Disclaimer: I do not own Jack, Zack or Bones the TV show.
Summary: It's Christmas quarantine and Jack and Zack are just trying to make it through the night. Friendship, set during 'The Man in the Fallout Shelter.'
Merry Little Christmas
The first thing to register in Jack Hodgins mind as he was rudely awakened was that he had left the damn TV on again. The second was that it must be December 24th by now. The third was that it was not his TV, of course, because he was not home. He was in fact lying facedown on a cot at the Jeffersonian with a sleeping bag bunched uselessly at his feet.
He groaned: what came out was something halfway between 'crap' and 'shit'. Hungover and still a bit disoriented, he couldn't make up his mind as to which curse he preferred. His head hurt, but that could be the side-effects of the drugs. Or, it could have been the alcohol.
Sitting up did nothing for the headache; in fact, now the room was spinning. Lovely; probably the hangover and the drugs teaming up against his poor, defenseless immune system like Dems and GOPs against a poor, defenseless independent. Now he realized what had woken him up, though; his roommate, currently cellmate, was sitting up as well, still ridiculously cocooned in his own regulation sleeping bag, his pale, pointed face peering out like some sort of six-foot tall rodent.
"What the hell, Zack?" Jack groaned.
Never one for pretense, Zack Addy answered immediately, "I had a nightmare."
Jack allowed his body to go limp, falling heavily back to the floor. "That's nice."
"It was about zombie babies."
"Oh, go tell your mom."
"I can't exactly do that," Zack replied. His voice never fluctuated from its characteristic monotone, but there was an undercurrent of annoyance. "Maybe I just need a massage."
Jack raised his head as much as he could manage- about a centimeter or so. "Was that your pathetic attempt at mockery of my Christmas traditions?"
"I found it funny."
"You find infomercials funny."
"I still can't understand why you don't."
Ignoring the sick feeling spreading throughout his body, Jack sat up again. "No, I don't, Zack. Please go back to sleep."
"Because you snore."
"No, I don't."
"How do you know that you don't?" Zack countered, raising his eyebrows.
Jack felt like slapping someone's head- his own, or preferably Zack's. "That is the most puerile argument I've ever heard. And just so you know, it was puerile when I first heard it in fourth grade."
Zack just stared at him, which Jack whished he wouldn't. The guy had a strange stare; in this light, his eyes were fully black, almost alien in their hugeness. Only a few seconds passed before Jack was too weirded out to let him continue.
"Zombie!" Jack shouted. Zack flinched. His stare broke away from Jack and went to the floor.
"Who the hell has a nightmare about zombie babies?"
"I do," Zack said defensively.
It was sarcasm, of course, but then a weak voice said, "yes."
Jack sighed. "I would like to get to sleep now."
"I'm not stopping you."
"You're sitting up. I can't sleep when someone else in the room is sitting up."
"And you say I have strange quirks."
"What, you could sleep next to someone who's sitting up?"
"I come from a huge family," Zack deadpanned. "I can sleep in almost any circumstance."
"Good!" Jack plastered on an insanely fake grin. "Sleep!"
Zack sighed dramatically. "I meant I can sleep despite other people in the room."
"Zombie babies," Jack murmured, shutting his eyes. Hallucinatory infants were keeping him from his much-needed sleep.
"You don't seem very upset by this," Zack commented.
Jack opened his eyes again. "By what, you waking me up? I'm very upset about that, actually."
"I meant our situation. It doesn't seem to be affecting you."
"It is," Jack assured him. "I want my massage."
Zack finally unzipped his damn sleeping bag cocoon and swung his legs over the side of the cot. This was good, because now Jack could look at him without wanting to laugh. It was also bad, because it looked like he actually intended on having a conversation in the middle of the night. "Don't you miss your family?"
"Look, Zack. I'll say this as plainly as I can. My family irritates me. I see them as little as possible."
"My family irritates me too…"
"Good to know where you get it from."
"…but I still love them."
Jack sighed. "I love my family. Happy? It doesn't mean I have to like them. Or spend time with them."
"Jack," Zack said quietly. Jack paused. Zack rarely, if ever, addressed another person by name unless it was a deadly serious matter. "We're stuck in a quarantine area with a spore that has a statistically significant chance of killing us. Doesn't it disturb you to think that last year's Christmas may have actually been the last you'd ever get with your loved ones?"
Jack was frozen, just staring at Zack. Zack stared back, his eyes huge and shining, like he might cry. He looked about twelve, just a scared kid in a scary situation. Jack hadn't actually thought of it like that before. When was the last holiday he'd spent at home?
"We could die."
"We won't die," Jack insisted, trying to sound exasperated.
"You don't know that."
"What, are you having symptoms?"
Zack said nothing. Jack's stomach lurched. "You're having symptoms?"
A beat. Then, "I think I have a fever."
"Sneezing or anything?"
"Not yet," Zack said, a bit ominously.
Not wanting to, but not really seeing a choice in the matter, Zack struggled to his feet and over to Zack's cot. He put his hand to Zack's forehead then his own for comparison. Zack did feel warm. His cheeks were a bit flushed as well.
"You were wrapped up in that huge sleeping bag all night," Jack reasoned. Zack just looked back at him with those huge creepy eyes, now glowing with suppressed fear.
"I don't want to die," he said, very simply.
"I think we have a thermometer around here somewhere," Jack said lamely, sitting down at the foot of the cot.
"Only those foot-long Kelvin ones we use in beakers."
"Damnit." Zack was right. The Jeffersonian lab was a science lab, yes, but not medical. There was no reason for them to have a thermometer suitable for human use. "We'll find one in the morning," he said, with more confidence than he felt. What was the point, if Zack was running a fever? It would only confirm what they already knew. And if it took hold in Zack's system…
"Maybe it's a side effect of the meds."
"I don't think it was one of them."
"I can't remember, actually," Jack admitted. "I'm hungover."
"At least you're not dying."
"You're not dy…" Jack stopped in midsentance when he looked over at Zack and saw tears falling. He froze up, at a loss for what to do.
Zack looked away. They both just sat there for a moment while he rubbed his eyes. Then Jack felt the cot move as Zack stood up.
"Where are you going?"
"To get a thermometer," Zack said quietly. He took a few steps. His thin frame had a nonetheless weighty quality, like he couldn't hold himself up well. Like he had a fever.
"How do you feel?"
Zack turned around cautiously, speaking with an attempt at clinical discipline. "My heart is racing. The room is spinning." Then, "I'm gonna be sick…" He shut his eyes.
Jack winced, but all that Zack sis was sit heavily back down on the cot, an arm clutched against his stomach. He looked miserable, but…
"Hey," Jack said quietly. "Hey, that's a good thing. The early symptoms don't include nausea. It must be a reaction to the meds."
"The meds cause nausea and delusions," Zack said tightly, holding perfectly still. "They don't cause fever."
"Well, we don't know that you have a fever."
"I feel like I do."
Jack looked up. Zack's eyes were stricken with barely contained panic, his teeth clenched in between slightly parted lips.
And it hit him. If Zack really was sick, if the spores really had taken hold in his body… it was all on him. If this man- no, this scared little kid- died, he would be to blame.
"Lie down, okay?" Jack said, getting off the cot so Zack could do so. However, Zack stayed sitting up, pulling the sleeping bag over his crossed legs like a regular blanket.
"You'll be okay, Zack," Jack said quietly. "It's just the meds." Zack only sighed.
Jack crawled back into his own sleeping bag, eyes still trained on the young man on the other cot. It was silent for a few moments, then Zack said quietly, "My parents would kill me if I died from this."
"They never wanted me to be an anthropologist. They never approved of any of my career choices."
"You're twenty-four. How many careers have you had?"
"None as long as this one," Zack admitted. "But I started on three or four others. I can't make up my mind. But they were all scientific. My parents hate that. They want me to do something simple. Nothing interesting."
"Something Michigan-based?" Jack guessed.
Zack smiled softly at that. "Yeah. When I moved out a few years ago I promised them I'd never get in any trouble. My mom would kill me if she found out I caught a fifty-year-old lung fungus."
"So why do you like visiting them so much?"
"Because." Zack smiled again, a bit ironically. "They're family."
Zack paused. "They care about me. However weird they think I am, they have to care about me."
Jack didn't know what to say to that.
"If I die…"
"If I die you have to make it sound like I made an important contribution. Solved some huge crime by myself."
Zack let go of his abdomen and clenched his hands together. "I want them to think I made a difference."
Jack blinked. "You're morbid when you're sick."
"I'm a morbid person. You just never noticed because we've never really discussed any serious issues before." He had a point there, Jack realized. All they ever really talked about was work or women, or a one-sided conversation about politics.
"You're not going to die, Zack," Jack said forcefully. "You'll feel better in the morning and we can spend the day torturing Angela when she tries to flirt with Booth."
Zack smiled a small, somber smile that didn't look right on his boyish face. He lay down and pulled the sleeping bag up to his chin, then turned on his other side, facing away from Jack.
Jack stared at the back of Zack's head for a while before closing his eyes and trying to fall asleep. He could never forgive himself. If someone died because of this- Zack, or one of the others- he would never forget it a day in his life. He'd never sleep well again.
He didn't dream of zombie babies, but he did dream of zombie Zack- bandaged and bleeding, those huge, dark eyes being eaten away by maggots.
He would have preferred the babies.
As it were, Zack was fine the next morning. It had been a reaction to the meds after all. A day later, they were all released- no one would suffer for his stupid mistake.
But as he put off his own reunion to drive Zack to the hotel where his family was staying, they were both quiet. Neither of them mentioned the incident: the nightmare or the crying or the fear. It all went unspokenly forgotten from memory. But Zack's words still echoed in Jack's head: they care about me. They have to care about me. After it all, was his own family still under that obligation? Actually, was his family still even in tact?
And he wished, a bit guiltily, that the quarantine had not been lifted until December 26th. Christmas was about family, and it seemed to him that Zack's definition of family was more fitting of the rag-tag Jeffersonian group that it was of Jack's own blood relatives.