DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters associated with Bones or the series written by Kathy Reichs. Fox Television Network, Kathy Reichs and others do. No infringement is intended as I'm just mucking about for entertainment and a bit of recreational fun.
SPOILERS: Most of Season 3 and some of Season 4, if you haven't seen it, then well, you're going to be surprised at how the season ended right before the writers' strike.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Lion in the Squint
Chapter 1 King of Fools
The gate on my elevator rolls up and I step into the entryway of my home. It's quiet, like it always is. It's empty like it always is. Usually, that's just how I like it, the industrial feel of my apartment clashing with the deep, rich earth tones that I've decorated the place in, contrasting with the brick and concrete while blending in. Making what should be a cold environment feel at once warm and relaxing.
I slip my shoes off by the coat rack to my right and sigh, the thick oriental carpet padding my feet. Walking into the living area, I hit the 'play' button on the answering machine. Jack's sweet voice plays for me, "Hey, Ang, look I know you said you wanted to be alone, but if you need or no if you want, come by. I'll be here." I hit the delete button and reconsider being alone tonight.
Bouncing on the balls of my feet, I try to figure that out. I need to rewind this entire year and start it over. For me for Jack, Booth, Cam and Tempe.
But mostly, I need to for Zack. My sweet, wonderful
This shouldn't be happening. None of this should have happened.
He shouldn't be in the hospital. He shouldn't be cutting deals with the D.A. He should be in his apartment above Jack's garage or in the lab with Tempe. Hell, he could even be back in Iraq. At least he'd be away from all of this.
I close my eyes, standing in my living room, trying to find some type of center after today. I wait, breathing deep, but the stillness I expect to usually flow through me doesn't come. Instead, I feel the tension and energy bubble its way further to the surface.
Resigned, I make my way around the partition that separates my bed from the living room and kitchen area, stripping as I go. My clothes lay where ever I throw them. I move to the bathroom and wash my face clean of the makeup, the war paint, from today. I scrub, peeling away the layer of cosmetics and then reach for a towel. Blotting my face, my angry skin stares back at me in the mirror.
Rolling my eyes, I think maybe I took that metaphor a little too literally.
Ignoring my dark circles, I pull my hair back in a tight ponytail. From the bathroom, I turn left and climb the small set of stairs that lead to my art studio. I flick on the light and reach for a clean pair of shorts and t-shirt from the small stack that sits next to a pile of dirty ones. I slip on my clothes then turn to my left to the touch screen computer monitor sitting on the opposite side of the stairwell.
The display on the computer screen controls the home theatre system that's housed on the lower level in my living room. It links to my house computer and queues up my vast storage of digital media. Out of all my guilty pleasures, I think my music is the biggest pleasure and the biggest collection. Over two-hundred gigs worth of audio pleasure. I purse my lips and scroll through my files.
I don't know what kind of music to listen to. Half of me wants something dark, melodic and sad. The other part wants something hard, angry and loud. I suppose it would be those notions of Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief. I'm sure that Sweets would definitely say so. He would also probably try and get me to open up and discover my true emotions about this whole Gormogon ordeal.
It's pretty cut and dry.
I'm pissed. I'm sad. I'm hurt.
I give a bitter chuckle and snort, "See, PBS was right, Sesame Street taught me all I need to know." And I know I'm losing my mind. I am also glad that Cam let everyone go early.
I refocus my attention on selecting the right music. It plays to my creative process and I need something cathartic. I give in and queue up a Nine Inch Nails live album.
Maybe not the healthiest choice given my mental state, but I shut my eyes and surrender to the pull of the music that sounds throughout my apartment. The heavy bass kicks in and colors splash behind my eyes. They swirl and mix as the instruments join in and Trent Reznor's voice shouts into the microphone.
I spin away from the control panel and move to prop a blank canvas on my easel. I roll my work station forward and uncaring; I give a slight kick to my stool sending it crashing to the side. It rolls to a stop against the far wall.
I begin with my pallet of colors choosing things that would blend well or clash depending on their placement. It's here I find my focus, the energy that's coursed through me all day. The highs and lows I've felt fuel the creation. I begin painting. I'm half blind to what actually is being painted, of the image that I'm forming.
Instead my mind wanders, it goes to the only logical place it could. To Zack and the screwed up situation we're all in. Tempe explained it to me. She tried to get me to see where Zack was coming from. Part of me buys it, can see it. The other part of me doesn't understand.
I said to Tempe earlier tonight that Zack loved her, but qualified it with "as much as he was capable".
I don't believe it. In my heart, it sits like curdled milk or a lead weight.
The first tears come unbidden dripping from my chin and clouding my vision. I drop my brush and crumple to the paint spattered floor. My knees draw to my chest and I hug them, rocking as the sobs finally come.
I struggle for control, nearly hyperventilating. With an effort, I manage and sniffle my way through the pain lodged in my chest.
It's just not fair. It doesn't make sense.
I really have been around Tempe way too long.
Her short answer to my question of why, "Logic," she said.
My ass it was logic. It was the most illogical thing I've seen. I pull at the neck line on my shirt and wipe my eyes. I blink and look up at the canvas. I laugh bitterly at the dark, reddish, brown background framing the cherub features of Zack's face.
A quick glance at the clock by the nurses' station and I know I don't have much time to visit, but
I need to.
The blips and bleeps of the monitors that fill the hospital provide this odd sort of comfort. It lets me know that hearts still beat and air is still breathed. With the washed out white walls of the hospital, I think it would do their patients here a world of good to see some color.
I peek in at Zack, lying there with his bandaged hands. There's a guard outside his door now. They think he's a flight risk.
Maybe they're right. I'm not really sure. Where would he go?
The all too familiar pain stabs me in the chest again and I think of Tempe with the look she had tonight. If there was one person Zack loved it was her.
And there's where all of this breaks down for me. People don't do things like that. Not people like Zack or Tempe. They're all smarts and rationality, unable to see the emotion that fuels their actions and guides their sense of logic. I see it every day and it amazes me.
I walk over to the nice, muscled looking agent who's babysitting and flash my I.D. "Can I go in for a while?"
The bald headed, goateed agent nods mutely as he checks me out. I smile and brush past him. Zack's head turns to me in surprise. I do the only thing that I can and offer a little wave and smile of my own.
"What are you doing here?" he asks evenly.
I pull up one of the chairs and shrug. "It seemed like the best place to be." His head bobs and causes a piece of his hair to fall across his forehead, unthinking I reach out and brush it back. My hand trails down the length of his temple and I cradle his cheek.
I get that you can't judge a book by its cover, that people are deceitful, but Zack, it's like saying that Tempe has it in her to be intentionally hurtful and cruel. While she's not the most socially graceful person to run around, she's never been overtly cruel. It's not in her. It's probably one of the million reasons why I love her.
"Where is Hodgins?" he asks. There's pain in his eyes, regret that I've never seen.
I shrug again. "Home, I think."
He nods. "Visiting time is almost over."
"I know, Zack."
His lips form a thin line and he huffs. "Is Doctor Brennan okay?"
"Zack," I try to say it softly, but the anger from earlier surfaces and I bite my lip. "None of us are 'okay' and we won't be for a while." Unable to resist, I ask, "What the hell were you thinking? Explain it to me, because I just don't understand." I stand and pace, wringing my hands as I carry on, "I've tried. I've run it all through and I know I'm not as smart as you or Temperance so you're just going to have to explain it to me." I level a glare at him and add, "In smaller words."
He looks away from me, his eyes falling as he shrinks into the bed. I stand over him and grip his arm, pleading with him silently.
Finally, he says, "Angela, you can't understand. Perhaps there is nothing to understand. My logic was flawed."
"Ms.," a woman calls from behind me. I glance over my shoulder to see a nurse poking her head in. "Visiting hours are up, I'm going to have to ask you to come back tomorrow."
I nod and ask, "One more moment?"
She dips her chin in agreement and backs out of the room. I look back at Zack and see something pass over his face. Emotions that I can't define.
"Angela, I'm sorry," he whispers. "Make sure my replacement is good to Doctor Brennan and watch out for her. It's not safe."
I can't not lean down and brush my lips across his forehead. "I'll be back tomorrow," I whisper against his warm skin.
I right myself and am halfway out of the door when I hear him say, "You don't need to. I've failed everyone."
I shouldn't be here. It's the only thought running through my head, until
I remember how she looked before I left work.
She shouldn't be alone tonight.
I find my resolve and rap on her apartment door. I wait and am nearly ready to bolt before I hear the security chain slide across the door and Tempe pokes her nose outside. I smile at her antics. "It's just me," I say as non-threatening as possible.
She snorts and swings the door open. I watch her usher me in and rub her eyes.
"Did I wake you?" I ask, apologetically. I really didn't think she would be sleeping. I walk into her apartment and see some files strewn about.
She wasn't sleeping, but she was up to something.
"No," she confirms, "I was just going through some of Zack's cases."
"Why?" I ask plopping down on the sofa.
She looks at me like the answer should be obvious, but relents when I give her an expectant look. She shuffles over and sits down next to me. "Ang, he lied about Gormogon, I need to know he didn't lie about other cases. I figured I'd get started on some of the extra work." She picks at a thread that's come loose on the edge of her shirt and my hand covers her own, fidgety one. "Caroline's worried about cases he worked going before an appellate board. I told her I'd review and report my findings."
"He didn't," I say gently.
"We can't say that for sure," she insists half heartedly.
"I can. I mean, sweetie, doesn't it seem odd that Zack would do this? Really?"
My best friend looks at me sideways. "He fell victim to false logic, Angela."
I shake my head as my face sours at the parroted line. "So you're saying that because Zack thought the Gormogon was right, he threw away everything that he's spent his life on? He threw away the one thing that he loved and the one group of people that he fit in with?"
Pain flashes across Tempe's face and I feel bad for bringing this up. I feel bad about a lot of things, but causing Brennan pain trumps them all.
"Here's what gets me, sweetie," I lay my head on her shoulder and continue, "He loves you. He looks up to you, but he did this, the one thing that he had to know would take him away from you. It doesn't make sense, Temperance. Not even a little. False logic and all."
It's then that I feel her tremble. My arm snakes around her waist and I tug her closer. She starts to speak, but stops. She doesn't need to. The tears magnify her pale blue eyes and I nod, knowing I have my own set of tears threatening to spill over.
Her's start to fall and mine follow closely behind. I pull her flush against me as she cries. Finally, after everything, Booth's faked death and Zack. I think this may be the first time she's allowed herself to grieve. I hold her and rock her as my own tears drip down my face for the second time that night.
She clutches my shirt as I smooth her hair. Through her tears, she manages, "I let him down, Ang. I let him down."
"No, no, no, you didn't." I tighten my hold and protest more, "I don't know why he did what he did, but something seems off. Tempe, he wouldn't have done something like that without something forcing him to. You two are too much alike. There's got to be more."
And that's really what it is. What this niggling feeling in the back of my brain's been about since they arrested him. Temperance and Zack are cut from the same cloth; they think alike, they act alike. Tempe's a little more arrogant, but she should be. Zack worships the ground she walks on and he wouldn't have ruined his relationship with her without good reason.
She looks up at me and shakes her head. "He did. I see why he did. That's what makes this so hard. If it had been me, I'm not sure I wouldn't have followed the rational path."
My mouth drops open and I can't believe the words that just past her lips. "Rational?" I spit, "Since when is killing someone and then eating them rational?"
She shakes her head and says, "You don't understand."
Those same words Zack tossed at me not more than an hour before. I want to press, but I don't. Instead I hold onto her. Not sure if it's for her benefit or my own. I'm not really sure it matters anymore. I don't argue. Not now. Not yet. Later, when I can think clearly and I don't have my best friend cradled in my arms because her protégé just became a convicted felon.
Chapter 2 Bad Luck
I groan and try to shift, but the weight resting firmly on top of me prevents me from doing anything except looking down to figure out what's going on. Last night comes back to me as Temperance tilts her head up so that I can study her features.
Her brow, cheekbones and jaw line are exquisite.
I wonder if she'd let me draw her one day.
Probably not, but maybe if I begged
I feel more than see how we're lying together. She's nestled between my thighs and our legs are wrapped together. Her arms hug my waist while one of my hands threads through her hair. Her pressure and warmth settle some of the issues I was having last night.
I look back down at her and my heart pinches just a little. I think that one of the biggest acts of trust you can express is when you allow another person to see you sleeping. Sleeping, we can't mask ourselves; we're open, bare for all to see. If you can let someone see you that way there's little else left to expose.
When I look at Hodgins I see a sweet man full of love. He wants to do good things even if those good things are only for those that he cares about. Temperance is different. When she's awake, there's usually this small, nearly imperceptible crease that runs down her forehead. Telling me her mind's going a bazillion miles an hour, which means it's usually there. There are only a few times I've seen her when that crease wasn't there, after a case is closed when she can relax if only for a few hours and now this morning.
A little bit of golden light peeks through the blinds, but one ray glances off her hair causing the gold to shine giving her the appearance of a halo. I think that if anyone of us were to become an angel, it would be her, despite her vehement denial of religion. You don't have to believe in God or the Universe or some higher power. I think Tempe will be surprised when her times up.
I sigh and just enjoy being held by her and that is totally weird. I mean we're close, but she's never I've never seen her like this. Of course, I've never spent the night with her on her couch either. We're usually more put together if we have a sleep over. And I usually, really don't like being held in my sleep.
My stomach rumbles, causing me to wonder if I can slip from her arms to make breakfast. Gently, I nudge her to the side and slide off the couch. I amazingly manage to get her to roll to her side and face the back of the couch while I land with a soft thud on my ass. I stand and stretch working out the kinks from a night spent on a couch, noting that I feel surprisingly rested.
I make my way to the kitchen and quietly start the coffee. We'll take care of the need for caffeine first and then see what she has in the fridge to eat. While the coffee brews, I slip into the bathroom to clean up. When I come out of the bathroom I see that Tempe hasn't moved but my coffee is done. I pour myself a cup and nose around her refrigerator.
There's not a lot but she does have some fruit that I pull out and begin cutting up. A nice fruit salad seems like the thing for today. I look around her place and love how she's decorated. It's so her. The books and artifacts are enough to let you know she's smart and well read, but not enough to feel oppressive. The colors match her well, and the dark, rich wood provides just the right amount of warmth.
Finishing off the salad, I set the bowl aside and clean up. I wonder I'm thinking maybe some type of bread, but cutting up fruit has pretty much exhausted my culinary ability. Maybe she'd settle for toast?
I refill my coffee cup and settle at the kitchen table where some of Zack's files are. I pluck one off a short stack and notice it's part of the Gormogon file. Zack's notes on the skeleton are detailed like only he could keep them.
"Ang?" Temperance's soft voice pulls my head up and I look at her slightly rumpled form and smile.
"Morning, sweetie," I stand and go back to the kitchen to fix her a cup of coffee. She meets me halfway at the bar and I hand over the drink. Heading back to the table, I resume my seat and perusal of the file.
She sips the hot liquid and moans. "Thank you," she says, sitting down next to me.
"I cut up some fruit for breakfast if you're hungry," I offer. Glancing at the clock, I realize we don't have a lot of time before we have to be into work. I need to go home and change. I should also probably check my phone and see if Jack's called. "I'm going to go home and change. See you at work?"
She nods, not really seeing me, but instead seeing her time with Zack laid out on her kitchen table. I know the whole ordeal with Booth took a lot out of her. What is this doing to her? Will she talk to me about it?
Placing my dirty cup in the sink, I come around the table again and kiss the top of her head before grabbing my purse and keys to head for home.
Scrawling my name to the bottom of my report, I close it and drop it in my 'Out' box. The Jeffersonian Forensics department is hushed today. There are whispers among the staff about Zack and what he did. When I was in the kitchen, I overheard a small group call him a freak and it took everything I had not to yell. I'm not big on yelling or fighting, but
They don't know him. How much of a sweetheart he actually is. How caring he could be. Not in the conventional way people are used to, but in his own way.
I've also spent half the morning avoiding putting the rest of my notes on Gormogon together. With more than half the day gone and Cam pushing for all of us to finish this thing up, I should probably start. Grabbing my notes, I make my way down to the vault to finish off some of the cataloging that needs to be done.
There are small trinkets lined up on a table just outside the vault, all labeled and marked with what safety deposit box they came from. After we pulled the information out of the one Zack un-booby trapped, Booth had a special team from the F.B.I. come in and deactivate the rest of the explosives. Since then, on our free time, we've come down here to catalog. A tedious necessary task.
With my stack of papers, I sit on a stool and wince as my leg goes up too far and hits the underside of the table. Lowering my leg, I look down and raise my skirt to look at the already forming bruise. By the edge of the table on the periphery of my vision is a folded piece of paper. I hop off the stool and bend down to pick it up.
Unfolding the paper, I look at a string of random numbers and letters. It looks like Zack's handwriting.
Sighing, I shake it off.
I slip the paper into the right pocket of my smock and go back to the task at hand. The first piece I begin to log is a small statue of a sphinx. Turning the carving over in my gloved hands, I start jotting down notes and inspect it fully, noting markings, nicks and even the artist's signature on its base.
Methodically, I move through half a dozen more artifacts and three sheets of paper that I will have to type up.
Oh, the fun between murders.
I stretch and head upstairs to the sanctuary of my office, where there aren't creepy cannibal things lying around.
I swipe my card and go up the steps to the primary research area where Booth, Tempe and Cam are gathered around a computer screen.
"Hey," I greet everyone. They all nod or offer tight-lipped smiles. I look over Cam's shoulder and see a picture of a pasty white guy with personal information below. "What's this?"
"It's Gormogon," Booth supplies. "His real name is Stanley Horvath. Born nineteen-sixty-seven. Was in the foster system from the age of two to eighteen." He hands me a file with the F.B.I. seal on it. "That's physical and personal information. I figured you'd want it for your reports."
"Thanks," I say, absently taking the folder and staring at the man responsible for everyone's current misery.
I want to add more, but I don't. Instead, I offer Tempe a soft smile and head to my office to type up my notes.
The first thing I do when I get to my little sanctuary amongst the dead is set my stack of work down and reach for my remote to turn on some music. Hitting random, I hear Shirley Manson start to sing and the rest of her band kick into provide music to her words. Satisfied with what's playing, I sit and eye the folder containing Gormogon's personal information.
Knowing I don't have the strength for it, I set it aside and pick up my notes. I open up a blank workbook and begin typing the data in. It doesn't take me long to put everything together, but by the time I'm done, I'm exhausted. I scan the table of numbers and descriptions, double checking my work.
A number pops out at me and I scroll back up. The number nineteen-sixty-seven is scratched onto the bottom of a chess piece, a rook. I look at my hand written notes and confirm that that is correct. The piece was singular, no other chess pieces with it. There are a few more pieces with what could be dates appearing on the surface, bottom or back of the item. There are six in total like that; all of them with dates or what I think could be dates. Shivers crawl up my spine and I start cross-referencing the dates with the information we have and the things I've cataloged.
Smiling, I enter Zack's hospital room and see Jack sitting next to our "little brother", leaning down I place a kiss on my lover's cheek. "Hi, you guys," I chirp. It's not something I'm feeling right now, but it's a fake it till you make it kinda day.
"Ang," Hodgins says setting the book he was reading to Zack down.
"Angela," Zack says grinning at me.
I look at him for a minute longer, searching his face, his eyes for something. I just wish I knew what in the hell I was looking for. I left the Jeffersonian with a bunch of numbers and artifacts that correspond to them, but I don't know what it means. I just know that my instincts are telling me none of it adds up.
I shake it off and reach out, running my hand up and down Zack's right arm. "So what have you boys been up to?"
"Hodgins has been reading me The Finite Element Method: Linear Static and Dynamic Finite Element Analysis," he says this with a grin.
I roll my eyes. "Nothing like that light reading material," I deadpan.
Jack laughs at me and Zack of course takes me seriously. "Well Hodgins wouldn't bring in the new journals I got in the mail so I was stuc " His eyes narrow, his lips purse and then he says, "You were being sarcastic weren't you?"
I nod as my face breaks into a warm smile. Here it is. It's more of these things that don't add up. I need to get Jack out of here. At least for now. I need to talk to Zack alone. "Temperance wanted to know if you could stop by the lab before you went home," I say turning to my lover.
A little twinge of guilt stabs me. Not so much for the lying I'm doing now, but more for this morning and how I woke up.
"I can take over for a little while," I offer, hoping he'll take me up on it.
"Sure, I can swing by and then maybe pick up some take out. You want to come over later?" Hodgins asks.
I look between Zack and Jack then think about Tempe. Truthfully, I think she could use the friend more than Jack and I can use the sex. Although, sex internally I sigh and say, "I'm actually going to head over to Tempe's when I'm done here."
His face falls for a brief second, but realizing that I need to be there for her, he nods. "Alright then I'll talk to you later," he says to me. Standing, he reaches out and ruffles Zack's hair. "I'll be back tomorrow. If you're good and the nurses tell me you ate the freaky jell-o mix, I'll bring over the new journal from Caltech."
Zack's face lights up at the idea. "I'll look forward to it, but if it's green, I'm not making any promises." He nods matter of factly and Jack shakes his head. Turning to leave he offers a small wave before disappearing around a corner.
I wait a moment longer, just to make sure he isn't going to come back, then go to the large glass wall and pull the curtain over it to give us some privacy. The things I have in my bag aren't secret, but I want Zack to be comfortable and not worry about being overheard. He's going to make sense of this for me.
"So," I say, sitting back down and reaching into my bag to pull out the slip of paper that I found down in the vault. "I was cataloging things from the vault today and when I was down there I found this," I say unfolding the piece of paper written by him and showing him. "Do you want to tell me what it is?"
His eyes skirt from the paper to me then he reaches for it. The attempt is futile as he remembers his hands are wrapped. This is also new. I've never seen Zack act like this. He licks his lips and asks, "Can you throw that away for me please?"
Shaking my head in reply, I say, "What is it?"
"A theory," he blurts out. "Just something that I was working on."
"You know, when I was down there looking at some of those things we pulled from the safe deposit boxes, there was some overlap." I set the paper on the chair as I stand. Going over to the T.V., I pull the AV cords from the DVD hook-up they have. I grab my tablet from my bag and plug the cords into my tablet from the T.V. using it for a larger screen. My job gives me the coolest toys to work with.
Pulling up my table and then some hand written notes up on the monitor, I position them side by side. "Zack, I need your help." I look at him, pleading. "Do you remember what you told me about being in Iraq? About how the people made you feel out of place?" His tongue snakes out again and he nods. "I feel the same way about this. I know what you've said. I know that you said that you followed the logical path, but " I shift my weight, trying to figure out a way to give my reasoning in a way that he'll accept and not brush me off.
"But, it's like this, we've worked together for four years, we've been friends for almost as long. Zack, I love you, Hodgins and Booth and Doctor Saroyan love you, but what matters to you more, and I know it does, is that Doctor Brennan loves you. You've idolized her from the start. The idea that you would throw away her respect and risk her hate to follow some," I set my tablet down and air quote the often used and obnoxious, "rational path is bullshit."
I go over to him and place a hand on his arm, trying to take the sting from my words. "I'm not mad Zack, I just don't understand it. You know she values human life and the truth above all else. If she's taught you nothing else, she's at least taught you that much. Why would you risk it all?"
His eyes track to the floor as he studies the disgustingly colored linoleum. Quietly, he pleads, "You wouldn't understand. Please just let it go."
"No," I state plainly. "You can try to explain it to me or I can figure it out on my own. At least help me, help Temperance, Zack. For this to happen right after she thought Booth was dead " I don't finish the rest. I can't.
Instead, I go back over to the T.V., unplug my tablet and prepare to leave. I offer Zack a small smile and kiss to the forehead, whispering, "Keep your secrets for now, but remember we love you and you can trust me." I stand up and leave, shoulders slumped and frustrated.
Chapter 3 She's a Knockout
The heavy Latin hip-hop of Ozomatli sounds through my flat, providing the energy I need to finish off breakfast. I dance around my kitchen and pull pastries from the bag of the bakery down the street. I smirk as I hear the shower shut off and shake my head at how I ended up this morning, again. I took Tempe out to blow off some steam, let her cut lose, 'cause we all know she doesn't do it enough on her own. We fell into my apartment only a few hours ago, but damn if I didn't wake up feeling like a million bucks with her arms and a leg wrapped around me as she snored softly.
I plop the last of the cream cheese and chocolate filled croissants on a plate as my stomach rumbles. Between the late hour and the alcohol, I'm starved. I also need a shower, preferably a long one. The shower's still secondary to making sure Tempe is taken care of this morning. My hips sway to the rhythm, sipping my coffee and waiting on my guest to come from my bedroom.
A few minutes of me leaning against the kitchen counter and I hear her call out, "Ang?"
"Yeah," I answer and move towards the sound of her voice.
"Would it be okay if I borrow some clothes?" she asks.
I round the corner to my room and stop cold. Temperance stands there wrapped in a small towel that barely goes to the top of her thighs. Still damp from her shower, her wet hair frames her face and tiny drops of water dangle from the tips. Licking my lips, I watch a singular bead of water as it trails down her neck, to the hollow of her throat, pooling there before spilling over to disappear between the cleft of her breasts.
"Ang?" Tempe questions again, I shake my head, ridding myself of the very inappropriate thoughts.
"If," I mumble, "sure, take what you want."
She nods and moves towards my closet, but stops and looks me over. "Ang, everything okay?"
I finally snap out of it and wave a hand at her. "Yeah, sweetie," I reassure, "Great. I'm gonna go out and finish breakfast." Offering nothing more, I turn and make a hasty retreat back to the safety of my kitchen. Leaning against the counter, I fold my arms across my chest and try to stop the thoughts from racing.
I mean she's attractive, yes, I've accepted my physical attraction to her before, but
I'm with Hodgins and its Tempe and I think maybe I'm just losing my mind.
Has to be it. Between Booth's faked death and Zack's stupidity, I'm just clinging. It's why I've been sticking so close to Tempe lately. I love Booth and Zack and I'm freaking out. She's closer to both of them than I am so
I run a hand roughly through my hair and shake off the anomaly that happened in my bedroom. I can chalk that up to cracked psychological walls and be done with it. Smiling, Temperance joins me a few minutes later, looking no less than beautiful in a pair of my yoga pants and a tank top.
See and there we are again, with the word beautiful. She is. We've been through this.
I sigh and grouse my way over to the coffee pot to pour another cup.
"Ang?" Tempe's voice sounds behind me.
I finish fixing her cup before turning to her, handing it over and answering, "Yeah?"
"What's wrong?" I look her over; brow furrowed, lips tight, studying me.
The right side of my mouth quirks into a lopsided smirk. For as much as she is clueless to non-verbal communication, her empathy does make up for it on occasion. At least for when it counts.
"I " I falter, out of all the people I could talk to about wanting to lick the water off of them and have them not freak out; she'd be the one, but
It's not the right time; at least that's what I feel. Instead, I plaster on a smile and say, "Nothing. I'm just thinking that it's Sunday and with Sunday comes no work. What were you planning on doing the rest of the day?"
I know what she was planning. It's what she does most Sunday's. Not this week.
"Well, I have some bodies to identify back at the lab. I was going to do that, maybe call in for some take out." She sips the coffee I fixed for her. "Then I need to plan my trip."
"I think you should stay away from the lab." I walk over to her and rest my hand over hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I can bet the last time you enjoyed some time off was the last time I dragged you out of the lab. How about we do something?"
She looks at me, head half cocked to the side and then I see it, the little half smile that brightens her face more than any other. "I think that you're right. I could probably do with some quality time spent with my best friend."
I offer a full grin and say, "We should go to the park or go shopping or something. Do you have anything in particular you want to do?"
She shakes her head.
"Alright, then leave the planning up to me. I'm going to go hop in the shower and be right back." I grab my cup and set it in the sink. "Eat some breakfast and we'll swing by your place if you want so you can pick up your own clothes."
She looks down at her outfit and looks up at me, blinking. "Is there something wrong with what I'm wearing?" she asks this with one part offense and one part hurt.
"No, no," I rush to reassure her. "You look beautiful, I just..." I stop as her mouth quirks again at my distress. My eyes narrow as her mouth splits into a wide grin.
We really need to teach her how to joke better. Instead of calling her on it, I try for something a little different. "The outfit's hideous. You'd look better naked."
I smile a sweet smile at her as her mouth drops a little in surprise. I offer a small pat on the shoulder, not waiting for her to catch up on the joke. She'll figure it out eventually. Instead, I saunter off and get ready for the day, trying to figure out exactly what we're going to do or more importantly what I'm going to do.
Sitting on the park bench, the late afternoon sun provides the little bit of extra warmth needed to be comfortable. The rest of the heat is given to me by Temperance pressing against my side as we people watch and sip our drinks. It's not cold, but the wind makes it a tad chilly. The late spring weather in D.C.'s great, but it's also later in the day.
I do love spring, everything is green and crisp. All knew and refreshed. There's that whole rebirth nature thing that just makes the winter so worth it.
I snuggle in a bit more as the wind picks up and my foot hits one of the shopping bags from earlier today. We ended up doing a little window-shopping, then actual shopping at a few boutiques around Dupont Circle and ended up at the park after a light lunch.
Not even a remotely horrible way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Being out with Tempe today was nice. Despite my libido and lingering glances, I've been able to keep myself in check. I just don't understand it.
I need to keep Tempe in the 'friend's only' column of my life. She's my best friend and I don't want anything screwing that up. And I recognize that the attraction was always there, but something, and I can guess what the something's are, Booth and Zack, I just think she needs taking care of more than anyone realizes.
Maybe it's me, as Sweets would probably point out, projecting.
Now that's not a bad idea, talk to Sweets. I'll call him tomorrow and see if we can meet up for lunch.
"Hey, Ang," Temperance's voice brings me out of my own thoughts and I look over at her, smiling. "Do you think Zack would have done what he did if he had more attachments?"
I cock my head to the side, trying to figure out what exactly she's asking.
She must see my confusion as she clarifies, "I mean take Booth for instance. We all know that he wouldn't do anything like that, but we know he's taken a life. With him there's this clear distinction of why he would, but he wouldn't do what Zack did because that would take him away from Parker. Do you think if Zack had something like that," she pauses, forming the rest of her thought, before quietly finishing, "like someone he loved?"
Reaching for her hand, I offer a soft smile. I don't want to get into what I've been running through my own mind, but I want to offer her something. "I think that Zack was duped. I also know that he does have someone he loves like that."
Her questioning look causes me to squeeze her hand. "You, Tempe. He loves you. Not like 'in love' with you, but I know there's very little that he wouldn't do for you."
"But does love like that exist?" Her mouth pinches and she asks, "Have you ever loved like that?"
I shrug. "Love's subjective. I know who I love and I know why I love them. But like everything the type of love we feel, to me at least, changes."
"So then love's fluid." Her brow furrows at the thought or thoughts.
Biting my lower lip, I try to figure out how to answer the questions that she's asked and not asked.
"See, I've been thinking," she says before I have a chance to answer her questions, "What determines love? Biologically, I know it's a chemical reaction to an individual's pheromones in response to someone they find appealing. But between you, Booth and everyone, it seems that it's more than that." She shakes her head and laughs a short self-deprecating laugh. "I don't think I'm capable of that. Just like Zack. I don't think he is either."
My eyebrow rises at her statement. I shake my head and say, "Temperance, you're full of it."
Her head rears back and she purses her lips at me. Unthinking, I reach out and smooth away the furrow that creases her brow. "You are more capable and do it better than most. You just do it a little differently than conventional methods deem acceptable."
I smile at her again, trying to take the sting from my words. Small warning bells sound in my head at the idea of asking the question on the tip of my tongue, but I ignore them and do it anyhow. "Do you love me?"
She huffs and pulls away from me, folding her arms across her chest. I'm not sure if she's upset or thinking about how to respond to the question. As I open my mouth to speak, she says, "You're kind, talented, smart, not as smart as me, but you have a higher than average intelligence, you make me laugh, much to my annoyance you also seem to know the right thing to say when I'm feeling bad." Her arms relax and fall to her lap. "You're also beautiful and I find that if I remove the way I've defined my sexual identity, that I can be sexually attracted to you."
My mouth drops open a little at her candor. Why I'm shocked that she's as unflinching honest in her answer as she is, I file away to question later.
I close my mouth, she smiles at me, a small half smile that quirks the side of her mouth. "So I guess that if we were to use conventional definition, then yes, I can say that I love you." Her eyes drop to her lap and she says a little quieter, "I just can't seem to understand why that should mean anything."
I'm about to respond when my pocket vibrates and starts to ring. Privately thankful for the interruption, I fish the phone from out of my jeans pocket and answer, "Hello?"
"Hey, Ang," Jack's voice comes through, "Are we still on for tonight?"
"Oh, uh " I look at Tempe out of the corner of my eye. I completely forgot that I had a date with Hodgins tonight.
"Yeah, I'm with Tempe at Dupont Circle. I can be at your place within the hour. Is that okay?" I ask and bite my lower lip. I don't really want to leave the conversation like this, but I promised Jack I'd come over tonight.
"Yeah, sure," he falters a bit and then asks, "Do you think Doctor Brennan would want to come over for dinner?"
I shake my head and answer, "No, I'll see you in a bit though, 'kay?"
"Alright. Love you, baby," he says before disconnecting.
I lock the keypad and shove the phone back in my pocket. Temperance is already standing and gathering her purchases from this afternoon. I stand myself and stop her from loading her arms down. "Tempe "
"You have plans," she states matter of factly.
I look away torn. "Yeah, but "
"Go, I'll see you at work tomorrow." She smiles at me and it causes me to feel like a heel.
"Fine. Just don't think we're done with this conversation." I give her a stern look and she finally relents, nodding her head. I lean in while grabbing my one bag from the park bench and kiss her cheek. "We'll talk tomorrow."
With that I head off and flag down a cab to head over to Jack's; still reeling from my friend's words.
Pinching more of the pad-tai noodles between the chopsticks Jack's brandishing, he cups some of the dangling ones with his palm and offers them to me. I lean in and wrap my lips around the offering. We're sitting in front of his living room fireplace eating dinner. The talk tonight has been light and for that I'm grateful.
I moan as the flavors burst on my tongue and he grins. "So," he drawls, smirking at me, "How was Doctor Brennan?"
I swallow before answering with a smile, "She was good." I'm not sure what else to say or more over what can I say. On the drive over, my thoughts drifted back to Zack and the little bit of digging I was able to do on Saturday. I've come up with this crazy theory, but
I guess if there's anyone that I know and trust to talk to about crazy theories, it's the man I'm with.
"But ?" he pushes.
I sigh and lean back on my arms. "It's just I think with everything, it's worn her down a little."
He nods and puts the chopsticks down. I reach out and run a hand over his stubbled cheek. "If I were to propose a theory to you," I start out softly, "Would reserve judgment until after I'm finished?"
He smirks and leans into my touch. "Depends. What kind of theory?"
Giving in to his playful side, I purr, "A crazy, conspiracy type of theory."
Moaning in approval as my hands run through his hair, he says, "Sure."
Alright. Here it goes.
My hand drops to my side and I sit up and fold my legs underneath me. "I've been thinking a lot about Zack and everything. The other day I was down in the vault and there're these things from the deposit boxes that had all of these numbers on them." I run a hand through my hair and try to put a voice to my ideas. "Then, I found this piece of paper Zack had written up. It matched some of the numbers on the things in the vault."
My mouth pinches and I lean forward, picking at the carpet at my feet. "And see, I tried to ask him about it and he got all defense."
"Very un-Zack like," Jack voices my thought on the matter exactly.
I nod and continue, "So I was thinking that he gave this bogus reason or whatever on helping out Gormogon, but what if that's not it. What if it's something else and he's scared." I look up at Jack and qualify, "When I called him on it, Jack, he was scared. Like really scared."
His lips pinch as he reaches for my hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Why else would he?"
I shake my head unable to answer. "I don't know. I just I know it's not what he said to us. He's lying for some reason."
He grins at me and his bright blue eyes twinkle in the fire light. Standing, he looks down at me and offers me a hand up. I accept and he pulls me to my feet.
"Well, Detective Montenegro," he smirks at me and I stick my tongue out at him. "Let's investigate, shall we."
Without question, I follow him back to the kitchen as he grabs a set of keys off the peg board by the backdoor and heads outside. We go up the side steps of Jack's garage to Zack's apartment.
Well, this is interesting
"I would normally feel bad about this," he says opening the front door. Reaching inside he flips on the lights to the living room and ushers me inside. He stops me as we get to the center of Zack's apartment. Reaching for my hands he holds them and says, "But if you think we can help Zack, I'll help you look."
"And this isn't because I'm incredibly sexy?" I joke.
"Well, that helps," he says wiggling his eyebrows at me. "But," he exclaims holding his index finger in the air as he makes his point, "We both love Zack and I trust you. If you think something's up, then we should see if something really is."
I lean in, unable to resist kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you, "I whisper in his ear.
I pull back to see a full, bright smile gracing his features.
"Where should we start?" he asks, looking around a little unsure of himself.
"I don't know," I answer, moving around Zack's inner sanctum. The place is so him. Everything in a place, where everything has its place. The sign of a neat and ordered mind. Looking around at the few things he has out, I'm further convinced that his story is bullshit.
A set of photographs catches my eye. They rest on the mantle above the fireplace. It's a set of three, one of his family at home sits center. The other two are of us. There's a group shot of all of us at the Jeffersonian, in our smocks posing for a picture that Zack had a lab tech take. He said it was for his family back home. In it we're all smiling; it was right after his return from Iraq. I don't think I've ever seen everyone that happy all together after that. The other photo is of him and Tempe together. It's one of the photos that I took while they were working, both are standing over a set of remains, smiles grace both of their faces and you know they are both doing what they love.
I smile and trace a finger down the glass of the photo frame. I look up and notice hanging above the mantle the picture I made him for Christmas the year we all were quarantined. He had it matted and framed.
I spin from the fire place and swipe at the tear that escaped.
"Hey, Ang," Jack's voice saves me from breaking down into tears, "Come here, I think I found something."
I rush towards the back part of the apartment, following my lover's voice. I find him in the spare bedroom, Zack's office. Bookshelves line the place and the furniture is grossly mismatched, but it feels so much like the man I've come to view as a little brother, that the tears want to start up again.
I push them down and he's sitting in one of the two office chairs with a file of letters and what look like eight-by-ten high quality glossies. Jack hands me a letter and I read it over, my mouth dropping open a little bit.
I set the letter down and shuffle through the stack that he found. The photos that are there have shots of us. There's one of Tempe, me and Booth walking to the diner. Another of Cam, Jack and Booth coming out of the Jeffersonian. Various shots over time. I notice that the dating on the photos span nearly a year and half. The last photo on the bottom of the stack is a picture of Zack's mom and dad.
There's this war raging inside, part of me sick at the thought of the implications over what we just found. The other part of me feels validated, happy that I have some tangible proof I wasn't chasing windmills and trying to rationalize the situation.
I look at Jack and offer a grim tight lipped smile. We take the stack, the folder all of this came out of and make our way out of the apartment. "Where did you find this?" I ask finally.
Locking up, Jack looks down at me from the top of the steps and smiles, "Behind his comic book collection."
I laugh, only semi-bitterly and say, "Figures."
Chapter 4 Lost Child
The nurse looks at us through squinted eyes and scrunched brow, deciding on whether or not to believe our story. I put on my most serious professional face and Jack tries to look like the PhD. genius that he is. I wonder if she's a breast woman, I could flash her and see what happens
Of course, that didn't work at the airport or the last two times I've tried it, boys just usually get stupid and the one girl well, she was fun.
The nurse decides we look serious enough, despite the thoughts that are running through my head as she relents and nods towards Zack's room. I smile graciously and say, "Thank you."
She rolls her eyes at me, but then tips her chin. "I'll give you two a half hour to ask the questions you need to ask, after that, you're getting the boot."
Jack and I both nod our agreement and spin towards our friend's hospital room. There's an agent or Marshall-type person sitting by the door reading a book. He stands as we approach, his hand immediately going to his hip.
I hold my hands up in surrender and try for disarmingly charming, "Hi," I say, extending a hand, "I'm Angela Montenegro and this is Doctor Jack Hodgins of the Jeffersonian, there have been some recent developments in Doctor Addy's case that we need immediate answers to."
He takes my hand and shakes it hesitantly. "I know," I say and exaggerate my dittzyness just a little, "it's late, but it's really important." I look up at him through my eyelashes and rub my hand along his tense forearm muscles. As they relax, I know I've got him. His chin dips as he settles back down in his chair.
Jack shoots me a look and I shrug, both of us thinking that that was too easy. You can't use the restroom in the Jeffersonian without it being caught by the swipe of a card. We slide open Zack's door and the sound of the monitor's beeps and whizzes are the only thing I can hear.
There's a small light above Zack's bed that shines down on him and I can't help but realize he looks too young, too vulnerable. We approach quietly, together, hand in hand, while my other hand clutches the folder that Jack found. Hodgins reaches out and shakes Zack's shoulder lightly and our friend's eyes flutter open.
He looks up at us through slitted eyes and his face scrunches. I smile at him and softly say, "Hey Zack."
"Angela, Jack?" he rasps. "What time is it?"
"Oh, about three in the morning," Jack answers.
Zack's face sours further as I lay the folder on the bed. Releasing Jack's hand I motion for him to take a seat while, squeezing Zack's forearm, I nudge my friend over and sit on the edge of the bed.
"Buddy," Jack starts and I see the fog of sleep recede from Zack's eyes as he wakes up fully. "We need to talk."
Reaching behind me, I bring the folder up for Zack to see and watch his eyes go wide and frantic. I set the folder down and run my hand soothingly over his leg. "It's okay."
"Jack," Zack says his voice even, not matching the look and tension in his body, "DAN's SCUBA waves stopped by." He looks pointedly at Jack and I'm completely lost.
That made absolutely no sense.
Hodgins' head cocks to the side as he studies the wide eyed expression Zack's wearing. Something dawn's on him as he nods and says, "Well, DAN is pretty careless. I'll drop off a new tank for him tomorrow."
Zack breathes a sigh of relief and I watch Jack reach for the television remote and say, "It's late, bud. We just wanted to stop by and say we're gonna be out tomorrow so you probably won't see us." He motions for me to stand up and walk towards the door.
Completely lost, I do as asked as Jack turns up the T.V. and opens and shuts the door to Zack's room.
I stand there silent as we all wait. Wait for what is a pretty damn good question, but I trust both of them so I play along. The two boys are doing this silent communication thing that's starting to get annoying. My lover holds a finger up to me, signaling for patience before he walks over and looks at Zack's monitors.
It takes him a second before finding the right one and pulling the wires from it. A few seconds later alarms sound and Jack leans down next to Zack. I watch, annoyed as they exchange hushed words before both of us are shoved out of the room by disapproving glares and frantic nurses.
Jack's hand grips my upper arm as he marches me down the hallway. Halfway to the bank of elevators I pull away. Folding my arms across my chest, I glare at him, eyebrow raised wanting an answer.
He waives the folder at me and me says, "We were being listened to."
"And DAN's SCUBA waves? You got we were being listened to from that?" I say. I'm really not impressed.
"DAN is an acronym for Diver's Alert Network, it's a common terminology. SCUBA you know what that is. The waves are sonic waves. They carry about five times as fast underwater. He was telling us the room's bugged." Jack puts his hands on his hips, crinkling the folder.
He chews his lower lip and thinks out loud, "This is big, Ang. He's scarred and he lied. We need to talk to Booth."
I nod as we make our way down to the elevator and home for a few hours of sleep before we need to be at work tomorrow.
Jack and I have everyone gathered in Tempe's office, everyone except Booth. He's on his way, but with D.C. traffic that could be anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes. Cam is sitting in one of the chairs across from the couch, Jack's pacing and Temperance and I are sitting on the couch.
Sweets isn't here, but
I'm not sure if that's good or not. I like the guy, but I'm not sure if I want him here for this just yet.
Cam and Tempe look between Jack and I, their faces show concern and curiosity. I guess if I were in their shoes I would do the same. Given what Jack and I learned last night, I know today's going to be interesting.
"Hey, Squints!" Booth steps into the office, smiling at his own joke. "Sorry for the delay, but traffic." He claps his hands together and rubs them, eyeing all of us.
I look him over and the usual shiny red belt-buckle stares back at me. He really is just nice to look at. If I didn't know how serious he is about sex and relationships, I may have tried for it myself.
There's also, the little voice in the back of my head niggling me, the whole tension thing between Booth and my friend. I tried pushing them together when Booth started working with us, but
Well, let's just say that after knowing them this long and how they work together, they're chemistry may be off the charts, but it would end, disastrously. Seely moves inside the office and plops down next to me, draping an arm over the back of the couch.
"Well," Cam starts out, "what's all the hubbub bub?" She smiles and folds her arms across her chest.
Jack looks at me and I sigh, standing to address my friends. I mean I'm nervous, they may think I'm crazy. That or that I've been sleeping with Jack too long.
I do know we need to try.
"So," I say, "I was down in the vault cataloging the rest of the Gormogon stuff and I started to notice this pattern on some of the items from the safe deposit boxes. Then I found a piece of paper written by Zack and I went and asked him about it, which he got freaked out about."
I go to Tempe's computer and punch up the scans I made of everything this morning. The charts of numbers on the artifacts, the letters, Zack's scribbling and the photos. I pull the chart up first. "This is a list of items that were in the boxes, if you look at the far right column there's numbers there. These numbers were scratched, seared or cut into the items they were found on." My hands fly over the keys and I pull up Zack's note, showing both lists side by side to highlight the matching numbers. "When I saw this from Zack, I started thinking."
I step away from Tempe's computer and look at everyone except Jack. I've been through this with him and he knows how serious I am. "Look, I know that we all took what's happening with Zack hard. Some of us have accepted it and some haven't. I haven't. Last night Jack and I went through some stuff in Zack's apartment and we found a few things." Stuffing my hands in my smock pockets, I say, "There were letters dating back nearly a year and a half. Thinly veiled threats with photos. Gormogon has been talking to Zack, threatening him for a while."
"You have proof?" Booth, Tempe and Cam all say at once.
I feel the stirrings of the first smile of the day and nod. I go back over to the computer and pull up the other file. "We found these letters here," I say pointing. I bring the first letter up and enlarge it. "Read it yourself. The hints are pretty clear. There are also photos of all of us. There is also a photo of Zack's family in Michigan."
The three who haven't read the letter all stand and approach the screen to read. Booth is the first to turn around and ask, "Has any of this been analyzed?"
"I've looked to make sure that these are real and not faked by Zack, if that's what you mean?" I challenge Booth.
He dips his chin and I nod.
"Look everyone," Jack jumps in, "Ang and I went to see Zack last night. We tried to talk to him about it and he freaked. He thinks, which both Ang and I believe, his room's bugged."
"I know that Jack loves his conspiracies, but I was there. Zack was scared." I look at Tempe, there's a war raging in her mind and I move to stand by her, settling my hand in hers. "There's more," I say a little quietly, gauging how she's going to take the rest of the thoughts I have.
Her head turns to me, squeezing my hand and says, "What?"
"When all of you have a chance to go through the letters, you'll see it looks like someone was threatening Zack. He was the one that gave them your mailing address, Tempe."
"Why do you keep saying 'them' and 'someone'," Cam asks.
I sigh and releasing Tempe's hand go back over to the computer. I punch up the sequence of numbers and dates. "Because of this." I go over to the screen to fill them in, "Now everyone follow me here, because Jack and I think we have the numbers down, Arthur Graves was born in 1921, his apprenticeship would have started in 1941, becoming the master in 1952. He would have picked up an apprentice eleven years later in 1963 then the apprentice would have become the master in 1974. Gormogon or Stanley Horvath, whatever you want to call him, would have been picked out as an apprentice in 1985 and taken over mastership in 1996."
I go back to the computer screen and separate it out into four sections, "The top left is my list of things found in the boxes, the top right is our list of dates and half names, below Horvath's file and the corresponding dates on the letters that Zack received." I push a few keys, click my mouse and watch my list of artifacts and dates superimpose itself over our list of dates and names. "There has to be someone in between Graves and Horvath. Considering what we know about Horvath, he wouldn't have had the capital to pull off what he did and live where he lived without help."
It's Booth, so quick to see how we connect the dots who says, "You think the unknown Master of Horvath's is still pushing the buttons and controlling everything?"
"If Zack's right and his room's bugged, yes. He wouldn't be scared of it because Horvath's dead. There's someone else." I confirm and then for good measure add the reasons why I started all of this to begin with, "Look, all of you can say or think what you want, but those letters that Zack got say something different. This middle person and Horvath were using all of us to control Zack. He was no, Zack is really scared. I think everything he did with Gormogon was to protect us."
As my words hit home, I see a little bit of hope infuse everyone's eyes.
"Any ideas on who the mystery guest is?" Cam asks.
I shake my head. "We hadn't got that far."
Booth's hands go on his hips and push back his suit jacket, looking a little bit like Superman in his pose. He grins and says, "I'll call Caroline, let's go talk to Zack."
He and Tempe move to leave and I remove my smock, jogging a little to catch up.
Temperance turns to me and asks, "Where are you going?"
"Uh, with you two. I'm going to be there when we talk to Zack." I fold my arms across my chest daring them to challenge me.
Then I feel two people flank me, my only guess without looking back is it's Cam and Jack.
Cam says from my left, "Don't think that we all aren't going." I smirk. "Come on Booth, we need to move." She shoves me a little towards the door and I move as Booth sighs, but doesn't protest to all of us coming along.
Zack sits in a wheelchair surrounded by all of us, in an empty office in the hospital. Cam and Jack are to his left, Caroline is to his right, Booth and Tempe are right in front of him and I'm on Tempe's right.
It's Tempe who speaks first, "Why did you lie?" So clear and direct, but the question carries an undertone of sadness.
Zack looks to his hands, covered and mitted to help the skin heal. I think the doctors said that with some skin grafts he may be okay, but it could take about two years to heal completely. I swallow the lump and wait on Zack's answer.
"Because it's better than the alternative," he answers quietly.
"Buddy," Booth starts, "we've put it all together. Why didn't you come to any of us?" He leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees. I feel for Booth. I know he felt, just like everyone else, that we let Zack down. With his over inflated sense of responsibility and duty, he probably took it just as hard as Tempe.
"I couldn't," Zack answers simply. "They would have hurt anyone of you or my family. If I hadn't hurt myself, this wouldn't be happening." He finally looks up and meets Booth's eyes. "Please, I'm asking all of you to drop it."
"Huh-uh. No can do cheri, there's another killer out there tied to this mess. Don't think you won't be answering all of our questions," Caroline cuts in giving Zack a disapproving look.
He looks to his mentor for guidance. I see the slight nod Tempe gives and he relents, "The letters started coming in December of 2006. The first one I received was in Michigan while I was visiting my family for Christmas. They were questions. Basic information. If you found it, it should be dated December 16 of 2006. It wasn't until right before the first body, the skull in the windshield, where they began getting threatening. First they tried my family. My response was simple. I wasn't going to help them."
He draws in a breath and then looks at all of us. His eyes are large and full of regret. "I told the truth when I said I was approached at the symposium. It was only the Master."
"Stanley Horvath?" Tempe asks for clarification.
"Yes," he answers.
"But " I start.
"Angela, I know. You need to understand that even though he wasn't in complete control he was still considered the Master." I accept his explanation for now and he continues, "It was there that he showed me pictures of all of you. I think that I must have gotten scarred or worried because it was after that that he started to force me to help him. He would continue with threats. Hurting one of you." A tear slips down his cheek and it's Tempe who's up and kneeling in front of him before any of us have a chance to move.
I lean forward to hear their dialogue. I notice all of us do.
"He went in to detail about how and when he could hurt anyone of you. Doctor Brennan I couldn't let that happen. So I went along with it. I had to. I'm sorry," he manages to say. I see the tears trace down both of their cheeks.
All of us allow them a moment, sensing that they need it.
Finally, Tempe and Zack both get some composure and he looks past her at Booth. "He started getting more bold. He showed me pictures of you and Parker, Agent Booth." He licks his lips and says, "It was like once I started helping him, he wanted more and more. I didn't know what else to do."
Booth's jaw clenches, but he nods. I'm not sure who is more shocked that they brought Parker into this, me, Tempe, Booth or Cam. I knew her and Booth had a thing at some point, but Cam looks like she's out for blood.
I'm right there with her.
"So you confessed to the murder because?" Tempe asks.
"It seemed the best way to end it. I can't help them if I'm in a psychiatric ward. They will leave all of you alone. It was the best solution to the largest set of problems," he answers evenly.
"You didn't kill Porter," I state.
"So when was the bug planted in your hospital room?" Jack asks.
"Someone came in between shift changes when I first got here. I was half drugged, but I remember them threatening me and telling me that I was being watched. After that, there have been messages delivered by some of the nursing staff. You wouldn't think of them as threatening, but put together after everything, I recognized them for what they are."
"They?" Caroline asks.
"I don't remember if they were male or female," Zack answers.
Caroline stands and motions for Booth to follow her. "I'm going to go get his conviction and confession overturned in light of new evidence. You guys see if you can find me the puppet master." She looks back at all of us and then to Zack. "You hang in their sugga; we'll sort this mess out." She swirls out of the room and closes the door.
Turning our attention back to Zack, he offers us all a sad half smile. "I'm sorry you guys."
Tempe shakes her head fiercely, but Zack interrupts her, "Doctor Brennan, you have to understand that I only wanted to protect you. All of you. The things he said that he would do ," Zack trails off and recedes inside for moment reliving those moments. A visible shudder from him and then he's back.
I can't imagine what would put fear like that into him. He's seen things that most never will and nobody wants to.
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