"Bilbo: Have you thought of an ending?
Frodo: Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.
Bilbo: Oh, that won't do! Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?
Frodo: It will do well, if it ever came to that.
Sam: Ah! And where will they live? That's what I often wonder."
It was September, that month when the streets of DC was filled suddenly, magically, with yellow school buses. The month that Lance Sweets had always thought of as the end of summer. He had to admit that this year he was painfully happy about seeing the summer come to an end.
He stepped out of the shower and looked at himself in the mirror. It was something he didn't do very often, having avoided mirrors on principle from a young age. But now he looked. Really looked.
You couldn't see a scar from his shoulder, but sometimes he'd wake up in the middle of the night and feel like it had fallen out of its socket again. Feel like his whole body was out of place. But he didn't regret what he did at Whispering Willows, not one bit.
There was still a faint scar from his birthday, that day he'd been nearly strangled to death by a felon. It was behind his chin, and you could only really see it if he was looking up at something. Surprisingly, sadly, that was not the worst birthday he'd ever had.
And then the burns. The docs had said that he would probably never completely heal from the fire that had taken his apartment, though one burn nurse had said, sternly, that it would not have been nearly so bad if he hadn't gone back into the fire. What could he say? He'd needed to save those pictures. He'd needed to save his cat. They were the only things he had left of his parents.
The scars from Paul (he'd stopped being father a long time ago) were the worst, and had had the least time to heal. He turned so he could see his back, see the FREAK carved between the other scars Paul had left him. He frowned slightly and buttoned up his shirt, hiding everything. Hiding the evidence of the summer.
He went into the kitchen where Booth was eating a piece of toast and swatting at Pru, who had taken such an immense liking to the FBI agent that Sweets was starting to feel a little jealous. He stopped when Sweets came in and cleared his throat. "You don't have to do this."
"I do. I really do." There was no longer a coffee table in Booth's apartment because of him, and the couch had been moved to cover the bloodstain that refused to come out of the floor. Booth swore that he would install a new carpet one of these days. "You've been so good to me, Agent Booth, and I'm sorry for everything."
"Don't be sorry," Booth said fiercely. "Don't be sorry. You did nothing wrong."
"Still. You went through a lot of trouble this summer because of me. Thank you." Sweets put out his hand and Booth grasped it between both his own, looking worried.
"Sweets," he began slowly, letting each word form completely in his mouth before letting it go. "You know that we…we care about you. Me included."
"I've lived by myself for quite awhile, Agent Booth," Sweets said, quirking a sad smile, "I'm an independent person, even if I do look twelve."
"I know that," Booth said quickly, "It's just…you don't have to do it all alone. I know you got used to it ever since your parents died, but you don't have to do everything alone. Especially if people want to help you."
There was something hidden in those words, and if Sweets hadn't been teetering on his last nerve he would have delved into it. Instead he ducked his head, hoisted a box onto his hip, too Pru from the counter. "There's a cab waiting for me outside." He couldn't think of what else to say so he left it at that. Booth didn't try to stop him.
It was painfully sad how it happened. The absolute bad timing of it all. How Sweets had been staring morosely out the window of his cab one second and the next he'd slammed into the seat in front of him, hands automatically forming a safe cage for Pru. This cat wasn't going to die. Not if he had anything to say about it.
The accident wasn't a bad one. Little more than a fender bender four blocks from Booth's apartment, but Sweets took it as a sign. He waved away the EMS help but allowed one to put a large Band-Aid on his forehead. The other cuts they could do nothing about. Sweets asked if they had anything that might calm Pru, who was doing more damage to his neck and arms than the accident had, and one of the young guys had told him that they weren't vets, and maybe he should find one.
Sighing, Sweets headed back to Booth's apartment, knowing that the next conversation was going to be bad. He knocked on the door, letting Pru's yowling be the thing to announce their entrance.
"You forget something, Sweets – oh my God!" Booth grabbed Sweets by the shoulders sending Pru running for safer grounds, heading for the bookshelf. Sending the box with all his worldly possessions flying. "I leave you alone for five minutes -! What happened? Who did this?"
"Just a fender bender, Agent Booth. Please stop shaking me." Sweets felt dizzy, like he needed some Asprin and a couple hours sleep even though he'd just woken up not long before.
Booth stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Sorry."
Sweets leaned against the doorframe and wrapped his arms around his body. He stared at the light fixture for a long time as his entire body throbbed dully. Then, after three or four minutes, he forced himself to look over at Booth who hadn't moved from his spot three feet away. "You believe in God, right?"
"Me too." Sweets said, letting out his breath, then smiling when he saw Booth's expression. "Really. My mom and dad were big into their church. We'd hold functions at the house. I was an altar boy for a couple of years in high school." Sweets glanced in the mirror and shook at the sight of his reflection. He had a black eye, and blood was running sluggishly down from a cut near his eyebrow. "I think God hates me."
"Sweets…" Booth began.
But he couldn't stop this. Every feeling that had accumulated over the long, horrid summer burst out of Sweets's mouth at once and he was –not yelling, he never shouted. Never. But he was talking quick and his voice was high and he couldn't be stopped.
"I did everything I was supposed to, Agent Booth. When I was little I was super polite in all my foster homes in hopes that someone would want me. When my parents realized I was a genius I went to high school when I was eleven even though all my friends were years behind me. When the FBI assigned me to your case, I tried everything I could to help you and Dr. Brennan and the Jeffersonian.
"And look what happened! I got arrested for a crime I didn't commit. I was burnt, strangled, and stabbed – twice! – this summer. My parents are dead, and I'm so young that no one in the FBI takes me seriously. And when I try to be independent again, try to get some of my life back, I was in a goddamn car accident!" He balled his hands into fists and felt his nails biting into his skin. That was okay. As long as he wasn't about to break down and cry in front of the only man he really wanted to impress, everything was okay.
"Sweets…" Booth began, reaching out, but Sweets shrank back as Booth had suspected he would. The psychologist had been shying away from any form of affection since the attack by his birth father. "Sweets, you don't have to leave."
"You've been so kind to me, Agent Booth, but I am determined not to overstay my welcome."
"I don't think you get it." Booth turned his back on Sweets, stalked off to the bathroom and rummaged around until he found some Neosporin and a couple of Band-Aids. He reached for Sweets's chin and this time the younger man didn't back away but stared at him determinedly. Booth kept his smirk to himself, thinking good for him. "I'm not going to let you leave."
"Kidnapping is a federal offense."
"Good thing I'm a federal agent."
"I don't think it works like that." Sweets said, wincing as Booth probed his cut.
"Sweets…" Booth said, recalling a strange conversation he'd had with Hodgins days before, when the entomologist had waylaid him in the lobby and demanded that he make sure Sweets was alright. "I like having a roommate, okay? Makes the place seem more like home."
"You'll get a girlfriend. I'll get a girlfriend. There's a reason people don't usually have roommates after college."
"If one of us does, we can talk. But until then…might as well help each other out, right? Obviously, the universe is working against you and does not want you to get your own apartment." Sweets let out a hoarse laugh but didn't bother denying it. "And I've always had either my brother or the army sleeping under the same roof. For me, having a roommate is my default position."
Sweets still looked unconvinced so Booth put a hand on his shoulder and steered him towards the kitchen. "Like you said, Sweets, we started off this summer with me finding you wedged in an air duct with a hole in your belly and your arm hanging out. Then you were strangled and your apartment burned down and your biological father tried very hard to kill you. And you did a good job handling it. A great job. You're one of the most resilient guys I know.
"But Sweets, wouldn't it be great to not have to do everything by yourself anymore?"
Sweets nodded, because he didn't trust himself to speak, not yet. He looked around the apartment, at his cat, who was already making herself quite comfortable on the couch, at Booth, staring at him, urging him to take the offer. "How can I say no?" He said, smiling, truly smiling, for the first time in a long, long time.
we loved this story, we really did, but we couldn't do much more to sweets without feeling like we were beating up on him (ha). a million thanks to everyone who reviewed. we loved them all.