Timeframe/Info About This Fic: Post Season 8
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to their rightful owners.
Authors Note: I know... I know... Another full length story. Revolving around Sweets, to boot. I don't think you guys believed me when I said I was going to replenish this site's unforgivable lack of Baby Duck fics.
Anyway, I've waited to post this for a while, but I can't wait any longer. Unlike my other full length stories, I actually know where I'm going with this xD The only problem is I need to kick my sorry butt into inspiration mode and actually write to the end. Erp.
"So you're saying he just packed up and disappeared? Angela was able to get you a brief trance on his location and you missed it?" Ever since their last encounter with Pelant, Booth had become increasingly aggressive towards pretty much everyone. Sweets had tried once to discover the underlying issue—and largely suspected it to be related to the stresses of an impending marriage—but when he prompted Booth about it, the special agent almost pleadingly told him to "drop it before I have to shoot you." The psychologist's curiosity was piqued; after all, anger was more characteristic for Booth when things weren't going well with Dr. Brennan, yet Booth was more desperate than furious. However, he decided to wait and observe Booth's partner later, since she didn't constantly threaten to shoot him, and he wisely decided not to test Booth's trigger finger.
"Sorry, sir, but Pelant was gone by the time we reached the coordinates. There was nothing there—not even signs that a person had been hiding out there." The newest recruit to the FBI swallowed. Sweets observed him with a sideways glance. Obviously nervous and determined to impress Agent Booth, since he probably resembles an authoritative figure such as a father who was absent in his childhood. Lance Sweets suppressed a smile. Booth seemed to have that effect on people. Sweets himself could hardly explain with all of his shrink talk why he felt attached to the almost-dysfunctional partnership of Booth and Brennan the moment they walked into his office for the first time. Dr. Brennan had even told me once that I'm a part of Christine's family, which logically must transcend to being a part of Booth's and her family. Ergo, I am totally a part of their family as well, even if Dr. Brennan won't admit it.
A phone rang. Each member of the conversation looked down at their hips for their phones automatically. Sweets, who recognized the ring tone—though it sounded faintly tinnier than usual—smiled apologetically and excused himself from the conversation. The psychologist flipped the device open without even checking the caller ID. If this call contained valuable information regarding any of their cases, he couldn't afford to miss it.
"Doctor Lance Sweets," he answered automatically.
"Hello, Dr. Sweets," the voice on the line purred. The psychologist stiffened and his nonchalant expression froze unnaturally. He felt his arm rising to alert Booth that a murderer was on the phone with him.
"I wouldn't alert Agent Booth if I were you, Dr. Sweets" he whispered, taking great care to repeat Sweets' name and title again. To the psychologist, it sounded like the madman was relishing each time he said the elevated title, as if he was either pleased to be talking to the shrink again or that they shared some secret joke between them. Sweets was not pleased with the former option and he certainly had no idea what hidden joke his caller had concocted between them to explain the latter.
The psychologist lowered his hand, feeling a helpless, frustrated anger burn though his veins. Booth, who had kept one eye on the paling psychologist, turned his attention completely towards his friend.
"You okay, Sweets?" The question dragged the young man from his phone call and Booth frowned at the distracted look on his face. Sweets blinked twice then nodded.
"Yeah, fine." He didn't even bother covering up the speaker on the phone.
Booth was not convinced. "Are you sure?"
The psychologist smiled painfully. "It's just an issue with another patient. It's fine, Booth," he added in a much too high voice. "Really." For a trained professional, I really suck at lying.
Booth nodded slowly, but thankfully returned to grilling the newest recruits on their mistake. Sweets breathed out a brief sigh of relief and turned back to his phone conversation.
"You don't lie very well, do you, Dr. Sweets?" A low chuckle sent shivers tingling down the shrink's spine.
"What do you want, Pelant?" The psychologist's voice dropped into a hissed whisper. He wasn't sure how much of Booth's attention was still divided on him.
"Did I hear what you said correctly? Do you really consider me a patient of yours, Dr. Sweets?"
Sweets gritted his teeth and turned away from Booth, who was still chattering animatedly. He didn't trust his facial expressions enough to not alert the FBI agent that something was horribly wrong. "I consider you clinically incapable of making rational decisions, though I see no possible treatment that could correct your condition. But a very dreary, windowless concrete cell or a bullet might be a start," he muttered darkly
Although Pelant didn't seem fazed by the psychologist's diagnosis of his mental state, he was more surprised by the bitter, icy edge in the young man's tone.
"You've resorted to death threats? I never pictured you to be so, well, Agent Booth-like. I thought we were more similar than that." Sweets squeezed his eyes shut and he could almost see Pelant's overdramatic pouting face. The smooth face before Booth's bullet had ripped it apart.
"We are nothing alike," the shrink snapped a bit too loudly. Booth glanced back over at Sweets with a quizzical tilt of the eyebrow, but the shrink waved his off with a watery smile and a mouthed "it's nothing." Sweets retreated further away from the FBI agent, feeling his pulse quicken dramatically.
"You must've had a reason to call, Pelant. What do you want?"
"I'm just surprised to see you capable of speech, Dr. Sweets. Typically, one finds it difficult to communicate with a lead bullet lodged in his skull," the genius drawled slowly. "Imagine if Agent Booth had been only a second later."
Sweets suppressed a shudder and swallowed a thick lump in his throat. Don't think about the "what ifs." "But Booth came in time, Anna was stopped, and I'm not dead. You failed, Pelant."
"Are you sure?"
Those three words caused the color to rush from the psychologist's face. He drew in a sharp breath that was physically painful as it streaked down his windpipe.
"I said 'Are you sure?'. I'm fairly certain that you heard me, Dr. Sweets." The hacktivist sounded like the cat that hadn't just caught the canary, but caught it, plucked it, and served it with an expensive wine.
"We stopped your shooter… I…no one was injured," Sweets repeated, trying to gain a foothold of control in the already spiraling situation.
"And you consider that a failure?"
"You failed to kill the target," Sweets pointed out, using the murderer's words against him. "Obviously that implies failure of some type, whether intentional or not-"
A low, ominous chuckling sounded from the other side of the phone. "Just because you are still breathing, Dr. Sweets, does not mean that I failed." With each word, the hacker's tone grew a little bit sharper. By the end, it sounded as if the madman was barely able to hold back a raging tirade. Sweets could picture the hacker smiling thinly, forced to bite a quivering lip to stop from shouting.
"If I wanted to kill you, we wouldn't be having this conversation," he continued in a steadily loudening tone. "You would be six feet under by now," the young criminal seethed with barely controlled anger. "Do you honestly expect me to launch an assassin on any of you without being absolutely sure of the consequences?" The psychologist in Sweets instantly picked apart the choice of words decided to tuck away the word "any" into his shrinky storage banks. Any indicates that he has a set group of targets, Sweets considered with a dry twist in his gut. Obviously the Jeffersonian is the target. Perhaps he let something slip that he meant to hide. Announcing the target presents the opportunity to save him or her before Pelant acts. After all, that is what sa—A sick realization hit the young psychologist. If what Pelant was bragging about was true, no knowledge and no prevention was enough to save any of them. Already they, Sweets especially, had fallen into Pelant's trap.
"I knew the exact spot where you would be trapped in traffic and I knew the distance from Booth's location to your own. After all, I was the one who set it." Pelant's voice was flickering between cool triumph and boiling madness. Although he was more prone to be blinded by his anger, and therefore more likely to make an error, Sweets knew this was when he was at his most irrational and dangerous. "If I really wanted to 'succeed,'" the young man sneered the word, "then I wouldn't have positioned Booth in such a close proximity to you. Nor would I have allowed your computer hacker to gain access to the girl's files." There was a brief pause of silence.
"Tell me again, Dr. Sweets, if you think I failed." Each word that fell out of the young man's mouth dripped like a lethal poison. Both of the young geniuses were breathing heavily—one from pent up fury and the other from suppressed panic.
Get it together, Lance. You know his kind. You wrote a paper about them. The young man suppressed a groan. That was probably not the best thing to say to make me feel better. However, it was enough to calm the young psychologist down back to a rational level. He made a mistake and he's trying to use fear in order to make up for it. He's trying to make me afraid so I'll mess up.
Sweets was silent for at least a minute as he forced his heart to return to its steady thump thump. He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly through his nose. "Why me then?" He was almost certain that he was speaking to an empty line. "Why target me?"
Sweets didn't know if he was disappointed or relieved when Pelant answered almost immediately. He really hated talking to the maniac, but the life-or-death curiosity was agonizing. "Why do you think?"
"My paper," the young psychologist replied automatically. "It inspired you, and since I wrote it, I'm the only one who can predict what you'll do next."
"You think I'll really follow an article that you wrote years ago? It doesn't control me. I only used it to get your attention. Try again," Pelant's cruel smile crept through the telephone line like sour honey.
Sweets bit his lip and tried to push down deeper. "I am perhaps the easiest member of the Jeffersonian to replace. Booth can find another criminal profiler or therapist easily, though he could never find another entomologist as skilled as Hodgins or an anthropologist as brilliant as Dr. Brennan. Even Angela's technological skills are invaluable."
There was a low tutting sound as if Pelant was speaking to a slow child. "I'm disappointed that you see yourself that way. In my opinion, you are perhaps the most valuable member of your pathetic little crime fighting team. At least, in my perspective."
"You said it yourself, Dr. Sweets. You're the only one who could predict me, since we're the same."
"We are not the same!" A passerby agent sent him an odd look, but Sweets was too absorbed in the conversation to give much care.
"The others are brilliant, certainly. But they aren't very imaginative, are they? Dr. Brennan is perhaps the only person capable of matching me, but you testified yourself that she values life far too much to ever be interesting. It takes a special kind of person to write the article that you did, Dr. Sweets. It was very detailed and very, very accurate. Almost as if you were writing your own autobiography."
The young psychologist did not speak for a moment. "It is my job to get into the minds of twisted people like you to figure out how to stop them."
"I don't think that deep."
"Why am I the target?"
"Each member of your team serves a very importance purpose. For example, Ms. Montenegro serves as your 'everywhere' eyes and Booth is obviously the brawn of the operation," Pelant sounded almost bored with the labels. "My job would be infinitely easier with any of them gone."
"Then why me? Why not Dr. Brennan? Or Angela? Their deaths would cause much more damage—and that's all that you really want, isn't it? Hodgins and Booth are more than capable of ripping you apart with their bare hands. You won't get a very thrilling chase with my death." Maybe he doesn't want to run the risk of being caught again. Sweets smiled into the phone. "You're afraid of them."
"I am not afraid!" Sweets had to hold the phone away from his ear to prevent an eardrum from bursting. There was a brief whooshing sound on the other side of the line, as if Pelant was taking a breath to calm himself. When he resumed speaking, the voice was controlled and low. "As I was saying, I'm shocked that you consider yourself so worthless. As far as psychologists go, you're barely above par—just an average shrink, really." Sweets narrowed his eyes dangerously. "However, you do have a knack for getting into my head, which is not nearly as average or unimpressive." His voice took on an almost wistful tone. "You were the first one to figure out I was responsible for killing that girl those years ago." There was a light chuckle. "I still remember when you and Agent Booth came to my house, though I have to say, I wasn't at first overly impressed."
"You want to kill me because I can figure out which color of socks you want to wear today?" Sweets' patience was starting to run thin. Although he knew Pelant was a dangerous psychopath who needed to be stopped immediately, they had been on the phone for almost ten minutes. It was a miracle that Booth had not burst in on them yet.
"No, not exactly kill you…"
"Then why target me?"
"Don't think of it as a target—think of my past action as an invitation."
"Invitation?" Sweets wasn't sure he liked where this was going.
"Yes, an invitation to play."
"I'm not going to play your sick game, Pelant," Sweets snapped back. "Whatever you want me to do for you, I won't do it. I won't let you manipulate me like you manipulated that girl."
There was a short bark of laughter on the other side of the line. "You say that, Dr. Sweets, but for every inside tidbit you think you know about me, it's just another glimpse I have into your mind. I know you'll play the game eventually. Especially if you know the stakes."
"Leave the others alone." The young man's voice was surprisingly forceful for the slight tremor in his knees. The psychologist felt like a fish that the ocean's tides were slowly forcing closer towards a grinning shark.
"If you agree to play, I won't cause your friends any pain. I think you'll manage to do that quite fine on your own." Sweets bristled slightly at the hint of betrayal.
"I said I wasn't going to help you in any way. There is nothing that you can do to make me help a monster like you."
"But I haven't explained the rules of the game yet. You might want to hear them." Pelant's tone took on a rueful poutiness again. "Dr. Hodgins simply refused to play, although he would have been so much fun to bring down. Dr. Brennan started to play, and she really had me going for a while," the hacker almost sounded melancholy, "but then she called Booth and broke the first rule. I didn't realize how much outside influences could manipulate the game's outcome," Pelant now was bitter. "You could say that brilliant Dr. Brennan cheated so she could get out of the game."
"But she survived," Sweets pointed out. "Hodgins did too, so you lost twice." He was now trying the oldest psychology trick in the book—deflection to an emotion. However, he knew it would hardly cause Pelant to bat an eyelash, but it was worth a shot. Besides, with the mad genius's dark ranting, Sweets felt the overpowering urge to insert himself somewhere in the conversation. Even if it was just to make slightly asinine remarks.
"That's why everything went wrong," Pelant carried on without breaking stride. "It was because they didn't know they were playing. They got outside help because it was there. That's why I'm telling you about the game now—so you won't run to Agent Booth or Dr. Brennan or any of the others for assistance. This time we'll play with more permanent stakes. It won't be so easy to reverse the game once you start."
Sweets squeezed his eyes shut tightly and breathed slowly through his nose. He needed to calm himself down. Pelant was obviously agitating him to the point of accepting the invitation. The psychologist knew that he had to avoid agreeing to the game as long as possible. Why does he repeatedly call it a game? It is almost as if he is completely consumed by the concept of playing with others. Perhaps it stems from the child-like urges of being the ultimate winner. Pelant is the kind of person who wants to be the winner, although it is no fun if he takes the crown without competition. The challenge is the victor's prize.
"Now, the stakes—"
"I'm not playing."
"First of all, while we are playing, no harm will come to your Jeffersonian friends and your FBI agent. The moment you agree to play, I will remove all of the lovely little presents I have lined up for them immediately. It seems like the fair thing to do."
Sweets was quiet for a moment. "Is that all you want? For me to say 'yes'? And then you'll leave them alone?"
"No, of course not," Pelant laughed again. "That would hardly be worth the effort. Also on the table are our lives." The psychologist tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. "Winner takes all. If I win, I get your life and I get to do whatever I want to the little Squint Squad."
"And if I win?"
"I won't ever be a problem again." Sweets was sure the hacker was grinning into the telephone.
"What's your game then?"
"Ah, so the prize has indeed interested the shrink." The young psychologist remained rigid, holding the phone tightly in his barely shaking hand. He had no idea as to why his hand was shaking—perhaps from fear or more likely a twisted sense of anticipation.
"What is your game?" Sweets repeated with gritted teeth.
"First rule," Pelant started, "this is a two-person game. If anyone finds out about it, then you automatically forfeit." Sweets nodded on the other side. "You can't get help from anybody."
"Seems fair," he murmured, trying to hide the faint squeak in his voice. Although he was a trained professional, Sweets wasn't very good at lying to Booth or any of his other friends. At this point, he was more concerned about his inability to play his friends over beating Pelant.
"The second rule is the game isn't over until one of us is dead."
"Or incarcerated," Sweets countered sharply. He may have hated Pelant's guts, but he wouldn't allow himself to ever sink to his level by murder, disregarding the strong desire he had to lodge a bullet deep into Pelant's big brain.
"We'll see," Pelant answered. "It depends on how far the game goes."
"Are there any more rules?" Sweets asked slowly, uncertain if he wanted to hear another rule.
"I promised you, Dr. Sweets. The game is simple. Those are the only two rules."
Sweets closed his eyes and nodded. "Okay," he paused, taking a deep, long breath. "I'll play your game, Pelant. Just leave the others alone."
"You have my word."
The psychologist suppressed a nervous groan. He doubted the psychopath had the capacity to be even remotely honest. He was about to reply, but the hacktivist beat him to it.
"I look forward to seeing you on the playing field, Doctor Sweets," the young murder smirked and suddenly the line went dead with a click.
The cellphone was still glued to Sweets' ear seconds after Pelant had terminated the conversation. With jittery hands, the psychologist slowly lowered the cellphone from his face and slammed it shut with a loud snap that made him wince. What have I gotten myself into? He stared blankly at the device in his hand as if it would answer him. Naturally there was no answer.
Booth's loud voice sounded right in the young man's ear, causing him to flinch violently.
"Hey, are you alright? You were on the phone for almost twenty minutes. Is everything okay?"
Sweets nodded weakly, not trusting himself to speak.
"Yeah, it's good. Nothing's wrong."
"Good," Booth studied the young agent's face carefully for a moment before deeming it all right to turn away. "If you're up to it, we can start questioning the girl who Pelant manipulated. Maybe she can give us some info on where Pelant is now."
Sweets smiled bleakly. "Sure. Sounds like a plan."
Thank you for reading!
Sorry if the beginning is a little bit dry. I swear though, it'll pick up. Just stick with me xD
(As a side note about why I thought Pelant targeted Sweets in the finale was because he thought Sweets was capable of becoming and killing him. Those papers that our Baby Duck wrote? Pretty dark and nasty things. I think Pelant realized the danger in letting Sweets stick around-he was potentially dangerous. But again, just my headcanon)