The week had been tiring, and I'd stayed late at the lab with the team after the culmination of the events involving Dr. Addy, trying to help them cope with the situation. I wanted to follow the two whose reactions I was most interested in after she disappeared down the side stairs, and he got up to follow, but as I started to rise from my seat, Dr. Saroyan looked at me. "Don't," she said. "Just... leave them alone." That was unexpected-- I was under the impression that she and Agent Booth had a history, and that she and Dr. Brennan did not always see eye to eye. "In fact... leave us alone. We need to be together right now." The other two team members nodded. I wondered about whether I should push the issue, but the look of warning on the pathologist's face convinced me that I would do better to revisit the issue later, when their emotional wounds were less raw. I nodded, said something neutral in goodbye, and took my leave. When I reached the garage, his truck was gone, but her car was still here, though I saw no sign of her on my way out of the lab. Interesting.

I went back to my office for several hours, to record my observations while they were still fresh, and then, satisfied that I had sufficient working notes made, closed down and headed home. It had been a long day.

The next few days were long as well, and I allowed it to pass when he canceled their appointment two days later. I tried going down to his office once, but he wasn't there, and one of his desk agents, Charlie, advised that Agent Booth had taken some time off, after coming in the day after the tactical assault on Gormogon's lair for a few hours to do paperwork. Well, that was a healthy reaction to the situation, to take time off after a culmination of several stressful events to regroup. I also heeded Dr. Saroyan's warning, staying away from the lab. When the rest of the week passed, however, I decided it was time to reestablish connections, and left messages with him and with her at their offices and on their cell phones, advising them that they needed to call and reschedule. I wasn't surprised not to reach him, but I was surprised when my several calls to her office went unanswered. She was usually there.

All of this was in my mind as I dragged in at the end of the week, tired and looking forward to takeout and a movie. As soon as flicked on the lights while locking the door behind me, he was there, his hand on my throat, pinning me to the door.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he hissed, an expression of fury on his face like I'd never seen on anyone's before. He'd left me just enough breathing room to answer, not so much that I wasn't already starting to shake.

"What... what are you doing here?"

"Oh, I think you know," he said, his eyes boring into me.

I'd never seen him like this. He was a consummate agent in many ways, and when not in the thick of a chase and the natural attendant altercations resulting in the capture of a suspect, he rarely, if ever, resorted to violence. He always kept whatever anger he felt leashed, behind a mask of disinterest, or studied amusement, or disdain and contempt of the suspects. But now, he was furious, enraged, and it was all focused on me.

"Agent Booth," I said, "you really should let me go," I tried to reason, impressed by my mind's ability to keep up with the situation even as my more animal instincts were telling me to cower or flee if I got the chance. "I don't think it would look good were I to report that you broke into my apartment and assaulted me."

His grip didn't vary, and his expression didn't waver. "See, that's interesting, Sweets," he drawled. "Here I was thinking it wouldn't look too good if I reported that the reason you didn't tell my partner I was dead had nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with your sick little psychological mind games. That you played on your own patients. Now, I'm no expert, but I believe that comes under the subject of Human Studies, and I'm quite sure that you never got your little mind games approved by any Human Studies Review Board. I do know the Bureau doesn't even have one." How the hell did he know that?

He smiled as I swallowed, hard, and began to sweat, as my mind rolled over and played dead, silently saying to myself, "Give it up."

"I thought so," he said, "I think that the Bureau would be very interested to know that rather than doing your job of ensuring that its agents and contractors function effectively, you decided to test the bonds of their partnership, trying to see where the breaking point might be." His grip on my throat tightened then. "That, Doctor Sweets, is most definitely not your job. I also think they wouldn't appreciate learning that the partnership that you picked to experiment on had the highest solve rate in the country. I don't think they'd like that at all." He pulled me forward, then turned and slammed me into the wall next to the door by the throat, so hard I saw stars.

The coward in me whimpered, "She said she wouldn't tell you."

He laughed at me then. Laughed? "She didn't. There's a reason you can't have my Ranger file, Sweets, and don't think I don't know that you asked for it. Do you honestly, truly think I don't know how mind games designed to undermine someone's basic psychological foundations are played?"

I'd underestimated him-- seriously so. He saw the realization dawn on my face, and laughed at me again. "You are an amateur," he said with scorn, "compared with what I know about mind games. Compared to what I can do with mind games. And considering what I or my friends have done to people who have tried to play mind games with me or the people I care about."

He pulled me forward, only to slam me back into the wall once again-- I'd just been starting to get my breath and my senses back from the last impact, and he knew it.

Leaning in, his eyes inches away from mine, and his voice utterly cold with fury. "This is your one and only warning. Anything I might ever have done in the past to get even with someone who tried to mess with me or my friends? It's nothing, compared to the pain I will bring you if you ever play games with my partner again." His voice held not promise, but certainty.

I nodded agreement-- even if his grip on my throat hadn't been too tight to prevent me from speaking, I was too scared to make any sound at this point.

"That goes for the rest of the team, too. You will be on your best, most professional behavior from now on, and you will never forget that we had this conversation, even as you will never mention that we ever had it."

I nodded again. I had no other choice, and I knew it. My career would be over if he ever told anyone what I'd done.

"Good," he said, slamming me back into the wall one last time. "One last instruction. Don't call us. We'll call you." He let go then, and through the stars I was seeing all over again, I noticed that he pulled his sleeve over his hand as he opened the doorknob and went out in the hall, shutting the door silently behind him, but not before he turned and said, "Be sure to lock up now, Doctor Sweets. You never know who might try to get in."

My knees collapsed under me. I was sure that if I went down to the security desk, the guard would deny ever seeing him. And I was sure that whatever security tapes there might be wouldn't show him. It would be as if he was never here, as if all of this was a figment of my imagination, conjured as a delayed response to the guilt that began to grow as I saw her get up and walk away after saying, "I never gave him anything." He'd gripped my neck through the fabric, and I'm sure there would be no finger marks in the morning. The door and the wall were unscathed, and as hard as he'd slammed me into the wall, somehow, I'd never struck my head. There would be no telltale bruises or bumps to confirm my story-- only my word against his. His messing with me had begun.

--

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I'm debating whether to go back and do a few chapters on Booth and Brennan's week out of work, and what happened after the two of them left the lab. Please let me know if you're interested!