Title First Steps
Rating: PG-13 (for brief mentions of violence)
Pairing: Pre-slash Zach/Booth
Word Count: 694
Notes: A little late, yes. I've had this sitting on my computer for a long time, and realized tonight that I never posted it. Oops.
Disclaimer: Not mine, totally not mine. Oh how I wish they were, however.
Booth slowly walked up to the laboratory table, glancing around the room to ensure that nobody was within hearing range. “I heard you were back.”
Zach didn’t respond, he continued cataloguing the bones that lay before him in a perfunctory manner. He wasn’t paying as much attention as he used to, before he’d left, but Booth knew that was to be expected. It had taken him a long time to stop seeing the scope over the bodies of people up and down the street, when he got back. He’d spend valuable minutes calculating wind velocity and the trajectory he’d need in order to make a clean kill while internally debating which vegetables to buy at the Eastern market.
Booth took a breath: “I’m glad you’re back. It’s tough, being in the middle of a war zone.”
Zach’s eyes flashed up at Booth before he went back to cataloguing the body in front of him. Booth knew from Bones that it was a WW1 vet, nothing that was pressing time wise, before trying once more.
“Have you thrown your shoes out yet?”
This time, Zach responded. His eyes were angry, his entire stance shifted and Booth knew right off he’d hit a nerve. The tension rolling off the squints body was palpable.
“I threw out all four pairs that I had with me. I am glad to be back. And it wasn’t hard for me to be in the middle of a war zone.” Zach settled back, confidence written across his face. “Now, if you’ll stop bothering me, I have work to finish.”
Booth sighed: this was going to be a hard conversation. “When I got back…” He didn’t get a chance to finish.
“I’m not in the mood for a lecture about the necessary evil of readjusting to civilian life. I don’t need to be told that it’s hard, and that the things I saw have changed me. I don’t need you to come in here with a clear agenda and,” Zach broke off in the middle of his tirade, choosing instead to settle back down onto his stool.
“That’s good,” Booth nodded at the squint, “because I’m not particularly in the mood to lecture you, or tell you how to readjust. I don’t really want to explain what I went through when I got back, and how everywhere I looked I saw nothing but the potential for destruction. I definitely don’t want to tell you about how I was so used to looking through the scope of a rifle that I looked at Parker one time and could have sworn I saw a tiny pin-prick of red on his forehead. I threw him to the ground before I knew which way was up.”
Zach jerked forward in his chair, dropping a phalange he’d been examining. He didn’t close his eye, knew that if he did the darkness that had surrounded him in Iraq would reemerge and the last thing he wanted to do was surround himself with the same level of helplessness; neither did he respond, didn’t even look at Booth because he knew that was equally dangerous.
“Look,” Booth’s voice sounded rough, edgy. “I’m going to walk out of here in a second and grab a cup of coffee from the cafeteria.” He paused for a second, collected his breath. “If you want, I’ll grab a cup for you as well.”
Zach didn’t move a muscle, didn’t dare breath or twitch or shudder; he waited until Booth sighed and began to walk away. He could quantify the shuffling steps Booth was using to escape the awkward silence; could examine the bone shards in front of him until the answer revealed itself. He took a deep breath—quantifying wasn’t useful, though, when he could still see the careless waste of life and abject terror he’d been exposed to in Iraq every time he closed his eyes.
Another breath, then he heard himself calling out in a wavering voice: “two creams, not three.”
Booth nodded to let Zach know he’d been heard, then continued walking out the door. Two cups of watered down caffeine wouldn’t change the world, but at least it was a start.