Author's Note: As mentioned in my summary, this one-shot was inspired by a prompt on the Bonesology forum. I was a little surprised at how easily this one came to me and hope my readers will enjoy it as well. :) And I'd like to thank the Bonesology staff for the prompt.
I do not own Bones or any of its characters.
Thank you to everyone who read/favorites/reviews this. It is always appreciated.
The Longing in the List
Doctor Jack Hodgins walked into the Medico-Legal lab one morning with only one thought on his mind.
'Popillia japonica….I just know that they are going to hatch today and prove my theories about the dump site where they found those two bodies.'
The entomologist picked up his pace, barely noticing the other lab techs who were shuffling in and beginning their morning tasks. He almost made it to his office, when he decided that he could use a cup of coffee before beginning his work. Decision made, Hodgins walked up the stairs of the balcony overlooking the forensic platform and was surprised to see Sweets already sitting on the couch, a mug of his own in his hand.
"Good morning, Doctor Hodgins," the therapist said as he sipped.
"Hey, Sweets," Hodgins said. He reached for the coffee pot and frowned at how much of the dregs would probably end up in his cup. "What are you doing here?"
"Booth said that he would meet me here after he went over Doctor Brennan's latest report on the victim," Sweets replied. "We are going to go and interview his former co-workers from his job at the campus bookstore."
"Ah," Hodgins nodded, after pouring himself a cup. Booth had brought them the case a couple of days ago: a college senior, who was out on his spring break, had disappeared two months earlier in Florida. His remains were finally found two days ago when a couple discovered the body wedged into some rocks along the shore of the Florida coastline. The corpse had been sent to the Jeffersonian for identification and while they worked to identify him, Brennan had declared his death to be the result of foul play.
Identifying the victim turned out to be relatively easy since his family had contacted the authorities and conducted an exhaustive search of their own which included flyers and reports to the media. Once Angela finished the facial reconstruction, they were able to match the remains with the missing student, James Kirkpatrick.
Hodgins filled his cup to the brim and was going to head down the stairs when a sound from Sweets stopped him.
"Booth gave me a file on Kirkpatrick," Sweets said. "His parents…they were heartbroken of course, but …they also said that their son had already led a full life, so they are trying to be grateful that he had that when he died. They don't even regret letting him go to that resort for his spring break."
"Full life, huh?" Hodgins said. "Didn't Doctor B say that the victim was only twenty-five?" The entomologist turned back around and walked back to the center of the balcony.
"I'll bet that kid had a great bucket list," Hodgins said before taking another swig of his coffee and grimacing.
"Yeah, you know: what you'll do before you kick the bucket," Hodgins replied. Tired of standing, he went over to sit next to Sweets on the couch.
"I've heard of it," the therapist replied. "But why did you say that he had a great one?"
"Well…think about it. Brennan was able to find evidence through injuries and bone markers which indicated that this kid played more than one sport, had ridden motorcycles, and even did some mountain climbing. Booth mentioned in his report that the kid had worked in the Peace Corps, traveled to twenty countries, had sailed the ocean for six months at one point and had just recently asked the girl he had loved for two years to marry him. And she had accepted."
"So after all that, what was there left for him to do?" Hodgins asked. "He had done it all. But here's the thing, a guy who does all that by his age, he's always going to find more to do. So you got to wonder: what was still on this guy's bucket list?"
"Makes sense," Sweets said, his fingers closing around the dark orange mug. "How about you?"
"How about me what?"
"What is on your bucket list and have you done any of the things on it?" the psychologist inquired.
"I did have 'go to Paris with a beautiful woman' on the list," Hodgins grinned. Sweets smiled back and took a long slurp of his coffee while he waited for Hodgins to continue.
"I don't know," the entomologist said. "A lot of it is the usual stuff: invent something, travel the world, expose at least one major governmental cover-up…."
"Exposing a government conspiracy?" Sweets said with more than a hint of a smile. "That's the norm for a bucket list?"
"Why not?" Hodgins asked. "The only way we can continue to live in a truly free and democratic society is if each person does his or her part to actively search for the truth. If it's not on everyone's bucket list, it should be."
Sweets chuckled softly and Hodgins was in a congenial enough mood to join in.
"Ok seriously though," Hodgins said. "I would like to go on at least one treasure hunt."
"You mean like buried treasure?" the therapist asked. "Missing pirate ships, hidden stashes from some long-dead emperor…that kind of thing?"
"Yeah," Hodgins smiled. "You know we almost got to do that here at the lab once. There was this case about four years back: a guy looking for missing pirate treasure in this underwater cavern got murdered. I actually got to dive down there to look for proof of this treasure…and to search for evidence, of course."
"Awesome," Sweets breathed. "Did you find the treasure? And the murderer?"
"The murderer, yes," the entomologist said. "The treasure sadly no. That's why I want to go on a search of my own."
"So you can find the treasure this time?"
"That would be cool," Hodgins said. "But it's not just about that. It's about the adventure. It's about looking for clues and the thrill of discovering something that no one else could find."
Hodgins' blue eyes glittered as he spoke, his excitement adding a slight tenor to his voice.
"Most of all, it's about living a dream," he continued. "An adventure of my own. Finding the treasure after all that is just the icing on the cake."
Still pumped by his own vague outline of a treasure hunt, the entomologist finished his coffee in one giant gulp. He instantly regretted it, however, as the bitter, cold liquid assaulted his throat, making him gag slightly.
"So what about you?" Hodgins asked in-between coughs. "What are some things from your bucket list?"
"Oh," Sweets blushed. "I don't…I don't really…."
"Come on, Sweets, everyone has some kind of bucket list somewhere inside them," Hodgins said. "Even if they don't acknowledge it."
"Ok," the psychologist said, sitting up straight. "Well, I would like to publish a couple more books. Maybe teach a class at Quantico. Oh and get nominated for an award like the Theodore Blau Career award or maybe even the Florence Halpern award."
"But that's all professional goals," Hodgins cut in. "A bucket list should be more about you and what's close to your heart. So what dream is close to your heart, Sweets?"
Sweets looked down into his nearly empty mug, studying it for almost two minutes before mumbling something unintelligible to Hodgins' ears.
"What was that?"
"I said 'get married and raise a child of my own'," Sweets repeated, a little louder this time.
"That's on your bucket list?" Hodgins asked. "Really? Don't get me wrong, being a husband and a father is an amazing experience. Every time I look into Michael's eyes, it's like I become a new man. A better man."
Hodgins shook himself slightly and turned his body to better face Sweets, who was still staring at the bottom of his cup.
"But still…raising a family isn't something outlandish," he said. "It's part of ordinary life. Don't you want to do something like go on a safari, or jump out an airplane or even climb the Eiffel Tower?"
"All that sounds interesting," Sweets said. "But none of that is my dream. Getting married, raising a child…that's been my dream for a long time."
Sweets finally sat his mug down onto the coffee table and raised his head. His chocolate eyes gazed at the light streaming in through the glass panes of the ceiling and at the warm emerald glow of the leaves on the plants nearby.
"I…Doctor Brennan might have told you that I was adopted," he said. "When I was in the foster system, being shuffled about from house to house, I used to dream of a home of my own and of parents who would welcome me into their lives and who would love me instead of see me as another check from the state."
"I'm sorry man," Hodgins said, swallowing hard. He hadn't expected the conversation to take this kind of turn, and his mind worked to process the things he was finding out about the psychologist.
"Did you finally get that home?" he asked.
"Yeah, I did," Sweets responded. "Mom and Dad, they were the best. And when I was living with them, I used to wish that that would never end: my time with them. Waking up every morning to Mom's smiling face and watching her work around the house….watching Dad come home in the evenings and the long talks I would have with him…A part of me didn't want any of that to ever stop."
"Well it doesn't have to entirely, right?" Hodgins said. "You may not be living in their house these days, but whenever you call or visit, you can get some of that back."
"No, um…." Sweets bowed his head back down. "My parents passed away about three years ago."
"Oh…I'm sorry, man," Hodgins repeated. He was starting to think that this conversation was a bad idea, but stayed where he was on the couch.
"It's ok," Sweets said. "Anyway, over the past few years, I've been thinking that my wish, my new wish, is to build a family of my own. Give some child the same thing I had treasured as a kid."
"Wow Sweets," Hodgins said. "For someone as young as you are, you've put a lot of thought into your bucket list."
"I suppose," Sweets shrugged. "But then again there were a couple times when I didn't think that I would…."
The psychologist abruptly stopped and turned his head away, but the entomologist was certain he could guess what Sweets was about to say.
'That he would make it to twenty-five,' Hodgins thought to himself. He contemplated how bleak of an outlook that was when suddenly he remembered the conversation he had had with Sweets on the day that an earthquake had hit DC over a year ago.
'I don't want to disappear without living the life that I want to live.'
At the time, Hodgins had thought that Sweets had just been rattled by having to watch someone die right in front of him on the subway. Now, however, he began to think about how fragile life might seem to Sweets and how the psychologist might be afraid of having everything ripped from him at any time.
'It's like he's living his own bucket list day-by-day,' Hodgins mused. 'In some ways, maybe that's a good thing…But the kid needs to dream more too.'
"Hey Sweets," he said. "Ange is going to take Michael out with Brennan so they can do some baby stuff together this weekend."
"Baby stuff?" Sweets asked, swiveling his head back toward Hodgins and raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, and I'm getting the day to myself," Hodgins continued. "I was planning on hitting one of my favorite bike trails and I was wondering if you'd like to come."
"Thank you," Sweets said. "But I have a lot of work…and I'm not that great on a bike. I'd probably slow you down."
"Sweets," Hodgins said, placing a hand on the therapist's forearm. "Look you've got a great dream, but you need to live a little."
"Ok," Sweets said, finally smiling again. "I'll join you."
"Great. I'll just meet you here and we can head over in my car," Hodgins said. "Trust me, when you see this place you won't regret coming. I'll see you later."
The entomologist stood up and sat his mug down with the other used ones and began to head for the stairs when he paused and turned back toward Sweets.
"By the way," he said. "Are you still telling me that you don't have anything else on your bucket list?"
"I…I uh," Sweets stuttered. "Well I suppose there is singing 'The Lime in the Coconut' in a talent competition and being an extra in a George Lucas film. But those are just fantasies."
"Doesn't matter," Hodgins said with a triumphant expression. "The whole point of a bucket list is to dream big and small…and I knew that you had it in you to dream big."
The entomologist raised his arms toward the ceiling as he turned to go down the stairwell.
"King of the lab, baby," he said. "King of the lab."