Author's Note: Yes, another one-shot. A rather long one-shot, but still... ;) It seems like these ideas are popping up all over the place these days. I was kind of surprised how quickly this one came to me. I hope you enjoy it. :D This one takes place late in Season Five and has very slight spoilers for The Princess and the Pear and The Bones on the Blue Line.
I do not own Bones or any of its characters.
Thank you to everyone who reads/favorites/reviews this. Again, it is always appreciated.
The Turn in the Moment
The mood at the FBI's Hoover building wavered between pensive and stressed these days. A sudden and inexplicable increase in homicides over the past month was putting a strain on the Bureau as local homicide divisions requested their assistance to help solve these murders as swiftly as possible .
A few of the more challenging cases were sent to Special Agent Seeley Booth and his team at the Jeffersonian. As was often the case in the past, the cases they were given were solved in a timely manner. But the frenetic pace of work was beginning to wear on them as well. By end of the month, however, things were finally starting to level out, and there was a drop in the volume of new cases. A welcome relief for everyone at the Bureau and at the Jeffersonian.
Unfortunately, the first day that everyone could afford to take a break turned out to be an unusually cold and grey one, a day with no sun, but plenty of chilling winds.
Booth had noticed the gloomy weather as he worked, but was determined to not let it deter him from enjoying his evening. He finished up another round of paperwork, and decided to leave work early. He grabbed his jacked and headed off for the elevator. While he was waiting, the agent suddenly heard a familiar voice from behind.
"Oh, Agent Booth…glad I caught you," Sweets said as he almost sprinted over to him.
"What is it now, Sweets?" Booth said, rolling his eyes. At this moment, Booth wanted nothing more than the chance to unwind over diner with Brennan. He did not want to endure any of the psychologist's prodding.
"It's nothing big," Sweets said, slightly put off by the agent's tone. "It's just…Well I've finished up with my patients today, and I was wondering if you wanted to go out for some…"
"Sorry Sweets, but I've already got plans with Bones tonight," Booth said, cutting him off. "I'm picking her up from work, and we're going for some Chinese."
"I love Chinese," the psychologist reminded him. "Maybe I could come too?"
Booth muttered a little under his breath. Normally he enjoyed taking the psychologist along for meals with Brennan. The three of them usually enjoyed their time together. But tonight he was looking forward to some reflective time with his partner.
"Sorry…but these coupons I have are only good for parties of two or less," Booth told him as the elevator opened up. "You understand?"
"Um, sure…yeah," Sweets mumbled as he watched Booth get on.
"Great…Catch you later, Sweets," Booth said as the doors closed. The psychologist leaned against a wall and watched as the lights lit up while the elevator went down. He had meant to get on it, but had stopped himself after Booth turned down his offer.
The psychologist let out a deep sigh; he understood why Booth would want to spend some time alone with Brennan, but he couldn't deny that he had been a little hurt by the rejection. After all, this month had been stressful for him too. A couple of his patients had gone through some major personal crises that needed attending to. Plus, the rash of homicides had driven many agents to his office for profiles or interrogation assistance. This was all in addition to the work he was doing for Booth and the Jeffersonian.
And now that he had finally caught up with work, he had been hoping to spend some down time with his friends, and thus was a somewhat upset at being excluded.
But he decided to not let it frustrate him too much and went ahead and punched the button for the elevator with the intent of heading off to his new destination: the Jeffersonian's Medico-Legal lab.
After a short drive, the psychologist arrived to see many of the lab techs leaving for the day. He walked around the halls for a few moments before finding Angela at her desk in her office.
"Hey Sweets, if you're looking for Booth and Brennan, they just left here a few minutes ago," she smiled at him.
"No…I wasn't looking for them," the therapist blushed. "I just thought…I thought I would see how things are going here."
"Well thanks for that," Angela said. "But it's been amazingly busy, and sadly it looks like Hodgins and Cam are going to be here all night finishing reports….And I was thinking of staying here with them to get some work done on this new program I'm making to help improve my voice recognition software."
"Oh…sorry that you're so busy," Sweets said, trying hard to not let his face fall. "I should probably go and…"
"But you know…I could stand to take a break for dinner here soon," the artist said, having noticed his disappointment. "In fact, we all could."
"Really?" Sweets asked. Angela smiled at how his eyes lit up.
"Sure," she grinned. "And you know, Hodgins and I were talking about how we've been wanting to try that new Indian place that opened up last month…I got a hold of one of their take-out menus today and there's some stuff I definitely want to try."
"Are you guys talking about that new place, Patel's Garden?" Hodgins inquired as he appeared in the doorway. "Man that does sound good right now."
"I know, doesn't it?" Angela said as she got up to walk over to the entomologist. "I was just getting ready to ask Sweets if he would pick up some dinner for all of us." They shared a quick series of kisses before Hodgins turned back toward Sweets.
"Hey, thanks for doing that," he said. "I'll go ask Cam if she wants anything. It'll be nice to be able to stop for something more than a sandwich for a change."
Hodgins gave Angela one more kiss before taking off. After he left Angela picked up the menu from her desk and began to scan through it.
"Hmmm…now what sounds good?" she asked herself. "Oh and Sweets, we'll be sure to give you some money for your meal too…since you're picking up everything for us. Just take a look at this and let me know what you want, and I'll call it in with the rest of the orders."
Sweets nodded and made sure to stifle the sigh in his throat. He wasn't really that fond of Indian food and would have preferred to have some of the Chinese food that Booth and Brennan were sure to be enjoying by now. Plus, as he read the address on the menu that Angela was holding, he realized that navigating the traffic on the way to the restaurant would be a formidable task at this time of day.
But he was aware of how busy everyone at the Jeffersonian had been, and he was glad that Angela had invited him to a meal. Even if it was Indian take-out.
'If all else fails, there's probably a decent curry I could try,' he told himself as he waited for Hodgins to return with his and Cam's orders.
After about a half hour of battling heavy DC traffic, Sweets arrived at his destination. He was thankful to see a car pulling away from the front of the restaurant and had managed to swoop in and take it before anyone else could. He finished parking and walked into the restaurant. It was quite crowded, and the psychologist ended up waiting in line just to get to the take-out counter.
"I'm picking up my order," Sweets told the clerk behind the register. "The name is Montenegro."
"Fine," the clerk scowled. He leafed through a stack of take-out slips, apparently not finding what he was looking for. The clerk then stomped over to the kitchen and yelled something at the cooks inside. After several back and forth rants, the clerk returned to the counter.
"It's going to be another twenty minutes before your order is ready," he informed Sweets.
"Twenty minutes?" the therapist gaped. Angela had called in the order before he had even left the building. As he was leaving, she mentioned that they assured her that it would be ready by the time he got there.
"Sorry about that. Dinner rush and all," the clerk apologized halfheartedly.
Sweets' shoulders slumped, and he turned toward some chairs near the door. He went over and sat down to wait. A couple of minutes later, his cell-phone went off.
"Hello?" he answered. It turned out to be his secretary, Becky. He tried to listen as she told him about some appointment changes, but the reception in the restaurant was lousy. The therapist tried sticking a finger in one of his ears to shut out the noise of the diners, but their voices only seemed to grow louder.
"Just a second, Becky," Sweets grumbled with a huff as he stood up. "I can barely hear you. I'm going to go outside."
He shoved his way out the door and was hit with an icy blast of wind. He flinched, but put his head down and tried again with his phone.
"Ok…I can finally hear you," Sweets said as he walked. "Now what were you saying about my two o' clock and four o' clock appointments?"
But before Becky could answer there was a loud sound, and a second later Sweets' world went black.
Back at the Jeffersonian, Angela had made a lot of progress on her program, but had finally hit a snag. She decided to wait until tomorrow to untangle it and was browsing around on the internet when a very irate Hodgins walked into her office.
"Where is Sweets anyway?" he complained. "We sent him for that food over an hour ago, and he's still not back. What's taking him?"
"I just trying calling him, but it keeps going straight to voice-mail," Cam said as she joined them. "He must have his phone off or…."
"Oh my God," Angela gasped, staring at the screen.
"What is it Ange?" the entomologist asked, worried at her tone.
"Look at this," she whispered. She brought up a video feed from one of the local news sites. A reporter was standing in front of a burning building while fire fighters were trying to put the fire out.
"The firefighters now believe that a fault in the gas line was what caused this horrific explosion at this restaurant," the reporter said briskly. "The restaurant, Patel's Garden, had just opened up about a month ago to booming business. Unfortunately, the latest word is that none of the staff or patrons inside survived the blast."
"That's….that's where Sweets was going….going to get our food," Hodgins said, feeling himself becoming numb with shock.
"I'm calling Booth," Cam said, marching out of the room.
"I…I need to get over there…We need to get over there…Just in case he…he…" Angela babbled.
"I know," Hodgins said, holding her close. "We're going over there, ok? But I'll drive."
Eventually Cam, Hodgins, and Angela made their way to what was left of the restaurant. They parked farther down the street and pushed through the crowd. The fire had finally been put out, but the area was still taped off. Medics and firefighters kept going in and out of the building, often carrying body bags on the way out.
"Oh no…there's no way….no way he could have..," Angela said, her eyes lighting up with tears. She let Hodgins hold her and buried her face against his shoulder, both of them finding a little bit of comfort in the gesture.
Seconds later, Booth's SUV pulled up, its sirens and lights blaring. As it came to a stop, Booth practically leapt out of car and ran over to the nearest officer. Brennan was close behind.
"Special Agent Seeley Booth," he said, flashing his badge at the officer. "Who's in charge here?"
"FBI? We didn't call you guys," the officer replied, quizzical. "Why are you here?"
"We have reason to believe that a member of the Bureau might have been in this building when it exploded," Booth growled at him. "That makes it my business. So go find me your superior. Now."
"All right, all right," the man said, holding up his hands and walking away. The rest of them huddled beside Booth.
"It's my fault," Angela cried. "If I hadn't sent him here, he…he would be…."
"You can't blame yourself. There's no way you could have known, Ange," Hodgins soothed.
"Do we even know for sure that he's here?" Cam asked, hopeful. "Maybe he had already left when it happened and something else is holding him up."
"I'm….pretty certain that that is Sweets' car," Brennan said slowly.
They all turned to see a silver car sitting near the restaurant. All of the windows were broken, and the driver's door and side mirror had been blown off. The paint was scorched on the side closer to the building, but they all recognized it as Sweets' vehicle.
They turned to see a man approaching Booth with his badge out.
"Officer Wright…I'm in charge here. Now, you say that an FBI agent was in this place when it blew?" he said.
"That's right," Booth said, not bothering to correct him. "What can you tell me?"
"Well if he was in here when it happened, he's probably in one of those body bags," Wright said, motioning toward the medics. "The only people who survived this were the ones outside the building when it exploded...Hey, aren't you Doctor Brennan? The bone lady?"
"Yes," Brennan nodded dully.
"We've been sending these bodies, along with a few unfortunate souls who happened to be walking by, to the nearest hospital, but figuring out who all of these victims were is going to be tough," Wright said. "A lot of them were badly burned and a few were blown to bits. They'll probably need someone like you at some point to identify them all."
"What's the name of the hospital?" Booth demanded.
As soon as Wright told them, all of them took off in their cars: Cam, Hodgins and Angela in Angela's with Booth and Brennan leaving in Booth's car.
While speeding over to the hospital, all Booth could think about was the smoke billowing from the ruins of the building, the smell of burned wood and plaster, and how the medics kept taking out body bag after body bag.
But most of all, the agent thought about how he had turned down Sweets' request to join him and Brennan and dinner.
'Angela's wrong,' he thought grimly. 'It's not her fault…It's mine. He had wanted to go out with me and Bones. If I had just let him he would not have gone there, and he'd be safe now…Why didn't I let him come? It's not like Bones would have minded…We could have had fun instead of….'
Booth ground his jaw and tried to focus on the traffic around him. When he was in Army, he remembered how quickly things could turn from casual to dangerous. One moment he could be joking and laughing with the guys, and in the very next moment someone could be dead. Just like that. It was one of the reasons that Booth preferred civilian life; he didn't have to worry about his friends having their lives snuffed out in an instant on a daily basis. But now he had been reminded that the possibility that he could lose someone would always be present in his life, no matter what his line of work.
'He was just a kid…His life was just getting started.'
This was not the first time that Booth had watched someone so young get their life cut short. But that fact did not make make this seem any more fair.
And it didn't make it hurt any less.
When they arrived at the hospital, Booth immediately went to the nurse's station and explained to them how he needed to talk to someone as soon as possible about the victims of the restaurant explosion. The nurses made a few phone calls before turning back toward Booth.
"One of the doctors will be out in a little while," she informed him. "He will be able to give you some updates then."
"All right," the agent huffed. Part of him did not like being made to wait, but an equally big part of him was not looking forward to having his worst fears confirmed either.
A few minutes later another nurse came out with a chart and walked over to make a call at the desk. But after talking to the nurses there, she instead turned toward Booth.
"Agent Seeley Booth?" the nurse said, reading from the chart.
"Yes, that's me," Booth nodded, the others moving over to join him.
"You're listed as an emergency contact for a Doctor Lance Sweets," she continued.
"Emergency contact?" Cam said, her eyes lighting up. "Emergency as in…?"
"Doctor Sweets was admitted here after that explosion," the nurse explained.
"Wait a minute…you mean, he's alive?" Angela asked.
Sitting on a bed in one of the examination areas, Sweets pondered yet again at how badly his evening was turning out. He had managed to get dressed again from his hospital gown with some difficulty due to the brace that was on his left wrist. Hairline fracture, they had said. It would heal in a week or two.
Adding to his gloom was the fact that his head was throbbing where a bandage was covering a gash near his temple. He was told that he had a slight concussion and was cautioned against staying home alone that night.
'That's the last time I pick up take-out for anyone,' he thought sourly.
To make matters worse, his cell-phone had stopped working, so he had had to ask one of the nurses to call Booth so he could pick him up.
'I'm sure that he's going to love being dragged away from his dinner with Brennan just to pick me up.'
But even as he thought all of this, Sweets chided himself for being selfish. Even though he remembered nothing from the moment he blacked out until he woke up at the hospital, the psychologist had heard some of the staff talking about a major accident at the restaurant he had gone to.
'There could be some people who are seriously hurt…I was probably lucky.'
His thoughts were interrupted by the curtain near his bed brushed aside. Standing on the other side was Booth, Brennan, Cam, Hodgins and Angela, and all of them were staring at him.
"Hey guys," the therapist said, trying to smile. "What are you all doing…?"
Sweets was promptly cut off when Angela rushed over and hugged him.
"Angela?" Sweets said as he tentatively hugged her back.
"Thank God you're all right," she sniffed, giving him one last squeeze before letting him go.
"What do you mean?" Sweets asked, confused. Cam walked over and took his hand while Hodgins patted his shoulder.
"How much do you remember about what happened?" the pathologist asked him.
"I…I remember walking outside to talk to my secretary," Sweets said carefully. "There was virtually no reception in the restaurant…Then there was a loud noise…I don't remember anything after that."
"There was an explosion at the restaurant," Brennan explained. "There were no survivors among the people who were still inside. Your stepping outside to talk on the phone probably saved your life."
"Bones," Booth hissed.
"An explosion?" Sweets said, his eyes widening. "So…all those people…"
"I know that this is probably wrong to say, but…we're really glad that you weren't in there, Sweets," Hodgins said, clasping the psychologist's shoulder.
"Oh…so that's why you're all here," Sweets said, looking down at the floor. Brennan suddenly reached over and gave Sweets a hug of her own.
"Even though it was merely a fortuitous series of random events that made it so that you were able to survive, I find that I'm very grateful that they happened in the exact way that they did," she said, her eyes bright.
"Thank you," Sweets said as he held her back. After a couple more seconds she let him go.
"Can he go home?" Cam asked.
"I see no reason why not," the nurse said. "He really shouldn't spend the night alone, just in case his head injury develops into anything serious. And he'll probably be a little sore for the rest of the night, but other than that there should be no issues."
"I…I could use something to eat," Sweets said timidly. "But no Indian…please."
"We will get you anything you want, all right?" Angela grinned, rubbing his back.
"I should probably pick up my car before we go anywhere else," the psychologist said as he tried to stand up.
"Dude, your car is…toast," Hodgins said. "It's not going anywhere any time soon."
"Oh," Sweets said, dejected.
'First I get run off the road by a Black Knight and now this,' the therapist thought to himself. 'My insurance company is going to drop me for sure.'
"Come on," Cam said. "Let's get you something to eat and get you home. We can worry about your car tomorrow."
They ended up taking Sweets to the Royal Diner for a late dinner. The mood was mostly jovial even though Sweets was soon becoming more and more subdued. Still, he couldn't help but be warmed by how happy everyone was that he was all right.
Another person who was mostly quiet was Booth. He had been extremely relieved to see Sweets alive and well, but was still working through how the psychologist's "death" had made him feel. While watching the others talk and laugh with Sweets, the agent couldn't shake the thought about how easily it all could have turned out differently.
"I'm kind of tired," Sweets yawned after a while.
"I'll take you home," Booth offered. "And I'll be staying with you tonight just in case."
"Thanks Booth," Sweets murmured.
"And I'm going to stop back by the hospital with the others," Brennan said. "In case they need my help."
After everyone said their goodbyes, Booth drove the therapist back to his apartment. Once they arrived, Sweets immediately went to his bathroom for a quick shower and change of clothes. When he got out, he found Booth pacing around his front room.
"You got anything to drink?" Booth asked him.
"Sure," the psychologist responded. Sweets went to the kitchen and pulled out a couple bottles of beer out of the fridge. After setting them on the counter, Sweets started to look through the drawers for a bottle opener.
But as he searched, the events of the day started to sink in. Sweets had managed to avoid thinking about them too much while he was with his friends, but now that it was quiet and he was alone, he kept thinking about what Brennan had said.
'All those people…that surly clerk…the woman standing around with that huge purple purse…that guy who wouldn't stop cursing into his cell phone…they're all gone. Dead. And…And it could have just as easily been me.'
Sweets dropped the bottle opener onto the floor and gripped the counter top as the reaction set in.
'Why wasn't it me? Just because Becky had called me about some appointments? Why did all those people have to…?'
All of the faces he had seen at the restaurant were running through his mind, and he began to tremble, tears welling up in his eyes.
Sweets jumped when he felt a hand clasp his shoulder. He whirled around to see Booth regarding him with a somber expression.
"Booth…all those people…gone," Sweets choked out. The agent suddenly reached over and gave Sweets a brief manly hug.
"Don't," he said as he patted the psychologist's back. "Don't feel guilty that you survived." He let Sweets go and looked him in the eye.
"I know that's easier said than done," Booth continued. "But I also know that it's all too easy to go crazy if you sit around and keep asking yourself why you survived when others didn't…Just remind yourself of how grateful….of how grateful your friends are that you're still here."
"Ok…I will," Sweets sniffed as he tried to get a hold of himself. Booth nodded and reached down to retrieve the bottle opener so he could open up the beers. He then grabbed the bottles and guided Sweets back out to the front room toward the couch where they both sat down.
"Now, let's see if there's anything on tonight," Booth said, picking up the remote and flipping through the channels.
"Sounds good," Sweets said as he settled in. Both of them knew that it didn't really matter what they ended up watching; it was simply an excuse to quietly enjoy each others company.
And it was a way for them to hold onto this moment for as long as possible.