Title: Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Beta: Alex/Odysseus, Onigami/Ryan and Nox/BJ
Disclaimer: I own the plotline. Oh… and the psychic. That is all. Bones belongs to… whoever it belongs to. frowns Who does it belong to? Fox? Meh… I dunno.
Summary: AU. A bet lost to Angela brings Zack and Hodgins more than they bargained for.
Author's Note: This was taken from a piece of poetry called 'The Afflicted Girls' by Nicole Cooley. The title was taken from the Emily Dickinson poem of the same name.
"Oh, Angela, you have to be kidding!"
Angela Montenegro's face broke into a broad grin at the dismayed looks on the two men's faces, "Nuh-uh. Fair's fair, guys. You lost the bet. Now, what will it be? A day at the Psychic Fair, with a nice lunch, all paid for using your credit cards? Or public humiliation?"
Zack Addy and Jack Hodgins glanced at each other, before sighing in resignation, "Psychic Fair."
The three squints piled out of Angela's car. Zack had point-blank refused to squash himself into the back of Jack's mini. Angela gave an excited bounce and went to join the ticket line, dragging the two reluctant men behind her. As Angela fidgeted impatiently in the slow moving line, Jack glanced around his surroundings, noticing that Zack was doing the same. Jack looked at the gaudy posters advertising psychics, palm readers, aura readers, and… what the hell? Jewelry readers? As he blinked at that particular poster and looked away, his eyes met Zack's and he raised an eyebrow. Zack bit back a small smirk, practically a grin for the youngest, most serious squint.
Paying for the tickets using Zack's credit card and walking into the fair, the three squints were immediately bombarded with people hawking their wares. Gaudily dressed women, hippies and someone that Jack was sure was a belly-dancer crowded around the entrance trying to convince every newcomer that they should spend (waste, Jack amended) their money on this particular stall. Jack couldn't help the snort of laughter that escaped him as a woman dressed only in a few strategically placed pieces of gauze tried to sell Zack a… Jack tilted his head to the side, what was that? The socially inept grad student just blinked, blushed bright red and scooted close enough to Jack that they were almost holding hands.
Zack blushed a deeper crimson and shifted away a little. Jack was surprised at the disappointment that flowed through him as his friend pulled away. He looked down at the ground for a fleeting second, then back up as Angela let out an impatient 'come on' and dragged them away. Sighing as he was dragged from stall to stall, looking at what he could only describe as useless crap, Jack couldn't help but glance over at Zack. The other man looked as bored as he felt.
Jack winced as Angela let out an excited squeal, "Oh! A psychic! Come on, you guys! You can pay for me to have a reading done."
Zack shot him a flat look, "I don't care how much of a sure thing it is… we are not making bets with Angela again."
Jack shrugged apologetically as he and Zack were dragged along into the psychic's booth. Angela practically bounced over to the woman sitting behind the small card table and plopped herself down in the chair opposite. Jack sighed for what seemed like the thousandth time, and reached for his wallet. He held up the bills and put them in the little urn next to the psychic's chair. The psychic nodded to him and reached for Angela's hand. The dark-haired woman held it out eagerly. Jack rolled his eyes and took up a spot leaning against the wall next to Zack.
As the psychic started to do her thing, Zack leant in close to Jack, breath ghosting over his ear, "Maybe it's just me… but does that look like a cremation urn to you?"
The comment, so unexpected, yet so totally Zack, made Jack snort with unsuccessfully suppressed laughter. Zack gave him an innocent look, but mirth danced in his eyes. Both Angela and the psychic turned to shoot the two amused men dirty looks. Zack looked down, trying to hide the laughter in his soft, brown eyes. Jack just raised an eyebrow at the two women. Angela's dirty look turned into a glare. The psychic's, however, turned thoughtful.
The gaudily dressed woman extricated her hand from Angela's, "Forgive me, but it is not you who needs the reading. If you wish to have a reading done, I will, but these two need a reading more than you at this point."
Angela turned back around to face her friends, then looked back at the psychic, "What do you mean? They don't even believe in this sort of stuff."
The psychic looked past Angela, locking her kohl-lined eyes onto the two men, "They have met before. Not in this life. But in one before that."
Jack just looked at her, blue eyes incredulous, "You have to be kidding…"
Zack's big brown eyes grew impossibly wide, before flicking off to look at Jack. They then returned to the psychic, looking at her as though she was a particularly foul piece of bone matter under his microscope. Angela turned back to look at the two men she considered her best friends, turning on the collectively dubbed 'Demon-Puppy-Eyes'.
"Come on, you guys, it'll be fun," she wheedled.
Zack looked at his shoes, "Mmhmm, fun…" he murmured to Jack.
Jack's second unsuccessful attempt to smother his laughter was his undoing. It made Angela's eyes narrow, made her stand up and made her left hand gesture imperiously to the chair she had just vacated. Zack shot him a pleading look, which he returned with yet another helpless shrug. The two male squints moved over to the psychic's table. Zack sitting uneasily in the chair, Jack hovering at his shoulder, looking almost like an old world portrait.
Zack shot a look at Jack over his shoulder, before receiving a tap on the wrist from the psychic. He turned back, a look on his face that was an almost comical mix of apprehension, skepticism and contempt. The psychic just blinked at him calmly, reaching out a hand. Zack held out his hand, attempting to meet her halfway, but the psychic ignored it. Instead, the heavily made-up woman reached her hand over Zack's and placed it square in the middle of his forehead. Zack frowned as Jack snickered behind him, rolling his eyes up as he tried in vain to look at his own forehead.
Jack's snicker died in his throat as Zack's eyes abruptly rolled back down and the younger man shivered. Jack frowned, moving around to stand in front of Zack. He nudged the younger man's shoulder. Nothing. He called his name. Nothing. Growing alarmed, Jack shook Zack's shoulder hard, calling him all the insults that had made the normally mild-mannered man bop him on the nose in the lab. Zack's head flopped lifelessly forward, eyes still open, wide and unfocused.
Jack whirled on the psychic, who blinked back at him calmly, "What in the hell did you do to him? Did you drug him? Hypnosis? What, damn you, what?!"
The psychic raised her hands, "I did nothing. This…" she gestured at Zack, "This should be proof that you and he did indeed meet in your previous lives."
"Previous lives, my ass!" Jack was beyond furious, "That's a crock of shit and you…"
"I was always so careful…" the voice that came out of Zack's mouth halted Jack in his tracks.
"Zack?" he said hesitantly, moving over to place a hand on the younger man's shoulder.
But it was like he wasn't even there. Zack's eyes remained unfocussed, looking at something that no-one else in the psychic's booth could see. The voice that emerged from his mouth was not that of Zack Addy, squint extraordinaire. It was still the same careful, soft voice that Jack knew, but… it wasn't Zack. It just… wasn't. The accent was wrong, almost British. And the inflection of his words just wasn't… Zack. Jack automatically reached for the rubber band he kept around his wrist for anger management, snapping it a couple of times as he stared helplessly at his co-worker, his best friend if he wanted to admit it to himself.
Zack sighed sadly, continuing as though Jack had never spoken, "It seemeth me that it was inevitable, however. Thee and I, Jack, we were ahead of our time."
Angela's jaw dropped, "Whoa… Jack? Are you sure you don't…"
Jack didn't take his eyes off Zack, "Angela, don't start."
The remaining scientists continued to watch as Zack carried on speaking in the same faraway voice, a frown marring his forehead, "I confess freely…" a bitter smile twisted the young man's face, "… much as I did in my trial. But I confess that I did think of fleeing, of leaving thee to the crowd's none-too-tender mercies, coward that I am. I couldn't let the incensed mob have thee, Jack…"
Zack paused, seemingly weighing up his next words, before continuing in a voice barely above a whisper, "You were my world…"
"You have destroyed the sanctity of our God-fearing town!"
Zackary Addy blanched as he heard the yelling of the crowd, his face paling. He had been so careful, always hiding his experiments from the prying eyes of the ignorant townsfolk. The budding young scientist hurriedly gathered all his papers, journals, notes and ledgers to him, dumping them unceremoniously into a metal lock-box, which he then kicked into a hollow underneath the floorboards.
Sliding the loose floorboard back into place, he turned to run, thinking if he could only make it to the stables he'd be free. He wasn't the greatest horseman in the world, but it was better than waiting here for the lynch-mob to kill him. Zack raced up the stairs leading out of his workshop, fully intending to bolt for the stables and ride for his freedom. But he paused, two faces appearing in his mind.
The first, his mother. Zack's heart clenched. Pious and disapproving of his life, she may be, but she was still his mother. She was still the only family he had. He loved her. But surely the townsfolk would care for her if he was gone? Right? A second face appeared in his mind's eye, effectively sealing Zack's fate. Jack Hodgins. His fellow scientist, his best friend, his world. His Jack. Zack scrunched his eyes shut, a lone tear leaking from the corner of one. The townsfolk may look after his mother, but what would they do to Jack?
"And so I waited, just waited. They came with their torches and pitchforks…" Zack's face curled into a mocking smile, "… almost like the giant-hunters from the tales mothers tell their children. They pulled me out of my house… my own house… bound my hands…" the squint shook his head in disgust, "… they dragged me up the road, bound and gagged, worse than some common criminal, worse than a murderer."
Zack shook his head again, sighing, dislodging a lock of hair as he did so, "I was no murderer, no defiler of children…" he looked up, the lock of hair flopping over one sorrowful brown eye, "All I wanted to do was learn."
Unaware he was even doing it; Jack gently squeezed the youngest squint's shoulder, pulling the stray lock of hair back behind Zack's ears, leaving his hand resting gently on the nape of Zack's neck. Angela shifted her gaze from one man to the other, her dark eyes wide. The psychic simply looked on, her gaze serene.
Zack blinked in confusion, slowly coming back to himself. He shook his head to clear it. The youngest member of the team glanced around the psychic's tent, his eyes coming to rest on the stunned faces of his fellow squints. He frowned slightly.
"What… what just happened? Did I miss something?" he asked, before turning his head and blinking up at Jack, "Are you touching me?"
Zack opened his mouth to ask more questions, but stopped, his jaw dropping further as half-remembered fragments washed over him. Superimposed over the psychic's gaudy tent, Zack saw a man, head down as he was led up the steps to the gallows. The man kept his head down even as the noose was slid around his neck. Then the man raised his head and stared helplessly at him. Zack gagged, hands going up to his own neck. Oh God… it was him! He was watching himself die! Zack gagged again, hands scrabbling frantically for a rope that wasn't there.
Not-so-steady hands grabbed his arms and firmly pulled them down, a voice calling him back from far away, "Zack? Zack! Zackary Addy… come on you pathetic excuse for a grad student! Zack!"
Breathing harshly, Zack looked up into Jack's worried face and frowned at him, "Still… best… grad student… Jeffersonian…" he heaved out between gasps.
Jack snorted, visibly relaxing, "OK, now I know that's my Zack."
Every face in the psychic's tent, including Zack's, turned to look at the redhead as he referred to the still shaken man next to him as 'his Zack'. Jack looked back at them all for a moment, before blushing crimson and looking away as he realized just why he was being stared at. The psychic glanced at Angela, then over at Jack, who was still blushing deeply and checking to see if Zack was alright.
The psychic looked over at Zack and Jack, still standing close together, "Perhaps you believe me now…"
Jack scowled at her, "Lady, I don't know what you did… but trust me when I say that if my mother hadn't taught me that hitting women is the lowest of the low… you'd be on the ground right now."
Everyone turned to look at Jack in shock. Angela raised one hand to her mouth in surprise. Zack's already wide brown eyes went almost saucer-like. The psychic simply widened her kohl-lined eyes and raised an eyebrow. Jack scowled back at her. The psychic reached out a hand, stretching it towards Jack's forehead. Jack recoiled.
"Oh hell no… not a chance in hell…"
The psychic gazed at him mildly, still holding her hand out, "If you please…"
Jack began backing away from the table, "No, I don't please, thank you very much."
Jack's rapid retreat from the psychic's table was halted by a vice-like grip on his wrist. He turned back instinctively to shake it off, but found himself looking down into Zack's still-frightened brown eyes. Jack twisted his hand round to grip Zack's wrist, squeezing it reassuringly. The fear in Zack's eyes lessened. But Jack's pause was all the chance the psychic needed. She reached out again, standing up slightly in her chair and darting her hand out to place it squarely on Jack's forehead.
Zack blinked as Jack's hand fell away from his wrist. He let out a startled yelp as Jack's knees buckled, scrambling out of his chair and manhandling the redhead into the chair he had just vacated. Zack shook him gently, but when he received no response he just stared at Jack for a moment, before turning his head up to Angela.
"Is… did I…?" he managed to stutter out.
Angela nodded, "Yeah, but you were sitting down though, not nearly as dramatic as Jack with the whole passing out thing," the artist said, her flippant words disguised by the guilt in her eyes and the compassion in her voice.
Zack frowned as he turned back to Jack, crouching down in front of him and shivering as he caught sight of the redheaded squint's eyes. Dead eyes. No… Zack abruptly pushed the thought from his mind. Pursing his lips, Zack cautiously reached out a hand in front Jack's face, waving it quickly in front of his eyes, before pulling it back, as though scared the redhead would lash out. Zack frowned and stood up, looking over at Angela. Both started slightly when Jack spoke.
"I watched them break thee, Zack, tear thy soul apart. But, Saints preserve us, I did naught. Oft times…" the voice coming out of Jack's mouth cracked over these words.
Zack and Angela stared as the redheaded squint spoke in the same trance-like, faraway tone that Zack had adopted before. But the accent, Angela noted, the accent was an odd kind of mix… a cross between an Irish brogue and the almost-British lilt that she had heard coming out of Zack's mouth. Zack watched spellbound as the story, his story, their story, came pouring out of Jack like a flood.
Jack seemed to compose himself, "Oft times…" he managed to force out, "… I thought it may have been, after what you suffered in the trial, I thought it perhaps the most merciful thing to… to hang thee, Zack. Then… then at least, you died knowing not even the Almighty himself could take away your science."
Jack Hodgins stood on a ladder shelving the books in the bookshop that was like his second home. He had winced and turned his face away as he saw the crowd of townsfolk, people he knew and saw every day, march down the street baying for blood. Which poor soul would it be today? Goodwife Amery, with her herbal teas and her soothing balms? Or perhaps Farmer Batten, who still went down to lay flowers at the lake where his daughter drowned? Jack sighed and shook his head, were he and Zack the only ones who could see the insanity in all of this?
So lost in his thoughts was he, that the returning of the maddened crowd and the dreadful noise they made startled Jack so much that he nearly fell off his ladder. Grabbing hold of the rungs, his head swung involuntarily out over the crowd, scanning morbidly for the unfortunate creature that would stand trial this time. His heart nearly stopped. There he was. Zack. His Zack, being dragged along, hands bound behind his back, a gag tied around his head. His face and arms were bleeding and bruised from the indiscriminate beatings the townsfolk had already given him, convinced beyond any doubt that he was guilty.
The remaining squints pulled back a little as the redhead's eyes blazed furiously, even though they were still unfocussed, "A fair trial amongst a jury of thy peers? The Devil himself would have given thee a fairer trial. They pulled thy words apart, maligned thy gentle nature…" Jack practically snarled with anger, "So help me, it was all I could do to watch. But watch I did."
The judge gazed severely over at Zack, whose hands were bound and head held high, "Zackary Addy, you have committed the crime of heresy. You are accused of witchcraft most foul. You are denounced as a Sodomite, defiling the holy words of the Lord, Our God, by lusting after a man. Do you deny it?"
Jack watched in amazement as Zack's lips twitched wryly as his charges were read out. His jaw dropped in stunned shock as the last charge was read before the court. Tears sprang to his eyes and he mentally cursed all his lost opportunities. Jack's amazement turned to horror as Zack answered to his charges, ending his life and saving Jack's own, with three simple words.
"I do not."
The judge blinked in surprise, "You confess to the crimes of heresy and witchcraft?"
Noticing that Zack was resolutely not looking at him, Jack winced as Zack inclined his head, "I do, sir."
The priest spoke up from his position next to the judge, "You admit to being a Sodomite? To lusting after a man? To defiling God's holy works with your corruption?"
Zack frowned, his face paling slightly, as the priest's diatribe came to an end, "But… Does… does not the Bible say… God is love…?"
The judge's eyes widened as the priest sputtered incoherently, "You dare! You… vile… You dare defile…"
The judge held up a hand, halting the priest's red-faced tirade, "A full confession. We have heard enough."
Jack watched in dawning horror, tears about to spill over onto his cheeks, as Zack's lips twitched again, this time in fear and sadness. Zack's eyes locked onto his for a split second before flitting out over the courthouse again. It broke Jack's heart, nearly making him break down then and there. They both knew what was coming.
Zack held his head high as the judge turned his severe gaze back onto him, speaking harshly, "Zackary Addy. You have been tried by a jury of thy peers. You have been judged and found wanting. You stand before us, guilty of the heinous crimes of heresy, witchcraft and sodomy. This court hereby sentences you to death by the gallows. May God have mercy on your immortal soul."
Zack's eyes widened as the judge lowered his voice, favoring him with a vicious grin, "I'll see thee hang, you vile little fiend."
Zack only spent the one night in prison. He was sentenced to hang at three o'clock the following afternoon. Jack didn't sleep at all that night, pacing up and down his bookshop, wishing he could at least go and visit the younger man. But only family and the priest were allowed in at the eleventh hour. The short imprisonment time before death.
Jack cursed under his breath as he was jostled by the crowd. The crowd! They turned out in droves to watch Zack hang. Fathers set small children on broad shoulders for a better view, or pushed them forward, right up to the gallows. Jack raised a shaking hand to his neck. It was being treated almost like a festival day. Jack stared around him in disbelief. Did they not realize? Did they not see?
A pamphlet was pressed into Jack's hand. Without thinking, he glanced down at it. He nearly gagged. An amateurish cartoon depicted Zack, eyes bulging as the noose pulled tight around his neck, hanging from the gallows, the Devil beside him, gripping his backside with both hands. He looked up, eyes blazing furiously as he scanned the crowd for the person who had given him the pamphlet. His eyes widened, then darkened with anger. Most of the crowd held similar pamphlets. Jack clenched his fists, crumpling the pamphlet in his hand and dropping it under the feet of the jostling crowd.
The hangman walked out, up the steps of the gallows, to the cheers of the press of people below. He ignored them, but Jack could see a small smile play across the hangman's lips as he heard the cheers of the crowd. The hangman went about his work, checking and double checking everything, before nodding to someone Jack couldn't see.
The crowd murmured, those in front beginning to point and jeer. Jack's heart clenched. Zack. Oh Lord have mercy… One hand went up to his neck as Jack fought the urge to just scream his fury at the injustice of it all. Jack paled slightly as Zack was brought out, his captors deliberately pulling on the ropes around his bound wrists, hurting him, Jack could tell, and making him stumble, causing the crowd around him to break into raucous, jeering laughter. Jack clenched his fists tighter, shaking his head, as Zack was led up to the gallows to be executed to the roars of the crowd.
As the noose slid round his neck and was pulled tight, Zackary Addy tilted his head skyward, wishing he could pray to a God he didn't believe in. With a final sigh of defeat as the priest read his condemnation to the crowd at large, he brought his head back down, sorrowful brown eyes scanning the crowd and locking onto a familiar face. Jack had tears running down his cheeks. Zack gave him a sad smile and a helpless shrug that made the muscles in his shoulders burn as his bound hands pulled. The priest finished his denunciation and turned to the hangman, giving him a nod. The hangman reached for the lever controlling the gallows trapdoor. Zackary Addy closed his eyes, and waited to die.
Zack and Angela watched as, choking back a sob, Jack turned his face up, blue eyes swimming with unshed tears, "The bastards cheered as you died, Zack. They cheered! They treated it like a festival, as though it were the celebration of a new life, rather than the end of one," Jack shook his head, before continuing in a voice barely above a whisper, "And, Lord, what a life they chose to end…"
Jack sat at home, nursing a cup of tea in his shaking hands. It was the middle of the night, but he didn't care; he couldn't sleep, didn't want to. Every time he closed his eyes, Zack's face appeared before him. Eyes bright and all but bouncing as he described his latest breakthrough to Jack. Frowning and eyes darkening as he argued, normally still hands dancing through the air to prove his point. Or asleep, dark lashes spread over pale cheeks, a shaggy head resting on a pile of precious notes and a dark smudge of ink across his chin.
Thankfully, Zack hadn't suffered. If Jack was a truly religious man, he would've thanked God for that, but he wasn't, so he didn't. He just remembers breathing a sigh of relief, even though tears were still running unchecked down his face, as the trapdoor swung out from under Zack's feet, and he heard Zack's neck break with an audible snap. He never even opened his eyes.
The remaining two stared at their red-headed counterpart. Angela was watching with interest and some compassion as Jack recounted the tale of the day the previous Zackary Addy was hung for witchcraft and heresy. Zack fidgeted uneasily in his seat, uncomfortably listening to the tale that he himself had just finished telling, fleeting memories of it still floating through his mind. Zack's hand came up to rub absently at his neck, half-remembering the feel of the noose as it was pulled tight. His wide eyes never left Jack's face.
"Have mercy…" Jack choked out in the same oddly lilting voice, "What manner of man am I, that can take comfort knowing he heard his most trusted friend's neck snap? Oft times, they placed thee as a coward, Zack, for your unwillingness to fight. But 'twas me who was the coward that day. I stood by, knowing that with a word I could either sweep thee from the gallows or take my place beside thee, but I said naught."
Zack stared at Jack, brown eyes wide as the other man poured out a story that wasn't his, memories of things that had never happened to him. A lone tear trickled out of the corner of one of the bug-n-slime guy's bright blue eyes. Unconsciously, totally forgetting that Angela and the psychic were even in the room, Zack reached out a hand to brush it away gently with his fingertips. Jack jerked at the contact, making the youngest squint yank his hand back as though he'd been burned. But the simple touch was all it took for Jack to lose the unfocused stare and the faraway gaze.
Zack turned his head away, standing up as Jack stared wildly around the tent. This time it was Jack's turn to grab hold of Zack's wrist, his eyes wide and frantic. His head came up; checking to make sure it was Zack staring down at him in concern. The hand not holding Zack's wrist quickly flitted over both wrists, checking for the rope that had bound them in another time. Zack held still, blushing furiously, but allowing it, knowing that Jack needed to do this, needed to reassure himself that they were both still here.
Abruptly, Jack realized what he was doing and to who. He yanked his hands out of Zack's and stood up. Still pale, the two male squints looked over at the psychic, who was still looking at them serenely. Angela looked over at the psychic, then back at her friends. Zack had an almost haunted look in his eyes. Jack looked practically murderous and about ready to throw his 'don't-hit-women' philosophy down the toilet.
Grabbing a wrist in each hand, Angela dragged her two friends away from the psychic's tent and out of the psychic fair completely. She shoved them both into the car and drove them home. The drive home was eerily silent, neither man looking at each other, nor speaking at all. After dropping her friends off home, Angela frowned to herself, she was probably to blame for this. How were Zack and Jack going to look at each other? Hang around each other? Work together? She sighed, this was a disaster.
Angela pushed open the door of her apartment, dropping her keys on the side table and hanging her coat on the hook. She kicked off her shoes and flopped down on the couch, idly flicking through the TV channels. The events of the psychic fair ran through her mind on repeat. Acting on impulse, she pulled her laptop to her, opening up a search engine. She quickly Googled Zackary Addy and Jack Hodgins, but came up with nothing useful. Frowning, she pulled up a genealogy search engine she used for work, then quickly tapped in the two men's names, cursing the fact that she didn't have middle names, or even middle initials.
Angela smiled to herself as multiple hits came up on the database. Zackary Addy, 1980-current. Nope. That was the Zack she knew. She needed another Zack. Bingo. Zackary Addy, 1667-1692. That was him. She opened up another window, clicked onto the genealogy search engine and entered in Jack's stats. Her eyes widened as she took in the information that popped up on her screen. Jack Hodgins, 1972-current. Not what she was looking for. But the one underneath it made her pause. Jack Hodgins, 1658-1692.
Angela put one hand up to her mouth, hurriedly clicking on the two entries and waiting impatiently for them to load. Muttering 'come on, come on' under her breath, Angela tapped the top of her screen impatiently. Angela grinned triumphantly as the page loaded successfully. Her grin faded as her eyes darted over the information laid out in front of her.
Jack gave a grim, triumphant smile as the final page fell out of his printing press. He blew carefully on the still-wet ink to dry it. He knew that this was probably going to be the last thing he did. But he owed it to Zack, owed it to the life that was cut short because of the ignorance of so many. And if Jack was truly honest with himself, he was doing it for himself as well. He knew that he would likely be executed for this. But Jack gathered Zack's published works, his notes and findings, to his chest and allowed himself a whole new moment of grief, before picking up the hammer and nails by his feet and pinning them to the wall, the grim look of resignation never leaving his face.
Jack flinched back from the windows as the mob screamed, almost as one entity. He let out a startled yell as a rock sailed through his front window. Jack took two quick steps backwards, stumbling, then righting himself. The redheaded Irishman narrowed his eyes at the mob. He calmly walked over to where he'd pinned up Zack's works and tore one sheet down. He allowed the mob to roar its approval, gave them all a cynical grin, then began to read Zack's works out loud, his strident voice washing over the disbelieving mob.
Jack stood proud, still reading from Zack's works. The mob fell silent for a second, disbelieving, totally shocked that the redhead would dare continue to read the blasphemy that a fellow townsperson had been hung for. Jack finished the page he was reading aloud from and held his head high. He knew they would kill him for this, but he favored the crowd with a defiant glare anyway. Jack didn't even have time to sigh in resignation before the mob seemed to gather itself together and launch itself towards him in a flood of crazed people.
Angela wiped away the tears that had gathered at the corners of her eyes as she came to the end of the screen. That explained it. That explained why the Jack Hodgins who had lived in the 17th century had died in the same year as the Zackary Addy. Angela shuddered. The poor man had been beaten to a bloody mess, then locked inside his own bookshop and burnt alive. She shuddered again at the horror of it and deliberately closed the laptop down, wishing she had never opened it up in the first place.
Things quickly appeared to go back to normal at the Jeffersonian. Booth and Brennan still flirted with each other with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Jack went back to his bugs-n-slime. Zack went back to his bones and half-finished dissertation. But Angela wasn't fooled. She could see the tension in Jack's shoulders every time Zack came in looking for results. She could also see the troubled confusion in Zack's expressive brown eyes whenever Jack walked past. Angela sighed, looking out over her computer. Zack and Jack just didn't interact anymore. They practically ignored each other. And God help you if brought up the psychic. Making up her mind, Angela saved her work and went to have a chat with her two male colleagues. Zack was easy to find. She just followed the crazed mutterings.
"But he… no… no… do not start. Just because some other you allegedly fell in love with him, doesn't mean you have to."
Angela stayed quiet, simply raising an eyebrow from her position at the door. Zack went silent for a while, hands busily working and shoulders tense. Angela waited patiently, judging by the Squirmy McFidget act Zack had going on, he'd start talking to himself again soon. She was right.
Zack's hands paused over a femur, "But he does have a nice ass…" the squint scowled down at the bones on his table, "… and I shouldn't be thinking that…" he finished in a sing-song voice.
Angela watched her coworker for a while. She resisted the urge to sigh and alert Zack to her presence. She just carried on watching and waiting as the youngest, most serious squint muddled his way through the complicated issues of the heart that had been thrown at him at the Psychic Fair. Angela pushed herself away from the door and headed back up to see Jack, glancing back over her shoulder as she heard Zack speak to himself again.
"And anyway…" Zack sighed, "He has Angela, plus he could have countless heiresses or… whoever…" one hand waved a bone saw through the air, before it clunked gently on the edge of the metal table, "Besides… why would he want… want someone like me?"
With Zack's last words ringing in her ears, Angela paused in the bug-n-slime guy's doorway, listening as the redhead mumbled to himself as well. Unlike Zack, however, Jack's crazed mumblings were kept to just above a whisper. Angela had to strain to hear what he was saying. But still she waited, a frown creasing her face as she remembered what Zack had said about the redheaded squint.
Jack paced up and down his lab, working busily, but never stopping moving, "Crock of shit psychic… but that was seriously freaky. I mean, I still remember… No… no no no… you don't remember anything. Hypnosis. That's what it was…"
The redhead paused at the printer, scooping up a sheet, "But Zack… he was… God…" although Angela strained her ears, the next part of the sentence was lost, "… watched him die. No. Power of suggestion… she told you that you watched him die… Christ, if Booth was here he'd call you paranoid."
Angela winced pityingly as Jack's shoulders grew tenser and tenser, "Zack… ah hell…" the redhead put his hands up to his temples, "Get out of my head, damn you!"
Angela's wince turned into a frown as Jack scooped up his office phone and hit an obviously familiar number, "Allo? Estelle?"
Angela scowled, mouthing, "Estelle?" at the back of Jack's head.
Jack carried on speaking, "Comment ca va? C'est Jack. Oh thank you, I was running out of French," the redhead gave a rather fake sounding laugh.
Angela's scowl grew bigger, "French?" she mouthed at the back of his head again.
"Yeah… listen Estelle, I was wondering if you wanted to…" Jack paused, listening, "Really? Oh that's great… yeah… pick you up at… I dunno, eight?" the redhead broke into a wan smile, "Great, see you then."
Angela turned and left before Jack could see her eavesdropping on his conversations with both himself and the mysterious Estelle. She sat in front of her computer and stewed for a while. Idiots! The pair of them! Zack too stubborn to say anything to Hodgins because there isn't any logic behind it. Logic! Since when is any kind of emotion logical! And Jack! Jack in total denial! So much so that he's called up some French bimbo for a quick roll in the hay so he can prove that he doesn't feel anything for Zack! She huffed out a frustrated sigh and said three words aloud to her empty office.
"Men are idiots!"
Composing herself, Angela got up from her desk, picked up her laptop and went down to the breakroom for some coffee. When she got there, she wished she had stayed in her office and gone into caffeine withdrawal. Yes, the rest of the squints were there, having a conversation. Yes, Booth was in there throwing in his two cents. But the topic of today's water-cooler gossip almost made Angela turn around and walk back out again.
"So, yeah… Estelle, I mean, she's gorgeous…" this came from Jack.
"Estelle? French?" from Booth.
"No, Quebecoise, she has this killer accent…"
Zack gritted his teeth, fighting the urge to just clamp his hands over his ears and scream at the room in general to 'just shut up!' For hours and hours, at least, all he'd been hearing was Estelle this, Estelle that, Estelle the other thing. It really wasn't helping his 'you-aren't-in-love-with-Jack-so-stop-acting-like-a-jealous-lover campaign'. Jack continued to ramble in this vein, Estelle, Estelle, Estelle. Zack couldn't take it anymore. Without a word to anyone, he packed up his slides and his microscope and, outwardly calm, walked rapidly out of the room.
The entire team watched him go, blinking in stunned surprise as the squint they'd almost forgotten was there suddenly up and left. Jack's jaw dropped as he watched Zack's rapidly retreating ass… back… his rapidly retreating back. He shook his head, trying to force his mind away from Zack's butt and back onto the conversation.
Booth nodded after Zack, "What's his deal?"
Brennan stopped watching her retreating assistant and swung her head round to Booth, "I don't know what that means…"
Booth shot her a small smile before clarifying, "What's wrong with Zack?"
Angela turned to look straight at Jack, her eyes narrowed, making the redhead squirm uneasily, "Beats me," Jack said hurriedly before getting up himself, "But I have a date, so I'm going to head off…"
Zack watched as Jack hurried out of the breakroom and back to his lab, gathering his things before brushing past Zack at the top of the foyer stairs with a muttered 'excuse me'. Zack shoved aside the hurt that simple 'excuse me' had welled up inside him. As though Zack were a stranger in the street rather that Jack's best friend. Zack frowned, could he call himself Jack's best friend anymore? Lost in thought, Zack stayed where he was, head bowed, at the top of the stairs.
Jack walked down the stairs, every part of him regretting his brusque treatment of Zack. He frowned as he was walking across the foyer. Jack kept his own head down, the redhead frowning as he made it level with the stairs. The look of hurt on Zack's face as he brushed past him flashed into Jack's mind. Almost without thinking about it, Jack turned his head up, looking up at Zack, who was still lost in thought at the top of the stairs.
Jack blinked, bringing one hand up to swipe at his eyes. No way, he didn't just… Oh hell, there it was again. He saw Zack standing on the steps of the Jeffersonian, lost in thought. Then he saw a double image, superimposed over the top. He saw Zack, but not his Zack, hands bound, face pale, a noose pulled tight around his neck.
Jack swiped his hand across his eyes again, shaking his head furiously, much to Zack's puzzlement. Zack looked down over the stairs, tilting his head to the side as he saw Jack look up at him, frown and then recoil as though he'd been hit. Zack's eyes widened as the redhead's face went horribly pale. The brunette took two rapid steps towards the stairs, then paused, uncertain if Jack needed his help or not, or, indeed, if Jack would welcome his help.
It was when Jack let out a shuddering gasp and his eyes grew even wider, allowing Zack to see the whites even from where he stood at the top of the stairs, that Zack threw all caution to the wind. Zack ran towards Jack, the brunette took the first three stairs in one jump. Then he stopped, one foot raised to place it on the next step, his own eyes wide. Jack had screamed.
Jack watched, eyes wide, face pale as the double-imaged Zack's looked down at him. He saw now-Zack, his Zack, frown and start towards him. But as he clenched his fists and Zack paused, the steps of the Jeffersonian faded and the dreaded gallows shimmered into existence. No, no, no, this was not happening. Deep in the back of his mind, Jack knew, he knew, that the gallows weren't real. But that didn't stop the scream from forcing itself from his throat as the trapdoor swung open and Zack fell through.
Jack let out a strangled yell, not trying to catch himself as his knees buckled. He tried to turn his eyes away from the sight of Zack's lifeless body, the neck bent at an odd angle, swinging gently from the noose, but it was like a train wreck. Morbid curiosity kept his eyes firmly fixed on the sight in front of him. Zack took the rest of the stairs and the floor of the Jeffersonian's lobby at a run. He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees next to Jack.
"Jack?" Zack hesitantly reached out a hand, "Jack?"
"Oh God…" as Zack's hand touched his shoulder, Jack shuddered, repeating the same words over and over, "Oh God… no, no, no… oh God…"
Zack grasped his shoulder more firmly, "Jack!"
Jack's eyes went impossibly wide and he let out a low keening whine as the lifeless body dangling from the noose opened its eyes, frowned and spoke to him, saying his name over and over. Zack watched as Jack's face went even paler, making his hair stand out in stark contrast, and began hyperventilating, soft whimpers escaping his throat.
Zack grabbed one of Jack's shoulders in each hand, shifting his weight so he was directly opposite the redhead, "I'm really, really sorry about this," he said, looking the terrified man in the eyes, before using every ounce of strength he possessed to shake the stuffing out of him.
Jack recoiled, letting out another strangled groan as the corpse sagging limply from the hangman's rope reached out its hands towards him. The groan turned into a choking sob as Zack's lifeless body apologized to him, grabbed hold of his shoulders and shook him. Wait… a fleeting thought drifted through Jack's frantic mind. Zack… noose… hanged… hands… His hands! Zack's hands were bound behind his back as he was led up to the gallows.
As that thought materialized in Jack's mind, the wooden gallows slowly faded away and the Jeffersonian gradually came back into the foreground. The dangling corpse slid away into nothingness, to be replaced by the pale, worried face of his best friend. Zack had his hands on Jack's shoulders and was calling his name and shaking him lightly. No, Jack realized. Zack wasn't shaking him. He was trembling.
"Jack?" Zack said for what seemed like the millionth time as the redhead's choked sobs ceased and his eyes started to clear.
"Don't…" Jack croaked, realizing his throat was sore, meaning he'd probably been crying, "Don't you dare get yourself hanged."
Zack's eyes widened, and it was all he could do to just nod, lifting his hands off Jack's shoulders and getting to his feet. He hesitated for a moment, then held out a hand to help Jack up. The redhead took it, pulling himself to his feet, noticing Angela watching with wide eyes off to the side, much like she had in the psychic's tent.
Angela gathered herself up and walked slowly over to where the two still-shaken men were standing, "Come on," she said softly, "I'll drive you guys home."
Angela pulled up outside Zack's flat above Jack's garage, frowning as Zack stayed where he was, curled into the rear passenger door of her car, his left knee pressed into the gap between the front passenger seat and the car door. She looked into the rear-view mirror, then turned around to face him.
"Zack? We're here. You're home."
The last two words made Zack's eyes widen. His eyes flicked up to the rear-view mirror, meeting Jack's own widened eyes. Zack shot Jack a panicked, pleading look that was mirrored by the redhead and both returned with a nod. Jack turned to Angela and tried to speak in a nonchalant voice.
"Just let it go, Ange, it's been pretty stressful. Take him up to the main house. I'm sure I won't kill myself after spending one night with him."
Zack paled even more, turning his head back into the door and hunching down even more than he already was. Angela raised both her eyebrows, before nodding slowly and pulling her car back out onto the driveway and heading up to the main house. Jack turned his head to look out of the window and cringed. He bumped his head lightly against the window, still cringing at his horrible choice of words.
Angela dropped the two men off at the main house, watching as Zack scurried quickly up the path after Jack. Jack wasn't much better. The redhead's shoulders were still tensed. Shaking her head, resisting the urge to hurry after them and try and sort it all out, she put her car into gear and headed off back down the winding driveway.
Zack stood in the hallway of the main house, eyes flicking up at the ornate furnishings and then back down to his feet, fists clenched as he struggled to bring his swirling thoughts under control. Did Jack really think that little of him? Or that much of him? Or did he think of him at all? How did Jack go from '…Don't you dare get yourself hanged…' to '…I'm sure I won't kill myself after spending one night with him…' in the space of half an hour? Or was he reading too much into one little comment? It wouldn't have been the first time that had happened.
Jack looked over at him, frowning slightly. Zack was obviously uncomfortable. Perhaps he'd misread the look in Zack's eyes. Perhaps all he'd seen was his own fear and he'd projected it onto the person who he'd come to want to protect. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. It wasn't getting him anywhere.
The two men spent the next few hours awkwardly not-looking at each other. Jack sat at the kitchen counter, nursing the same drink he'd poured himself as soon as he walked in the door. Zack sat slouched at the kitchen table, head resting in his arms, fidgeting uneasily in his chair. Finally the youngest squint couldn't take it any longer and began to speak rapidly, leaving Jack no room to get a word in edgewise.
"I know anthropologically speaking, I should date women… and… I mean, that's what society needs to propagate… and… anthropologically speaking… I know that Naomi from paleontology would be a good choice… but… but… my mother always told me to tell the truth…"
"Zack…" Jack tried to interrupt, tried to clarify the babble.
"… but… and… the… the truth is I really like you, Jack… not as a friend… I mean, I do like you as a friend… but… I like you as more than a friend as well as a friend," Zack's eyes grew saucer-like, "And this is one of those times that I shouldn't have said anything, isn't it? Oh no…"
"Zack!" Jack snapped out, finally grinding Zack's rambling babble to a halt.
Zack's mouth clamped shut and Jack felt vaguely bad for making the younger man look so much like a kicked puppy. Zack kept his head down, a blush creeping over his cheeks, giving Jack time to actually sort his way through what Zack had said. Zack thought of him as more than a friend?
This time it was Jack's turn to blush crimson as the full weight of Zack's rather garbled words hit him. Zack was in love with him. Jack cringed inwardly as he thought of Estelle and all the times he had dismissed the notion of telling the younger man how he felt, telling himself, and giving Zack no credit either, that Zack wouldn't know love unless it was put under his microscope or laid out on his bone table.
"Jack?" Zack spoke up rather timidly from the table, his face still red, "I can… I can go back to my apartment… if… if you want…."
Jack's eyes darted over to the younger man, "What?! No! I mean, if you want to go… I obviously can't stop you… but don't feel you have to go because of what you just said… because what you just said, about being more than friends and everything… I don't give a damn about that… I mean… well… of course I give a damn, you're my friend… but… like… like you said… you're kinda more than that too… if you understand my meaning…" Jack looked over at Zack's saucer-like eyes, "Of course you don't… hell, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore…"
For his part, Zack just canted his head sideways before asking, "Are you done?"
Jack blinked at the brunette a couple of times, his brain trying to process the sudden role-reversal they'd just gone through, "I… well… um…" he stuttered out, before giving up and just nodding.
Zack nodded too, before he looked down, as though working through a problem in his head. His teeth worried at his bottom lip, for a few seconds, as he looked down at Jack. His eyes flicked away, then back again as he noticed Jack fidgeting under his gaze. Jack watched him, eyes filled with something akin to trepidation. Had Zack changed his mind? Did he regret saying what he did?
As Jack's mind was going into overdrive, Zack appeared to steel himself and gather his nerve. What was he doing? Was he going to tell Jack he didn't mean it? All these questions flew out of Jack's head as Zack leaned in quickly and pressed his lips to Jack's. The redhead had a fleeting moment to reflect that Zack kissed the same as he did everything to do with people who weren't dead, shyly and hesitantly. But then even that thought flew out of his head and Jack could do nothing but sigh happily and slide his arms around Zack's slender waist.
When the need to breathe became apparent, Jack reluctantly pulled back, eliciting a disappointed noise from Zack and making the brunette's closed eyes slide open and a frown flit across his face. Jack grinned up at him, eyes dancing, before his eyes widened, then his smile faded into a thoughtful, almost awestruck look. Zack's brow creased as he opened his mouth to ask what was wrong. Then his eyes widened, a small smile turned up the corners of his mouth and his head tilted slowly to the side.
As Jack reluctantly pulled away from Zack's kiss, grinning at the disappointed pout that crossed the younger man's features, he blinked suddenly. The grin on his face faded and his heart sped up into an almost painful thumping as Zack's pouting face split into a double image, much like it had back in the Jeffersonian.
His heart thumped wildly, hoping frantically that it wouldn't be so, but waiting nonetheless for the superimposed Zack Addy's face to contort and blanch in death. But as the image of the other Zack smiled gently at him, Jack felt his heart return to its normal rhythm and felt his lips curl in a hesitant answering smile. Zack's double blushed slightly, before bringing his hand up and gently kissing his own fingertips, then reaching out and brushing them lightly over Jack's cheek. Jack leaned into the touch, briefly closing his eyes. When he opened them again, the double image was gone, leaving only his Zack behind.
Zack frowned as he watched the play of emotions across Jack's face. Then he blinked as Jack's face blurred and divided into a double image. He tilted his head to the side, blinking slowly as he saw two of Jack. Two? Oh no… Zack's eyes widened, but the shell-shocked expression on his face soon faded as the Jack in front of him favored him with a cheeky grin and shook his head in fond exasperation. A small smile curled up the corner of Zack's mouth at the familiar-and-yet-not expression. The grin on Jack's double's face softened into a gentle smile as he reached up a hand to Zack's face.
The redhead cupped Zack's cheek for a moment before curling one finger around the errant lock of hair that Zack could never get to sit behind his ear and tugging on it gently, then pushing it away from his face. Zack blushed slightly and turned his eyes away as Jack's double rested his hand on his cheek again. When he looked back, the double was gone, leaving only the residual warmth of the hand that had rested against his cheek, and the bright blue eyes and wry smile of his Jack behind.
Zack blinked, making sure it was his Jack, "Did you…?"
Jack nodded, "Yep."
Zack nodded slowly, "Possibly residual memories from… but that would mean acknowledging the existence of… and past lives aren't… but… but… they, the two of them… did exist… as people… so it could… I mean, do you think…?"
Jack raised an eyebrow, "At the moment, I don't really care."
Zack frowned at him, "But we could conclusively prove that…"
Jack sighed before leaning in and kissing him again, "Zack… I really, really don't care right now."
Zack hummed happily as Jack pulled away, "Huh? Oh… well… the evidence is all circumstantial anyway. No conclusive proof," this was all said into Jack's throat as Zack calmly tucked his head into the crook of Jack's neck.
Jack snorted, "That's my Zack."
The two men rested comfortably, side by side, curled in together on the couch. Zack's head resting on Jack's chest, Jack's chin resting on the top of Zack's shaggy hair. The two stayed there for hours just enjoying the closeness of the other, side by side.
Nearly three hundred miles away, just outside Salem, Massachusetts, there resides a tiny cemetery. Outside the fence, ostracized by the rest of the graves, are two headstones, side by side. At the time, placing them together was deemed an insult to the two, excommunicated, unwanted, no greater sin. But the people who put them there could not have been more wrong.
On the left, Zackary Uriah Addy, 1667-1692. An inscription had been added, obviously paid for by someone who loved him, even in death. The inscription read, 'History choked me, History took hold of my throat.' On the right, Jack Hodgins, 1658-1692. The inscription on this headstone read, 'I don't have words because I am nothing but a collection of evidence.' Side by side.