Street credit to Jelsi4Life for the ongoing ideas and outlines. As always, Daisy is scintillating.
"Have more," Sweets offered generously to Angela, pouring another glass of wine.
"No," she laughed, but she didn't pull her cup away either.
"Are you trying to get my wife drunk?" Hodgins pouted.
"Sorry, sorry," Sweets grinned, and gave Hodgins a flavorful dollop. Hodgins grunted to know when to let him stop.
"What's the occasion?" Hodgins asked in surprise.
"Oh Dr. B is coming back to work, you know how Booth will be," Sweets lied quickly, laughing, and luckily the two of them laughed as well, although Sweets' face felt cracked and raw ever since his fight with Daisy the night before. His entire day had been agonizingly long. He had rarely had a day in which he simply sat and did nothing before, but that's what he had done, stared at the television, whether it had been on or not he couldn't say.
Hodgins' and Angela's front door opened to their right and the three turned in synchronization. Booth and Brennan came in together, Daisy slipping in the shadows behind Brennan.
"Daisy's just coming in?" Angela asked in surprise. Sweets avoided her tacit question by refilling his own cup and gulping it down too quickly, filling his mouth with wine instead of words. Sweets watched as Daisy edged around the other interns, trying unsuccessfully he was happy to note, to move towards him through the crowd. She was stopped by Fisher who drolly asked her something about an article, but Sweets noticed his eyes never left her shirt. He wrenched his gaze away and tried to talk animatedly to Hodgins but forgot what their conversation had been about.
"The new Hobbit movie," Hodgins repeated again.
"Yeah, yeah," Sweets enthused. "Just saw the trailer." He declined to mention he had just found the time to see it this afternoon.
"Looks epic!" crowed Booth, coming up to their circle, and Angela peeled away with a roll of her eyes towards Brennan, to Sweets' relief. Angela was too observant by half, though he was less than enthused to have Booth next to his right.
"Here, catch up," Hodgins crowed at Booth and to his dismay, Sweets felt the bottle of wine being yanked from his grasp. He made a mewl of protest as Hodgins poured for Booth who protested. Sweets had definitely wanted to be in control of how much everyone drank; Booth's abstinence, while he lauded as his shrink, made him uneasy as a friend. Everyone would take this better a little tipsy. There wouldn't be quite as many awkward questions.
"All this for my returning to work?" a familiar voice said and Sweets spun around a little too quickly, his rush to fill his mouth to avoid answering awkward questions making his head spin and his cup empty. Brennan laughed and caught his arm, her own cup still sloshing full. She sipped cautiously and made a face. Sweets wished desperately he could think of a reason she would drink more.
Angela came up, her eyes twinkling.
"Come on sweetie, have a drink with me!" Brennan crinkled her nose, but obligingly took a gulp of her glass as a toast to Angela. Sweets felt a little of his chest loosen.
"Have another on me!" he added mimicking the toast to Brennan, after she had barely lowered her glass. Without hesitating she took another swig. Call after call came for Brennan to drink to them and only when her cup was empty was she allowed to rest.
"I am going to regret this," she chuckled ruefully to Booth, who came to catch her arm with raised eyebrows. Sweets silently refilled her wine glass. Everyone stared at her expectantly.
"I'm not tipsy yet," she snapped tartly. "My body will need about ten minutes." Everyone laughed.
"We better get drinking then," Cam dimpled. Sweets let out a huge breath of relief.
"Way ahead of you babe," Angela giggled. Hodgins had brought out another cask of vintage wine from their cellar and people flocked toward him.
Sweets saw Daisy inch towards him, working her way around the clusters of laughing people. He quickly ducked behind someone to avoid her. Unfortunately, the bigger, broader shouldered person he had chosen happened to be Booth. The older man frowned down at him.
"What was that?"
"What was what?"
"Don't play innocent with me. You're avoiding Daisy."
"I…uh…" Sweets brilliantly countered.
Booth raised his eyebrows. "What, did you two get into a fight?" Sweets reflected that Booth should know better than anyone not to ask suspects leading questions like that to hide behind. Sweets seized the excuse, which wasn't exactly a lie.
"Yeah. We got into a fight."
"Was it your fault?" Booth could tell by Sweets' crestfallen face that it was. He heaved a blustery sigh.
"Look, I'll run interference."
"What?" Sweets looked up in utter disbelief. Booth regarded him impatiently.
"I said I'll run interference. Just stop ducking down and looking so guilty. But you know how I feel about Daisy. I might even have to sick her on Cam, and then I'll owe Cam big time, which means you'll owe me doubly big time, and even Cam some. Do you get me?" Sweets nodded fervently.
"You have no idea what this means-"
"Here she comes," hissed Booth in interruption, shoving him hard between his shoulder blades and spilling a little wine down one pant leg. "Get moving!" Sweets slipped between Arastoo and Hodgins right as Daisy swept past Booth.
"Daisy!" he heard Booth say in a horribly pleasant tone. "Have you seen Sweets?"
"Lance? Oh! I've been looking everywhere for him! Haven't you seen him?"
"We can look together then," and then Sweets had moved off too far to hear anymore. He reflected that he didn't deserve friends as good as Booth but then a darker, uglier thought twisted its way to the surface; that Booth didn't deserve him. He had just thrown his career away for him and Dr. Brennan. The least he could do was keep Daisy away. She didn't, couldn't, comprehend his choice. They were all he had. His whole family.
He felt sick at the prospect of leaving, of starting over just when he had built himself everything. He glanced once back at the party before slipping out through the kitchen and to the back door.
"Are you sure you haven't seen Lance?" Daisy asked Booth for the fourth time. He shifted uncomfortably beneath her gaze.
"Nope. Haven't seen him. Anyways, like I was saying, this game was really great, you would have loved it Daisy, can't believe you missed it. Bones doesn't get football and Cam only watches it when it's important like the Superbowl. But you – you and me, we follow it! What were you doing last night that you missed the Steelers?" Daisy felt her face freeze at the memory and she could tell that Booth had been trying to avoid the conversation he had walked into. They both awkwardly looked away from each other but Daisy felt her blood boil at the memory of Lance's bare skin in the moonlight, his criss crossing scars, his scared face as he pushed her away.
"Lance and I got in a fight last night."
"What?" Booth asked distractedly, his finger in his ear as if trying to block her. She tugged impatiently on her arm and leaned in closer.
"I said we got in a fight last night." Booth's face curdled.
"But it wasn't like anything that ever happened." Booth didn't say anything. She waited for him to ask her what had happened.
"Well?" she demanded impatiently. Booth frowned.
"Aren't you going to ask me what happened?"
"No," Booth said shortly.
"None of my business."
"Yes it is," Daisy answered stubbornly. "Lance is your friend."
"Sweets," Booth stressed, "is my shrink."
"You hate when he says that," she argued back.
"Whatever," Booth muttered sourly, and Daisy took this happily for acquiescence to continue.
"It was very strange," Daisy frowned contemplatively, swirling the wine remaining in the bottom of her glass in one hand. "He kept…screaming at me." Even Booth, despite his best intentions to block her out, looked interested.
"I know right, how could anyone scream at me? I'm adorable." Booth brushed her off.
"He was screaming?"
"What was he saying?"
"Things that didn't make sense."
"Like what kinds of things?"
"You don't have to grit your teeth at me. I can't understand you when you mutter."
"It's easier to keep myself from yelling at you," Booth seethed quietly. Daisy beamed a sunny smile.
"You know, you aren't the first person to tell me that?"
"I believe you."
"You're sweet Agent Booth. I can see why Lance likes you."
"What was Sweets screaming at you?"
"Oh. Right. About how I never listen to him and…how he's not who I think he is, and something about if we have children we'll have to give them away. Then he yelled mostly about our breakup when I rejected his marriage proposal. Stupid things." Booth's face made Daisy feel suddenly small.
"What? Did I do something wrong?" She felt very idiotic, as if she had missed something obvious in organic chemistry.
"What happened yesterday?" Booth asked instead. Daisy threw her hands up in the air.
"Thank you! That's what I'd like to know. I kept asking, and asking, and asking him but he wouldn't answer me! He just kept yelling. He wouldn't talk like a rational person." Daisy grew very quiet at the look on Booth's face, but only for a moment while she drank the last of her wine to give her courage.
"So…just a bad day, right?"
Booth grunted and walked away, leaving Daisy squawking behind him. Daisy contemplated running after him and causing a scene, but she met Lance's eyes for the briefest moment under the arm of Wendell pouring another glass for Dr. Saroyan and she swallowed back her protest.
"Miss Wick," a voice at her shoulder greeted her.
"Dr. Brennan!" she gasped, spinning around.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" She briefly considered lying in concordance with what Lance taught her was the social norm but knew Dr. Brennan wouldn't mind her brash honesty.
"No, not really."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Brennan replied, with some surprise, and made to move on. Daisy clutched her arm.
"Aren't you going to ask me why?" she gasped. Brennan peeled away.
"No. I find I don't care," she replied just as honestly. Daisy pouted, hurt more than Brennan had been.
"Well it's Lance," she called after her in a rush, skipping half a step to keep up.
Brennan kept walking, ignoring her in favor for refilling her glass from Wendell.
"We got into a fight."
"A lovers quarrel is hardly my area of expertise, Miss Wick. Perhaps you should ask Angela," she shrugged.
"Please don't," Angela snapped, obviously having had enough wine not to feel bad in spurning Daisy. Daisy swallowed, her lower lip trembling until Angela relented and grabbed Brennan's arm, dragging her to a futon.
"Come on sweetie, let's listen to your intern before she explodes." Daisy felt herself re-inflate with pride at now having such an important audience of two.
"Oh no," Angela made to stand up in leave, but Brennan's claw like hand was anchoring her into place on the futon, as if she had dragged her down into the depths of the underworld. Daisy pretended not to notice their recalcitrance before launching forward.
"We got into a huge fight, he's acting insane, and I don't know what to do. I talked to Agent Booth and he seems worried about Lance too." At the last bit of news, both of sets of eyebrows went up.
"You talked to Booth?" Brennan asked cautiously, her esteem of Daisy's problem obviously rising.
"Yes," Daisy reiterated impatiently. "Lance was screaming at me and I kept asking him what was wrong, begging him to tell me what was really going on but he just kept going on and on about how selfish I was and how he hated me and…and…" Daisy felt her eyes flood with tears.
"…and…" her nose was congested too, creating a thick, bullfrog of a voice, "…I don't think he wants to be with me anymore. But…I mean…look at me…how could he not? But…there was no warning…no anything…and today…he didn't go to work…and yesterday he came home early…he didn't even want to have sex…" she collapsed in on herself at the idea of becoming so grotesque Lancelot didn't even want to joust with her.
Angela had enough pity to sink down next to her and put a sympathetic if desperate arm around her, trying to muffle her loud wailing before the other partygoers could hear her.
"Oh God," it was Booth again. Daisy could glimpse him between her fingers. "This is ridiculous. I haven't seen this much drama since prom. I'm solving this now."
Booth marched off, veered left around the potted plant he had last seen Sweets hovering behind and found the young psychologist pretending to be absorbed in a very abstract painting behind the bar.
"Come on," he snarled, before pushing him back out through the back door Sweets had just come through.
"What the-" Sweets tried to protest, but Booth interrupted with a wave of his hand.
"Daisy is in there, bawling, ruining poor Brennan's party, which will make her very angry, and I already have one irate irrational child at home, I don't need one pissed off, hyper rational anthropologist to boot. Could you please explain what the hell is going on between you and Daisy?"
"Nothing," Sweets squeaked. "It was just a spat. We just haven't had time to cool off." Booth gave him a very unconvinced glare.
"Spats are two sided. From Daisy's perspective she hardly managed more than 'what's wrong?'"
"That's not true," Sweets defended in a sullen murmur. Even to his own ears it was weak.
"Look, I appreciate what you've done while Brennan's been on leave," Booth said earnestly, "really. But you need to get your home life in order before you can be in the field. You got that?" Sweets nodded miserably and Booth could sense there was something he wasn't telling him. He pressed on. "You know…that…" Booth cleared his throat. "…that I got your back. Right? That we're like partners too…sometimes."
Sweets seemed to understand Booth's offer to talk. He smiled very weakly.
"It's going to be fine," he told Booth earnestly. Booth opened his mouth to counter but at that moment Hodgins stuck his head out the back door and interrupted.
"It's speech time! And or funny drunk time. Here's to hoping Cam might sing again."
"Again?" Booth said eagerly.
"You missed it the first time." Booth groaned and dashed in after Hodgins.
And Sweets knew he was safe. He followed more slowly.
"Here he is! The man of the hour," the sardonic booming voice was Booth's and the smattered applause amidst laughter was for Sweets who flushed dully at being back in the spotlight after dodging it all night. He caught a glimpse of Daisy who was sitting red eyed and not quite meeting his gaze from one corner.
"Okay, okay," he smiled, feeling sick, holding up a hand.
"Speech," boomed Hodgins.
"It is your turn," Angela smiled.
"I got it," he promised, and cleared his throat, heart hammering. He had been working on what to say all day. The room died down to a dull murmur and then the occasional whisper, waiting for him to start.
"I started at the FBI six years ago," he began, and everyone laughed, even though nothing was funny yet. It was just the way of speeches and good wine.
"And I was scared." The laughing stopped. The room began to rustle with the quiet settling like a cloak over everyone.
"I came from a little town far away. Some of you know that my parents had just died…some of you didn't. But I had no family. I was making a name for myself. The FBI was a big step up for me….for anyone." He made eye contact briefly with Booth before dropping it and glancing at the spot on the wall, surveying the audience through unfocused eyes, a technique a colleague had taught him that made it look like he was making eye contact with everyone in the room while not making eye contact with anyone.
Someone cleared a throat. He realized it was himself. He started up again.
"I started out living alone for the first time…really ever. Without a family, without any friends…and lemme tell you, it was tough. Really tough. But then…I started working for the Jeffersonian. I met Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan…and they hated me."
A titter of laughter rippled through the room, breaking the nervous tension as Booth and Brennan tried to loudly protest this wasn't true, that it wasn't exactly how it had happened.
"And even if it wasn't how it was, it was how it had seemed. But suddenly it gave my aimless life focus. It gave it a sense of purpose. I had more cases brought to me through them than any other lines combined. We built a tentative trust. I gained more clients. The workplace opened up. I moved apartments."
The room had resumed its hush, unsure of where Sweets was going.
"And then someone else walked into my life," Sweets smiled and the room sighed a huge collective 'aww.' Daisy flushed.
"Daisy Wick got fired, and Dr. Saroyan asked me to be the one to fire her. That kiss was the start of our relationship." People clapped for them and Daisy looked close to tears as she squirmed in her seat, though Sweets could also tell she was pleased at the attention, regardless of the unpleasant memory of almost getting fired.
"We got through a lot of hard times together, Daisy and I." Sweets stopped, and he could see Angela staring hard at him. People were glancing at one another as if wondering if his pause was because he was choking up. He wasn't, but he wondered if he should be. He was stopping because he was carefully choosing how to proceed.
"But the people who have undoubtedly influenced my life the most are the people who have touched us all," and Sweets held out a hand to Brennan who had unconsciously slipped her hand into Booth's who was sitting next to her. She wrenched it away as everyone turned to glance at them, as if she had been caught doing something very wrong. They were still uncomfortable in the spotlight with their affections. Both flushed as everyone clapped. Sweets knew he had to round it up; people were getting antsy.
"Most of you are wondering why I told you about my beginnings at the FBI," Sweets forced himself to grin. An answering rumble of a chuckle from various people answered him. His grin died on his face and he could see Booth's sharp look stand out even in his unfocused sweep. "I told you because today is the ending of my career at the FBI."
A blank roar of sound threatened to spill out of every mouth but was halted by his outstretched palm.
"It won't be forever, at least I hope it won't. I have thought about it for a while now, and it's a good time to take a short sabbatical, to work on my book and to see the world." Sweets smiled wretchedly.
"To some I was talking about the Hobbit movie earlier. It's like J.R. R Tolkein once wrote: 'The road goes ever on and on,' so I'm taking a step forward today, and hopefully I'll circle back around." He made a short bow, held up a hand to a confused smattering of applause and stepped out of the semi circle of people to the side of plants where he was immediately mobbed by Booth, Hodgins, Angela and Brennan.
"What the hell was that?" Booth glared murderously with a hiss, twisting the skin of his arm and muttering the second half under his breath. "Is this what you wouldn't tell Daisy?"
"No, I told you, I tried to tell her."
"Are you serious?" Hodgins asked, his blue eyes huge with disappointment, shouldering in past Booth and forcing him to release Sweets from his grasp.
"Sweets," Angela managed, her frown confused.
"I can't, of course, stop you," Brennan corroborated, "but we'll be very sad to see you go."
"Sweets isn't leaving," Booth grunted.
"Yeah," Hodgins nodded furiously. "Where will you go?"
Sweets shrugged. "I haven't decided yet. I might travel. See the world. I have some money saved up. I've never seen Europe."
"No, no, no," Booth interrupted angrily. "We need you. I'll talk to Hacker. We'll fix it back up at work."
"I told you," Sweets said patiently, "I don't need you to. I've already talked to him. It's fine. I'm cleared to take off."
"Booth," Brennan tried to interrupt.
"This is ridiculous," Booth fumed.
"Booth," Angela agreed, pulling on his arm.
"No we need you on our cases! Who will profile?" Booth growled, rounding on Sweets. Sweets shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant.
"He has to do this," Brennan tugged on Booth's other arm, both women literally holding him back. Booth finally turned to his partner, seething.
"He has to see the world, just like you did. Just like you forced Zack to do." Booth gave her a glower that could have melted steel. Brennan lifted an eyebrow. Angela was wise enough to let his arm go, but Booth had to shrug Brennan off before stalking off to find wine. He hadn't had any.
"Excuse me," Sweets muttered. He had to find Daisy.
She found him before he had even begun to look properly and kissed him on tiptoe in apology.
"I understand why you were upset now," she simpered. He stared at her in reckless abandon.
"You what?" he asked in disbelief.
"You were upset about leaving the FBI. That would be a huge change for anyone," she said simply. He canted his head and stared at her from the new angle, hoping it would make more sense from the new 90 degrees. He shrugged. It was as good as an apology as he would receive from Daisy.
"Yes," he agreed. "That was it."
"I understand. You're lucky that I approve of your decision." Sweets bit the inside of his cheek in exasperation and tried not to hurl the glass in his hand at her face.
"I don't suppose you'd want to come with me?"
"To see the world?"
"Yes Daisy. I'm asking if you'd like to see the world with me."
"Well that's very romantic."
"Isn't that what you've always wanted? To be romanced by your Prince Charming?" His voice had a faintly cruel, mocking edge to it that she apparently didn't pick up on.
She thought about it for a whole minute before resolutely shaking her head. "No, no thank you. Dr. Brennan can't function without me."
Sweets seriously doubted it but declined to mention it. "You went to the Maluku islands."
"That was for work. Lance, you love your job. I don't understand why you would simply…pick up and leave your life."
He evaded her questions. Daisy was very, very smart. Much smarter than he sometimes gave her credit for. She was gullible and naïve sometimes, but sharper than a double-edged sword. Hebrews 4:12. His father's favorite verse, tattooed on his arm above his fireman's symbol. His head spun with too much wine.
"I do love my work Daisy, and my book is my work. I'm working on that now."
"Well what would I do while you wrote?"
"You could do whatever you wanted!"
"Lay out on the beach in Greece?"
"Dig up artifacts in Rome?"
"Backpack across Switzerland."
"Lance that sounds incredibly dull."
Sweets goggled at her.
"My life here has meaning and purpose, what could you offer me in that scenario that I couldn't get here?" He stared at her, dumbfounded, only able to mouth the word that his heart was screaming to say:
"…me." Her face fell like a thunderstorm.
"Oh…oh Lance I didn't mean it like that."
"I don't know how else you meant it."
"I just meant Dr. Brennan needs me in the lab."
"But…I love you."
"And I love you," she returned eagerly. "Truly, I do. But if you love me, you have to love me for how I am Lance. How I'm made. You can't love how you wish I was. A girl you wish would come with you and languor at the beach." Sweets gulped and stared at her, wondering if Daisy would ever wear a polka dot string bikini and a big floppy sun hat.
"Well…I hope you'll be here when I get back then." She pressed her thin lips together and shrugged.
"Me too Lance." She touched his arm with a lopsided smile and a bat of her eyelashes. "You have a gift…don't waste it on this sabbatical too long."
"Thank you Daisy. I have a headache. I'm sure you can find your own way home since you found your own way here." And with that petty comment, he left her standing stunned in the doorframe, feeling smaller than he had since gradeschool.
(Title Track: Down by Mat Kearney)