Weakest Link

Zack Addy sat bolt upright in the bed at the sound of the screams. As clear-headed as he could be upon waking, it just didn't compute. He should be alone, and the security at the Hodgins household should be second only to Fort Knox. It was only when he heard his mother scream his father's name that it all came back to him: He wasn't in DC, he was home, Michigan. His oldest brother's wedding…Shit! What the Hell was going on?!

He leaped out of bed, still wearing only his navy blue sweat pants, and ran for the bedroom door. "Where is he? Tell me or he dies!" he heard a rough, scary voice demand, followed by his mother's choked sob, and his sisters crying.

"He's not here!" his father stated shakily. "He left this morning."

What little survival instinct Zack had was trumped by the fact that his family was in danger. He rushed into the room, instinctually grabbing his brother's hockey stick. It did him no good as in the living room he was met by his family (his father on the ground bleeding from the nose, everyone else terrified and shaken but otherwise unharmed) and three very large men in ski masks with guns. Zack knew bullets, but guns all looked the same to him. This was a bad time not to have a plan. Oh, well. At least he could go down looking heroic. He glanced at his parents and each of his four sisters in turn, then back at the attackers. "Why do I get the feeling you're looking for me?"

One of the men pulled out a second gun, pointed it at the young scientist's neck. Without a second's hesitation, he pulled the trigger. Zack felt only a small sting just to the left of his trachea. When he tried to raise his hand to fell the damage, the room slowly faded to black. As he fell unconscious, he heard his mother scream. God, he hoped they would be alright…

"So," said Angela as she and the other squints stood around the lab table, trying to make due with the less than state-of-the-art lab. "Any word on when the computers will be back on line at the Jeffersonian? Not that going to the scene and working in whatever labs they have available isn't great, but I could do so much more with my equipment."

"No clue," said Brennan. "But I agree. We're about three steps away from the bronze age."

"Hey, it's not that bad!" replied Booth. "I mean, we have microscopes, computers…tables…What more do you need?"

"Booth, this is Barren-ville, Kentucky! And this computer is older than Zack! Literally! I didn't know Dell went back that far!" Hodgins was more than a little irritable, considering the microscopes were high-school biology level and were useless for what he did.

"It's Barrington. And until we can get your lab up and running again, we take what we got. Hey, speaking of Zack, has anyone talked to him today?"

"Yeah," said Brennan. "I called his this morning to tell him where we were. I'm not sure if we'll still be here tomorrow, but I wanted him to be able to find us."

"Of course we'll still be here tomorrow!" exclaimed Angela. "We'll be here for a month trying to get answers!"

"But if the computers get fixed tonight-"She was cut off when Hodgins' cell phone rang.

"Hello?" he answered. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Calm down, Mrs. Addy, I can't understand…Oh, God! Was anyone hurt? OK, was anyone else hurt? OK. Don't worry, we'll find him. And he'll be fine. It'll be ok, Mrs. Addy. This is what we do…Oh, God, I'm sorry! No, we do other things than deal with dead bodies! We'll find him…" He hung up the phone. "Oh, God."

"It's Zack, isn't it?" asked Brennan. "What happened to Zach?"

Hodgins opened his mouth, but just couldn't find the words. So he settled for "We gotta go. Now!"

The first thing Zack became aware of was the horrendous pain in his shoulders, but all he could do was suffer through it until he came out of it enough to realize the position he was in. His wrists were handcuffed perpendicular to his body to something behind him- a radiator pipe, it felt like- and while he had been unconscious his arms had been supporting his entire weight. He squirmed around, and finally managed to get his feet under him. They were asleep, and felt like they were full of sand, but were able to support him with less discomfort than his aching shoulders.

Once standing, he began to assess his situation. His range of motion was very limited. His arms were at approximately 80 degree angles from his sides, and they must have been handcuffed to the support brackets of the pipe, because he was unable to pull them back to his body or slide along the pipe. Definitely handcuffs, as when he pulled on them the metal dug harshly into his wrists. None of that "humane restraint" crap that wasn't meant to hurt. These were obviously meant to discourage struggling.

Unfortunately, Zack was pretty clear on the fact that whatever was going to happen to him was going to be worse than a few scrapes on his wrists. His head and neck ached, but he couldn't tell if that was from the abuse on his shoulders or whatever they shot him with. He had pretty much figured out when he woke up instead of, well, whatever you do when you're dead, that he'd been shot with some sort of tranquilizer. Did his parents know that? Of course they did. They saw the dart in his neck, instead of a gaping hole. He knew they were worried sick about him. Or he hoped they were. Because the alternative was so much worse, and the thought of that was a hundred times more painful than anything else these bastards could do to him.

But why him? What did they want? It had to be him they were after, because mean people don't usually hold a gun to factory workers and their families. At least, unless one of said factory worker's sons was a scientific crime fighter who helped the FBI. That tended to piss people off. But what did they want from him?

Best he could figure, there were three possibilities: Ransom, information, and disrupting a case. Ransom could probably be discarded, however; the only person he knew with money was Hodgins, and if they wanted money from him they should have taken Angela. Disrupting a case was unlikely; if they took him, the case would be solved without him, then someone (probably Dr. Brennan) would find him and kick however many asses necessary in the process. That left information.

He had plenty of information, but very little the average person would want, or even understand. They had attacked his family, shot him with a tranquilizer dart, handcuffed him in a very cold room in an uncomfortable position, so it was unlikely that they wanted something he would be willing to give up. Which probably translated into torture. He shivered, and not from just the cold or his lack of a shirt.

Just then the door creaked open slowly and the young man felt fear ooze through every pore. He could keep back fear as long as he could rationalize the situation, but when there was a really big, scary-looking man was staring at you like a job to be done, there was very little rationalization to be had. "Hiya, Doc!" the man greeted him cheerily. "I bet you'd like to know why you're here, right?"

Zack struggled once more in vain against the unrelenting metal. "Well, I'm not really a doctor, only a grad student, so maybe you got the wrong guy!" he was babbling and he knew it, but as long as he was talking, this guy wasn't hurting him and that was a very good short-term goal. "I mean, if that's the case, you can just let me go and there will be no hard feelings and-" His words dried up in his throat when the man pulled out a switchblade knife. Oh, this was definitely not good.

"Now, I don't want to hurt you, so why don't you just tell me what I need to know and we'll drive you back home and even wash your daddy's blood off the floor before we leave, ok?"

"What did you do with my family?!" he demanded.

The man smiled at his captive. "Not a thing. Scared the shit out of them, shot and abducted their youngest boy right in front of them, but physically, just smacked your daddy in the face. Busted his nose a little. You wanna call 'em, let 'em know you're ok?"

"Am I?"

"You're not hurt yet are you?"

"My arms hurt. And if you don't want to hurt me, let me have my hands free so I can at least scratch my neck? It kinda itches. Almost feels like it was SHOT WITH A DART!"

"Well, well. We've observed your little team for a while, and I never pegged you for the smart-ass. We had you made out to be the weakest link. Figured you'd be begging for mercy by now. When did you grow a spine?"

It didn't seem to be a rhetorical question, so Zack actually put a moments thought to it. Because there was little else to do? No, the answer was much simpler. "I don't get mad very often. You've in all likelihood never seen me pissed off!" He struggled once more, knowing it was futile, but he couldn't just wait there for the bad stuff to start. "What do you want from me?"

"Done with the foreplay, huh? Well, ok. It's simple. You're crew has disappeared. We know they're getting close to finding us, and now they've disappeared. You must have been left behind to facilitate contact, and we need to know where they are."

"You want what? They haven't disappeared! They just…Wait, what do you want with them?"

"We just want to talk to them. Persuade them that we aren't worth their trouble."

Zack's mind raced. "Like you persuaded me to go for a little ride? I have an IQ of over 163. I'm NOT stupid!"

"Well, I didn't figure even you would give it up that easily. You gotta have your pride and all." He wiped the switchblade on his black jeans and Zach struggled violently, barely even feeling the metal tearing into the fragile skin of his wrists. His pretense of calm shattered and he began babbling full speed.

"I don't know where they are! I was gone for my brother's wedding and the lab was out of commission and I wasn't at home and I guess they had to go somewhere and they didn't tell me where they were! I don't know where they went or what they're working on, or even what case you're involved in! I just-" His rambling were lost in a scream as the blade found its mark and separated tissue from tissue. He clamped his mouth shut, trying to avoid giving the bastard the satisfaction of screaming again. "Booth," he thought to himself. "Booth has been through all this and more. He wouldn't scream. He would be a man about it." Zack wondered if he could compose himself enough to spit on this guy. Of course, that was more Dr. Brennan than Booth. If he could just keep his mind busy, then maybe he could keep his distance from- But he couldn't stop the cry that tore its way out as the knife sliced into his side.

They drove in silence, Booth driving, Brennan shotgun staring out the window. Angela was fidgeting in the back seat, trying to find a way to get comfortable in what was an uncomfortable ride under good circumstances. These were not good circumstances. Hodgins was beside her, clutching a case of samples for dear life. No one turned around to look at the empty seat in the back, where their young colleague usually rode, often holding on for dear life and reciting prime numbers to keep his mind off the FBI agent's driving and the structural instability of the vehicle.

The SUV rolled to a stop as traffic stopped in front them. Booth laid on the horn. "What the Hell is this?!" He exclaimed. "Why the Hell is there traffic at ten o'clock at night! We should be able to get from the airport to the lab in half this time!" Under the emergency circumstances, a rush was put on the repairs at the Jeffersonian. It would be up and running when they got there.

Most of the time, Brennan would have told him to calm down, that the samples would keep. But this time, she said, "Can't you use your lights and siren?"

"No, I-" He caught sight of Angela's stricken face in the rear-view, then Hodgins' angry/fearful/determined expression. "Ah, hell." He flipped on the lights and sirens.

Hodgins pulled the case closer to his chest. It contained all they knew of their friend's abduction: Pictures from the scene, dirt samples from the footprints, several different DNA samples (both from the scene and from the Addy family to differentiate between samples that belong and those that don't) swabs of blood from the hockey stick discarded in the living room floor. They were pretty sure it was either Zack's or his father's, but it was worth a shot. They had to take every long shot they had. This wasn't some random body, just a skeleton and a collection of samples, this was Zack, their friend and colleague, their junior partner. His closest friend in the world.

A hand on his shoulder pulled him back into reality, his right shoulder, so they must have stopped. He looked up to the now open passenger side door and saw Angela looking back into his eyes. Quickly, he averted his eyes, hoping to hide the fear and pain she must have already seen by now. "Come on, Sweetie. Booth and Brennan are already inside." She put out her hands to take the case from him, but he wasn't willing to part with it. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"What the Hell was he gonna do with a hockey stick? He's barely strong enough to open a pickle jar! Did he really think he could fight off an intruder?" He exited the car and walked beside her inside.

She put an arm around him. "We'll find him. Like you said, this is what we do. We find answers."

He stopped in his tracks. "No, Angela. What we do is work with dead bodies! We clean bones and identify organs from rotted flesh! We find killers and bring them to justice. This is Zack we're talking about." He stopped that train of thought, but not giving it voice didn't keep the images away. He could clearly see the decimated remains on the table, only identifiable by the file folder on the desk. He could see Dr. Brennan wandering around doing her job, and of course it looked wrong without Zack there beside her. Of course, he was there, but he was supposed to be up following her around like a little lost puppy, spouting out obscure facts, making observations. Also he was supposed to have skin. Hodgins gagged slightly and had to sit down on the bench.

"He's my best friend, Angela! He knows me better than anyone in the world. If something happens to him..."

She put her arms around him. "I know. But we'll find him."

He finally looked up into her eyes. Both sets were filled with tears. "I know we're going to find him. But what condition will we find him in? Will we have to do our thing to even ID him?" Angela opened her mouth to speak, but there was nothing she could say. Hodgins continued, emotion making him say things that he wouldn't ordinarily say to Angela. He respected that she wasn't comfortable with the "ick factor" (as she put it) of their work, so ordinarily he would reserve this kind of thought for… "What if all we find are-"

Angela held up a hand and cut him off as her tears spilled over. "Why Zack? I mean he's so…innocent."

"Hey!" exclaimed Booth, appearing unexpectedly behind them. "We got a crisis here and we're two…three…squints short! If you're not coming, at least give me the samples!"

Hodgins, pissed off to begin with, snapped. Booth was a good 5 inches taller than him, but he did his best to get right in his face. "That's all he is to you! Just another squint! But let me tell you, he's a hell of a lot more to us! He's-"

"Family!" Angela put in, getting in on the action. "He's a little brother to us all!"

Booth threw up his hands, ready to defend himself, but let out a breath as he realized what they were going through. He was worried about the junior squint too. Maybe even more so than these two because he had more experience in this area. "I know. We'll find him." Hodgins and Angela calmed down a little, became a little less on the defensive. "Look, I know I give you guys a hard time, especially him, but we're a team here. Take away one piece, the picture doesn't look right." Hodgins flashed back to his earlier thoughts and wish Booth hadn't used the picture metaphor.

They walked back inside. "Guys, I know how important Zack is. He was the only one who could translate that message of yours when you were trapped." Before they could say it, he went on. "And I know he's more than that, too. I'm no different than you guys. I'd take a bullet for him if I had to. Or more." They were almost to the lab when Booth spoke again. "I heard you before. Zack's not dead."

"How do you know that?"

"If they wanted him dead, they would have shot him, or-" he cut off before he could say 'or slit his throat and leave him to die on his living room floor'. "They wouldn't have taken him, at any rate. Just left us a body to grieve over."

"You think this has something to do with us?" demanded Angela.

"Well, sure. Armed thugs break in to a residence in rural Michigan, take one specific man, leave four girls, and don't shoot anybody? They were specifically after him. Does he have anything else going on in his life that would warrant this?"

"NOTHING warrants this, Booth!" She insisted. Sick of the train of thought, she walked into the lab. Booth was about to follow her when Hodgins grabbed his arm.

"What do you think they're doing to him?" he asked, fear and rage warring for control in his blue eyes.

Booth winced, a million thoughts coming to his mind. "Please, Hodgins. Don't make me answer that."

Zack wasn't sure how long he had been out, but by the time he came to he was already wishing he hadn't. His entire body was a mass of pain. Using the best clinical detachment he could manage, he assessed his injuries. At least three, and maybe four, of his ribs were broken. He had close to three dozen shallow lacerations from the switchblade crossing his sides, chest, and abdomen. He knew that for evolutionary reasons, a person's sides were very sensitive due to the fact that they were usually protected by the person's arms. For once, evolution didn't work in his favor. All the fingers on his left hand were broken, as well as three on his right. Electrical burns marred both sides of his stomach from the battery charger. He had never in his short life endured so much pain. Hoping to slip back into the comfortable oblivion of unconsciousness, he repeated his mantra again. "I can't stop this. There's nothing to tell."

He was not talking to anyone but himself. If he could convince himself of that, it would be easier. Because there was NO WAY IN HELL he would give his friends to this sick bastard! His feet were handcuffed together now and chained to another pipe. Barely able to balance in this position on a good day, he sank to his knees, letting his already damaged shoulders take some of his weight. These people may have had him pegged as the weakest link, but there was one thing they hadn't counted on: the unflagging loyalty Zack Addy had for his colleagues…his friends…his new family. He had been willing to die for his mom, dad, and sisters back in Michigan. He loved them dearly, but they never really understood him. These people completely got him. They (for the most part) understood what he said when he spoke, they valued his thoughts and opinions. For the first time in his life, he had a very real sense of belonging. If anything was worth his life, that had to be. He just wished it didn't have to hurt so much.

Suddenly he heard a commotion outside, yelling followed by gunshots. Could it really be them? He fought his way back to his feet, struggling not to cry out as a dozen more waves of pain shot through his body. Weighing his options, he realized action was preferable to inaction, and started to yell at the top of his lungs. "Booth! Dr. Brennan! I'm in here! Somebody help!"

A voice answered him from just outside the door. It was Dr. Brennan. "Zack! Are you ok?"

How was he going to answer that? "Not really…"

He could hear them outside. "Booth, give me the gun!"

"Like Hell! Get out of the way!"

Brennan didn't think this was the time for argument; she just wanted her friend back. Another gunshot, and the door exploded inward. Relief flooded him as his crew burst inside. They ran to where he was chained. Dr. Brennan immediately began checking his wounds, Booth working on the handcuffs, Angela and Hodgins just froze in horror at the shape their "little brother" was in. "Oh, man," he muttered.

Zack was relieved to see them, but he was losing his grip on consciousness. "I knew you guys would find me." As Booth released first his feet, then his hands, he was no longer able to hold himself up. He would have fallen, but Booth held him from behind and lowered him gently to the floor. Zack met the older man's eyes. "I didn't tell them anything." Then he was out cold.

They paced around outside Zack's hospital room, waiting to be allowed inside to reassure themselves that the youngest squint was really ok. He had been unconscious when they arrived at the ER, drugged when they moved him to a room, and now that he was awake, the doctors wanted to examine him before he was exhausted again.

Booth was especially anxious. The boy's last words before he passed out ate at him. "I didn't tell them anything". He had gone through all that for them. Booth almost wished the kid had just talked, and he could have gotten his hands on those sons of bitches before they hurt him.

Brennan was standing impatiently right at the edge of the door, waiting to bolt inside at the first crack in the door. She was distraught, anxious. The rest of them were able to express their feeling to each other, even Booth had confided in them, but she just wasn't made that way. She just wasn't the type to distract herself from her work to release her feelings. Now that it was over, it hit her all at once.

Hodgins was sitting motionless in a chair, one arm around Angela. He was messed up about it, but Angela was on the verge of cracking. The work they do is bad enough, but the senseless damage inflicted on their coworker was in a different league. Maybe because Zack was so young, innocent, and vulnerable, maybe because he was a person not a body or a set of remains to be analyzed. Or maybe because his injuries were inflicted for the specific purpose of causing pain. Sick bastards! A tear slipped down her cheek.

The door opened a crack, and Brennan actually knocked the doctor into the wall in her haste to get inside. Once he regained his balance, he met with the group outside. "How is he?" Booth demanded.

"He's in rough shape," the doctor said. "He has five broken ribs, seven broken fingers, a fractured cheekbone. It took 60 stitches to patch all the cuts. Thankfully, there's no internal damage from the electricity, just surface injuries. He looks like death warmed over, but he'll be fine. Everything should heal in time." The doctor sighed. "It had to be rough, though. Did you catch the people who did this to him?"

"Yeah," Booth muttered. "They shot at us, and they're all dead."

"Good," added the doctor. "Smart kid. Told me to be sure to clean the wounds because the average pocket knife carried a strain of staphococcus bacterium." Hodgins smirked. Just like Zack. They all went inside.

Zack was a pitiful sight. His chest and stomach were covered by bandages, both hands were in casts. Almost every inch of skin visible was covered with blue-black bruises. "Hey," he said when they all came in.

No one knew what to say. There was no way to express the relief they all felt that he was safe. There was no way for him to say how thankful he was for them saving him. Finally, he asked the most logical, rational thing he could think of. "How did you find me?"

Brennan spoke up. "Hodgins found some dirt-"

"Silica dioxide," Hodgins put in.

"Found SOMETHING in the footprint that led us to Chicago. And we traced the pattern to a special order shop just outside of town. They only have one client who buys them. The three generations of the Romalotti family. From there, it was just a matter of property search."

"The Romalotti's?" asked Zack, thinking back to the mob case they were currently working. They were so close to identifying the killer when the lab got shut down. "I didn't know who they were."

"You didn't?" asked Brennan. "They didn't ask you about the case?"

He tried to shake his head, but that hurt, so he said "No." He regretted saying that, because that would inevitably lead to the next question…

"So what did they ask you?"

Zack found a sudden interest in staring at his feet. He didn't want to tell them, it would make them feel worse. "I don't remember. Must be the pain meds. Temporary amnesia is a side effect of narcotics. What am I on, Demerol?"

"Nice try, kid, but its only ultram right now. They wanted you to wake up before they gave you the hard stuff." Hodgins knew that Zack was trying to spare them the pain, but the boy had suffered so much for them, he could let them carry some of it.

Booth already knew, though, and spared Zack from having to say it. "They thought we went into hiding, didn't they? Wanted to know where we were."

Zach couldn't meet any of their eyes, but nodded, still carefully studying his feet. Just then, the nurse stuck her head back in. "Let's let him get some sleep, OK?"

They bid the young man a reluctant goodbye, but Booth lingered behind. When they were all gone, Booth sat back down and looked Zach in the eye. His voice lowered with compassion. "Zack, why didn't you just tell them? Why didn't you just send them on? We could have taken care of them."

Zack's eyes bored through him, and flashed with anger. "D you really think that little of me?" he asked. Booth was taken a little aback, and didn't know what to say, so Zack plunged on. "Do you really think I would give you guys to these lunatics? That I would risk you and Angela and Hodgins to save myself? That I would give up Dr. Brennan?" Zack was really getting pissed now. "How dare you suggest that I should have done that! I was there, I was the one they used for a human knife sharpener! I would have died before I told them anything! Because you guys are closer to me than my own family and I am a part of that too! I'm not a kid, Booth. I can take care of myself, and protect the ones I care about!" He struggled to sit up, his injured hand slipped out from under him and he fell to the side. Booth reached to straighten him up, but was stopped by a murderous glare. He waited uncomfortably as Zack tried to right himself in the bed, but the younger man was just not strong enough with all his injuries.

Unable to stand it any longer, Booth ignored the angry look and gently pulled him up in the bed. Zack opened his mouth to continue the tirade, but Booth held up a hand. "Just give me one minute to defend myself, then you can continue, OK? Just let me have my chance before the nurse runs me out."

"Again?" Zack asked weakly, but with a smile.

"Zack, I never thought for a second that you would give any of us up, even me, as much of a pain in the ass I can be. I know you wouldn't. It just really sucks to see you in this much pain. And it only makes it worse to know that it was because of us. Tell me that thought wouldn't have crossed your mind if it had been Hodgins that went through what you did. That you wouldn't wish he had just told and been spared the pain."

Zack had no reply to that. They were both silent for a moment, then Booth chuckled. "I never say the right thing with you squints. I just had a situation like this with Hodgins and Angela yesterday. I guess I should stop calling you guys 'squints', shouldn't I?"

"That's ok," Zach said. "I don't mind."

"You don't?"

"Not really. I actually kinda like it. It's neat."

Booth shook his head. "I'll never understand you guys. But I do know how important you are to the team." He patted the young man on the top of his head, the only place that wasn't bruised, then turned to walk away.

"Booth?" Zack's voice sounded uncertain as he called out. Booth stopped in his tracks. When he turned back, Zack was again staring at his feet. "If I ask you something, will you tell me the truth? Even if it could hurt me?"

Booth sat back down. "You got it. I won't lie to you."

Zack's words came out in a rush, more like the uncertain kid in the lab with a theory than someone who wanted to be taken more seriously. "The guy said that they had me picked to be the weakest link of the team and I guess that as the youngest and smallest and not in the best shape and everything, I really need to know if I really am 'cause the chain is only as strong as its weakest link and-"

Booth wasn't sure if he had even taken a breath during that outburst, but answered without hesitation. "Absolutely not!"

Zack looked at him hopefully, but cautiously. "Really? You're not just saying that? Because if you are, I really need to-"

Booth cut him off before he could take off on another mile-a-minute ramble. "There is no weak link in this chain. We're all of equal worth and strength. We had different roles, but we are all equal. Like I told Bones once, if you take one of us away, we're all lost."

"She doesn't like it when you call her Bones. Anyway, you guys found me without me there to help."

Booth waited until he looked back up and looked him straight in the eye. "Just like we found Bones and Hodgins?" Zack allowed a small smile to break on his bruised face, and Booth matched it with one of his own. "You're young, Zack, but that doesn't make you any less strong or valuable than anyone else. I know I give you a hard time, but that's what men do. It's a…"

He couldn't think of how to word this.

Zack helped him out. "Gesture of camaraderie?"

Booth nodded. "Exactly. You never needed to prove yourself, but if you had needed to, you certainly have now. But don't expect me to stop calling you 'kid'."

A real smile crossed his face, and he started to say something when the nurse returned. "I thought everyone was out of here! This boy needs to rest! You have 30 seconds to be out of here or I'll haul you out myself!" she walked out.

"You'd better go," said Zack. "But thank you."

There was a lot Booth wanted to say, like how the boy had really grown up since they first met, and how proud he was, and that maybe he misjudged him, but there would be time for that later. He remembered what Bones had once told him about Zack, but hesitated. Finally, he figured that the young man would appreciate the sentiment even if it hurt, and patted him on the shoulder, open-handed. He still wasn't sure what it meant, but Bones had assured him that it meant something to Zack, who never let on if it hurt. His smile widened a little. "Thanks," Booth said.

"For what?"

"For protecting us." If Zack's smile had gotten any bigger, the top of his head would have fallen off. "And when you get out of here, I'll buy you a beer." He headed for the door when he heard the voice behind him.

"Uh, I don't drink that much, or really all that well and Hodgins says I talk even faster and not even he can understand me then but I'm willing to try if you promise you won't dump me out of the car naked downtown like they did to me back in college but I was only fifteen then and maybe I'll do better this time-"

"I'll look after you, kid," said Booth, grinning. Some things would never change. And that was comforting.

The nurse glared at him as he walked out to the waiting room and looked around at the rest of his team. He hadn't lied to Zack, like he swore he wouldn't. There was no weak link in this chain. They all worked together so well, and backed each other up so much that they shared their strength. That was what made them so good. That was why they were the best.