"Hey, kid." Angela caught up to him and wrapped her arm round his. "I'm taking you out tonight."
Sweets jumped a little; he hadn't heard Angela come up from behind as he walked out of the lab.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked.
"You know what's funny about you? You walk around saying things like 'dope' and geek out over the most recent sci-fi flicks, and yet you respond with 'I beg your pardon' when you don't understand something."
Sweets gave a small laugh as they exited the Jeffersonian. "Psychologists are allowed personality quirks, too, you know," he said.
"Hm." Angela sounded unconvinced.
Sweets wasn't sure what he thought about Angela hanging onto his arm. The more steps they took, the more it seemed like she was leading him instead of joining him on his jaunt to the parking ramp.
"Is there something I can help you with, Ms. Montenegro?"
"You don't have to call me Ms. Montenegro. Try Angela."
"I was just trying to maintain a professional decorum."
"See what I mean? Decorum. Who says that?"
"Professionalism is important," Sweets said feebly.
"Professionals don't take other professionals bar hopping," Angela replied.
Sweets did a double take. "Is…that what we're doing?"
She winked at him.
"Should I take that as a yes?"
"Just get in the car." Angela pulled out her keys. Sweets didn't know how they had made it to Angela's vehicle so quickly.
"Are we coming back later?" he asked as Angela slid into the driver's seat. He looked over to his car, sitting lonely in the near-empty ramp. "My car's still over there, and I don't want to get a ticket."
"Don't worry about it. Soon you'll be so drunk you won't care."
"I find your predictions of the night's proceedings interesting."
Angela leaned out of the car, hand on the door handle, head tipped towards him incredulously. "Sweets, not everything is interesting. Get in."
"How many bars have you been to?" Angela asked.
"You mean like a ballpark?" Sweets asked.
Angela turned to give him a smirk, then looked back to the road.
"Oh, I get it," he said, annoyed. "It's a crack at my age, isn't it? That I would know exactly how many bars I've been to. Why is everyone so attentive to how old I am? At the rate you all accrue doctorates, many of you must have been close to my age when you entered the field."
"The difference is, we were much older when we started fighting crime for a living."
"So, I'm part of the crime fighting team?" His eyes sparked hopefully.
"Don't get ahead of yourself," she said.
He slumped back a bit. "No one seems to think it's very remarkable that someone my age has such an important job. I'm an FBI psychologist trained to asses and provide therapy for individuals working in partnerships, and have recently turned to criminal profiling by commission. Most people my age are only halfway through their first doctorate, and that's if they decide to get one."
"Oh, we think you're remarkable, all right," Angela said.
Sweets stared at her ear as if it would give him the answers. "I sense there's more meaning behind those words than you're letting on."
"Sense away," Angela said. "We're here."
The bar was reasonably crowded, comfortably noisy, and just dim enough to notice. Angela found them seats at the bar and ordered two shots.
"You're drinking?" Sweets asked.
Angela downed the shot. "Have been for over well over a decade, sweetie."
"Very funny," Sweets said. "My point in asking is, how are we going to get home?"
Angela shrugged. "We're going to be out for a couple of hours. A few shots here and there won't incapacitate me. I know how to pace myself."
"Angela, I don't think—"
"Shh." She shoved the second shot glass towards him. "Have some fun. You'll get drunk enough not to worry about it."
Sweets turned the glass around in his fingers, eyeing her. "You seem very confident in your ability to get me wasted."
Her grin was both sweet and unnerving. "Trust me. I know how to have a good time."
"So what exactly is the purpose of this?" Sweets asked, two shots and half a beer later.
"Consider it initiation," Angela replied.
"Initiation into what?" Sweets asked.
Angela slowly sipped her margarita. "Remember when you and Brennan got run off the road last week?"
"The bruises make it hard to forget," Sweets said.
Coincidentally, Angela's margarita had come with a tiny plastic sword. She spun it in her fingers a minute, watching it, before turning to jab it in his direction. "That was a really dangerous situation to be in."
"You guys do stuff like that all the time."
"Yes, but we're all older than you, and most of us have eased ourselves gradually into the bloody stuff. This was one of your first knee-deep ventures into a case, and you could have gotten killed."
"So you think drinking is going to prepare me for the next time a lunatic tries to kill me," he said.
Angela dropped the tiny sword into an empty shot glass by Sweets' elbow. "The way you hold your booze says a lot about you."
"I'm doing pretty well so far," Sweets said proudly.
Angela tried not to laugh. Sweets was obnoxious, overly confident, and pushy. But sometimes his attempts to inset himself into the fold were kind of endearing.
"We'll see," she said. She waved down the bartender. "Have you tried their birthday cake shot? It literally tastes exactly like birthday cake."
The second bar was hazy in the kind-of-sketchy way like the ones portrayed in movies where someone might be dead and shoved under a staircase. Angela pulled Sweets to a tall round table and they climbed into the high-legged stools.
"This place is dangerous," Angela said.
"I'm getting that vibe," Sweets said, eyes darting around nervously.
"No, I mean the drinks are dangerous." She pushed the menu towards him. "The dessert martinis are basically spiked milkshakes. You barely taste the alcohol."
"That sounds ideal."
Angela laughed. "You're adorable."
Sweets made a small noise of aggravation. Angela gave herself a point for his lack of response.
"So what are you getting?" Sweets asked.
"I always get the same thing here," she said. "Sex on the beach. This place has the best peach liqueur in DC."
"Hm," Sweets said. "Interesting."
"What?" Angela asked.
"You said the way someone holds their booze says a lot about them. I believe that what exactly they drink says a lot about them too."
"So, what," Angela said dryly, "I have a lot of sex?"
"Do you?" Sweets leaned closer.
"Do you like know me at all?" Angela asked.
Sweets cleared his throat and leaned back. He almost toppled over when he leaned too far, obviously forgetting that the stools didn't have backs.
"Loosing your sense of balance already?" Angela smirked.
"No," Sweets said. He placed his elbows on the table to steady himself. "The flashing lights are disorienting."
"Sure." Angela flipped her card from her wallet. "Go open my tab. Next one's on you, though."
Sweets had two chocolate crème martinis. That, on top of his first three shots and a beer, were beginning to take their toll. He wore a small, goofy smile and stumbled once as they jogged through puddles of street lights to the next location.
"You know my favorite thing about DC?" he asked.
"What?" Angela asked.
"Everything is so cool here. Like it's all important just because it's DC. All the monuments and historical sites and stuff."
"Very cool." Angela was insanely curious to see what drunk Sweets would be like. He wasn't as much of a lightweight as she'd expected, so it was going to take a little more prodding.
Sweets sneezed loudly as they passed through a cloud of smoke emanating from a group of teenagers standing around a lamppost.
"Secondhand smoke from vapes are becoming more and more noxious," Sweets complained.
Angela cast him a pitying look. "Those were joints, sweetie."
"Right." Sweets looked straight ahead. "I knew that."
Angela wondered briefly what it would be like to get Sweets high. One adventure at a time, Ange.
"Here we go." She steered Sweets by the elbow towards an open-air pub tucked in the corner of the block.
"Don't we have to work tomorrow?" Sweets asked.
"I don't know, do we?" She let the gate swing shut behind them.
The night was getting chilly, but neither noticed as the alcohol warmed their insides. The lack of walls allowed the noises around them to dissipate and meld, a cacophony of voices and honks and lights and air.
On Sweets' end, the booze was finally starting to kick in.
"My first drink," Sweets said, leaning his head on his fist and staring into Angela's face, "was at a bar."
"No way," Angela said.
He held up a finger. "Let me finish. My roommate took me out the weekend after my 21st birthday." He took a long sip of his beer. "We tried to get inside. My roommate went in first. The bouncer checked his ID. They let him in. Then the bouncer checked my ID. He looked at it, then gave it back to me and said I couldn't come in. He said I wasn't 21."
"You're kidding," Angela said. "They didn't believe you were 21?"
Drunk Sweets did not hear her sarcasm. "No, really. He said I wasn't 21. He gave me back my ID. I told him that I was 21 because my birthday just happened. So he looked again and he still said I wasn't 21 and I had to leave. So, I'm freaking out, like, did I forget my own age? Was I not really 21? Was I turning 20 again? I started to leave but my roommate took my ID and handed it to the bouncer and he looked at it again and then he was like 'oh, sorry, you are 21. Come on in.'"
"Great story," Angela said.
"I know, right?" Sweets took another swig. "It was crazy."
Angela finished her beer and waved down another one. "So you're telling me, though, that your first legal drink was your first drink, period?"
"It was." Sweets eyed her. "When was your first drink?"
"Hmm." Angela looked to the ceiling as she tried to remember. It took her a bit longer than it probably should have to sift through all of her adolescent drinking experiences and put them in order. "I was fifteen. My dad was throwing a party with some of his music buddies. We were outside sitting around a bonfire and they passed a bottle of whiskey around. I was next to my dad and he handed it over to me. I was so excited I took a huge swig. It tasted horrible, so I spit it all out and it went into the fire. The fire got hot enough for a second as a result that it singed my shoelaces. Everyone laughed at me. So I glared at them each one by one and drank the rest of the bottle in one go."
"Holy crap," Sweets said.
Angela flipped her hair proudly.
"You were a weird kid." Sweets tilted his head to finish off his bottle and almost fell out of his chair. Angela shoved him back into place.
"So, what were you like as a kid?" Angela asked.
"At what point?" Sweets asked. "Kids change a lot over the course of their childhood through a number of measurable stages."
Of course. Even drunk, Sweets had a shrinky response.
"Well, how about when you were in high school."
"Hm." It was Sweets' turn to glance to the ceiling. "Well, when I was in high school, I was with the Finleys. It was like my fifth school."
Angela's ears perked up. She set her bottle aside and leaned a little closer to Sweets. Multiple schools meant a less-than-average childhood. So, he was an army brat, a foster kid, or maybe his parents were just nuts. His previous comment about being "with" the Finleys steered her towards foster kid. She'd heard enough from Brennan about being in the system to know the signs. She wondered if Sweets had talked to any of the others about this, or if he was sharing so much because he was drunk.
"Everybody thought I was weird. I wore the same clothes most of the time because I didn't have many. I was a lot younger than most of them—kept moving up in grade school."
That explained why he was so young in this point in his career. Angela chalked that up in her Interesting Facts About Sweets that she could potentially use later when trying to unravel his peculiarities.
Sweets went on, turning his emptied bottle around and around on the table. "I read a lot too. Like all the time. And I talked. I talked a lot. My teachers had to tell me to shut up sometimes. I think I talked so much because I was in constant search for affirmations. I needed to be seen. I grew out of it though."
I'm not so sure about that. Angela managed to drown the words in another swig before they popped out of her mouth.
"I got in some trouble. There was this one kid, he probably couldn't read very well, but he got mad whenever he saw me reading in the halls or in the cafeteria and would always come and knock the book out of my hands. Sometimes he'd take it and rip it up or hit me with it."
"Wow," Angela said. "Kids suck sometimes."
"They do." Sweets looked around for another beer.
"Let's try something else," Angela said. "Have you ever had a grasshopper?"
"I have not."
Angela ordered two. "So was high school like hell for you?"
"Isn't it for everyone?" Sweets asked.
"Right, that goes without saying. But it sounds like your situation was a little different."
"Not necessarily." Sweets waved his finger at her. "Everyone processes differently."
He falls out of his chair taking a swig, but he can use big words without slurring. Drunk Sweets was proving to be somewhat of an anomaly.
"The high school experience is a culture in and of itself. It's like a rite of passage into adulthood. Everyone gets bullied to an extent at some point. The most vulnerable tend to be the most targeted."
"Would you consider yourself one of the most vulnerable?" Angela asked.
Sweets' hard look in her direction was almost a glare. "No."
Angela took a long sip to ready herself. Her ultimate goal was not to question Sweets or rile him up. But she felt she was close to getting something out of him. She found herself wanting to understand him. Sure, getting him drunk was fun. She'd have something it hold over his head, and he'd let enough of himself out to let her know many of her assumptions about his naiveté and constant need for affirmations were true. But she was starting to see a new side of him as well. A mature side that was seeking something more than just a few nice words.
"I'm not sure I believe that," she said slowly. "I think you were more vulnerable than you want to admit. I think there are parts of your past you're not telling us, because you don't want those events to influence our opinions of you."
"Don't you start shrinking me."
His glare hardened.
"Okay, maybe I am. Fine. I'll drop it."
They both took gulps of their drinks.
"So what made you want to be a psychologist?" Angela asked. Maybe a change in subject would bring back the lighthearted mood from earlier.
Sweets looked at her, planting both elbows on the table and his chin on his fists. "You wait until I'm tipsy to ask the real questions?"
Sweets was well past tipsy. "Just curious, I guess."
"I want to help people." He said it seriously and as if it were the most original answer in the world.
"That's sweet," Angela said.
He clapped the table. "That's why they call me Sweets!"
Angela snorted and shook her head.
Sweets set aside his glass. "You're an artist," he said.
"Good observation," Angela said.
"What do you do?" he asked.
"Lately I've been doing more crime-related computer work," Angela said. "Hacking, searching, the works. But I still get to draw faces. And, occasionally, I'll get inspired to create real art."
"What's your inspiration?" Sweets was giving her that super-serious look again that was diluted by his pink face and drunk, fuzzy eyes.
"A lot of things. Maybe I catch a glimpse of something—someone walking down the street, a flower on the sidewalk, clouds on a rainy day—or something comes to me in a dream—a pattern of colors, a memory of a place, or pieces of a person."
"What's funny?" Angela was annoyed at his response to her first personal comment of the evening.
"Pieces of a person. That's funny. Because you work with pieces of people."
"Oh, hilarious." Maybe getting Sweets drunk wasn't going to be as amusing as she'd hoped.
Angela didn't get very drunk. She paced herself because she wanted to be sober enough to appreciate drunk Sweets. Contrasting with their earlier, more serious conversation, she was making some interesting observations about Sweets' goofier side.
Drunk Sweets danced in his chair and sang along to the bits of songs he could make out over the noises in the bar. He made painfully obvious statements with a completely serious look on his face. "I can see right through this glass at your face. Hi Angela!" He spoke to random strangers, making observations about their behavior that earned him many dirty glares (Angela managed to help him avoid some punches as well). He stared at Angela intently as she spoke, but his replies indicated he comprehended only parts of what she was saying.
The more he drank, the more he seemed to think he could drink. Angela began to make subtle signs at the bartenders to dilute Sweets' drinks or give him smaller portions.
As they drank themselves into the next morning, she managed to get him to consume an entire glass of pure water, his only observation being "This tequila tastes funny."
Close to two AM, Hodgins arrived to find a near-empty bar, with Angela seated in a booth. The table was adorned with empty glasses, and Sweets was passed out and leaning on Angela's shoulder. His suit jacket was crumpled in the seat next to him and his tie hung half-untied against his shirt. Hodgins wondered if Sweets went to bed in that tie.
"What did you do to him?" he asked Angela.
"Nothing," Angela said. "Kid's a lightweight."
"You certainly didn't hold back." Hodgins waved a hand at the alcoholic remains.
"I hold my own," Angela said. "Besides, you have to be a little drunk to deal with this guy."
"Did anyone sanction this?" Hodgins asked.
"What the others don't know won't hurt them."
"You're terrible at keeping secrets."
"You're right. I can't wait to tell Brennan about this tomorrow."
"You mean later today."
Angela wrinkled her nose. "Maybe I can call in."
"I thought you said you could hold your own." Hodgins smirked at her.
"If I was less tipsy and tired, I would give you a smart-ass reply. Right now, I just want a shower." She shrugged the snoring shrink off her shoulder. He slumped in the seat, mumbling to himself.
Angela cast him a smile. "He's kind of cute, huh? Like a sleepy kitten. I just want to put him in a basket and take him home."
"I think you're a little more drunk than you're letting on," Hodgins said.
Angela snorted and got to her feet. "He's not all that bad, honestly. But he has a lot of growing up to do. I'm still not sure he's a good fit for us."
"I thought the same thing about you when Brennan asked you to join us." Hodgins shrugged.
She turned to him. "Really?"
"Yeah. The age thing wasn't a factor, but I totally thought you would be too grossed out by the work to stay for very long. It just seemed like you saw the world through these rose-colored glasses—everything was beautiful to you. And then you got exposed to the ugly side of it. It's like your glasses broke a little. And I think when that happens a part of you breaks, too."
She looked at him a moment, head tilted, before giving him a small laugh. "You always did fancy yourself a poet."
He wasn't sure what to say back, so he just smiled at her.
"Hey, thanks for picking us up," Angela said.
"It's no problem," Hodgins said. "I'm always game to answer calls in the wee hours of the morning. What else are friends for?" He leaned into the booth to grab Sweets' arm and tug him out of the seat. "Come on, let's get junior home."
They suspended him between the two of them and carried him to Hodgins' car. Sweets regained consciousness long enough to utter a few non sequiturs, but for the most part remained wiped out during the drive. Hodgins fished the keys out of Sweets' coat pocket, Angela turned on the lights, and they took off his shoes and helped him into bed.
"Do you think we should stay and make sure he doesn't puke?" Angela asked.
"Nah. Just roll him onto his side so he doesn't suffocate."
Angela rotated the sleeping Sweets accordingly. She watched him breathing with that silly, drunk smile on his face, and thought about what Hodgins had said. A part of you breaks, too.
Maybe this wasn't about initiation. Maybe the whole night had been Angela making sure that the part of Sweets that kept him going, whatever that was, wasn't broken by the danger they'd exposed him to.
"So he was alright, huh?" Hodgins asked.
"Yeah. It was actually kind of fun."
"Sweets? Fun? That's not something I can imagine."
"I couldn't either." She turned away from the bed and joined Hodgins as he walked out of the room. "Do you think we'll call him a friend some day?"
"Depends on if he sticks around. If he continues to be as obnoxious as all get-out, I'm guessing the answer to both of those will be no."
They made sure the bathroom light was on, so he could find his way if he woke up in the dark. Then Hodgins drove Angela home.