Washington, DC – Day 12

Lance Sweets had endured another sleepless night. Physically, he was exhausted. Mentally, his thoughts were caught in a seemingly infinite loop – his decision to keep Brennan in the dark, the fallout of that decision, what he could do to rectify the situation. Round and round his mind traveled the loop without a solution to be found. The only conclusion that he had reached during the long night was that a moment of arrogance had lit a fuse that could potentially destroy two lives. It was a heavy burden for the psychologist to bear.

Sweets showered and dressed, while mentally preparing himself for the day ahead. Stumbling into the kitchen, he took his largest travel mug from the cabinet and filled it to the brim with black coffee. He would need large quantities of undiluted caffeine to function in the day ahead. He downed half the quantity in the mug and refilled it. Checking the time, he realized that he needed to stop procrastinating and leave for work. Gathering his briefcase along with the little bit of self-respect and courage that he could muster, he squared his shoulders and

"Are you sure we're okay, Bones?"

Booth rested his chin on Brennan's shoulder as his arms encircled her waist. He had come home from Founding Fathers the night before and told her everything that had happened between him and Sweets. She, in turn, confessed everything that she had said to Sweets about Booth. They knew that they had done what needed to be done. No apologies were required.

Brennan turned within his arms to face him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "We are fine. Really. Neither of us meant what we said to Sweets. Stop feeling guilty. Please."

"You're right. I'll try to let it go. In the meantime, we need to get ready for work. I wish we could ride in together, but that will have to wait until this is all over. Not too much longer, right?"

"I hope not. I'm going to go shower." She gave him a kiss before pulling away and walking toward the bathroom.

"Need some help? Some company? Water conservation! That's it! We should shower together to conserve water." Booth jogged to catch up after she shot him a 'what are you waiting for' look over her shoulder.

Sweets felt as if were on a death march when he entered the Hoover that morning. He had a mental list of tasks to be accomplished and none of them would be pleasant. He was focused but unhurried as he made his way to his office. He took a detour through the break room to once again fill his travel mug. With a wry smile on his lips, he wished he could mainline the stuff, it might be more effective that way.

When he reached his office, he was almost robotic as he went through his usual routine – unlocking the door, flicking on lights, booting up his computer. It wasn't until he sat down at his desk that the apprehension he had been feeling all morning made a return. One short phone call later and he had an appointment to meet with Deputy Director Cullen at one o'clock. A quick glance at the clock told him that he had three and a half hours to complete the rest of the tasks on his checklist. Next up, canceling his appointments for the rest of the week. Emails sent, another item checked off. Switching from Outlook to Word, he quickly typed a few short sentences and clicked the print button. Grabbing the page from the printer, he signed, folded and slid it into an envelope which he placed in his jacket pocket. The last of the easy tasks now completed, he pushed himself to the next one. The only way he would make it through the day was to keep moving. If he stopped, he would get mired in the fear and cease to function.

"Booth," he barked into the phone in his usual way.

"It's me. Have you seen him yet?" Brennan had refrained from calling for as long as she could. Not knowing what was going at the Hoover was distracting her from the remains on her exam table.

Booth smiled and turned his back toward his office door when he heard her voice. "Hi, babe. Nope, haven't heard from him. Maybe he's not ready to crack yet."

"I doubt that, Booth. He seemed very distraught yesterday."

"I know. I hope he does make a move today. I am more than ready for our lives to get back to normal. Well, normal for us."

A knock on his door caught his attention. When he saw his visitor, he was glad that his door was closed. Holding up a finger, indicating he would be off the phone in just a minute, he turned his back to the door again.

"Hey, I've got to go. It's show time. I'll talk to you soon." Lowering his voice to ensure he wasn't overheard, he whispered, "I love you."

"I love you, too. Bye."

After they had both hung up, Brennan gave up all pretense of working and started pacing her office. She shared Booth's sentiment, she was ready for this to be over. Her life had been turned upside down for more than two weeks. Getting back to normal sounded very appealing.

"Hey, Sweetie," Angela greeted Brennan as she walked into her best friend's office. "Have you heard from Booth yet?"

"I just talked to him. I think Sweets was there. He said something about it being show time before he hung up."

"Oh boy! I wish I could be there. I'd love to see the kid squirm under Booth's glare." Angela's eyes twinkled at the thought.

"Angela, this isn't only about getting back at Sweets. Booth wants him to understand what it means to be part of a team."

"I know, Bren. But, the revenge part? That's the part I'm enjoying."

Brennan couldn't help but laugh at the smile Angela flashed her. "Come, Ange, we need to find something to distract me. I can't concentrate on work right now."

"Grab your purse, Bren. I have the perfect distraction for you. Shopping!" She walked out of the office, leaving Brennan to catch up with her.

"Agent Booth, do you have time to talk now?" Sweets had opened Booth's door, but had yet to enter the office.

"Sure, Sweets, come on in." Booth flashed a smile and motioned for Sweets to join him. He briefly wondered which route Sweets would take, avoidance or confession. Either way Booth was ready for him.

Now or never, I suppose. Sweets took a seat across from Booth's desk and took a few deep breaths, trying to calm his nerves before he began. He must have taken too long, because Booth broke the silence of the room.

"What's up, Sweets? You look like hell. Did you spend last night in Atlantic City?" Booth chuckled at the agonized look that crossed Sweets face. He knew the kid was feeling guilty about his 'relapse.'

"Uh, no, of course not, Agent Booth." Sweets couldn't bring himself to look at Booth. Instead, he chose a point just over Booth's shoulder and kept his focus there. "I need to talk to you about what happened during your fake death."

"Okay, what about it. You didn't have anything to do with that." Booth continued to get his digs in where he could. After the week of hell that Sweets had put Brennan through, he was not going to make this easy.

"Actually, I did." He held up his hand to stop Booth's next interruption. "Can I please just say this? Once I'm done, you can say or do whatever you want." Booth nodded and motioned for Sweets to continue. "I am the person responsible for Dr. Brennan not being informed of the situation. I chose to remove her name from the list. Director Cullen was unaware of my actions."

Sweets paused to give Booth a chance to speak. Booth however, remained silent, leaning back in his chair, with his arms crossed. Sweets recognized his expression as the one he used in interrogations, when he was waiting for the suspect to break and tell everything that he knew.

"Dr. Brennan always compartmentalizes her emotions. I thought that she would have to deal with her feelings for you if she thought you were dead." He finally looked at Booth. "I didn't stop to consider how the deception would affect her. I didn't realize that she would see it as a betrayal." He broke away from Booth's glare and stared at the floor.

"So, this was all just an experiment to you? You just wanted to see if she could feel something? Is that it?" Booth's voice was harsh, full of anger and disappointment.

"Yeah, it was." Sweets felt so small. He had come to realize how incredibly selfish he had been, all in the name of his book. "I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. I didn't -"

"You didn't think, Sweets!" Booth stood and slammed both hands on his desk. "You know her history. You know how hard it is for her to trust people. You know that she trusts me. Me! The one person who promised to always be there for her, to never betray her."

He leaned over his desk toward Sweets, who shrunk in the chair, trying to make himself a smaller target for Booth's wrath. "She trusted me! Who are you to put yourself in the middle of our partnership like that? Partners have to trust each other. I would trust her with my life. I have trusted her with my life. She has saved my life, more than once. She trusted me with her life, which was completely justified because I have saved her more than once. I saved her the night I stepped in front of that bullet."

Booth sat down, out of steam, emotionally exhausted, but he still had more to say. "Thanks to you, she had to live with the guilt that I died in her place. Thanks to you, she was blindsided when she found out I was alive. And thanks to you, she had reason to doubt me."

"I know, Booth, I know." The enormity of his mistake hit Sweets like a baseball bat to the head. Booth had made points that he hadn't yet considered. "I'm doing what I can, Booth. I can't make this up to you or Dr. Brennan, but I am doing what I can to make the situation better."

"That's good to hear. You know that we aren't your patients anymore, right? That's never going to happen again." Sweets nodded in understanding. "You need to talk to Cullen about this."

"I am. I have an appointment with him," he checked his watch, "in twenty minutes."

"Well, then you should probably get going." Booth remained seated as Sweets stood and walked across his office.

"Hey, Agent Booth, are we okay?" Sweets kicked himself for asking, but he needed to know where he stood with the agent.

"No, Sweets, we're not. Don't be late for your meeting with Cullen." Booth picked his cell phone up off of his desk, thumbed it open and pressed speed dial one. When he saw that Sweets was still standing in the doorway, he turned his back to him, dismissing him.

Lance Sweets sat in the reception area of Deputy Director Cullen's office. He still had ten minutes until his appointment, but he was ready to get it over with. This was the last task on his mental list and once it was completed, he could put his whole fiasco behind him.

"Dr. Sweets, Deputy Director Cullen will see you now." Cullen's assistant, Hazel, jarred Sweets from his musings with a smile and waved her hand toward the door.

"Yes, thank you, Hazel." Sweets stood, rubbing his sweaty palms on his slacks. Straightening to his full height, he squared his shoulders and straightened his tie and jacket. He paused at the door long enough to give a quick knock on the door before entering.

"Ah, Dr. Sweets, good to see you. I have been expecting to hear from you." Cullen shuffled some papers on his desk and uncovered a notepad on which to take notes. "So, were you able to discover who removed Dr. Brennan's name from the list?"

"Sir, I, uh, already knew who was responsible." Mustering his last ounce of courage, he looked Cullen in the eye before continuing. "Sir, it was me. I made the decision not to inform Dr. Brennan."

Cullen lack of reaction made Sweets uneasy. Sweets realized that Cullen was just as skilled at Booth at waiting out a suspect. Unable to tolerate the silence any longer, Sweets continued.

"I wanted to gauge her reaction to Agent Booth's death for my book. I didn't consider what could happen to their partnership." Sweets removed the envelope from his jacket pocket and slid it across the desk to Cullen. "In light of everything that has happened, I believe that this is the only action I can take." Sweets stood and shook Cullen's hand before walking toward the door. He stopped before exiting the office and turned back toward Cullen. "Thank you, sir, for the opportunity. It's been an honor." Sweets left without looking back.

"He resigned? I was not expecting that." Brennan snuggled in closer to Booth as they reclined on the couch.

"I was surprised, too. I was expecting Cullen to slap some disciplinary measures on him and that would be the end of it. Instead, he walked into Cullen's office, resignation in hand. From what Hazel told me, he didn't even give Cullen a chance to talk him into staying." Booth's fingers lazily drew circles on Brennan's hip, smiling as she began to squirm.

"What did Sweets say when you told him that we already knew?"

"I didn't tell him. I was going to, but I got a little distracted." He slid his fingers up, under the hem of her shirt and ghosted them across her midriff. "I got caught up in my anger and by the time I realized I hadn't told him, he was long gone. I tried calling him, but he didn't answer. Maybe I'll go by his apartment tomorrow."

"That is a good idea. I don't want him to think that he split us up." She smiled at Booth as a thought occurred to her. "If anything, he helped to push us together."

"Yeah, he kinda did, not that I'm going to thank him or anything. He did put you through hell, after all. It's going to take me a long time to forget that." He reached up and brushed a lock of hair off her face before placing a kiss on her forehead. "I hate that he hurt you. I plan on spending the rest of my life making it up to you."

"Booth, you have nothing to make up to me. However, the evidence has shown me that I don't want to live my life without you. I like the sound of spending the rest of my life with you, even though I have no way of knowing how long that will be."

"Good to know, baby, because I don't intend to ever let you get away." Booth waggled his eyebrows, shot her a charm smile, and made her an offer she couldn't refuse. "So, would you like me to show you how I intend to spend the next thirty, forty or fifty years?"

Before she even had a chance to answer, he had hopped up off the couch, scooped her into his arms and headed for his bedroom while she squealed in delight.

A/N - Well, was that what you expected? It was the plan all along. I said I would make Sweets pay, right? Tonight you get a two for one - this chapter and the epilogue. And I will mark this story complete. It has been so much fun to write and I hope you have enjoyed reading just as much. Thanks to all of you dear readers, you just been wonderful! And, now I give you the epilogue... ~ craftyjhawk