Timeframe/Info About This Fic: Post Season 8
Disclaimer: Bones and its characters belong to their rightful owners.
Authors Note: Ack! It's been a long time, guys. Sorry about that. I do have an excuse though-I was in another country for much of the summer. And, uh, I'vefallenintoanotherfandomandIcan'tgetouthelp
Yeah... Anyway, this chapter is dedicated to bloodxscribbles who sought me out on Tumblr to request I update this soon. Seriously, guys. That's the way to make my day and get my attention :D
Hopefully you'll enjoy this. I'm not sure if I like how it came out, but, eh, we'll see.
Just as Sweets suspected, the used girl had no idea where Pelant was, and even if she had the vaguest idea, it was incredibly doubtful she would have announced the location in front of her failed target and the man who had shot her, preventing the death of said target. She may have given off subtle, unconscious clues during the rather one-sided interview conducted primarily by Booth, but Sweets was too preoccupied with his own personal tormentors to pay close attention. He didn't need to know where Pelant was. He needed to figure out how to outwit a master manipulator. Without alerting his closest friends.
If Sweets was considerably under perceptive during the interrogation, his partner was quite the opposite. Not only was the older man particularly attentive to the rather sullen suspect (in fact, the special agent noticed several contrasting facial tics and word jumbles that, in different circumstances, would have make the younger psychologist rather proud), but he was also suspicious of the young doctor's lack of concentration throughout the entire interview. He immediately brought it up the moment the two left the interrogation chamber.
"Sweets, what's wrong with you?" The younger man started at the older agent's sudden question. "I mean, I think your shrink-y mojo was a bit, well, broken back there." Sweets blinked once, then twice, but he still didn't answer. He was regarding the federal agent with a rather unfortunate mix of deer-in-the-headlight and what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about. "You okay?" Booth took a hesitant step towards the younger agent.
Sweets stepped back quickly and nearly bumped into the wall behind him. "Yeah, fine. Fine," he chuckled nervously. "I was just, ah, thinking about what she said about Pelant's, uh, pl—"
Booth raised a slow eyebrow and frowned at his colleague. "You were thinking so hard I had to practically push you out of the room. Seriously—what's on your mind. It has to be something big."
"There were some obvious psychological signs in her face that indicated that she wasn't being completely truthful with us," Sweets murmured in a soft voice. He was trying to regain control of the situation between himself and Booth. It hadn't even been an hour since Pelant's issued challenge and his acceptance and Sweets was already starting to screw things up. Get a grip, Lance. For some reason, he felt like he was able to grapple back some fragment of normality when he resorted to analyzing their latest detainee like a suspect instead of a pawn of Pelant's deadly game. If he scrutinized the girl's actions objectively, it was much easier to force the color from his voice.
"Yeah, I got that." Booth rolled his eyes. "I thought it was kind of obvious since she kept changing the story."
Sweets glanced down at his tie, picked off invisible lint and flicked it away with a forced expression of neutrality. The older FBI agent regarded him with a faded frown.
"Sweets," the former soldier started in a soft voice, "what's wrong? Something's bothering you. I haven't seen you this un-Sweets-like since the Gravedigger murder…" He hesitated for a moment before an idea crossed the agent's mind. "Are you still worried about Pelant? He can't hurt you, if that's what you're afraid of." Booth gestured towards the locked door where their prisoner was currently being held. "And she's not a threat anymore. We got her—and she didn't get you."
The young doctor looked back up at the federal agent and forced a shaky smile despite the churn in his gut. If you only knew, Booth… "Don't worry about me, Agent Booth. I believe I am only experiencing a faintly more concentrated reaction similar to the one I felt after Taffet's assassination. It's nothing I can't handle." His smile widened slightly. He was touched by the agent's uncharacteristic concern. "Just your textbook emotions: relief, fear, adrenaline, satisfaction, uh, guilt—"
"I still feel responsible for Pelant using my work," the psychologist admitted weakly and turned his face away from the older agent. He neglected to mention that the latter listed emotions weren't from the shooting, but from his recent call with Pelant. Somewhere deep in his gut, the young man knew that when he agreed to the deadly contest with a mad killer, people he cared about were unavoidably going to be hurt. Fear. Adrenaline. Guilt.
"Sweets, listen to me—this isn't your fault. Did you hear what I said?"
The young psychologist turned away completely and started walking towards the elevator. "I have a few things I got to finish, so if you don't need me…" he stated automatically, hitting the down button on the control panel. The doors slid open silently and a few agents filtered in and out with polite murmurs, but the young man hesitated for a moment. He turned back to face Booth and smiled weakly before boarding the lift.
"Thanks, Booth. For what you said. I mean it…"
The doors slowly slid shut and hid the young profiler from sight, leaving behind a bemused federal agent who was internally cursing his inability to coax the shrink into confiding in him.
Well, whatever it is, he can fix himself. He's a smart kid.
Booth didn't openly admit it, but he was weighed down too heavily by his own issues to want to pursue the matter much further.
The call came about an hour after Sweets had left the Hoover building in such a rush. A contained explosion at a local gas station had left at least three dead and the obvious condition of the remains needed an expert to determine whether foul play was involved. Within seconds after dropping the cell from his ear, Bones had called and tersely informed him that she would not need a ride from the Jeffersonian, as she would be riding with Doctors Saroyan and Hodgins for the foreseeable future. Booth snapped his phone shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, releasing a loud sigh.
Damn you, Pelant. This is your fault. Still unable to risk the lives of innocents for his own happiness, Booth had yet to explain to his former-fiancée as to why he had suddenly broken off the engagement. Feeling a sense of broiling rage directed towards the smug computer hacker, Booth vowed softly under his breath that he would get revenge on the man sooner or later. For everything that monster had done to him. Perhaps the only friend the mad man had yet to harm was Cam, but the agent knew it was only a matter of time before they all were a part of his final coup de grâce.
Not looking forward to spending time alone at a crime scene with three particular people—Cam (who would no doubt ask questions), bug boy (who would be bound through marital ties and Angela's friendship with Brennan to hate him), and Bones (self-explanatory)—Booth nearly dialed Sweets number to check up on the shrink and to invite him to the "party" to provide a psychological opinion. However, after the third ring directed him to the shrink's way-too-perky voice mail response, Booth hung up before leaving a message.
What was I thinking? He isn't even qualified to be a first responder. We don't even know if this was a crime, so we don't need a profile. Besides, he probably just needs to blow off some steam from this past case alone. Still, Sweets refusal to answer made the agent a bit wary and he promised himself he would at least check up on the kid before heading home for the night.
Realizing he had wasted enough time calling no one in particular, Booth made his way slowly to his Bureau-issued SUV and rode in silence to the site of the explosion.
Sweets had almost walked past his own car.
In his defense, the car was a rental that the Bureau had provided after his current vehicle was sprayed by assassin bullets, but it was still a bit embarrassing for the young man.
All right… I just need to get out of here as soon as possible. If I have no interaction with Booth and the others, then I can't tell them about Pelant? Right…? The young man swallowed nervously and fumbled with his keys for a moment. Which one was for the car? They told me it wasn't the black one. I think. As the metallic keys jangled in his slightly trembling fingers from adrenaline, the young man kept darting worried glances over his shoulder. He wasn't looking out for Pelant or another sent assassin.
He was looking out for Booth.
For some odd reason, the psychopath's marred face wasn't on the top of his "please, please, please, do not show up in front of my car right now" list. All of the young man's closest friends had instead replaced the wicked monster's ugly mug on the list. Pelant was no doubt over the moon with this sudden flip in the shrink's social mindset. It's part of his twisted game. He wants to throw me in an unfamiliar place before he kills me…or worse.
Sweets heard a slight metallic grinding at his waist and glanced down quickly. He was trying to unlock his car door with his apartment keys. Every unnatural, however innocent, sound set him on edge.
Wow... This really is sad. Sweets forced out a nervous chuckle. Why am I so rattled all of a sudden? It's not like I'm not used to going after insane serial killers. Sweets mashed his lips together as he finally found the right key—it was the black key—unlocked his door, threw himself into the driver's seat and slammed the door shut quickly. That's it though—I've never actually personally gone after a serial killer. And I've never been invited by one before. The young psychologist rolled his eyes to the unfamiliar underside of the car's roof and sighed. What I'd give to be the nameless shadow behind the observation glass again… Almost wistfully, the young man thought about his early days working at the Bureau when Booth had forbade him to join the interview. Now they—Pelant—know who I am.
Sweets placed both sweaty palms on the steering wheel and allowed his fingers to curl in tightly around the faded plastic. A bit too tight, as if they were around a certain someone's neck.
"All right. So… Where do I go to escape someone who has eyes everywhere?" The rhetorical question caused a nervous hiccup to bubble from the shrink's throat.
I can't just disappear. Booth or the others will get suspicious and start looking for me. If they get too close or if they find me, Pelant'll kill them. I can't put them in danger, but I can't tell them.
Feeling an uncharacteristic surge of anger, Sweets dug his teeth-ravaged fingernails into the soft plastic of the steering wheel and growled under his breath.
He's laughing at me. Pelant's sick humor was slowly becoming apparent as Sweets finally realized the real damage this was causing. He's turning everything I've ever wanted against me. I wanted to be in the interrogation booth and be a hero like Agent Booth and now I've got it. I'm not faceless anymore—at least not to Pelant. Sweets briefly revisited the question of where to go. Before I came to the Bureau, I would have given anything to have a surrogate family to take me in like Mom and Dad did. Now I can't just disappear for a few weeks without having them freak out. Sweets shut his eyes and groaned. Just a few short years ago, Sweets knew nobody and was nobody. His disappearance wouldn't have been noticed until a curious someone from work knocked on his door or a postal worker noticed a pile up in his mail after a week. If he tried to pull the same stunt of disappearing without a trace that day, he was safe in assuming his absence would have been noticed within twelve hours.
An idea struck the young man. I can just tell them I'm going on a short leave to clear my head. I can come up with the technical psych-explanation later, but if I drive somewhere far, call the others to let them know, and leave my phone there, then if they check, Angela will find me, I don't know, in New Hampshire. Then they won't be able to contact me and I'll come back for Pelant. Quite proud of his plan, Sweets turned on the ignition and groaned again.
Apparently the Bureau would lend you a car if yours got totaled on the job, but that didn't mean they would be gracious with the gasoline. Sweets doubted he would have enough fuel to roll out of the parking lot, much less make it to New Hampshire.
Might as well start building up a paper trail… He rolled his eyes again and carefully backed out of the parking lot, grateful not see a certain federal agent at the door waving him down. I can hit a gas station on my way out of DC.
Whoever had called in the explosion had grossly understated the magnitude of the blast. It was certainly not contained and if Booth hadn't been previously informed, he would have never guessed the flattened lot had ever been a gas station. Perhaps the only remnant of the explosion was a severely distorted steel threshold and a fire-seared section of the back concrete wall. A few mangled pieces of metal were strewn about the site and a team of cautious firefighters were attempting to put out a smoking sedan.
Booth whistled softly to himself and stepped out of his vehicle. He saw the curly back of Hodgins' head—what's he doing here? There aren't any bugs here—but he carefully maneuvered away from the crouching entomologist, hoping not to be seen.
"Hey! Agent Booth!"
Booth swung around and forced a smile as the bug boy all but bounced into his direct line of sight. "Hodgins. Just the guys I wanted to see. Do you have anything related to the case?" The subtle hint was hopefully enough to dissuade the ginger from asking about the unlikely couple's devastating breakup.
"Uh, right, well, no bugs."
"Really?" Booth slightly cocked an eyebrow. In his peripheral vision, he was watching Cam converse with a few paramedics over one crispy pile of ash, but he had yet to spy his former fiancée. "That's really…not that weird."
Hodgins' lips pursed. "No, but I was a part of the team that searched for the cause."
Booth perked up. "And?"
The ginger entomologist shrugged. "Nothing yet, but we just got here. Uh," he sent a nervous glance at someone behind him. "Doctor Brennan is behind you if you need to talk to her, but, um," the ginger's eyes wandered to the side, "Cam could use some help over there. I can go help Doctor B if you want to help Doctor Saroyan."
For the first time since waking up that morning, Booth felt a small wave of relief. He was expecting a frosty conversation or at least an ill-timed question by the others, but it seemed like he was able to dodge that particular bullet for a moment longer. "Thanks, Hodgins," he gave the entomologist a weak smile. "Keep me updated on the cause of this mess, okay?"
"Yeah," the other man nodded and was instantly swept away by another agent who seemed to have found something significant by the remains of one of the warped cars.
Booth shook his head with a low chuckle. He followed the ginger's zigzag path with his own eyes and froze. Something about one of the cars made the federal agent stop in his tracks. He slowly moved towards the incinerated vehicle. There was something very familiar with it, as if he had seen it before, but he couldn't place when and where.
That's where he had seen it before.
Cam rubbed her tired eyes and stood up from the most recent pile of charred remains. There was no flesh. The past three bodies had displayed no sign whatsoever of any useable flesh. Although she considered herself to have a rather strong stomach, the putrid smell of diesel and overcooked flesh was starting to make her a bit nauseas. Cam brushed off the ash from her protocol over suit and glanced around the scene. It was impossible to say whether or not the explosion was intentional, but she had yet to see anything in her investigation that would prove foul play or a cover up. No bullets. No detonator packs. No nothing except for a few charred skulls.
The pathologist glanced towards where Booth and Hodgins were discussing something. A sad frown formed on the woman's lips. She hadn't officially seen Booth after the proposal, but according to Hodgins, who heard it from Angela who heard it from Brennan, the federal agent had been overjoyed. Looking at the man now, it was hard to believe that was true. A permanent frown was stretched across the federal agent's forehead and Cam noticed that he was obviously trying to hard not to look at Dr. Brennan and failing. The broken engagement had come as a shock to all of those at the Jeffersonian, but even after a week, the strained relationship still looked damaged.
Something caught the pathologist's eye. She tore her gaze from the special agent and focused on a suspicious character halfway across the wreckage. It wasn't the outfit that the man was wearing that caused her to pause. After all, he was wearing the same fire resistant suit that all of the emergency responders were cloaked in. However, what he was doing wasn't so ordinary. The man had loaded a large black body bag onto a stretcher and was in the process of navigating the package away from the crime scene. A body that Cam had yet to see.
"Excuse me," Cam called, flagging down the man with a wave of her hand. The man paused and turned towards her expectantly. His face was concealed by the darkly tinted, reflective mask. Cam was unsettled by her inability to see the man's face.
"Yes, Doctor Saroyan?" The voice was muffled, yet the smug tone seemed vaguely familiar to the pathologist. The fact that the medic seemed to know her personally threw the woman off balance for a moment. "Can I help you?"
"I don't remember seeing that victim. I'm sorry, but the remains are not allowed to leave the si—"
"I assure you that everything is fine, Doctor Saroyan," the man murmured in a stifled purr. Cam blinked slowly at the man. If she peered hard enough into the figure's reflective face mask, she was sure she could see a crinkled dark eye staring back at her. Everything about this responder was giving the pathologist a bad vibe, yet she couldn't exactly put her finger on why. "Doctor Brennan already gave me permission to remove this particular set of remains and transport them to the Jeffersonian."
"I—the remains shouldn't be sent to the Jeffersonian unless there was proof that foul play was invo—"
The man dipped his head slightly. "I'm only following orders, Doctor Saroyan," he repeated her name for the third time. Despite the heat of the afternoon and the still blazing vehicles, Cam felt an icy shudder run up her spine.
"I wasn't notified of another body then," Cam said slowly, backing away from the medic as he began pushing the body bag towards a nearby transportation van. "That must mean the fatality count is up to four."
"Certainly does. Such a tragedy…" The man turned away from the pathologist and resumed his current mission. "Best of luck solving this, Doctor Saroyan."
Feeling thoroughly creeped out and still incredibly suspicious of the interloper, Cam decided to double check with Brennan to make sure that he had been, in fact, following her orders.
"Doctor Brennan," Cam called, making her way quickly to the kneeling forensic anthropologist.
The other woman glanced up. "Yes, Doctor Saroyan?" Cam cringed internally at the repeated use of her professional name. "Can I help you?"
"I was just wondering—did you give permission to one of the men here to remove a set of remains in order to send them back to the Jeffersonian?"
A confused frown graced the pale woman's lips. "No, why?"
Cam opened her mouth to respond when a sudden bubble of excitement and shouting diverted the doctors' attention. A wide-eyed medic appeared at their side. His thin face was not concealed by any form of mask.
"Another body's been found! That makes four!"
The pathologist swung around to where she had last seen the suspicious man, but no one was there. Uttering a mild curse under her breath, she informed Brennan on the way to where their guide was leading them.
Brennan frowned after hearing what had happened between Cam and the man. "Could you give a physical description of him?"
The other woman shook her head once, then twice. "No…he was wearing all this gear that covered his face." She glanced around at the various workers attempting to put out the last of the flames and felt her gut clench again. Not even the firefighters who were in the direct line of fire had as much masking gear as the interloper had been wearing. Someone had evidently wanted to remain unidentified. "I'm calling Booth over here." The anthropologist looked almost as if she wanted to stop Cam, but hesitated and nodded.
"It is imperative that we stop him before he tampers with evidence. This may have been intentional." Cam nodded, grateful that the ever-rational Doctor Brennan was putting her work before her personal life. Cam didn't feel like counseling or playing the aggressive boss card at the current moment.
"Seeley!" Cam shouted, waving her hand in the air to signal to the federal agent that his assistance was requested. Instead of hesitating as Cam thought he would, the man came over immediately with wide eyes.
"You found another one?" he asked nervously.
"Yes, but that isn't wh—"
"Could you get a rough idea of who the other victims were?"
Cam wasn't sure why the federal agent looked so desperate, but she decided to humor him for a brief moment. "Uh, two females and one male. We think one of the women was about forty, but the other one was har—"
"What about the male?" the federal agent demanded.
"Seeley? Is everything okay?" Cam tilted her head and tried to meet the agent's eyes.
"The male?" Booth prompted.
"Uh, we think he was in his forties as well." This seemed to calm the agent down significantly. He nodded once and let a relieved smile flicker across his lips.
"I just thought I recognized one of the cars here. That's all. No big deal."
"Male," Brennan said slowly, intentionally oblivious to the conversation revolving around her.
"What?" Booth glanced down at the charred bones at his feet. The skeleton looked as if it had been in fetal position when the explosion happened. Both hands and feet were grouped together, although there was no sign of forced bondage or any remnants of a rope or chain.
"The fourth victim. He was a male, judging by the size of the pelvis." She reached for the burnt mandible and gently pulled it open. "It's hard to tell with the physical damage," the anthropologist tilted her head slightly to the left, "but I believe the victim was between twenty to thirty. Although there is evidence of the eruption of his wisdom teeth, one is still partially submerged, indicating he's probably around twenty-five to twenty-nine." Brennan surveyed the entire skeleton. "Approximately 1.8 meters…or about six foot." Out of habit, she gave the US Standard unit of height for her partner.
Booth's eyes glazed over the blacked remains and felt a sick twist in his gut. His brown gaze landed on the mangled residue of a melted watch around one of the brittle wrists. Try as he might, he was unable to tear his leaden stare from the destroyed accessory.
So what? A lot of men wear watches. Even nice, silvery ones. Which look like they were really old.
"Seeley?" Cam pressed again, watching the color drain from her friend's face. "What's wrong?" Even Brennan's icy mask cracked slightly and she watched her partner's actions with concern.
"It's just that I recognize one of the cars here and the watch and I—I'm calling Sweets right now." Booth turned away and instantly pulled out his phone. He began dialing with frantic speed.
"What does Dr. Sweets have to do with this?" Brennan swapped a confused look with Cam. Suddenly the pathologist's eyes widened and her dark gaze landed heavily on the pile of bones at their feet. Two and two suddenly connected.
Oh God… Booth can't be serious…
The federal agent jammed the phone to his ear and waited with darting eyes to hear the shrink's chipper voice. Come on…come on… The others watched the man with varying expressions of shock, worry, and fear. Only a few days had passed from when Sweets had been pursued by Pelant's assassin, and already their little duck was in danger again.
"This is Dr. Lance Sweets of the FBI. If you are a patient and need imme—"
Booth dropped the phone and shook his head weakly. "It went to his answering machine."
"That's good though…right?" Cam tried to smile, but her eyes were a bit too bright to pull off the relieved look. "That means his phone is still working. If it was destroyed, you wouldn't have gotten that recording." She glanced from Brennan to Booth, neither of which looked particularly hopeful. Where's Angela when you need her. She'd know what it would mean.
"Cam! Booth! Dr. B!" Hodgins' shout jostled the three from their dark imaginings. "I think I found something!"
They quickly made their way to where the entomologist was standing in the parking lot. Booth saw the thing behind him and groaned loudly, wiping his face with his hands.
"A phone just went off in here. Honestly I don't know how it survived the blast, but maybe it means something." Hodgins leaned into the passenger side window and reached for the glove compartment handle. "We should probably find out who it bel—hey, are you alright, Cam?" His gloved hand froze by the melted handle and he pulled himself out of the car. He took a hesitant step towards the huddled group.
The doctor shook her head slowly, but she didn't verbalize what was bothering all of them.
Hodgins glanced from Cam to Brennan to Booth. The hairs on his neck were starting to prickle uncomfortably. "Uh, what's going on?"
Booth turned away from the group and faced the mangled remains of the Bureau—issued vehicle. His right hand crumpled into a hard ball and before he knew what he was doing, he plunged his fist deep into the charred and flaked metal.
He was nearly certain that he had injured his knuckles somehow, but he didn't care.
I wasn't able to save him this time. Booth squeezed his eyes shut and leaned his forehead against the sharp and scratchy hood of the car. His chest rose and fell rapidly with various emotions ranging from fury to sorrow.
"What's going on!?" Hodgins repeated again, his voice lilting slightly.
Even Brennan's eyes were bright. "The fourth set of remains belonged to a young man in his mid to late twenties." Hodgins' brow knitted in confusion. He was quickly running through a list of people he knew. "The victim was wearing a watch when the explosion occurred. Behind you is Dr. Sweets' car."
Hodgins took a step away from the vehicle. His disbelieving crystalline eyes grated across the charred surface and widened. The entomologist's lips parted slowly.
"No… You don't mean that Swe—"
"Nothing has been confirmed at the moment," Brennan murmured. The intended words of hope sounded harsh and hollow against her rational ears. So far everything they had found seemed to be confirming what they didn't want to hear.
Booth suddenly spun around, eyes blazing with an indiscernible emotion. "Figure out what caused this. Now," he ordered, jabbing the ginger sharply in the chest. The federal agent stalked away, no doubt to file a missing persons report.
Hodgins nodded slowly, not trusting himself to speak.
What am I going to tell Angie…?
A bit of a long chapter, but I felt like I couldn't cut it off properly. Sorry for any factual errors or OOCnes o.O
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