normal life. I can't spend a Saturday with my boy without thinking that I could get called away for an arrest, or a body could be discovered. I can't spend a day with friends without wondering if my job will interrupt. I want to find a woman that understands. I want someone who, if I'm called out on our anniversary will say it's okay for me to go and to be careful. And I never know if it's going to be the last time I was called out. I cope with it, you know? I don't think about it, or I try to not think about it, but it's always there you know? In the back of my mind. I don't want to die young. I didn't…"
"Didn't what, Agent Booth?"
"I didn't want to die; I didn't want to be there anymore. I wanted to be at home with my family and instead I was there. I was there watching my friends die and I couldn't stop it. I was too young, too inexperienced. I didn't know what to do, and then it was too late. I was too late and got punished for it." Booth hit the wall again, harder this time. Pictures on the wall shook and threatened to fall down. Lance Sweets reached under the desk and pulled a foam bat out from under it.
"I'd prefer you hit that weeble in the corner than my wall, thanks." Booth looked at the foam bat and the clown weeble in the room and gave a desperate sounding laugh.
"Of course it would be a clown," he muttered as he took the bat and stared at it for a moment before hitting the air filled clown as hard as he could. The thing flew backwards to the ground and wobbled back up to standing only to be hit again. Booth hit it over and over again, finally yelling before dropping the bat and sitting in a chair wearily. "Now, what happened that brought you here today?"
"I saw someone today that…I never thought I would see them again. I thought they were dead, hoped they were."
"Who was it?"
"I never knew what his name was, but I would know his face anywhere. It's ingrained in me, you know? I saw him and…" Booth shook his head and closed his eyes. This was not going to get to him. He'd gotten past it before, he could do it again.
"Why don't you start at the beginning Agent Booth."
"I don't even know where the beginning is anymore."
"Then start with today and what happened. How is it that you saw this person again?"
"I was issued a case, a young girl who was killed across state lines. She and her family weren't American citizens, they'd come from Iraq a few years ago and were in the process of gaining citizenship. I went to the house to inform the family of her death, and that's where I saw him."
"Who did you see?"
"He should have been killed a long time ago, and he didn't even recognize me. After everything he did, he didn't recognize me." Booth stood up and attacked the weeble again. "He fucking didn't even recognize me!"
"Agent Booth, I need you to tell me who you're talking about."
"That bastard beat the hell out of me, and he didn't even know who I was. His face is burned into my nightmares and he didn't even…"
"He beat you?"
"My family, they only were able to send one of us to college, and Jared being the older one got to go. My dad had been in the army, and I joined up fresh from graduation, determined to be a Ranger. I was in infantry and sent overseas after boot camp and served two years before finally becoming a Ranger."
"Where did they send you?"
"That's confidential. I will say one thing though; I was good at what I did." He let out another wry laugh, stood up and started to pace again.
"During a mission, I was captured along with some other members of my unit. We were held and…" Booth shook his head again and began to pace, obviously agitated. "They do this thing where they beat the soles of your feet… I was twenty-one. That man laughed when he beat us. He enjoyed it.
"We finally were released when the Army mounted a rescue operation." Booth stopped talking and stared ahead, lost in some old memories. "I've dealt with it. I can handle a little torture; it's nothing I haven't dealt with before. But why did the bastard have to live?"
"Is that who you saw again? The man who tortured you?"
"You know, it hurts when it's a child that dies. I can't imagine what it would be like if something were to happen to Parker. No, I can imagine it. When I knew that Howard Epps went after my son…it was like a piece of me was being slowly ripped apart. I can sympathize with the parents of these kids.
"I had news about a kid that had been murdered, and I get to the door and he opened it. All of a sudden I had all these flashes, and it made my feet hurt." A grim smile slid onto Booth's face, and an involuntary shudder came over Sweets. "I was so glad that he hurt when I gave him the news. I was glad that I got to hurt him a little like he hurt me, and you know what?"
"What?" Sweets watched the play of emotions that swept across Booth's face before his expression closed off once more.
"I hate myself for it, and that scares me more than anything else I've faced."
"Why is that Agent Booth?"
"Because it makes me just like him."