Spoilers for the finale of S3 Bones.
(five first visits)
"I'm going to draw you," she says as she sits down. "We miss your scruffy face around the Jeffersonian, so I'm going to decorate my office with it."
"I'm not scruffy any more," you protest. "You -- you de-scruffed me."
"Zack, sweetie." She opens her tin of pencils and does that Angela look, the one where her chin tilts and then she stares at you for a couple of seconds, the one that usually comes prefixed by sweetie. "Shut up and hold still."
"Can I speak?" you venture after a minute or so, trying not to move your lips too much.
You're expecting a yes or a no or maybe a joke, but she lifts her pencil as though she is taking perspective; as though you have grown or shrunk suddenly within her field of vision and she needs to compare you to something constant.
"Just -- give me a sec," she says, sounding odd.
"Here, I brought you something."
He lifts the book in his hands and shows you the cover. One Flies Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Very characteristic of him, to bring a book like that.
"I've read that," you say.
He says nothing, though his mouth moves. It is his turn to speak.
"Oh." You reach out your hand and after a moment he places the book in it. "I will read it again. Thank you. Are you suggesting that I incite a rebellion?"
"Nah." He smiles; it is the first time his voice has sounded familiar, and that relaxes you somewhat. "Though if the system's trying to crush you, man, then go ahead. I'll cheer from the sidelines."
You smile. "We are the system." No: incorrect. "You are the system."
"Never!" He taps a finger on his nose and then shakes it at you. "You know me better than that."
"Thank you," you repeat gravely, and you mean it.
She doesn't know what to say. Even you, who have always been bad at interpreting the living, can tell that.
"Hello," you suggest.
"Zackeroni," she says, and starts to cry. It looks terrible on her. Wrong. It doesn't fit.
"Dr Saroyan," you say, and she meets your eyes above the hand that is pressed across her face. You would like to tell her that you played all of the repercussions and consequences through in your head, many times, before making your decision. You weighed the evidence. You would not like her to think that you were unprofessional about it. "Please don't," you say instead. "I'm fine."
"Well, clearly, I'm not." She gives a shaky laugh and swipes her hand across her eyes, banishing the emotion. Her mascara must be waterproof. "Sorry. Let's try that again."
Her strength, in your opinion, has always been the fact that she slices organs and analyses the pulped flesh of murdered human corpses every day and yet she believes, still, in human worth. In everyone's right to start over and do things properly the second time.
Yes. Let's try that again.
The first thing you notice is how odd he looks walking through the door alone, how strange it is for him not to be mid-argument, how you have come to associate him with the rising tones of Dr Brennan's voice. He seems to notice it too; every so often he turns his head to the side and then jerks it back.
"Zack! Zack, buddy, how's it hanging?"
"You're speaking very loudly."
"Yeah, I get that a lot." But his voice returns to a normal volume. He tugs the chair out with one foot and sits down, smoothly.
"I appreciate that you're here."
He seems to hear surprise in that, even though it was nothing more than a pure statement of fact, and leaps in to defend himself. Or maybe defend you. You're not certain. "Of course I'm here! We're -- colleagues, aren't we? And I promised Bones."
You hear again that silence into which her indignation would normally fall, and wonder if he paused without realising it. To preserve the unconscious rhythm. He shakes his head and quickly adds: "Plus, I think Parker's been hoping that if I hang around you long enough I'll bring him another robot."
Robots, now, robots are easy. You smile and start to tell him about the design improvements that you've stored away in your head, and he leans back in the chair and for a moment it's almost like you're friends.
"It was Iraq, wasn't it?" she says.
The words lie there stark and horrible as the desert, your mouth as dry, and it isn’t a betrayal because Dr Brennan has always given you understanding. Among many other things just as valuable.
When you remember how to tell your longus capitis and trapezius and a handful of other muscles how to move your head, you nod. Carefully.
She makes a noise like half a consonant and then stops and then says, "I would like -- I would like your opinion on these." She fishes in her bag and pulls out a folder.
The nod was not an exact answer. It needs context, clarification. "Dr Brennan --"
"No, Zack." She takes your hand in your own and you almost jump with how much it startles you, because you had not realised that you had reached out to her. "We don't have to talk about it. It was a product of your experiences and your rationalism. And I can't fault those qualities of yours, even if they led you to the wrong conclusions. They're the reason I hired you."
"It made so much sense." You swallow hard and look at her and know that she, of all people, deserves the truth. It is all you have to give her, and it seems so little, but you have nothing concrete and no real opportunity to lay your skills at her disposal. So you will give her this. "It still does. I realise the inconsistency leading to my mistake, Dr Brennan. I do. But I cannot quite accept that the individual is of greater importance than humanity as a whole."
"I know. And we try, Zack." Her smile is not quite right. "We try, but no society could survive if everyone placed an abstract ideal above the safety of those they loved."
"He wasn't --"
"We'll talk about it another time, Zack." Her voice, stern and professional, pulls you up short. "I would like. I mean, I value your opinion." She pushes the folder across the table.
After a moment, you flick it open.