Booth wasn't even really sure where the young psychologist lived. Somewhere in DC, obviously, but that wasn't much help. And Sweets surely wouldn't be, either, as he was currently slumped in the passenger seat, one cheek pressed up against the window. But it wasn't like he had any other options. "Sweets, where do you live?"
He held his breath in anticipation, and it was almost a surprise when Sweets lifted his head slightly, and offered in a slurred voice, "'Partment complex on fifth. Third floor…" he trailed of, head falling against the window again. Booth sighed, shaking his head ever so slightly, and then stared out the window, watching the cars go by.
It still all seemed so unreal.
In just a little more than twelve hours, life had taken a drastic turn for the worse. One of Brennan's squinterns had been shot and was on the brink of death. Brodsky was about as close to being caught as America was to paying off the national debt. And instead of comforting his partner, he was driving home Lance Sweets, who was drop dead drunk. Yep. Things were screwed. "If you weren't useful, Sweets, I would pull out my gun and shoot you right now." Booth informed him. His heart wasn't in the threat.
The light turned green. Booth stomped on the pedal almost mechanically, driving across the intersection and up the next street. Fifth was closer than he'd thought Sweets would be to the Institute. Then again, Fifth was a large street… "Sweets, what's the number of the building?"
"Guess," the psychologist offered him a toothy grin.
"Tell me, or you will regret ever having been born."
Dr. Temperance Brennan was not a weak women. She had solved countless murder investigations. She had a license for a gun and was more than capable of defending herself. And she was a bestselling author. She was anything but weak.
So then why was she sitting on the edge of Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray's hospital bed, trying not to cry?
She couldn't shake the feeling that it was her fault. She and Booth were the ones who worked in the field. They were the ones who got shot at. They were the ones who crept around in the danger zone, hands gripping their guns so hard that their knuckles turned right. They were the ones who got hurt. Not the interns. And yet Vincent was the one on the brink of death, pale faced, unmoving. Because of her.
"I never called you by your name, Vincent," Brennan murmured, reaching out to touch his forehead. It was cold. Living people weren't supposed to feel cold. The remains were cold, unless they had been cooked. Dead people were cold. Living people weren't. If not for the reassuring beeps of the monitors, she would have thought he was dead. "Not your first name. You were always…" she swallowed, "Mr. Nigel-Murray." Called. I said called. The realization hit like a ton of bricks. Called was past tense. Called would mean… "Call," she choked out. "I didn't call you by your first name."
He had so much to live for. The internship at the Jeffersonian was a privilege, an honor. He was the only foreigner to be accepted into the forensics department. And there was that conference, that was right around the corner. They needed to present the discovery together. She couldn't do it alone, not after everything they'd worked on together. "They're rescheduling the conference for you. For us. So that we can do it together." He couldn't become one of the tens of hundreds of other victims they'd worked on. One of the countless young people who had their lives destroyed by a killer.
There was no noise except for the monitors again. Not for another few minutes. Then, "We need you. We don't want you to leave," Brennan's voice took on a desperate edge.
He couldn't hear her. The forensic anthropologist dropped her head into her hands.
She looked up. Booth was standing in the doorway, hands in his pockets, looking tired but determined.
"C'mon, let's go home. And you're staying at my apartment tonight. I don't care if Brodsky thinks he got me. It's better to play it safe." There was a clipped edge to his tone, not anger at her, but exhaustion and frustration in general. He wished he could say something like 'he'll still be here in the morning'. But there was no way to know that for sure.
Brennan didn't move for a moment, staring at Vincent's closed eyes. Then she stood slowly, and walked towards him. Her eyes were only half open, slightly swollen and dark from exhaustion. There was no argument. No debate. No plea to stay. Nothing.
The walk out of the hospital was spent in silence, except for when Brennan stopped at the front desk and insisted on giving them her cell number, to call if there was any change. He held her arm tightly the whole time. They didn't speak again until the car ride on the way home, "Did you find Sweets?" Brennan's tone sounded far away.
It took her words a moment to register, "Oh, yeah. The kid was in a bar, drunk as hell." Booth shook his head. "He made me guess his street address."
That was all she had to say? He turned and looked at her, just to make sure it was still Bones. It was. "As much as I want to knock his two front teeth out, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's not like he had any way of knowing that…" the FBI agent fell silent. Some things were better left unsaid.
They arrived at Booth's apartment a few minutes later. Booth opened the car door for her, taking her hand as they walked to the elevator. His partner was more distraught than he'd even realized before. She arbitrarily pressed buttons, managing to hit three that were not his floor, until he finally grabbed her hand again and pushed the right one. More silence.
When they began arguing over who would take the bed, it began to feel slightly more normal. "Bones, you've had a rough day. A lot happened. You take the bed, I'll sleep on the couch."
"No, Booth, it's your bed. And your house."
"Bones, I'm trying to be a gentleman here. Just take the goddamn bed."
"You need your rest. You have to kill Brodsky. You can't kill Brodsky if you're not at your best."
He wanted to argue with her. But what she was saying made sense. A lot of sense. Booth let out a noncommittal noise and wordlessly nodded, walking over to a cupboard and opening it. He tossed her a spare blanket. The forensic anthropologist barely reacted in time, catching the quilt just before it hit the floor.
Booth headed into his room, grabbing his gun on the way. If Brodsky showed up, as unlikely as it was, at this point, he needed to be ready. The agent pulled off his shoes, and then quickly changed into sweats and an old t-shirt, curling under the covers. It shouldn't have been hard to fall asleep. It was almost three in the morning, and the whole ordeal with Sweets and Vincent…Vincent. He couldn't get the picture of the British intern out of his head. His fluttering eyes. The crimson blood flowing out of the bullet wound in his chest as he trembled on the floor…
The door creaked open.
He was sitting up in an instant, snatching the gun off of the bedside table, pointing it at the intruder.
She let out a little gasp, raising her hands quickly. It wasn't Brodsky. It was-
Brennan didn't say anything, but lowered her hands, before taking a few steps closer. "He was saying 'please don't make me leave'."
"I know," murmured Booth. Come closer. Please come closer.
"He was looking at me. While he was talking. Like I was the one who was going to make him go," she drew closer. She was only a step away from the bed. Brennan swallowed, biting her lip. "What kind of person am I, Booth?"
Booth reached up a hand and pulled her closer. She sat down on the bed without further urging. "I wouldn't make him leave. Would I, Booth? Am I some kind of…" her eyes filled with tears, "some kind of monster?"
"Oh, Bones," he pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her, leaning back against the pillows. "He wasn't talking to you. He was talking to god."
"Vincent was atheist. Like I…" she let out choked sob, burying her head against Booth's chest, shoulders shaking. "Is. Why do I keep saying 'was', Booth?" Her words were punctuated by shaky breaths and cries.
"He was talking to the universe, then." Booth stroked her hair, arms tightening around her.
"If there is a god, he'll let Vincent stay with us," Brennan mumbled, looking up at Booth.
"It doesn't work like that, Bones," he sighed. But it was one of those times he started to wish it did. Anything to make Brennan happy. To show Brodsky he couldn't always win. To let Vincent pull through.
He couldn't do anything about the latter two. Not then, not ever. But maybe there was something he could do to take his partner's mind off things.
Cam woke up to Michelle staring at her. "Cam, it's eight forty five. You need to be at work at nine." Her daughter's shape was somewhat blurry, and her words sounded distant.
"Hrrrrngh," Cam rubbed her eyes, and blinked a few times. Michelle's image slid into focus. So did the clock on the wall. "Shit…" the head of the lab scrambled up, bolting for her closet. "Don't repeat my language," she called over her shoulder.
She needed a shower. But there wasn't time for one. Not with fifteen minutes to be at work, an unsolved case, a killer on the loose, and an intern in the hospital...
Maybe she would get to work and it would have all been a dream. Everyone would be working on the Brodsky case, even Vincent. He would be peppering them with useless facts. And trying to get them to melt things through unconventional needs, like with hairdryers. Maybe he'd even have an apology or two to offer, some small, insignificant thing that he'd forgotten.
No. Who was she fooling. Get real, Camille, she chastised herself, as she buttoned up her shirt. Fantasizing about a perfect world isn't going to help you solve the case. She grabbed the hairbrush off of the bathroom counter, yanking it through her hair. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed the worst. She looked horrendous. Ten minutes to be at the Lab. It took that long to get there, even, and that was without traffic.
Screw it. Today was just going to have to be one of those god-awful days where she looked and felt terrible. It would fit in perfectly with the rest of the mood, at any rate. "Michelle!" Cam hurried out of the bathroom, grabbing her purse off of a chair as she went towards the back door. "What are you doing today?"
Her daughter appeared in the doorway of the next room over, fiddling with the ring she was wearing, twisting it around on her finger. "I don't know," she admitted. "Probably stay in the house. Invite friends over?" She shrugged, dropping her hands to her sides.
Cam nodded, with a faint frown, "Just be careful, okay?" Michelle offered her a small smile in response. Cam was almost at the door when her daughter spoke again.
"Can you call me if…" she paused, now twirling a strand of hair around her hand. "If Vincent…"
It took Cam a moment to realize what her daughter was requesting. She closed her eyes briefly, and then nodded, "I'll give you the status update," Cam assured. Status update. Made it sound like a facebook status. And it was anything but. The pathologist headed towards her car with no more conversation, pulling out her phone as she went. She needed to call Brennan, let her know that she was going to be just a little late. And that was without traffic.
It wasn't that Wendell had never woken someone up before. Quite the contrary, he had pulled people out of slumber enough times to have mastered the skill. But it had never been in a situation quite like this one.
Fischer and Wendell had both fallen asleep. On the couch. Well, sort of. Wendell had fallen asleep on the couch, and Fischer had fallen asleep on Wendell. The blonde intern had woken up to Good Morning American (they'd obviously forgotten to turn the TV off) and no feeling in his arm. Not to mention Mr. Colin Fischer on top of him, still snoozing.
"Fischer," Wendell said, loudly. The brunette didn't stir. "Fischer!" No response. He struggled to get free, but due to the angle he was at, it was harder than this kind of thing looked on TV. Wendell would have slapped the man, except both of his arms were trapped under him.
Well, this was awkard. "Fischer!" Wendell yelled. The other intern awoke with a start, eyes widening and breath hitching, as his gaze flickered around the room quickly. "Hey, chill. It's just me." Wendell lowered his voice considerably.
"Oh," Fischer let out an unintelligible mutter and started to close his eyes again.
"What the hell? No, man, you are not going back to sleep." Wendell managed to wiggle out from under the other intern and stand, massaging the arm with no circulation with the one he could still move.
"Did that count as sleeping together?" Fischer asked.
Wendell might have laughed. Except he wasn't sure if Fischer was joking or not. "No," the blonde intern glared at him, before turning to look at the clock on the lamp table. 7:19. They still had time before they needed to be at the Institute. "It does not. I'm taking a shower, feel free to grab whatever in the kitchen." Not that there was a whole lot left. He made a mental note to go grocery shopping when his next paycheck came and he had the time.
"Your apartment looks like it belongs to a homeless guy," Fischer observed, glancing around. The peeling paint, the minimal furniture, the complete mess…the other man would have had a point. Except for the fact that homeless people were homeless.
Wendell didn't bother pointing this out as he headed for the bathroom. Groceries. Clean up the various piles of stuff around the apartment. That was two things on his checklist. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed what Fischer had intended to say but failed to articulate. A longer look made him realize that his apartment was really in a crappy state. He hadn't seen an apartment so messy since…
Vincent. The events of the day before all came rushing back. He buried his head in his hands. One of his closest friends could be dead. Or dying. He had no idea.
Think about this logically. A small voice in his head told him. Think. Wouldn't someone have called if Vincent had passed away during the night? They wouldn't just let him show up at work and then find out. No. They would call. And he hadn't fallen asleep until almost four in the morning. That left less than four hours. What was the likelihood of Vincent's death between those hours, compared to the rest of the day? Unlikely.
The logical thing to do would be to hurry up and get ready for work, and then get down to solving the murder. That would be beneficial. That would help put Vincent's assailant behind bars permanently.
And if the situation was reversed, wouldn't that be what Vincent would do?
As he stood in the shower, letting the warm water flow down his back, he couldn't help but think back to the time when Vincent's apartment had been in worse condition than his. When Vincent had first quit drinking. Wendell had always known being an alcoholic was bad. He'd gotten enough drunken texts, and seen Vincent sit at lunch, fidgeting, pale or tired, too many times not to have realized. But he hadn't known how hard it was to stop drinking. Not until then.
The call had come at around one in the morning. He had almost ignored it, glaring at the cell phone charging on his bedside table. It was a Monday night, and work had been tiring. The caller ID read Vincent Nigel-Murray, and the blonde intern had originally only picked up the phone to give his friend a long lecture about letting people get there sleep.
That one word, his name, had caused all the negative, irritable thoughts in his head to wither, to dissipate as quickly as a microscopic grain of salt dissolving into water. There was so much desperation, so much pain in his voice, that it was frightening. "Vincent. What's wrong?"
"I…" the British intern's voice was unsteady, "I can't sleep." His voice was meek, barely audible.
"And?" That couldn't be all.
There was silence. It stretched out long enough that Wendell thought his friend had hung up. "I'm sorry…I shouldn't have…it's really late…early…" Vincent's voice cracked.
"I'm coming over." Something was wrong, dammit, and that was what friends did. Vincent's apartment was only six blocks away, the drive wasn't more than two minutes. When he'd arrived, he'd hesitated at the door, wondering whether to knock…ring the bell…hope the other intern came to the door eventually…
He tried the door. It was unlocked.
The first thing he'd noted was the state of the apartment. Books and papers littered the floor, covered the table and blocked the doorways. So many books for such a small space. The place was a wreck, "Vincent?" Wendell stepped over a dictionary and around a textbook he'd recognized using in his third year of college. He'd been about to say his name again, when he noticed the intern sitting up against the sink, knees drawn up to his chest, head in his hands. The cell phone lay discarded a few feet away.
"Vincent." Wendell hurried forward, dropping to one knee next to him. Something was wrong. Vincent was shaking, and visibly exhausted. "Have you been drinking?"
"No," his voice was very faint. "I haven't. That's what it is."
"Alcohol withdrawal syndrome," mumbled Wendell. Of course. He'd talked to Vincent about it, delighted that his friend was finally doing something to end his drinking problem. He'd never thought about the other side of it.
"It's been like…like this all week," Vincent's words tumbled out of his mouth more quickly, blue eyes glistening with tears. He quickly covered his face with one hand, trying to hold back the choked sob.
Wendell wasn't much of a hugger. But he found himself holding Vincent tightly, trying to calm him down, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"It seemed…it seemed stupid." The other intern's voice had been broken, "All of the…more important things out there that people…people don't deserve and I'm complaining about…something that is my…my fault and I shouldn't because it's selfish."
He had been sweating, and feverish, Wendell remembered. And trying to get through it on his own, because he felt like it was his fault. Maybe it was, partially. Maybe it was, completely. But he was a good person. A good person who had made a mistake and needed help picking up the pieces.
And now he was in a far worse situation. And it hadn't been his fault, at all.
Whoever had said bad things happened to good people was damn right.
A five minute shower uses about ten gallons of water. Wendell could hear that in Vincent's cheerful British voice, just another useless piece of trivia.
Except after this, nothing Vincent said would seem useless.
He was in a place where it was dark, there was no one, and there was in a lot of pain.
Ripping agony was the only thing registering. And he couldn't open his eyes. Alone.
No. Wait. Someone there, but he couldn't hear them.
"We need you."
One sentence. That was all.
Then he was in a world without sound or color or anything at all, back under the waves. Unconsciousness.
Author's Note: This chapter was a little more ramble-y than I would've liked. Ah, well. So is life. Next chapter is already in progress and will be a bit more focused on the case. Reviews are loved.